Week Ending June 23, 2013. Albums: Yeezus!

Paul Grein
Chart Watch (NEW)

This week may mark the first time that the title of the #1 album also approximates what the artist blurts out when he is told his first-week sales number. Kanye West’s Yeezus enters The Billboard 200 at #1, with first-week sales of 327K. It’s West’s first studio album to sell fewer than 400K copies in its first week. The tally is down significantly from West’s last solo album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which sold 496K in its first week in November 2010 (at the start of the holiday shopping season).

West’s album sold just 30K more copies than J. Cole’s sophomore album, Born Sinner, which debuts at #2 this week with first-week sales of 297K. This is West’s narrowest margin of victory to date. It’s the first time he has debuted at #1 with less than a 120K sales lead over #2.

West’s tally is just 9K ahead of what Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience sold in its second week in March (after selling 968K in its first week). West’s total is 17K behind what Taylor Swift’s Red sold in its second week in November 2012 (after blowing through 1,208,000 copies in its first week).

The initial first-week sales projection for Yeezus was 500K, but it was scaled back to about 370K the day after the album went on sale. By Friday, it was scaled back again to about 335K. It came in a little below that.

West’s characteristic bravado helped set up expectations for the album that would be hard to meet. “Man, I'm the Number One living and breathing rock star,” he said in a recent profile with W. (He was explaining how he came to write “I Am A God,” a track on the new album.)

He compared himself to Axl Rose, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. That comparison is apt. West has rock-star attitude to burn. Note that he didn’t say “I’m the Number One living and breathing record seller.” He’s a big seller, but he’s no Swift or Timberlake, to say nothing of Adele.

In the W interview, West seems aware of the benefits and costs of his ego. “On one end, I try to scale it back,” he said. “Because I don't want to close any of the doors needed to create the best product possible. But my ego is my drug. My drug is, ‘I'm better than all you other mother*******. Kiss my ***!’”

It wouldn’t be fair to compare West’s first-week sales to those of, say, 2005’s Late Registration or 2007’s Graduation, for two reasons. Veteran artists’ sales tend to taper off over time. And sales are down industry-wide compared to when those albums were released. But it is fair to compare it to West’s recent albums, especially My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which was released less than three years ago. Some will argue that West’s relationship with tabloid mainstay Kim Kardashian may have turned off some of his fans. It’s even conceivable that the timing of the birth of their baby North West hurt his sales (since baby news supplanted album headlines in the critical news cycle the week of launch). That, frankly, feels like a reach. It kept West’s name at the forefront, which is usually the objective when you're releasing a major film or album.

Despite the disappointing debut, it would be unfair to paint Yeezus as a stiff. Consider these facts:

The total for Yeezus is the third greatest one-week sales tally so far this year, behind The 20/20 Experience and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (339K).

West’s tally is the greatest for a hip-hop album since Drake’s Take Care bowed with sales of 631K in November 2011.

Yeezus is West’s sixth #1 album on The Billboard 200, which is more than any other artist who has made his or her recording debut in this century. West’s first album, The College Dropout, was released in 2004. Runners-up among artists who have debuted in this century, with five #1 albums each, are Linkin Park (debut: 2000), Alicia Keys (2001) and Justin Bieber (2009).

Only two other hip-hop artists have amassed six or more #1 albums. Jay-Z leads with 12 (counting a 2011 collabo with West). Eminem is tied with West with six #1 albums. Three hip-hop stars trail with five #1 albums each: 2Pac, Nas and DMX. (Nas’ total doesn’t include a 1997 album with The Firm. Each of the four members was identified on the album cover, but their names weren’t part of the artist billing.)

Yeezus also debuts at #1 in the U.K. It’s West’s second album (following 2007’s Graduation) to reach #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. West is only the second rap artist to amass two or more “transatlantic #1 albums.” Six of Eminem’s albums have reached #1 in both countries.

Yeezus sold 186K digital copies which puts it at #1 on Top Digital Albums. Cole’s album sold 158K digital copies. This marks the first time in digital history that two albums have each sold 150K digital copies in one week. (Until June 2008, no albums had sold 150K digital copies in one week.)

This marks the first time that rap albums have debuted in the top two spots since November 2010, when West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday debuted at #1 and #2. (Incidentally, that was West’s previous closest chart victory. He led Minaj by 121K copies that week.)

This week marks the fourth time that West has won a first-week sales battle with another rapper. It also happened in 2005 when Late Registration debuted at #1 and Tony Yayo’s Thoughts Of A Predicate Felon debuted at #2, and, most famously, in 2007 when Graduation debuted at #1 and 50 Cent’s Curtis debuted at #2.

J. Cole’s first-week tally (297K) marks a healthy increase from his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, which sold 217K in its first week in October 2011 (when it opened at #1). J. Cole’s album would have ranked #1 in all but four weeks so far this year. The only other albums (besides West’s) to top 297K in weekly sales in 2013 are Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (twice) and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (once).

Mac Miller’s sophomore album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, debuts at #3 with first-week-sales of 102K. This marks the first time since November 2006 that three hip-hop albums have debuted with sales of 100K or more. That Thanksgiving week saw the release of Jay-Z's Kingdom Come (680K), Snoop Dogg's Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (264K) and 2Pac's Pac's Life (159K).

Watching Movies With The Sound Off (is it just me or does the title sound like the answer to a Wheel Of Fortune puzzle?) is Miller’s second top 10 album. Blue Slide Park debuted at #1 in November 2011 (with first-week sales of 144K). Incidentally, Miller is the youngest artist in this week’s top 10. He’s four months younger than Hunter Hayes. (Both are 21, but around here we count months.)

Kelly Rowland’s fourth studio album, Talk A Good Game, debuts at #4. It’s her third top 10 album (not counting four top 10 albums with Destiny’s Child.)

Hunter Hayes’ Hunter Hayes vaults from #80 to #7 in its 71st week, thanks to the release of a deluxe version of the album. This is its first week in the top 10. The album debuted at #18 in October 2011, hit an initial peak of #17 in February of this year (after the Grammys) and reaches this new peak this week. The album also jumps to #1 for the first time on Top Country Albums, where it displaces another red-hot debut album, Florida Georgia Line’s Here’s To The Good Times.

Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, which drops from #3 to #9, becomes the first album to sell 2 million copies in 2013. The album has sold more than twice as many copies as its two chief rivals, Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox (963K copies sold in 2013) and Mumford & Sons’ Babel (873K sold in 2013).

“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the fourth week (424K). That’s the biggest one-week sales tally for any song since the week ending Dec. 30 (when sales traditionally swell). That week, Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” sold 582K copies and Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” sold 497K copies. Will “Blurred Lines” also hold at #1 for the third week on the Hot 100? Count on it. But you’ll find out for sure out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.

Here’s the low-down on this week’s top 10 albums.

The Top Five: Kanye West’s Yeezus debuts at #1 (327K). It’s his seventh top 10 album…J. Cole’s Born Sinner debuts at #2 (297K). It’s his second top 10 album…Mac Miller’s Watching Movies With The Sound Off debuts at #3 (102K). It’s his second top 10 album…Kelly Rowland’s Talk A Good Game debuts at #4 (68K). It’s her third top solo 10 album…Black Sabbath’s 13 drops from #1 to #5 in its second week (46K).

The Second Five: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories drops from #2 to #6 in its fifth week (40K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Hunter Hayes’ Hunter Hayes vaults from #80 to #7 in its 71st week (40K). This is its first week in the top 10. It’s his first top 10 album… Florida Georgia Line’s Here’s To The Good Times drops from #5 to #8 in its 29th week (33K). This is its fourth week in the top 10…Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience drops from #3 to #9 in its 14th week (32K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions rebounds from #11 to #10 in its 42nd week (26K). This is its 11th week in the top 10.

Six albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Big Time Rush’s 24/Seven drops from #4 to #37. Darius Rucker’s True Believers drops from #6 to #13. Blake Shelton’s Based On A True Story… drops from #7 to #12. Goo Goo Dolls’ Magnetic plummets from #8 to #67. The Man Of Steel soundtrack drops from #9 to #29. The Lonely Island’s The Wack Album drops from #10 to #46.

Sigur Ros’ seventh studio album, Kveikur, debuts at #14. It’s the Icelandic group’s third album in a row to make the top 15…OneRepublic’s Native rebounds from #111 to #16 in its 13th week in the wake of the group’s appearance on the finale of The VoiceFalling In Reverse’s second studio album, Fashionably Late, debuts at #17. It’s the group’s second album in a row to make the top 20…Danielle Bradbery’s The Complete Season 4 Collection debuts at #19. Bradbery was the Season 4 winner on The Voice.

The Great Gatsby: Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film drops from #24 to #28 in its seventh week. It returns to #1 on Top Soundtracks. It’s been #1 for six of its seven weeks.

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band’s 2011 compilation Ultimate Hits: Rock And Roll Never Forgets jumps from #38 to #30 in its 61st week on the chart. It’s #1 on Top Catalog Albums for the second week.

Bruno Mars’ 2010 debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, rebounds from #94 to #50 in its 140th week. The album tops the 2 million mark in U.S. sales this week. Mars’ current album, Unorthodox Jukebox, is on track to equal that success. The album, which rebounds from #19 to #11 in 28th week, has sold 1,443,000 copies. Jukebox this week tops 500K in digital sales. Doo-Wops has sold 640K digital copies.

Paul McCartney & Wings’ Rockshow is #1 on Top Music Videos for the second week.

Monsters University was #1 at the box-office over the weekend.

Coming Attractions: Wale’s The Gifted is expected to debut at #1 next week with first-week sales in the 140K range. Skillet’s Rise will open at #4 (50K). August Burns Red’s Rescue & Restore will debut around #8 (24K). India.Arie’s Songversation will probably debut around #11 (23K). Also due: Amon Amarth’s Deceiver Of The Gods, Bret Michaels’ Jammin’ With Friends and Jane’s Addiction’s Live In NYC.

Chart Milestone: Black Sabbath’s 13, last week’s #1 album on The Billboard 200, was the 1,000th album to reach #1 since Billboard introduced its now world-famous chart (as a top 10 listing) in March 1945. To mark the occasion, here’s a list of a few “mosts” associated with the chart.

Most #1 albums: The Beatles (19).

Individual with the most #1 albums: Paul McCartney (26). This grand total consists of 19 Beatles albums, five with Wings and two by himself.

Individual with the most posthumous #1 albums: John Lennon (five). Lennon has topped the chart since his murder in 1980 with Double Fantasy (with Yoko Ono) and four Beatles compilations.

Most #1 albums by a male solo artist: Jay-Z (12). Also: Most #1 albums by an American artist, most by an African American artist, most by a rap artist.

Most #1 albums by a female artist: Barbra Streisand (nine).

Most #1 albums by a duo: Simon & Garfunkel and Sugarland (three each).

Most #1 albums by a country artist: Garth Brooks (eight).

Most #1 albums by a hard rock artist: Led Zeppelin (seven).

Most #1 albums by a teen-aged artist: Justin Bieber (five).

Most #1 albums by an instrumental act: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (five).

Hat tip: Constantine Ananiades.