Drake’s Surprise Album Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200


Drake‘s surprise album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late blasts in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart as expected, easily scoring the hip-hop star his fourth chart-topper.

The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late moved 535,000 units in the week ending Feb. 15, according to Nielsen Music, with pure album sales comprising 495,000 of that figure — all from digital downloads.

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Industry forecasters had projected the set to sell over 500,000 copies, but it fell just short of that half-million threshold. Still, it’s a remarkable start for an album that arrived with no notice, was sold only through digital retail, is termed a mixtape by Drake (and not a proper studio album) and only had a little more than three days of sales powering its debut. The new set was released in the evening of Thursday, Feb. 12 through Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records. The tracking week ended at the close of business on Sunday, Feb. 15.

A physical release for the album on CD or vinyl has not been announced.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late follows Drake’s three earlier No. 1-debuting albums, which also happened to be his first three full-length efforts: Thank Me Later (released in 2010), Take Care (2011) and Nothing Was the Same (2013).

Drake’s fourth studio album, Views From the 6, is due out later this year. It was announced last July.

Here are some notable facts and figures about Drake’s latest No. 1 album:

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late sold 495,000 copies in its first chart week, marking Drake’s third-biggest sales frame. Only the bows of Nothing Was the Same (658,000) and Take Care (631,000) were larger.

If You’re Reading This logs the largest sales week for an R&B/hip-hop album since Beyonce‘s own surprise self-titled album debuted with 617,000 sold after a little more than three days on sale (in the week ending Dec. 15, 2013). The Beyonce set was released at 12 AM on the morning of Friday, Dec. 13. If You’re Reading This also nets the biggest week for a rap album since Eminem‘s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 bowed at No. 1 with 792,000 in the week ending Nov. 10, 2013.

— Drake’s opening is the second-largest sales week among all albums in the past year, behind only the debut of Taylor Swift‘s monster 1989 album (1.27 million in the week ending Nov. 2, 2014).

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— In a little more than three days, Drake’s set has already sold more copies than any other album in 2015 except for Swift’s 1989 (which has sold 696,000 so far in 2015).

— Only two hip-hop acts have seen their first four full-length albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart: Drake and DMX. The latter did it with his first five studio projects between 1998 and 2003 (It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood, …And Then There Was X, The Great Depression and Grand Champ).

 — If You’re Reading This is the 10th No. 1 album for the Cash Money label, and the seventh for Young Money. (Cash Money’s first leader was Big TymersHood Rich in 2002, while Young Money’s was Drake’s own Thank Me Later.)

As Drake starts at No. 1 on the latest Billboard 200, he blocks the also-arriving Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack from starting in the top slot. The multi-artist compilation — featuring songs from Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, Annie Lennox, Beyonce and more — bows at No. 2 with 258,000 units (of which 210,000 are traditional album sales).

The album’s 210,000 start is the largest sales debut for a soundtrack since Michael Jackson’s This Is It danced in at No. 1 with 373,000 in the week ending Nov. 1, 2009.

This Is It was an all-Jackson effort, however, and behaved like a greatest hits album, so it’s a bit unfair to compare it to Fifty Shades of Grey. So, scrolling back farther, the last multi-artist compilation soundtrack to debut bigger was Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, which arrived with 317,000 at No. 2 in the week ending Nov. 13, 2005.

Between Get Rich and This Is It, there were four soundtracks (of any kind) that bowed larger than Fifty Shades, and all were from Walt Disney Records: Hannah Montana (281,000 in 2007), Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus (326,000 in 2007, both Montana albums were performed by Cyrus), High School Musical 2 (615,000 in 2007) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (297,000 in 2008). The latter two albums were performed by the cast of High School Musical cast (Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, etc.) and are not comparable to a compilation soundtrack like Fifty Shades or Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

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With both Drake’s If You’re Reading This and the Fifty Shades of Grey album released on Republic Records, it’s the first time one label has owned the top two albums since the July 19, 2014-dated chart, when Atlantic Records had the debuting Trigga (on Songbook/Atlantic) from Trey Songz at No. 1, while Ed Sheeran‘s x (on Atlantic) fell 1-2 in its second week.

Further, this week marks the first time one label has concurrently debuted albums at Nos. 1 and 2 since the April 12, 2008-dated chart. That week, Atlantic (again!) arrived at No. 1 with Day26‘s self titled album (on Bad Boy/Atlantic) while Panic! At the Disco‘s Pretty.Odd. entered at No. 2 (released on Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen/Atlantic).

Back on the latest Billboard 200 chart, Sam Smith‘s In the Lonely Hour rises 4-3 with 164,000 units (up 91 percent) in the wake of Smith’s four Grammy Award wins on Feb. 8. The set sold 124,000 copies in the week after the show, earning a gain of 118 percent, and tallying the album’s biggest sales week since its debut frame (166,000 in the week ending June 22, 2014).

Smith’s four Grammy wins included record of the year, song of the year and best new artist — but not the coveted album of the year trophy. That went to Beck‘s Morning Phase, which vaults 39-8 with 71,000 units (up 483 percent). Of that figure, it sold 64,000 were traditional album sales (grabbing a gain of 466 percent). Like Smith, Beck’s album earns its largest sales week since its debut, when it arrived with 87,000 in the week ending March 2, 2014.

As for the rest of the top 10, it is comprised mostly of holdover titles, many of which post big gains. Ed Sheeran’s x moves 3-4 (140,000 units; up 44 percent) while Taylor Swift’s 1989 dips 1-5 (125,000; up 16 percent). The latter album falls out of the top two for the first time in its 16-week chart run.

Meghan Trainor‘s Title is steady at No. 6 with 72,000 (up 21 percent), the Now 53 compilation descends 2-7 with almost 72,000 (down 28 percent) and the 2015 Grammy Nominees compilation zips 15-9 with 65,000 (up 92 percent). Maroon 5‘s V closes out the top 10, falling one spot to No. 10 with 63,000 (up 35 percent).