After 45-Year Wait, James Taylor Earns His First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 Chart

Eric Ogden
James Taylor photographed by Eric Ogden at The DiMenna Center in New York City on May 13, 2015. 

After a 45-year wait, legendary singer/songwriter James Taylor has earned his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with Before This World. The album, which was released on June 16 through Concord Records, arrives atop the chart dated July 4 — more than 45 years after Taylor arrived on the list with Sweet Baby James (on the March 14, 1970 list).

The new album launches atop the Billboard 200 with 97,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending June 21, according to Nielsen Music. Of its start, pure album sales equated to 96,000 copies sold -- Taylor’s best debut week for an album since his last studio effort, 2002’s October Road, launched at No. 4 with 154,000 sold.

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).

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Taylor surpasses Black Sabbath for the second-longest wait for a No. 1 -- the rock band's first chart-topper, 2013's 13, came 43 years after their self-titled debut bowed on Aug. 29, 1970. Tony Bennett's 54-year wait for his first No. 1 remains the longest -- between the Feb. 23, 1957 debut of Tony and the No. 1 launch of Duets II on Oct. 8, 2011.

Notably, Taylor achieves his first No. 1 after racking up a staggering 11 previous top 10-charting albums. Among all acts, only Neil Diamond accrued more top 10s before his first No. 1: 14 leading up to the chart-topping bow of 2008's Home Before Dark.

Taylor's fruitful chart career before his first No. 1 can be compared to other acts that have tallied major chart success -- but have fallen short of a No. 1. For example, rock band Rush and conductor Ray Conniff have each clocked 12 top 10 albums without topping the list. They are tied for the most top 10s without a No. 1.

Other acts without a No. 1 -- but with a bevy of top 10s -- include Sting, The Who (both with 10 top 10s), 311, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Kiss and Sheryl Crow (all with nine each).

Black Sabbath Earns First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200

Although Taylor lacked a No. 1 album until this week, he has earned a chart-topping single on the Billboard Hot 100: "You've Got a Friend." The tune topped the Hot 100 for one week on July 31, 1971. It's one of 21 Hot 100 hits for the singer.

Back on the new Billboard 200, Taylor Swift’s 1989 holds at No. 2 for another week, moving 57,000 units (down 11 percent) in its 34th week on the list.

Adam Lambert notches the chart’s second-highest bow, as his third album The Original High arrives at No. 3 with 47,000 units. The Original High is Lambert’s first album for Warner Bros. Records after departing RCA Records, where he logged his two earlier top 10s: His For Your Entertainment debut in 2009 (No. 3 debut and peak) and its follow-up, the No. 1-bowing Trespassing in 2012.

The new album’s first week was powered by pure album sales, as it sold 42,000 copies. Comparably, Trespassing bowed with 77,000 sold. The Original High’s lead single, “Ghost Town,” is No. 31 on the Pop Songs airplay chart dated July 4.

Ed Sheeran’s x climbs to its highest rank in four months, as it steps 6-4 with 39,000 units (up 17 percent). x was last in the top four on the Feb. 28-dated list, when it was also No. 4.

Hilary Duff returns to the top 10 for the first time in eight years, as Breathe In. Breathe Out. debuts at No. 5 with 39,000 units (33,000 in pure album sales), marking her fifth top 10 album. It’s the pop singer’s first studio effort since 2007’s Dignity debuted and peaked at No. 3. She also notched top 10s with Metamorphosis (No. 1 in 2003), her self-titled album (No. 2 in 2004) and Most Wanted (No. 1 in 2005).

Country singer Sam Hunt continues his upward climb, as his Montevallo rises 7-6 with 32,000 units (up 3 percent).  It is the set’s fourth straight weekly unit gain.

Nate Ruess, lead singer of fun, arrives at No. 7 with his first solo album, Grand Romantic (31,000 units; 28,000 from album sales). Ruess follows last years’ chart success by his fun. bandmate Jack Antonoff, who -- under the stage name Bleachers -- debuted and peaked at No. 11 with Bleachers.

Rounding out the latest top 10 is Meghan Trainor’s Title (10-8 with 27,000 units; up less than 1 percent), Maroon 5’s V (stationary at No. 9 with 27,000 units; down 5 percent) and Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mind (19-10 with 27,000). The latter title vaults up the list after it was sale priced for $6.99 in the iTunes Store during the tracking frame. It grew by 50 percent in download album sales for the week.

The titles at No. 8-10 are separated by less than 300 equivalent units, hence why their rounded-to-the-nearest-thousand sales figures all appear to be identical.