The singer scores the highest debut for a non-"American Idol" country male in the chart's history. Plus, moves for Home Free, Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert and more
Cole Swindell makes a record start on the Billboard 200, and joins a throng of rookie male artists that have invaded the Top Country Albums chart over the past year, as his self-titled debut album opens at No. 3 on the former chart and No. 2 on the latter list with 63,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
On the Billboard 200, Swindell's start is striking in historical terms. He clocks the highest Billboard 200 debut for a new country male artist since Scotty McCreery bowed at No. 1 with his first album, "Clear as Day," on the Oct. 22, 2011, chart. McCreery, however, had built exposure to millions of TV viewers by winning the 2011 season of Fox's "American Idol." Back out McCreery, and, amazingly, Swindell logs the highest debut for a non-"Idol" male country artist's first album in the Billboard 200's entire 58-year history.
Swindell, of course, has fueled his own profile prior to the release of his album thanks to his debut single "Chillin' It." In its 39th week, it logs a second week atop Hot Country Songs, adding Streaming Gainer honors (801,000 U.S. streams, up 16%, according to Nielsen BDS). On Country Streaming Songs, the title jumps 9-4.
Continuing the well-documented surge of male artists at the format, Swindell is the eighth solo male to debut inside the Top Country Albums top five with a first full-length studio album during the past 12 months. That compares with three such albums during the same period a year earlier and just one such set two years ago. Of the eight men tallying top-five starts during the past year, with Swindell joining Tate Stevens, Brett Eldredge, Tyler Farr, Thomas Rhett, Jon Pardi, Eric Paslay and Frankie Ballard, Swindell's opening sales sum is the largest, outpacing Rhett's "It Goes Like This," which started with 36,000 in November. While none of these artists' albums have crowned Top Country Albums, Swindell's set is the fourth to reach No. 2, following those by Eldredge, Farr and Rhett.
HOME RUN: Top Country Albums sports a No. 9 re-entry for a cappella group Home Free, as the fourth-season winners of NBC's "The Sing-Off" competition sell 5,000 copies of their album "Crazy Life" in its first full week of availability in physical form. Of that sum, 64% are from Internet sales of CDs mailed to consumers. The album debuted at No. 8 on the Feb. 1 chart with 6,000 solely from downloads.
The group is on the road with "The Sing-Off Live" tour, which opened a string of 32 dates on Feb. 19 in Verona, N.Y. The act also performed on "Fox & Friends" on Monday (Feb. 24).
MOTORING: Keith Urban claims his 31st top 10 on Hot Country Songs, as "Cop Car" speeds 12-10. Urban first reached the region with the No. 4-peaking "Your Everything" on the Aug. 12, 2000, chart. Since, only Kenny Chesney boasts more top 10s (35). Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts follow with 29 each in that span.
SPIRITED: Brantley Gilbert's "Bottoms Up" tops Country Digital Songs for a fourth straight week, adding 64,000 downloads during the tracking week for a release-to-date total of 543,000 sold. The track also logs a second week atop Country Streaming Songs (1.2 million, up 8%) and reaches a new peak (4-2) on Hot Country Songs.
'BABY' STEPS: Jason Aldean's No. 1 count on the BDS-driven Country Airplay chart stands at 11, and with a second week atop the chart for "When She Says Baby," more than half of those songs (six) have spent more than one week at the summit.
His first such hit (and longest-leading No. 1) was "Big Green Tractor," which logged the first of four straight weeks at No. 1 on the Sept. 5, 2009, chart. He spent three weeks at No. 1 with "Don't You Wanna Stay" (with Kelly Clarkson) three years ago and ruled for another three weeks with "Take a Little Ride" in 2012. His previous two-week No. 1s are "The Truth" (2010) and "Night Train" (2013).
BUSHEL AND A PECK: Randy Houser claims his fourth top 10 on Country Airplay with "Goodnight Kiss" (11-10). He previously hit the top tier with "Boots On" (No. 2, 2009) and last year's No. 1s "How Country Feels" (one week) and "Runnin' Outta Moonlight" (two).
SWON SONG: Fourth-season "The Voice" (NBC) finalists the Swon Brothers appear for the first time on Country Airplay with "Later On," which bows at No. 60.
Although the duo makes its maiden voyage on the radio chart with its first official single, brothers Zach Swon and Colton Swon became regulars last year on Hot Country Songs, placing 10 competition tracks on the sales/airplay/streaming hybrid chart between May and July. The highest rank among those songs was the duo's cover of the Kenny Loggins-written "Danny's Song," which debuted and peaked at No. 16 last June. Forty years before the sibling duo's cover, Anne Murray's version peaked at No. 10 on Hot Country Songs (March 24, 1973). The duo's take has sold 152,000 downloads.
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield