Coldplay crashes in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with "Ghost Stories," collecting its fourth No. 1 album and the biggest sales week of the year.
"Ghost Stories" sold 383,000 copies in the week ending May 25, according to Nielsen SoundScan, easily notching the biggest sales frame of 2014. That bow trumps the previous largest week of 2014, when Eric Church's "The Outsiders" sold 288,000 in the week ending Feb. 16.
Coldplay's start is also the largest week for any album since Beyonce's self-titled album release with 617,000 in the week ending Dec. 15 (as an iTunes-exclusive).
"Ghost Stories" was released on Monday, May 19, and is the fourth straight No. 1 studio effort for Coldplay. It follows 2011's "Mylo Xyloto," which entered atop the list with 447,000. The group previously hit No. 1 with 2008's "Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends" (721,000 debut) and 2005's "X&Y" (737,000).
Coldplay's new album was powered strongly by downloads, as the digital version of the album sold 245,000 -- 64 percent of its first week. That's the largest digital sales week for a widely-available album (thus barring Beyonce's iTunes-only debut) since One Direction's "Midnight Memories" debuted with 275,000 downloads in the week ending Dec. 1, 2013.
During release week, Coldplay had its own NBC TV special (May 18), which was part of a larger package of promotional efforts the band staged with the network. The group also performed on NBC's "The Voice" (May 20), "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon" (May 6) and "Saturday Night Live" (May 3).
In contrast, the artist that debuts at No. 2 on the latest Billboard 200 has barely performed on national TV: Brantley Gilbert. The country singer's third studio album, "Just As I Am," bows with 211,000 sold -- the second-largest week for a country set this year. (Only Church's "The Outsiders" did better.)
"Just As I Am" also gives Gilbert his first No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart. It follows his breakthrough second album, "Halfway to Heaven," which just crossed the 1 million sales mark in April.
While Brantley did not make any major TV appearances during release week, he instead teamed with Harley-Davidson for a six-day promotional tour. The trek saw him lead a motorcade of motorcycle riders through 11 cities, making stops at retailers, concert venues and the Indy 500.
Notably, since the start of 2013, only three country acts have seen an album sell more than 200,000 in a week: Gilbert, Church and Luke Bryan, when his "Crash My Party" album started with 528,000.
Gilbert first charted on the independently-distributed label Average Joes back in 2009 with his debut album, "A Modern Day Prodigal Son." Less than two years later, Gilbert signed with Valory Records, and the label reissued his second album, "Halfway to Heaven," in September of 2011. It shot to No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart and No. 4 on the Billboard 200 with his then-best sales week: 51,000.
Since joining with Valory, Gilbert has notched three No. 1 singles on the Country Airplay chart, including the new album's lead track: "Bottoms Up." His current single, "Small Town Throwdown" (featuring Valory labelmates Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett), climbs 28-26 on the Country Airplay chart dated June 7.
With Coldplay and Gilbert's albums both selling in excess of 200,000, this is the first time two albums have sold at least 200,000 in a week in six months. It last happened the week ending Nov. 17, 2013, when Lady Gaga's "ARTPOP" debuted at No. 1 with 258,000 and Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" fell to No. 2 with 210,000.
Back on the new Billboard 200, Michael Jackson's "Xscape" slips 2-3 in its second week (67,000; down 57 percent) and the "Frozen" soundtrack is steady at No. 4 with 65,000 (down 12 percent). Last week's No. 1 album, the Black Keys' "Turn Blue," falls to No. 5 with 54,000 (down 67 percent). The "Now 50" compilation slides 3-6 with 51,000 (down 37 percent).
Phillip Phillips' second album, "Behind the Light," debuts at No. 7 with 41,000. It follows the 2012 "American Idol" winner's first album, "The World From the Side of the Moon," which debuted and peaked at No. 4 off a 169,000 start.
The multi-artist soundtrack to the film "The Fault In Our Stars" opens at No. 8 with 34,000, and also No. 2 on the Top Soundtracks chart (behind "Frozen"). "Fault" racks up the largest debut for a theatrical film soundtrack since "Frozen" bowed with 44,000 in the week ending Dec. 1, 2013.
"The Fault In Our Stars" features songs from Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, Jake Bugg and Birdy, among others.
Rounding out the top 10 on the Billboard 200 are Iggy Azalea's "The New Classic" (14-9 with 22,000; up 42 percent) and Rascal Flatts' "Rewind" (5-10 with just under 22,000; down 65 percent).
Over on the Digital Songs chart, Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," featuring Charli XCX, takes over the No. 1 slot, rising one rung with 336,000 downloads sold (up 44 percent). She bumps Ariana Grande's "Problem," which features Azalea, down to No. 2 with 284,000 (up 15 percent).
"Fancy" had been locked in the No. 2 slot for the past three weeks. Its cumulative sales also jump past the million mark, totaling 1.3 million.
"Fancy" and "Problem" were both performed on the Billboard Music Awards (May 18) the day before the latest sales tracking week began on May 19.
Nico & Vinz's debut single "Am I Wrong" shoots up the Digital Songs tally, rising 6-3 with 156,000 (up 36 percent). It concurrently climbs 18-15 on the Pop Songs airplay chart dated June 7.
John Legend's "All Of Me" slips 3-4 with 147,000 (down 7 percent) and DJ Snake & Lil Jon's "Turn Down For What" is a non-mover at No. 5 with 137,000 (up 13 percent). Pharrell's "Happy" dips 4-6 with 134,000 (up 3 percent) and Jason Derulo's "Wiggle," featuring Snoop Dogg," steps 8-7 with 124,000 (up 14 percent). Derulo performed "Wiggle" in a medley (with his "Talk Dirty") on the Billboard Music Awards.
Ed Sheeran's "Sing" rises 13-8 with 114,000 (up 52 percent) and MAGIC!'s "Rude" hits the top 10 for the first time, ascending 15-9 with 112,000 (up 51 percent).
Closing out the top 10 is the chart's highest debut, Miranda Lambert's duet with Carrie Underwood, "Somethin' Bad." It launches at No. 10 with 107,000 -- the biggest sales week ever for Lambert. The pair premiered the song on the Billboard Music Awards. It previews Lambert's new studio album, "Platinum," which is due on June 3.
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending May 25) totaled 4.77 million units, up 5 percent compared with the sum last week (4.54 million) and down 8 percent compared with the comparable sales week of 2013 (5.19 million). Year to date album sales stand at 98.75 million, down 15 percent compared to the same total at this point last year (116.60 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 22.07 million downloads, up 5 percent compared with last week (20.94 million) and down 10 percent stacked next to the comparable week of 2013 (24.49 million). Year to date track sales are at 487.54 million, down 12 percent compared to the same total at this point last year (555.67 million).
Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2013 when: Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" held at No. 1 for a second week (93,000; down 73 percent) while Alice In Chains' "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" debuted at No. 2 with 61,000.