British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran earns his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, as "x" opens with 210,000 sold in the week ending June 29, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set is Sheeran's second full-length effort, and was released June 23 through Atlantic Records.
Sheeran logs his best sales week, the largest debut for a pop album this year and the fourth-biggest opening overall in 2014.
He trails only the arrivals of Coldplay's "Ghost Stories" (383,000), Eric Church's "The Outsiders" (288,000) and Brantley Gilbert's "Just As I Am" (211,000). Among pop sets, the last to open bigger was One Direction's "Midnight Memories," with 546,000 sold in the week ending Dec. 1, 2013.
Sheeran also claims the largest sales week for a British male artist in nearly 10 years. The last time such an artist earned a bigger week was when Rod Stewart's "Stardust … The Great American Songbook Vol. III" debuted at No. 1 with 240,000 sold in the week ending Oct. 24, 2004.
Sheeran's "x" follows his first album, "+," which debuted and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, selling 42,000 in its first week. It has sold 841,000 total.
Holding at No. 2 for a second week is fellow British artist Sam Smith's "In the Lonely Hour," with 67,000 — down a moderate 60 percent in its second frame. It has sold 233,000 in its two weeks on sale.
With Sheeran and Smith at Nos. 1 and 2, the Billboard 200's top two rungs are occupied by British soloists for the first time in more than 20 years. That last happened on the March 27, 1993 chart, when Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" and Sting's "Ten Summoner's Tales" were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. (The last time the chart had two British acts in the top two — solo or otherwise — was on the Oct. 20, 2012 chart. That week, Mumford & Sons' "Babel" and Muse's "The 2nd Law" led the list.)
Rapper G-Eazy arrives in the No. 3 position on the new chart with "These Things Happen," selling 46,000 — his best sales week yet. He also leads Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Rap Albums and Independent Albums. The new album is the artist's first to reach the Billboard 200, though he visited the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally previously with 2012's "Must Be Nice."
"These Things Happen" nets the second-largest debut for an independently distributed rap effort this year, behind 50 Cent's "Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win" (47,000). G-Eazy is also the first act to hit No. 1 on Rap Albums this year without having ever charted a single on the Rap Airplay chart.
Meanwhile, last week's new No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Lana Del Rey's "Ultraviolence," falls to No. 4 with 44,000 in its second week (down 76 percent). After two weeks, the album has moved 227,000. (So even though Smith's "In the Lonely Hour" missed out on the No. 1 slot, it has now sold more than the album that beat it to the top.)
The "Frozen" soundtrack spends its 28th straight week in the top five, as the album slips 4-5 with 38,000 (down 11 percent).
Rock band Mastodon nets its highest-charting album ever, as "Once More 'Round the Sun" debuts at No. 6 with 34,000. (However, it's not the group's biggest sales week — that belongs to the 41,000 debut frame of 2009's "Crack the Skye.") The act had previously topped out at No. 10 with 2011's "The Hunter" in its opening week.
Another rock act, Phish, nets its highest-charting album since 1996, as "Fuego" bows at No. 7 with 32,000. That ties with 1996's "Billy Breathes" as the band's highest-charting set. "Fuego" is Phish's 32nd charting effort, it’s first top 10 since1998's "The Story of the Ghost" (No. 8 peak) and the first studio release since 2009's "Joy" (which debuted and peaked at No. 13).
Miranda Lambert's "Platinum" dips 6-8 with 29,000 (down 15 percent), Linkin Park's "The Hunting Party" falls 3-9 with nearly 29,000 (down 74 percent), and the "Now 50" compilation rises 11-10 with 22,000 (down 15 percent).
Over on the Digital Songs chart, Sam Smith jumps three rungs to No. 1 with "Stay With Me." It sold 211,000 downloads in the week ending June 29, a gain of 42 percent. (The song's sales slide last week was owed to iTunes customers who opted to "complete" their purchase of Smith's album by upgrading their earlier purchases of "Stay" to the entire album. Effectively, consumers who completed the set were returning the song, thus translating to its sales slip.)
Magic's "Rude" slips 1-2 with 210,000 (up less than 1 percent); Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," featuring Charli XCX, drops 2-3 with 178,000 (down 9 percent); and Ariana Grande's "Problem," featuring Azalea, descends 3-4 with 153,000 (down 6 percent).
Newcomer Shawn Mendes arrives at No. 5 with his debut single, "Life of the Party," selling 148,000. A social network star (with 2.7 million followers on Vine and 1.2 million followers on Twitter), the 15-year-old singer signed to Island Records lessthan two months ago.
Mendes earns the largest opening week for an act's debut single since the week ending May 27, 2012 when Phillip Phillips' "Home" bowed at No. 2 with 278,000. That was also the same week that Phillips won the 11th season of "American Idol" — he was crowned May 23.
Nico & Vinz's "Am I Wrong" slides 5-6 with 147,000 (up 5 percent); Jason Derulo's "Wiggle," featuring Snoop Dogg, rises 8-7 with 120,000 (down 7 percent); and Maroon 5's "Maps" falls 6-8 with 104,000 (down 25 percent in its second week).
Disclosure's "Latch," featuring Smith, climbs into the top 10 for the first time, rising 12-9 with 101,000 (up 10 percent). Charli XCX's "Boom Clap" closes out the region, holding at No. 10 with 99,000 (up 3 percent).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending June 29) totaled 4.3 million units, down 6 percent compared with the sum last week (4.6 million) and down 14 percent compared with the comparable sales week of 2013 (5 million). Year-to-date album sales stand at 120.9 million, down 15 percent compared with the same total at this point last year (142 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 21.5 million downloads, up 2 percent compared with last week (21 million) and down 15 percent stacked next to the comparable week of 2013 (25.2 million). Year-to-date track sales are at 593.4 million, down 13 percent compared with the same total at this point last year (682.2 million).
Next week's Billboard 200competes with the same week in 2013 when: J. Cole's "Born Sinner" rose to No. 1, selling 58,000 (down 32 percent), while Wale's "The Gifted" fell from the top slot to No. 2 with 50,000 (down 68 percent). The top debut was Joe's "Doubleback: Evolution of R&B," which started at No. 6 with 31,000.