Country superstar Kenny Chesney captures his ninth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, as his latest studio effort, Here and Now, bows atop the tally. Notably, he ties Garth Brooks for the most No. 1s among country acts in the chart’s history.
The set earned 233,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in the week ending May 7, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. That’s the largest week for any country album in over a year-and-a-half, since Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty bowed at No. 1 with 266,000 units (Sept. 29, 2018-dated chart).
Here and Now is also the first country album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in nearly six months. Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get was the last to do so, when it opened at No. 1 on the Nov. 23, 2019 chart. Here and Now was released on May 1 via Blue Chair/Warner Music Nashville.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption as measured in equivalent album units. Units comprise album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new May 16-dated chart (where Here and Now debuts at No. 1) will be posted in full on Billboard's website on May 12.
Here and Now’s start of 233,000 equivalent album units comprises 222,000 in album sales, 10,000 SEA units (equaling 13.4 million on-demand streams of the set’s songs during the tracking week) and 1,000 in TEA units.
Here and Now’s sales launch of 222,000 is the third-biggest sales week of the year for an album, trailing only the debuts of BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7 (347,000; March 7-dated chart) and The Weeknd’s After Hours (275,000; April 4). Here and Now’s debut was largely powered by sales generated from a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer with Chesney's upcoming tour. After Hours also had a ticket/album redemption offer in play with its first week (in addition to more than 80 merchandise/album bundle sales that helped drive sales). Map of the Soul: 7 had neither a ticket/album redemption offer or merchandise/album bundles.
With Here and Now’s arrival at No. 1, Chesney ties Brooks for the most No. 1s on the Billboard 200 by a country act. Both have nine leaders. Among all artists, Chesney now has as many No. 1s as Brooks, Drake, Madonna, The Rolling Stones and Kanye West. Ahead of them: The Beatles, with the all-time record of 19 No. 1 albums; Jay-Z, with 14; Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand, each with 11; and Eminem and Elvis Presley, each with 10.
All told, Here and Now is Chesney’s 16th top 10 album on the Billboard 200 -- and all have reached the top five. Since 2010, all eight of his charting albums have either debuted at Nos. 1 or 2.
Chesney’s last release, 2018’s Songs for the Saints, debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the Aug. 11, 2018-dated chart with 77,000 units earned in its first week. It bowed behind Drake’s Scorpion, which was in its fifth and final week at No. 1 (after debuting on top), with 145,000 units.
Speaking of Drake, his surprise-released Dark Lane Demo Tapes opens at No. 2 on the new Billboard 200 chart, with 223,000 equivalent album units earned. It marks his 12th top 10 effort -- the entirety of his charting releases. The new collection of stray tunes is Drake’s 12th top 10 effort, and follows another odds n’ ends release, Care Package, which opened at No. 1 on the Aug. 17, 2019-dated list with 109,000 units earned.
Drake announced Dark Lane Demo Tapes via an Instagram post a few hours before it dropped on May 1. He describes the set as “songs people have been asking for (some leaks and some joints from SoundCloud and some new vibes).” Drake also said that his “6th studio album” will be released this summer.
Dark Lane Demo Tapes’ debut week was largely fueled by streaming activity. Of its 223,000-unit launch, 201,000 are in SEA units. That SEA sum equates to 269.1 million on-demand streams of the set’s songs -- making it the biggest streaming album of the week, by far; the third-largest streaming week of 2020; and the second-biggest debut streaming frame of the year. As for the rest of Dark Lane Demo Tapes’ first-week unit total, album sales comprise nearly 19,000, while TEA units total a little under 4,000.
The only album with larger streaming weeks in 2020 than Dark Lane Demo Tapes is Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake, which launched with 400.4 million (March 21-dated chart) and then nabbed a second-week haul of 348.7 million (March 28) after the set was reissued with an array of bonus tracks in its second week of availability.
Bucking the trend of many new releases, Dark Lane Demo Tapes’ first-week did not benefit from any merchandise/album bundles, nor a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer. It also didn’t have any physical album formats to purchase in its first week -- just the digital album. (Drake’s Care Package had the same roll-out: no ticket offer, no merch bundles, and no physical album.)
With Here and Now and Dark Lane Demo Tapes both earning more than 200,000 units, this week marks just the second time in the last two years -- and the second time in just over three months -- that two albums have earned north of 200,000 in a single week. It most recently happened in on the chart dated Feb. 1, 2020, when Eminem’s Music to Be Murdered By and Halsey’s Manic debuted at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, with 279,000 and 239,000 units earned.
A common thread between the Chesney/Drake and Eminem/Halsey weeks is that the albums from Drake and Eminem were surprise releases, while Chesney and Halsey had announced their release dates weeks in advance. As noted above, Drake’s album was announced a few hours before it premiered at 12:00 a.m. EST on May 1, and Eminem dropped his set with zero warning before it arrived on streaming services and digital retailers on Jan. 17.
At No. 3 on the new Billboard 200, Lil Baby’s former No. 1 My Turn rises two rungs with 100,000 equivalent album units in its 10th week on the chart. The set is up 147 percent in units for the week, thanks to its reissue on May 1 with six additional tracks. Lil Baby continues the trend of R&B/hip-hop albums getting a reissue with bonus material soon after their release. Other titles that have gotten a reissue boost in 2020 include Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake and The Weeknd’s After Hours. Even NAV’s new Good Intentions, which was released on May 8, is slated to receive a deluxe reissue just two days later, on May 10.
A trio of former No. 1s line up at Nos. 4-6: DaBaby’s Blame It On Baby falls from No. 2 to No. 4 in its third week (48,000 equivalent album units earned, down 14 percent), Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake dips 3-5 (45,000 units; down 8 percent) and The Weeknd’s After Hours slips 4-6 (44,000 units; down 7 percent).
Megan Thee Stallion’s Suga hits a new peak on the Billboard 200, as the album climbs 10-7 with 39,000 equivalent album units (up 43 percent). The rise eclipses its previous high of No. 10, first achieved in its debut week (March 21 chart). Suga benefits from activity surrounding its hit single “Savage,” which got a boost on April 29 thanks to a new remix featuring Beyoncé. On the most recently published Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, dated May 9, the tune vaulted from No. 14 to No. 4.
Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding slides 6-8 with 38,000 equivalent album units earned (though up less than 1 percent).
Doja Cat’s Hot Pink zooms to its first week in the top 10, flying 19-9 with 37,000 equivalent album units earned (up 79 percent). Like Suga, Hot Pink is profiting from interest in its top 10-charting Hot 100 single “Say So” and a new remix. On May 1, a new version of the track boasting Nicki Minaj was released. Hot Pink reaches the top 10 in its 27th week on the chart, the longest climb to the region since Elton John’s hits set Diamonds took an 82-week stroll to the top 10 (reaching No. 7 on June 15, 2019).
Closing out the new top 10 of the Billboard 200 is Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG, which falls from No. 7 to No. 10 with 36,000 equivalent album units earned (though up 6 percent).