Over the Counter: 'Kidz Bop 23' bows at No. 2, A$AP Rocky at No. 1

As forecast last week, rapper A$AP Rocky bows at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with his debut album, "Long.Live.A$AP," selling 139,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"Long.Live.A$AP" is the first debut album to hit No. 1 since fellow rapper 2 Chainz' "Based on a T.R.U. Story" opened atop the Sept. 1, 2012, list. (However, 2 Chainz had released two earlier charting sets as part of hip-hop duo Playaz Circle.)

A$AP Rocky's set is currently enjoying a top five hit single on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with "F**kin' Problems" (featuring Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar). So far, the song has sold 854,000 downloads.

A$AP Rocky got his first taste of a Billboard chart barely more than a year ago, when he was the featured guest on a remix of Rihanna's "Cockiness (Love It)." The tune spent four weeks on the R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs sales chart, beginning Dec. 10, 2011. The remix has shifted 54,000 downloads--19% of the song's overall sales.

"Long.Live.A$AP" is one of only two debuts in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 this week. In the runner-up slot is "Kidz Bop 23," launching with 81,000--the best sales week for an album in the Kidz Bop series since 2006.

The last Kidz Bop set to move a larger figure in a week was "Kidz Bop 10," which bounded in at No. 3 on Aug. 19, 2006, with 117,000. The last four volumes in the regular "Kidz Bop" line (Vols. 19-22) have started with between 59,000 and 70,000.

Kidz Bop 23 features kid-friendly covers of such recent top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits as Rihanna's "Diamonds," Justin Bieber's "As Long As You Love Me" and One Direction's "Live While We're Young."

The new Razor & Tie album also boasts the line's best digital sales week yet, as it moved 28,000 downloads in its first frame (34% of its bow). That's far more than the series' previous best download week, when "Kidz Bop 21" started with 13,000 downloads a year ago.

On the Digital Albums chart, "Kidz Bop 23" starts at No. 3, blocked by A$AP Rocky at No. 1 (96,000 downloads; 70% of its first week) and the "Pitch Perfect" soundtrack at No. 2 (39,000; 87% of its sales this week).

In addition to "Kidz Bop"'s standard promotion tools (TV spots, the KidzBop.com site and radio partnerships), other sales drivers influenced the album's high debut. The brand launched a line of toys and karaoke machines late last year and partnered with Burger King for a kids meal program that ran from Dec. 3 to Jan. 13. Each meal came with one of five three-song CD samplers of assorted "Kidz Bop" tunes. Further, "Kidz Bop" just announced its partnership with the Agency Group to book Kidz Bop Kids-branded live shows.

"Kidz Bop 23" is the fifth No. 2 set for the long-running franchise, though a No. 1 title continues to elude it. In total, "Kidz Bop" has logged 35 entries on the Billboard 200, with 16 of its releases reaching the top 10. The last regular Kidz Bop album, "Kidz Bop 22," started at No. 2 with 64,000.

As a consolation prize, "Kidz Bop 23" arrives at No. 1 on the Kid Albums chart, the brand's 24th leader on that tally. It brings the line's total weeks at No. 1 to 221--by far the most of any series in that chart's 17-year history.

In total, the "Kidz Bop" series has sold 13.3 million albums in the United States. Its best-selling title is its premiere 2001 release, which has sold 959,000. Its biggest-selling spinoff set (which isn't part of the main series) is 2002's "Kidz Bop Christmas," with 778,000 sold.

Perhaps surprisingly, in 2012, the series sold a little more than 1 million copies of its assorted albums. That's larger than the 2012 sums of such acts as Bruce Springsteen (879,000), Madonna (823,000) and Nicki Minaj (934,000)--all of whom topped the Billboard 200 last year. Of course, helping the Kidz Bop series is the fact that there are more than 35 titles in its sizable catalog. That's more than the number of Billboard 200-charting full-length albums by Springsteen (30) and the combined catalogs of Madonna and Minaj (25: two for Minaj and 23 for Madonna).

Still, those are impressive numbers by the Kidz, no matter how you slice it.

Next up is "Kidz Bop 24," due this summer, as well as a still-undetermined themed spinoff title in May. Toward the end of 2013 the line will release two more holiday-themed secondary titles, for Halloween and Christmas.