Chart Beat

When Billie Eilish Wins Album of the Year at the Grammys, Where Does It Go... On the Charts?

Billie Eilish
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Billie Eilish poses in the press room with the awards for best album and best pop vocal album for "We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?", best song and record for "Bad Guy" and best new artist at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Jan. 26, 2020 in Los Angeles. 

A comparison of Grammy winners for album of the year on the Billboard 200 chart -- from Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” in 1990 to Billie Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” in 2020.

As previously reported, Billie Eilish surges on the Billboard 200 albums chart after her historic night at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26, when she claimed five trophies, including album of the year for When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

The former No. 1 zooms 10-3 on the Billboard 200 (dated Feb. 8) in its 44th consecutive week on the tally, up 77% to 62,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending Jan. 30, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

The album debuted at No. 1 on the chart dated April 13, 2019, and has spent three nonconsecutive weeks atop the list.

In light of Eilish reaching her pot of Grammy gold, how have album of the year winners historically fared on the Billboard 200, both before and after their Grammy victories?

When We All Fall Asleep's jump up the Billboard 200 post-Grammys is typical for an album of the year winner. In 2019, Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour re-entered at No. 9 after its win (up 524% to 35,000 units), while in 2018, Bruno Mars' 24K Magic made a move that almost mirrors the post-Grammys climb of Eilish's, as it rose 10-4 in the wake of its coronation (up 89% to 49,000).

When We All Fall Asleep, Golden Hour and 24K Magic all have another chart statistic in common: None of them reached new Billboard 200 peaks after their album of the year wins. For When We All Fall Asleep, a new peak isn't possible, as it has spent three weeks at No. 1 already (although, it could've returned to the summit). Golden Hour debuted and peaked at No. 4 in April 2018, while 24K Magic debuted and peaked at No. 2 in December 2016.

Here's a look at some other notable patterns regarding album of the year Grammy winners and their performances on the Billboard 200, both before and after music's biggest night.

Popular albums tend to win album of the year. In general, and unsurprisingly, few opportunities exist for an album of the year winner to hit a new Billboard 200 high after the Grammys, as the winner has increasingly been a set that has already attained wide popularity with a general audience and, in turn, reached a lofty chart rank.

Since the 1990 Grammy Awards, 28 of the 31 winners for album of the year had already been top 10-charting titles before their Grammy triumphs. (The last winner to miss the top 10 before its win came more than a decade ago, when Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters won after initially peaking at No. 118. It sailed to No. 5 after its win.)

Further, of the 31 winners since 1990, 18 had already hit No. 1 before their Grammy wins (including three of the last five: Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep; Adele's 25, in 2017; and Taylor Swift's 1989, in 2016).

Since 1990, only six sets have reached a new Billboard 200 peak after winning album of the year. Considering how a majority of album of the year winners since 1990 have hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 before their Grammy wins, it's not a shock to see that just six winners since 1990 have reached new chart peaks after their wins.

Perhaps most famously, in 1990, Bonnie Raitt's surprise victory with Nick of Time (aptly titled, given this research) shot the album to No. 1 for three weeks, after it had first crested at No. 22 more than seven months before the Feb. 21, 1990, Grammy Awards. The album vaulted 40-22 on the March 10, 1990, chart after its initial post-Grammys surge. It then zoomed 12-6-3 in the next three weeks, and finally to No. 1 on April 7, 1990, its first of three straight weeks at the summit.

The five other album of the year winners since 1990 that found new peaks after their wins:

2008, Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters (pre-Grammys peak: No. 118, post-Grammys peak: No. 5)

2005, Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company (pre-Grammys peak: No. 2, post-Grammys peak: No. 1 for one week)

2002, O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack (pre-Grammys peak: No. 10, post-Grammys peak: No. 1 for two weeks)

1995, Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged (pre-Grammys peak: No. 69, post-Grammys peak: No. 48)

1993, Eric Clapton's Unplugged (pre-Grammys peak No. 2, spent three weeks at No. 1 post-Grammys)

Helping explain those rarities, almost all those sets were not driven by hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, so their newfound Billboard 200 success after their Grammys exposure, when many viewers may have become aware of them for the first time, makes sense.

Raitt's set spun off "Have a Heart," which just missed the Hot 100's top 40, while Clapton's live acoustic set Unplugged yielded the No. 12-peaking update of his classic "Layla." Clapton’s Unplugged also benefited from its inclusion of a live version of his hit single “Tears in Heaven,” which, in its original studio recording form, had peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 a year before Unplugged won album of the year.

Likewise, only six album of the year winners since 1990 have missed the top 10 post-Grammys. Just as album of the year winners tend to be big chart hits before the night of the Grammys, most also reclaim space in the Billboard 200's top 10 afterwards.

Of the last 31 album of the year winners dating to 1990, only six missed charting in the top 10 following their wins.

The most recent was Arcade Fire's The Suburbs in 2011. The set jumped 80-52 on the Feb. 25, 2011-dated chart in the initial rush after the Grammy Awards that year, then rose to No. 12, its post-Grammys high. Don't cry for The Suburbs, though, as it had debuted at No. 1 the previous August.

Before that, U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb opened at No. 1 on the chart dated Dec. 11, 2004, and won album of the year on Feb. 8, 2006. Perhaps fatigue had set in with consumers, since the set was more than a year old when it won. After the Grammys, the album lifted 191-175 on the Feb. 18, 2006, list, and then climbed 175-49 on Feb. 25, setting its best post-Grammys rank.

Steely Dan's Two Against Nature, the duo's first album of new material in 20 years, debuted and peaked at No. 6 upon its chart arrival on March 18, 2000. It won album of the year at the Feb. 21, 2001, Grammy Awards (and against some pretty stiff competition, including a pair of Billboard 200 No. 1s: Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP and Radiohead's Kid A). After the 2001 Grammys, Two Against Nature re-entered at No. 54 on the March 10, 2001-dated list (after a seven-month absence from the tally), marking its post-Grammys best.

Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind won in 1998, after it had debuted and peaked at No. 10 the previous year, and vaulted 122-27 in the wake of the Grammys.

Bennett's MTV Unplugged did, indeed, gain a new chart peak after its win, reaching No. 48 following its pre-Grammys high of No. 69, but that was still far shy of a top 10 ranking. (In fact, MTV Unplugged is the only album of the year winner since 1990 to not chart in the top 10 at all, nor even the top 40, before or after its win.)

And, Quincy Jones' Back on the Block took home the album of the year prize in 1991, after it peaked at No. 9 the year before. After its win, the set re-entered the chart at No. 187, then pushed to No. 140 the following week for its post-Grammys high. (Notably, that was before Nielsen Music data modernized the chart's methodology beginning in May 1991; before then, the chart was ranked by reports submitted by retailers, ahead of its segue to a more accurate, and timely, reflection of point-of-sale consumer scans.)

Similarly, those outliers were not driven by hit pop singles, so while they, too, gained, perhaps a ceiling, absent omnipresent top 40 radio play, was in place for their post-Grammys gains. Meanwhile, Eilish's Grammy winner for album of the year, like such recent sets as 24K Magic and Adele's 21 and many other albums that claimed the category, generated multiple Hot 100 hits. For Eilish, her reach includes "Bad Guy," which topped the Hot 100 last August before winning the Grammys for record and song of the year.

Thus, overall, Eilish's Where Do We Go this week goes pretty much where we thought it would: back up the Billboard 200, if not all the way to its original No. 1 peak that helped make it the Grammy winner for album of the year in the first place.