Billboard 200 Chart Moves: Country Albums Rule Top 3 for First Time in 5 Years

ABC/Image Group LA
 Chris Stapleton performs at the 49th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 4, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

On the most recent Billboard 200 chart (dated Nov. 21), country music took over the top of the tally, thanks in large part to the CMA Awards. For the first time in five years, the top three all are country albums. The Nov. 4 show, which aired live on ABC, pumped an enormous gain for Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, which re-enters at No. 1 (the first album to ever re-enter at No. 1) with 177,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Nov. 5, according to Nielsen Music (153,000 in pure album sales). Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller and Eric Church’s Mr. Misunderstood round out the country trio atop the list.

Chris Stapleton Soars to No. 1 on Billboard 200 Albums Chart After CMAs

The last time the Billboard 200’s top three were all country efforts was way back on the Nov. 20, 2010-dated list. That week, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now ruled for a second frame, while Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party launched at No. 2, and Sugarland’s former No. 1 The Incredible Machine dipped 2-3.

The Billboard 200 chart ranks the week’s most popular albums based on their overall consumption. That overall unit figure combines pure album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the action on the Nov. 7 chart:

Pentatonix, That’s Christmas To Me - No. 40 — Thanks to a deluxe reissue of the vocal group’s smash holiday set (first release in 2014), it zooms up the tally 200-40 with a 262 percent unit gain. It moved 13,000 units in the week ending Nov. 5, of which 11,000 were in pure album sales (up 319 percent). That’s Christmas To Me was the top selling holiday album of 2014, moving 1.14 million copies that year.

— Various Artists, Now 56 - No. 4 — The long-running Now That’s What I Call Music compilation series continues its successful run on the Billboard 200, as Now 56 debuts at No. 4 (58,000 units – all from pure album sales). It’s the 62nd top 10 effort for the Now brand, as all 56 of the numbered Now albums have reached the region, in addition to another six genre-specific Now sets. Aside from the 56 numbered sets, Now has also hit the top 10 with: Now That’s What I Call Christmas! (No. 3 peak in 2001), Now #1s (No. 6, 2006), Now That’s What I Call Christmas! 3 (No. 10, 2006), Now That’s What I Call Country (No. 7, 2008), Now That’s What I Call Country Vol. 2 (No. 10, 2009) and Now That’s What I Call Country: Volume 7 (No. 10, 2014).

Elvis Presley With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, If I Can Dream - No. 21 — For the first time since 1977, Elvis Presley has earned a pair of new top 40-charting albums in a calendar year on the Billboard 200 chart. Presley’s new effort, If I Can Dream, starts at No. 21 on the Billboard 200, shifting 20,000 equivalent album units in the week ending Nov. 5 (according to Nielsen Music). It follows his No. 11-peaking compilation Elvis Presley Forever, which arrived on the Sept. 5-dated tally. Presley last notched two new top 40 sets back in 1977, the year he died (on Aug. 16), with Moody Blue (No. 3) and Elvis In Concert (No. 5). Notably, in 2003 Presley did visit the top 40 with two different albums, but one of them was a holdover from 2002. His greatest hits set Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits debuted at No. 1 in 2002, and lingered in the top 40 until early 2003. Later that year, the set’s follow-up compilation, Elvis: 2nd To None, debuted at No. 3.
The new If I Can Dream album was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and marries old Presley vocals (from songs like the title track and “How Great Thou Art”) with newly recorded music. The decidedly classical-leaning set zooms to No. 1 on the Classical Crossover Albums chart, giving Presley his first leader (and entry) on that tally.

Little Big Town, Pain Killer - No. 37 — The Country Music Association (CMA) Awards help Little Big Town score the chart’s largest percentage gain, as the quartet’s Pain Killer flies 125-37. The album, which features their single of the year-winner “Girl Crush,” moved 13,000 units (up 201 percent). Of that sum, 7,000 were in album sales (up 151 percent). On the show, Little Big Town also won vocal group of the year and performed “Girl Crush.” The former Hot Country Songs No. 1 remains the year’s top selling country download (1.8 million sold).

Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill - No. 54 — A deluxe reissue of the former No. 1 album, first released in 1995, prompts its return to the chart with 6,000 units (up 373 percent). Its reentry grants the album its highest rank on the list since Aug. 9, 1997 (No. 81).

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, So Familiar - No. 126 — Over on the Bluegrass Albums chart, actor/singer/banjoist Steve Martin collects his fifth straight No. 1 album with his new Edie Brickell collaborative set. It also grants Martin his third top 10 set on Folk Albums (No. 3). So Familiar is Martin’s eighth entry on the Billboard 200. He’s claimed four top 40 charting efforts, including two top 10s: Let’s Get Small (No. 10 peak in 1977) and A Wild and Crazy Guy (No. 2 in 1978).

— Various Artists, The Bach Guild: Big Christmas Box - No. 131 — The 280-song compilation The Bach Guild: Big Christmas Box re-enters at No. 131 with 5,000 units (up from nothing the week previous). The 2012 set returns thanks to a limited-time deep-discount price in the Amazon MP3 store: it went for 99 cents during the tracking week.