MercyMe Rules Top Christian Albums & Hot Christian Songs Charts

Jessica Xie
MercyMe

Plus, Christian metal band Demon Hunter and Reba McEntire (with Lauren Daigle) post notable moves.

Lifer, the ninth studio album from veteran Christian music band MercyMe, bounds in atop Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart (dated April 22), earning 33,000 equivalent albums, with 30,000 in pure sales, in the week ending April 6, according to Nielsen Music. The set is the group's 10th leader on the tally.

On the Billboard 200, Lifer enters at No. 10, marking the act's fourth top 10 on the all-genre ranking.

"We've been a band for 23 years, and to see people still responding to our music is insane, to say the least," MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard tells Billboard. "We are forever grateful."

Concurrently, "Even If" -- the lead single from Lifer, co-written by Millar -- ascends 2-1 on Hot Christian Songs, becoming the band's record-extending 12th topper on the chart (which blends airplay, sales and streaming data). The track also lifts to a new Christian Airplay peak, pushing 5-3 as it increases 9 percent to 9 million audience impressions in the week ending April 9. It gains by 21 percent to 13,000 downloads sold (although it dips to No. 2 after six weeks atop Christian Digital Song Sales) and hits the Christian Streaming Songs top 10 (12-8).

Now with an unmatched 12 Hot Christian Songs No. 1s, MercyMe widens its lead over runner-up Casting Crowns (nine). Jeremy Camp, Third Day and Chris Tomlin follow with six apiece.

DEMON HUNTER SLAYS: Also on Top Christian Albums, Seattle-based metal outfit Demon Hunter snares its sixth top 10 as Outlive arrives at No. 2 with 19,000 equivalent album units in its launch week. Of that total, 18,000 are from traditional album sales, the band's best sales week for an album.

The 12-song Outlive, Demon Hunter's eighth studio set, is the act's fourth straight album to debut at No. 2 on Top Christian Albums, the group's high mark. It follows Extremist, which opened on the chart dated April 5, 2014; True Defiance (2012); and The World Is a Thorn (2010).

REBA & LAUREN LEAP: Country icon Reba McEntire's first faith-based set, Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, which debuted atop the Feb. 25 dated-Top Christian Albums chart, as well as Top Country Albums (54,000 equivalent album units), makes a lofty 101 percent gain (to 12,000), as it bullets at No. 3 on the Christian tally.

The catalyst for the bump: McEntire's performance of the album's lead single, "Back to God," with new duet partner Lauren Daigle at the 52nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, broadcast on CBS April 2.

Simultaneously, a new recording of "God," featuring Daigle, was released to digital retailers the day of the ACMs. As a result, the track (encompassing all its forms) soars 38-1 on Christian Digital Song Sales, up 1,481 percent to 19,000 downloads sold, its best weekly sum and second week at No. 1. The track first topped Christian Digital Song Sales on Feb. 18 (14,000).

The sales burst for "God" helps it fly 21-3 on Hot Christian Songs. It became McEntire's first Hot Christian Songs No. 1 on Feb. 18.

'HANG' UP: Finally, over on Gospel Airplay, GEI's first entry on the chart, "Hang On," featuring Kierra Sheard, ascends 3-1. The track is the first single from the album GEI: Live, which debuted and peaked at No. 5 on the Top Gospel Albums chart dated Oct. 22, 2016. On Hot Gospel Songs, "Hang On" returns to its peak (4-3).

The GEI choir represents Greater Emmanuel International Church of God in Detroit and is led by Bishop J. Drew Sheard, Kierra's father.

With "Hang On," the younger Sheard banks her second Gospel Airplay leader (among five top 10s). Also known as Kiki Sheard, she first led as featured on Mary Mary's "God in Me" for seven weeks in 2009.

"I'm super-excited and grateful," Kierra Sheard says of the new leader. "To have a message that my dad has been saying for years become a hit is just incredible. God is amazing."