J. Cole's third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, easily debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, marking the rapper's third consecutive chart-topper. He previously led the list with his debut effort, 2011's Cole World: The Sideline Story, and its follow-up, 2013's Born Sinner.
2014 Forest Hills Drive moved 375,000 equivalent units in the week ending Dec. 14, according to Nielsen Music. (The Billboard 200 chart measures multi-metric consumption, including pure album sales. The ranking includes on-demand streaming and digital track sales, in addition to traditional album sales, all measured by Nielsen.)
On the latest Billboard 200, 84 percent of the chart's total units (adding up the weekly unit totals of Nos. 1 through 200) are pure album sales. The rest of its units are track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).
2014 Forest Hills Drive sold 354,000 copies in it first week, and it also debuts at No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart. The sum is the fifth-largest sales week for an album in 2014, and the biggest for a hip-hop set in over a year. The only larger weeks this year were racked up by Taylor Swift's 1989 (in its first two frames: 1.29 million and 402,000, respectively), One Direction's first week with Four (387,000) and Coldplay's arrival with Ghost Stories (383,000).
The last hip-hop album to score a bigger sales week than 2014 Forest Hills Drive's opener was Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2, when it launched at No. 1 with 792,000 in the week ending Nov. 10, 2013.
J. Cole has seen each of his albums grow in debut week sales. His first album, Cole World, started at No. 1 with 212,000 sold. His second set, Born Sinner, launched at No. 2 with 297,000 (and moved to No. 1 in its third chart week).
2014 Forest Hills Drive, released on Roc Nation through Columbia Records, is the sixth No. 1 for the Roc Nation label. The label's founder, Jay Z, scored Roc Nation's first leader with The Blueprint 3 (in 2009). It was followed by Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne (2011), Cole's Cole World and Born Sinner, and Jay Z's Magna Carta… Holy Grail (2013).
Taylor Swift's 1989 slips one rung to No. 2 after five non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200. It shifted 324,000 units (up 18 percent), of which 278,000 were pure album sales (up 21 percent).
Pentatonix's That's Christmas to Me falls 2-3 with 218,000 units (down 1), powered largely by pure album sales (207,000, down 1 percent). The bulk of Pentatonix's units were comprised of album sales (95 percent), with 3.8 percent driven by TEA and another 1.4 percent by SEA.
Carrie Underwood scores her fifth consecutive top five album, as her Greatest Hits: Decade #1 bows at No. 4 with 103,000 units (94,000 in pure album sales). This is the first best-of collection for the singer, who previously logged four albums that reached the top two: her Some Hearts debut (No. 2 in 2005), followed by three No. 1s: Carnival Ride (2007), Play On (2009) and Blown Away (2012).
Underwood's latest set is the highest-charting greatest hits album since the chart dated Aug. 25, 2012, when Frank Sinatra's Nothing But the Best re-entered at No. 3 (thanks to deep discounting by Amazon MP3). Underwood logs the biggest sales week for a best-of since Whitney Houston's Whitney: The Greatest Hits shifted 112,000 on the chart dated March 17, 2012 (in the wake of Houston's death), and the biggest sales debut for a hits set since Sinatra's Nothing arrived with 99,000 (at No. 2) on the May 31, 2008 chart.
Back on the new Billboard 200, AC/DC's Rock or Bust descends 3-5 with 94,000 units (down 46 percent).
K. Michelle achieves her second top 10 album as Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? arrives at No. 6 with 88,000 units (84,000 in album sales). It follows the singer's first album, 2013's Rebellious Soul, which debuted and peaked at No. 2 with 72,000 sold in its opening week.
One Direction's Four falls 5-7 with 82,000 units (up 11 percent). Pure album sales make up 72,000 of that figure.
Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour moves 4-8 with 81,000 units (up less than 1 percent), with 60,000 of that sum consisting of album sales.
Ed Sheeran's x returns to the top 10 for the first time since the Sept. 6-dated chart, as his album climbs 11-9 with 65,000 units (up 56 percent). He was up across the board in album sales (36,000; up 62 percent), TEA (22,000; up 65 percent) and SEA (7,000; up 17 percent). A lot of his gain's credit is owed to his performance of the album's "Thinking Out Loud" on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which aired Dec. 9 on CBS. The song concurrently bounds into the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Sheeran greatly benefits from the Billboard 200's new methodology incorporating TEA and SEA. On the Top Album Sales chart (which employs the Billboard 200's old measurement system of pure album sales), x rises 29-18.
Rounding out the new Billboard 200's top 10 is Garth Brooks' Man Against Machine, descending 8-10 with 62,000 units (up 8 percent). On the Top Album Sales chart, it falls 7-8 with the same sum, as the album is unavailable on streaming services, and its individual tracks are unavailable to purchase.