A butterfly has emerged early, as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly flutters to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200.
His sooner-than-expected release earned 363,000 equivalent album units in the week ending March 22, according to Nielsen Music, giving the rapper his first No. 1.
The critically lauded set originally was scheduled for a March 23 bow, but it hit retail early in the morning of March 16. The physical version of the album quickly started to reach brick-and-mortar retailers (most had it by March 19), and the set finished the week with 324,000 copies sold. That’s the second-largest overall sales week of 2015, trailing only the debut frame of Drake’s surprise album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (495,000).
Furthermore, Lamar’s album title and its original release date only had been announced on March 11 — five days before it sneaked out to digital retail. Even though Butterfly isn’t a surprise drop like Beyoncé’s self-titled LP or Drake’s set, it does approach “surprise” status.
Lamar’s last album, 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, debuted and peaked at No. 2, selling 241,000 copies. (It was stuck behind Taylor Swift’s also-arriving Red, which blasted in with 1.2 million.) Lamar likely will earn a second week at No. 1 this time, as no new releases that arrived on March 23 pose a threat to his reign.
Last week’s No. 1 album, the Empire TV soundtrack, slips to No. 2 in its second week with a slight 16 percent decline to 110,000 units. Its sales held well, falling just 19 percent to 89,000 sold. The Fox show wrapped its first season on March 18, collecting 16.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
The album that Empire blocked from No. 1, Madonna’s Rebel Heart, tumbles to No. 21 with 26,000 units (down 78 percent). It slid by 80 percent, to 24,000 (down from 93,000). That erosion is steep but not unusual for a title that likely had numerous preorders that inevitably made it difficult for it to sustain a second week. In the past year, other albums that had an equal (or steeper) collapse include Fall Out Boy’s American Beauty/American Psycho (82 percent), Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways (81 percent) and 5 Seconds of Summer’s She Looks So Perfect EP (82 percent).