What do Ariana Grande and Susan Boyle have in common? If you guessed that Boyle was the original guest intended for Grande’s smash single “Problem,” you’d be wrong.
As Grande’s new album, My Everything, debuts atop the Billboard 200 — her second No. 1 album in less than 12 months — she becomes the first woman to enter at No. 1 with her first two albums since Boyle did so in 2010. That year, the Britain’s Got Talent import achieved her second straight No. 1 debut with The Gift, which followed her mega-selling 2009 debut, I Dreamed a Dream. (Boyle was also the last woman to claim two different No. 1s in less than a year.)
My Everything sold 169,000 copies in the week ending Aug. 31, giving Grande, 21, the second-largest sales week for a female pop artist in 2014. Only the debut of Lana Del Rey‘s Ultraviolence (182,000) was bigger. Grande’s debut album, Yours Truly, opened atop the chart dated Sept. 21, 2013 with 138,000.
The arrival of Grande’s My Everything helped lift the industry’s weekly album volume by 5 percent, to 4.2 million sold — a positive change after the previous week’s historic low. In the week ending Aug. 24, just 4 million albums were sold — the lowest weekly figure on record since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991, and the first time weekly sales have fallen below 4 million.
For perspective, the Nielsen SoundScan-era high for album sales in a single week came in late December 2000, during the apex of CD sales, when 45.4 million albums were sold in the week ending Dec. 24. That single week would account for 28 percent of all albums sold in 2014 so far (159.7 million).
In 1999, near the height of the CD era (in the sales week ending Aug. 29, 1999), an artist needed to sell about 7,000 units just to get on the Billboard 200. Today, that threshold has dipped to slightly less than 2,000. It also takes fewer copies to reach a high chart position. For example, on the current chart, every title between Nos. 101 and 200 sold fewer than 4,000 copies. That range was much wider 15 years ago: The No. 101 title sold 14,000 and the No. 200 album sold 7,000.