On the latest Billboard 200 albums chart (dated Jan. 28), the La La Land soundtrack soared to No. 2, while The Weeknd’s Starboy held atop the list. The top debut on the chart came from Dropkick Murphys, which opened at No. 8 with 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.
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 latest Billboard 200 chart:
— David Bowie, No Plan (EP) – No. 138 — David Bowie’s surprise album release, No Plan, arrives at No. 138 on the Billboard 200, giving the icon his 45th entry on the chart.
The four-song digital EP bows with 5,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Jan. 12, according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, a little more than 4,000 were comprised of traditional album sales.
No Plan was released (without advance warning) to commemorate what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday on Jan. 8. (Bowie died on Jan. 10, 2016 — two days after he released his final studio album, Blackstar.)
Three of the EP’s songs (the title track, “Killing a Little Time” and “When I Met You”) were previously included on the Lazarus cast recording album (which was composed by Bowie). However, they were not available as a la carte song purchases digitally until their bow on No Plan. The EP’s fourth song, “Lazarus,” was featured on Blackstar.
In 2016, Bowie’s catalog of albums performed very well, as fans mourned the legend’s death. He sold 1.28 million albums last year, led by Blackstar, with 456,000 copies sold. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, marking his first leader on the list. Bowie made his Billboard chart debut nearly 45 years ago, on the Billboard 200 dated April 15, 1972, when Hunky Dory bowed at No. 183. During the album’s initial chart run, it peaked at No. 93, but later returned to the list after Bowie’s passing, hitting a new chart high: No. 57 (Jan. 30, 2016).
— Soundtrack, La La Land – No. 2 — At No. 2 on the chart, the La La Land soundtrack earned 42,000 equivalent album units in the week ending Jan. 12 (up 83 percent), with just under 30,000 of those units coming from traditional album sales. La La Land was the best-selling album of the week, and it jumps to No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart. That 30,000 sum, however, is the second-smallest ever for the week’s top selling album, since Nielsen started tracking sales in 1991. The lowest ever total atop the list was racked up by another soundtrack, Disney Channel’s Descendants, when it debuted atop the list dated Aug. 22, 2015 with a few hundred copies less.
La La Land replaces the Moana soundtrack at No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart, giving the list back-to-back No. 1s from two different multi-artist soundtracks since 1998. On the charts dated July 18, 1998, the Armageddon soundtrack bumped the City of Angels soundtrack from No. 1 as the week’s best-selling release.
In terms of overall soundtracks, the back-to-back feat last happened in 2009, when Michael Jackson’s This Is It replaced The Twilight Saga: New Moon as the best-selling album of the week. (This Is It consisted entirely of Jackson recordings, while New Moon is a multi-artist effort.)
— Ed Sheeran, x – No. 26 — As Ed Sheeran rockets onto the Billboard Hot 100 with his new songs “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill,” the singer/songwriter’s previous albums surge on the Billboard 200. His second album, x, jumps 71-26 (14,000 units; up 63 percent) while his debut set, +, re-enters the chart at No. 67 (8,000 units; up 100 percent). Sheeran’s two new songs are from his upcoming third studio album, ÷, which is due out on March 3.
— George Michael, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best Of… – No. 41 — The album gains (rising 195-41) with 11,000 units (up 139 percent) and 4,000 sold (up 38 percent). Much of its sales come from its CD album: It was restocked at retail, after on-hand product was quickly depleted after his death.
— U2, The Joshua Tree – No. 108 — The set returns (6,000 units; up 363%) to the chart for the first time in more than two years following the announcement of the band’s upcoming 30th anniversary Joshua Tree Tour. The album spent nine weeks at No. 1 in 1987 (the band’s longest run at No. 1 among their seven chart-toppers), and remained in the top 40 of the chart for its first 13 months of release.