Following Chris Stapleton’s breakthrough night on the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, the singer/songwriter earns his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart as his Traveller album makes a spectacular reentry atop the list — straight in at No. 1.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new Nov. 21-dated chart (where Stapleton is No. 1) will be posted in full to Billboard’s Web sites on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Traveller, which is Stapleton’s debut effort, returns to the list after being absent from the chart since September, and initially debuting and peaking at No. 14 in May (It was released on May 5 through Mercury Records). It bounds back in at No. 1 with 177,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Nov. 5 (up 6,109 percent from about 3,000 units) according to Nielsen Music. Of the new week’s total unit sum, 153,000 were pure album sales (up 6,412 percent from 2,000).
Remarkably, Stapleton’s album sold more in this past week than it had in total since its release in May. Up through the week ending Oct. 29, it had sold 96,000 copies, with its largest sales week registered in its debut frame (27,000).
The surge in sales is owed to how a mass audience finally discovered Stapleton on the Nov. 4 CMA Awards broadcast — and was clearly moved by what they saw. Until the CMAs, Stapleton had gathered critical praise but was largely unknown to a mainstream audience (He’s yet to earn a top 40 hit on the Country Airplay chart, for example). Still, he has written five No. 1s on the Country Airplay tally for other artists, including Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan.
On the CMA Awards, Stapleton won all three categories he was nominated for and performed a medley with Justin Timberlake. Stapleton won the CMA trophies for male vocalist of the year, new artist of the year and album of the year (for Traveller). Stapleton and Timberlake sang the Traveller track “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” (from The 20/20 Experience, 2 of 2).
“Tennessee Whiskey” ranks as the second-largest selling digital song of the week (a No. 2 debut on the Digital Songs chart) with 131,000 downloads sold. “Drink You Away” also debuts on the list, starting at No. 6 with 76,000 sold. Traveller’s title track also enters at No. 40 with 25,000.
Traveller is also the first debut country album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in over four years. The last was Clear As Day, by 2011 American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. It bowed atop the list dated Oct. 22, 2011.
Back on the new Billboard 200, the week’s top three albums are all impacted by the CMA Awards. Following Stapleton is the show’s co-host Carrie Underwood, who holds steady at No. 2 with her Storyteller album. The set moved 81,000 units (down 54 percent in its second week) and sold 73,000 albums (down 56 percent).
After Underwood is the surprise new release from Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood, which arrives at No. 3 with 76,000 units (71,000 in sales) from less than two full days of availability. The album was released on Nov. 4 without advance notice, hours before Church opened the CMA Awards.
The digital version of the album was initially exclusively available through the iTunes Store, and downloads comprised 70,000 of its first-week sales. The remaining 1,000 copies came from physical copies sold at brick-and-mortar retailers.
Mr. Misunderstood is the fourth top 10 album for Church, who saw his last release, 2014’s The Outsiders, debut atop the list with 288,000 sold in its first week.
The new Now 56 compilation album debuts at No. 4 on the new Billboard 200, earning 58,000 units (all from pure album sales). The arrival continues the Now That’s What I Call Music brand’s hot streak, as all 56 of the numbered Now albums have reached the top 10.
Last week’s No. 1, 5 Seconds of Summer’s Sounds Good Feels Good, descends to No. 7 with 32,000 units (down 83 percent).
The new compilation album We Love Disney debuts at No. 8 with 31,000 units (26,000 in album sales). The set features new covers of classic Disney tunes by the likes of Ariana Grande, Fall Out Boy and Kacey Musgraves.
Closing out the top 10 is rock band Def Leppard, as they bow at No. 10 with their new self-titled album (just over 30,000 units — nearly all from pure album sales). It’s the group’s seventh top 10 album, and first studio effort since 2008’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (which peaked at No. 5).
The band previously hit the top 10 with the greatest hits set Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection (No. 10 in 2005), the archival compilation Retro Active (No. 9, 1993), Adrenalize (No. 1 for five weeks in 1992), Hysteria (No. 1 for six weeks in 1988) and Pyromania (No. 2 for two weeks in 1983).
Just outside the top 10 is Taylor Swift’s 1989, which moves out of the top 10 for the first time in its 54 chart weeks. It slips 7-11 with 30,000 units (down 13 percent). 1989 spent its first 53 weeks on the list within the top 10.