Prince rules the Nos. 1 and 2 slots on the Billboard 200 albums chart with the greatest hits set The Very Best of Prince and the Purple Rain soundtrack, as both titles re-enter the chart in the wake of his death on April 21.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new May 7-dated chart (where The Very Best of Prince is No. 1) will be posted in full to Billboard’s websites on Tuesday, April 26.
The Very Best of Prince marks the Purple One’s fifth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, and first since 3121 debuted atop the list on April 8, 2006, spending one week at No. 1.
The Very Best of Prince earned 179,000 equivalent album units in the week ending April 21 (up 10,872 percent compared to the previous week). Of that sum, 100,000 were in traditional album sales (up 11,232 percent). As for Purple Rain, it shifted 69,000 units (63,000 in pure album sales; up 3,101 percent).
Prince died on April 21, the final day of the latest tracking week for the new chart, meaning that fans rushed to purchase his music in the roughly half-day left in the tracking week (after the news broke around 10 a.m. PT), enough to send him to Nos. 1 and 2. We will see continued impact from the icon’s passing on the following week’s chart, dated May 14 (reflecting activity in the week ending April 28).
Another Prince set hits the top 10, as his triple album The Hits/The B-Sides re-enters at No. 6 with 41,000 units (up 8,203 percent), with 24,000 of that sum in album sales (up 10,351 percent). The album originally debuted and peaked at No. 19 on Oct. 2, 1993.
The three titles are also the Nos. 1, 2 and 7 selling albums of the week, as reflected on the Top Album Sales chart (which tallies the week’s best selling albums).
Incredibly, in the week ending April 21, Prince’s overall catalog of albums sold 256,000 copies — an increase of 5,298 percent compared to the previous week (5,000).
As noted in Billboard’s earlier story forecasting the likely No. 1 coronation of The Very Best of Prince, his albums are selling incredibly well not just because of the artist’s extraordinary popularity, but also because his music has limited availability on streaming services and YouTube. The only streaming service with access to his songs is Tidal. And, as noted in Billboard magazine’s cover story about Prince in 2013, finding classic videos or performance footage of Prince on YouTube or anywhere else on the Web is difficult. “I have a team of female black lawyers who keep an eye on such transgressions,” Prince said at the time. “And you know they’re sharp,” he added with a laugh.
Thus, for many — outside of listening to his music on the radio — the primary way to experience Prince’s music is to purchase his albums and songs.
Here are some fast facts about Prince on the new Billboard 200 chart:
– Prince’s Fifth No. 1 Album: The Very Best of Prince is the Purple One’s fifth No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and first since 3121 bowed atop the list on April 8, 2006, spending one week at No. 1. He previously led the chart with the Batman soundtrack (six weeks in 1989), Around the World in a Day (three weeks in 1985) and Purple Rain (24 weeks at No. 1 in 1984 and 1985).
The Very Best of Prince previously debuted and peaked at No. 66 on the Aug. 18, 2001-dated chart.
– First Act With Nos. 1 & 2 Albums in More Than 10 Years: Prince is the first act to concurrently chart the Nos. 1 and 2 albums on the Billboard 200 since Nelly’s simultaneously released Suit and Sweat albums debuted at Nos. 1 and 2 on the Oct. 2, 2004-dated chart. Before that, Guns N’ Roses also released a pair of albums at the same time, which also started at Nos. 1 and 2 the same week: Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. They launched at Nos. 2 and 1, respectively on Oct. 5, 1991, and remained in those positions, side-by-side, for a second week (Oct. 12).
Prior to Guns N’ Roses, the feat last occurred on Feb. 2, 1974, when Jim Croce held down the top rungs with You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, and his posthumously released I Got a Name (No. 2). Croce died on Sept. 20, 1973, and subsequently, his You Don’t Mess Around With Jim album (powered by the posthumous Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single “Time In a Bottle”) rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 dated Jan. 12, 1974, and spent five weeks at No. 1. His fifth and final studio album, I Got a Name, was released in late 1973, and climbed to its peak of No. 2 on Jan. 26, 1974.
– The First Greatest Hits Album at No. 1 since 2007: The Very Best of Prince is the first greatest hits compilation to reach No. 1 in more than nine years. The last traditional hits compilation from an artist to top the tally was The Notorious B.I.G.’s Greatest Hits on March 24, 2007.
Since then, the chart’s top slot has housed a couple albums which are somewhat like a hits package, but aren’t traditional best-of sets. The soundtrack to Michael Jackson’s This Is It debuted at No. 1 on Nov. 14, 2009, and included many of Jackson’s biggest singles, but operated as a soundtrack — not an authoritative best-of. Then, in 2013, Garth Brooks’ box set Blame It All On My Roots: Five Decades of Influences, hit No. 1. The six-CD package, exclusively sold through Walmart and Sam’s Club, boasted four discs of Brooks covering songs that influenced his career. The remaining two discs were his previously released The Ultimate Hits best-of, first issued as a stand-alone album in 2007.
– Purple Rain’s 100th Week on the Chart: The smash soundtrack to Prince’s first film returns to the list for a 100th cumulative week. The album was last on the chart dated Nov. 8, 2014, and has appeared frequently on the chart since 2012. The album’s original chart run lasted from July 14, 1984 (where it debuted at No. 11), through Nov. 23, 1985. The set didn’t return to the list until 2012. (Note: Between May of 1991 and December of 2009, older albums — referred to as catalog — were mostly barred from charting on the Billboard 200. In December 2009, the chart began allowing catalog titles back onto the chart, clearing the way for Purple Rain’s return in 2012.)
With 24 weeks at No. 1, Purple Rain is tied with Saturday Night Fever for the third-most weeks at No. 1 by a soundtrack. Ahead of them: only South Pacific (31 weeks at No. 1) and West Side Story (54 weeks).
– 18 Top 10 Albums: With The Very Best of Prince and The Hits/The B-Sides visiting the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for the first time, Prince ups his total of top 10 albums to 18.
– Eight Prince Albums Are on the Billboard 200: In addition to his trio of titles in the top 10, Prince also returns to the chart with 1999 (No. 31), another greatest hits package, Ultimate (No. 61), Sign ‘O’ the Times (No. 95), HITnRun: Phase One (No. 147) and his self-titled album (No. 160).