After a close race that only got closer as the week pressed on, Kanye West scores the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 album chart this week, edging out J. Cole’s sophomore release, Born Sinner. Yeezus sold 327,000 copies in its debut week, while its closest competitor moved 297,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan data.
Yeezy’s victory caps a tense few weeks, during which Cole vowed to upstage West and take the distinction of the country’s No. 1 album, calling it “fate” that the two should go head to head in album sales.
But despite a leak that diminished original expectations of around 500,000, Yeezus maintained the top spot, becoming West’s fifth solo No. 1 and sixth overall, counting his 2011 collaboration with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne.
However, Yeezus marks a continuing downward trend of sales for Kanye. It’s his first album to sell less than 400,000 in its opening week, and lowest first-week bow since debut album The College Dropout moved 441,000, according to Billboard.
However, the album is still the third-best-selling album of 2013 in terms of first-week sales, debuting behind Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (339,000 sold) and Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (968,000 sold). It’s also rap’s best-selling album this year, garnering the best first-week sales for a record in the genre since Drake moved 631,000 for Take Care in November 2011.
Though J. Cole ended up unable to unseat Yeezus from the top spot, he was able to close the gap to a mere 30,000 records sold by the end of the sales week. Born Sinner didn’t chart as well as his debut album, 2011′s Cole World: The Sideline Story, which started at No. 1, but the sales number does eclipse Cole World, which moved 218,000 in its first week. Born Sinner has certainly avoided the sophomore slump, with first single “Power Trip” hitting the top five on the U.S. Rap and R&B charts and No. 20 on the Hot 100.
Hip-hop took the top three this week, with Mac Miller charting at No. 3 with Watching Movies with the Sound Off. Like J. Cole, the record was his second release, though it didn’t top his debut’s sales or chart debut. 2011′s Blue Slide Park debuted at No. 1 with 145,000 sold, while Watching Movies only managed 102,000.
Kelly Rowland is the only other debut in the top 10 this week. Talk a Good Game sold 68,000 in its first week, her lowest sales as a solo artist.
Hunter Hayes‘ eponymous debut marks the highest jump into the top 10 not by a newly-released album, as Hunter Hayes jumps all the way from No. 74 to No. 7, moving just under 40,000 copies following its deluxe reissue last week. The reissue, dubbed Hunter Hayes Encore, is still classified as his debut album, though it adds five new songs to his previous release. The combined sales for each give Hayes over 830,000 albums sold total.
As for next week, don’t be surprised if it’s yet another rap album dominating the charts, as Wale’s new disc, The Gifted, could become next week’s No. 1.
-Kevin Rutherford, Radio.com