Chart Watch: Why Is This Week's Top-Selling Album Way Down at No. 8?

Paul Grein
Singer Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour performs onstage during the ‘Strange 80’s’ benefit at The Fonda Theatre on May 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

What’s this week’s top album? That’s a simple question with a surprisingly complicated answer. DJ Khaled’s Grateful is the No. 1 album on Billboard magazine’s flagship chart, the Billboard 200, for the second week in a row. But it wasn’t the week’s best-selling album. That distinction is held by Stone Sour’s Hydrograd, which enters the Billboard 200 way down at No. 8. This is the first time that the week’s best-selling album has ranked as low as No. 8 on that chart (at least since 1991, when Nielsen began tracking U.S. music sales). The old record was held by Mastodon’s Emperor of Sand, which ranked No. 7 in the tracking week ending April 6, even though it was that week’s best-selling album.

What’s going on here? Mastodon and Stone Sour are both metal bands. Does Billboard have something against metal? No. It’s not that simple.

Since late 2014, the Billboard 200 chart has ranked the week’s most popular albums in the U.S. based on what it calls “multi-metric consumption,” which includes traditional album sales, digital track sales, and streaming. Before the changeover, traditional album sales were the only criteria.

The “multi-metric” system favors hip-hop, which does phenomenally well in streaming. It doesn’t work to the advantage of rock bands, especially hard rock and metal bands, which don’t do as well in the streaming and digital track sales sectors.

The albums that have benefitted the most from the “multi-metric” system are Drake’s Views, which gained 11 additional weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 that it wouldn’t have had if the chart was still based strictly on sales; the Weeknd’s Starboy, which gained four additional weeks at No. 1; the Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness and Drake’s More Life, each of which gained two additional weeks at No. 1; and DJ Khaled’s album, which gained two weeks at No. 1 — a ranking it has yet to achieve in traditional album sales.

But just as there are winners under the new system, there are losers. Metallica’s Hardwired …to Self-Destruct would have had two additional weeks at No. 1 if The Billboard 200 was still a sales-only chart.

Billboard made this move as a reaction to dwindling album sales. Stone Sour’s album sold a mere 30K copies this week, a pitiful total for the week’s top-selling album. Billboard‘s judgment was that, taking everything into account, DJ Khaled’s album was more popular — more “consumed” to use its word — even though it didn’t sell as many copies (just 16K this week). The “consumption” tally on DJ Khaled’s album is 70K. The equivalent tally on Stone Sour’s album is just 33K.

This is only the second time since 1991 that the week’s best-selling album in the U.S. sold a mere 30K copies. The soundtrack to the Disney Channel’s 2015 original TV movie, Descendants, also sold just 30K copies. (Unlike the Stone Sour album, Descendants ranked No. 1 on the Billboard 200.)

By holding at No. 1 for a second week, Grateful surpasses DJ Khaled’s previous album, Major Key, which spent just a single frame on top.

Hydrograd is Stone Sour’s fifth consecutive top 10 album.

Top Songs

Justin Bieber is featured on the top two hits on the Hot 100 for the fourth week in a row. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” logs its ninth week at No. 1. DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” (which also features Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne) holds at No. 2. Bieber is the first artist to spend four straight weeks at Nos. 1 and 2 since Iggy Azalea did it for five weeks running in June and July 2014 with her own hit “Fancy” (featuring Charli XCX) and Ariana Grande’s “Problem” (on which she was featured). Bieber is the first male artist to achieve this feat since Pharrell Williams did it for five weeks running in June and July 2013 with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Williams had a featured credit on both hits.

“Despacito” jumps to No. 1 on the all-format Radio Songs chart. It’s the first song that isn’t sung primarily in English to top the chart, which was launched in 1990. Two other foreign-language songs cracked the top 10 on the Radio Songs chart. Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” reached No. 7 in 1996. Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” (featuring Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona) hit No. 8 in 2014.

“Despacito” sold 129K digital copies this week, which puts it on top of Top Digital Songs for the 10th week. That ties Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” for the most weeks at No. 1 on the digital sales chart so far in 2017. But among artists, Bieber pulls ahead of Sheeran because is also featured on “I’m the One,” which interrupted “Despacito’s” run on top.

“Despacito” logs its eighth week at No. 1 on The Official U.K. Singles Chart.

Bruno Mars’s “That’s What I Like” rebounds from No. 4 to No. 3 in its 25th week. The song hit No. 1.

DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” (featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller) dips from its No. 3 peak (so far) to No. 4 in its third week.

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” holds at No. 5 in its 26th week. The song logged 12 weeks at No. 1. It’s the first song in Hot 100 history to spend its first 26 weeks in the top five.

Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” rebounds from No. 7 to No. 6 in its 14th week. The song reached No. 1.

Imagine Dragons’s “Believer” dips from its No. 6 peak (so far) to No. 7 in its 22nd week.

Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road” returns to the top 10, jumping from No. 12 to No. 8 in its 23rd week. The song has climbed as high as No. 6. The song tops Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart for the 22nd week. Only one other song has spent so many weeks at No. 1 in the chart’s 73-year history. That’s Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” which spent 24 weeks on top in 2012-13.

Post Malone’s “Congratulations” (featuring Quavo) dips from its No. 8 peak to No. 9 in its 28th week.

French Montana’s “Unforgettable” (featuring Swae Lee) jumps from No. 13 to No. 10 in its 13th week. This is the second top 10 hit for both artists. French Montana was featured on Chris Brown’s “Loyal” (No. 9 in 2014). Lee hit No. 1 in 2016-17 as a member of Rae Sremmurd with “Black Beatles.”

Future’s “Mask Off” drops out of the top 10 this week. And for the first time in 62 weeks, The Chainsmokers aren’t listed in the top 10. “Something Just Like This,” their collabo with Coldplay, drops out of the top 10, ending a 61-week streak in the top 10. That means Katy Perry’s record of 69 consecutive weeks in the top 10 in 2010-11 is safe. There’s a consolation prize for The Chainsmokers: “Something Just Like This” tops the 1 million mark in digital sales this week.

Shawn Mendes and Charlie Puth (who are touring together this summer) each land their fourth top 15 hits this week. Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” jumps from No. 18 to No. 14 in its 11th week. Puth’s “Attention” leaps from No. 23 to No. 15 in its 11th week.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” tops the 7 million mark in digital sales this week. The song was already nearly 22 years old by the time the iTunes store opened in April 2003. You may be surprised to learn that Journey’s recording wasn’t a No. 1 hit when it was first released in 1981. It peaked at No. 9.

Top Albums

Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 enters the Billboard 200 at No. 2. This is Harris’s second top five album in a row. His previous album, Motion, reached No. 5 in 2014. Harris’s album also enters the Official U.K. Albums Chart at No. 2.

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. holds at No. 3 in its 12th week. The album spent its first three weeks at No. 1.

Imagine Dragons’ Evolve drops from No. 2 to No. 4 in its second week.

Ed Sheeran’s ÷ rebounds from No. 7 to No. 5 in its 18th week. It spent its first two weeks at No. 1. Sheeran’s album holds at No. 1 on The Official U.K. Albums Chart. This is its 13th week at No. 1 in that country, which equals the mark set by Sheeran’s previous album, x.

2 Chainz’s Pretty Girls Like Trap Music dips from No. 5 to No. 6 in its third week. The album debuted and peaked at No. 2.

Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic jumps from No. 9 to No. 7 in its 33rd week. The album has yet to fall out of the top 10. It logged four weeks at No. 2.

Drake’s More Life dips from No. 8 to No. 9 in its 16th week. It spent its first three weeks on top.

The Moana soundtrack holds at No. 10 in its 33rd week. The album peaked at No. 2.  Moana returns to No. 1 on Top Soundtracks, displacing Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain. This is its 13th week at No. 1. That’s the longest run by any soundtrack since Suicide Squad: The Album logged 13 weeks on top last year.

Two albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain soundtrack drops from No. 4 to No. 25. 311’s MOSAIC plummets from No. 6 to No. 161. (Purple Rain is No. 1 on Top Catalog Albums for the fourth week.)

Chris Stapleton’s From a Room: Volume 1 holds at No. 22 in its ninth week. The album logs its fifth week at No. 1 on Top Country Albums. Stapleton’s previous album, Traveller, logged 28 weeks at No. 1 on the country chart. Traveller tops the 2 million mark in traditional album sales this week.

Coming Attractions: Look for Jay-Z to land his 14th No. 1 album next week with 4:44. Also look for debuts inside the top 10 by 21 Savage’s Issa Album and HAIM’s Something to Tell You.