Chart Watch: Jay-Z Closes in on the Beatles

Paul Grein
JULY 13: Jay- Z attends Vic Mensa: The Autobiography Showcase at Mack Sennett Studios on July 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Jay-Z lands his 14th No. 1 album as  4:44 enters the Billboard 200 in the top spot. Only one other artist in chart history has amassed as many as 14 No. 1 albums. The Beatles have tallied 19. But Jay-Z ties the Beatles in one key respect — most albums of new material that have reached No. 1. All 14 of Jay-Z’s No. 1 albums are collections of new material. The Beatles’ tally of 19 No. 1 albums includes five compilations of vintage recordings —  The Beatles/ 1967-1970Anthology 12, and  3, and the single-disc compilation  1.

4:44 is Jay-Z’s 11th consecutive solo studio album to reach No. 1. (His other three No. 1 albums are an EP with Linkin Park and full-length collabos with R. Kelly and Kanye West.) That’s the longest string of consecutive No. 1 studio albums in chart history (discounting collaborations with other artists).

Jay-Z’s last solo studio album to miss the No. 1 spot was his sophomore release, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, which debuted and peaked at No. 3 in November 1997. It’s extraordinary for an artist to maintain this level of heat for 20 years.

It goes without saying that Jay-Z has amassed more No. 1 albums than any other African-American artist in history. Wanna know who’s in second place? If you combine solo and group recordings, it’s his wife, Beyoncé, who has reached No. 1 eight times — with all six of her solo studio albums plus two albums with Destiny’s Child.

Wanna know who’s in third place? It’s a tie involving Drake (he’s Canadian, but close enough), Janet Jackson, and Kanye West, all of whom have had seven No. 1 albums. I’ve got to mention Michael Jackson, who would have had seven No. 1 albums if Billboard had allowed catalog albums, like his compilation Number Ones, to appear on the Billboard 200 in the summer of 2009. (They do now.)

4:44 moved 262K in equivalent units this week. That includes 174K in traditional album sales.

Technically,  4:44 is in its second week of release. The album was released on June 30 for one week of exclusivity through Tidal. However, Tidal chose not to report data for the album to Nielsen Music for the week ending July 6, so the album didn’t debut on last week’s chart. It was released to most streaming services and retailers on July 7 through Roc Nation.

Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” is the week’s top new entry on the Hot 100 at No. 23. The title song from his new album debuts at No. 35. The rapper first cracked the top 40 as a lead artist in November 1998 with “Can I Get A…” (featuring Amil and Ja Rule).

Top Songs

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (featuring Justin Bieber) logs its 10th week at No. 1. That’s the longest run at No. 1 since Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” reigned for 12 weeks earlier this year.

“Despacito” sold 124K digital copies this week, which puts it on top of Top Digital Songs for the 11th week. That’s the longest run at No. 1 on that chart since the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” (featuring Halsey) had 13 weeks on top in late 2016.

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

DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” (featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller) rebounds from No. 4 to No. 2 in its fourth week. The song includes a prominent sample from Santana’s “Maria, Maria” (featuring the Product G&B). Thus, this week’s No. 1 hit is by a pair of artists from Puerto Rico and the No. 2 hit samples a smash hit by a group that is led by a musician (Carlos Santana) who was born in Mexico.

DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” (which also features Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne) dips from No. 2 to No. 3 in its 11th week.

Bruno Mars’s “That’s What I Like” dips from No. 3 to No. 4 in its 26th week. The song hit No. 1.

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” holds at No. 5 in its 27th week. The song logged 12 weeks at No. 1. It’s the first song in Hot 100 history to spend its first 27 weeks in the top five. Moreover, it’s one of only two songs in Hot 100 history to spend 27 total weeks in the top five. The first was the Chainsmokers’ aforementioned “Closer.”

Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” holds at No. 6 in its 15th week. The song reached No. 1.

Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” holds at No. 7 in its 23rd week. The song has climbed as high as No. 6.

Shawn Mendes lands his third top 10 hit as “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” jumps from No. 14 to No. 8 in its 12th week. It follows “Stitches” (No. 4) and “Treat You Better” (No. 6). “Treat You Better” topped the 1 million mark in digital sales last week. Hard to believe, but Mendes is still just 18. He turns 19 on Aug. 8.

French Montana’s “Unforgettable” (featuring Swae Lee) jumps from No. 10 to No. 9 in its 14th week. This equals the chart peak of French Montana’s only previous top 10 hit, Chris Brown’s “Loyal,” on which he was featured.

Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” drops from No. 8 to No. 10 in its 24th week. The song has climbed as high as No. 6. The song tops  Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart for the 23rd 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) drops out of the top 10 this week.

Kesha’s “Praying” is the week’ second-highest new entry on the Hot 100 at No. 25. Kesha made the top 10 with her first seven singles as a lead artist — from “TiK ToK” to “Die Young” — but has been on an extended hiatus. The singer co-wrote “Praying,” which includes a lyric about “hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal.” Some have suggested that the line is a veiled reference to Dr. Luke, whom Kesha accused of sexual assault. “Praying” is vying to become Kesha’s 10th top 10 hit, counting featured credits on hits by 3OH!3 and Pitbull.

21 Savage lands his third top 40 hit as “Bank Account” debuts at No. 33.

Top Albums

Hip-hop albums occupy the top four positions on the Billboard 200 this week. You already know about Jay-Z. 21 Savage’s first full-length album, Issa Album, debuts at No. 2. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. holds at No. 3 in its 13th week. DJ Khaled’s Grateful drops from No. 1 to No. 4 in its third week.

This is the first time in more than two years that rap albums have occupied the top four slots. This last happened in April 2015, when the top four were Wale’s The Album About Nothing, the Furious 7 soundtrack, Ludacris’s Ludaversal, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

Ed Sheeran’s  ÷ holds at No. 5 in its 19th week. It spent its first two weeks at No. 1. Sheeran’s album logs its 14th week at No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart. That’s the longest run for an album by a male solo artist since Elvis Presley’s  Blue Hawaii soundtrack had 18 weeks on top in 1962.

Imagine Dragons’  Evolve drops from No. 4 to No. 6 in its third week. The album debuted and peaked at No. 2.

HAIM lands its second top 10 album as Something to Tell You debuts at No. 7. The album enters the Official U.K. Albums Chart at No. 2. The trio received a Grammy nom for Best New Artist of 2014, but lost to Sam Smith.

Calvin Harris’ s Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 drops from its No. 2 peak to No. 8 in its second week.

The  Moana soundtrack inches up from No. 10 to No. 9 in its 34th week. The album peaked at No. 2.   Moana logs its 14th week at No. 1 on Top Soundtracks. That’s the longest run by any soundtrack since  Frozen logged 44 weeks on top in 2013-14. Both albums, of course, are from animated Disney movies.  Frozen was the 53rd animated feature film from Disney.  Moana was the 56th.

Drake’s  More Life dips from No. 9 to No. 10 in its 17th week. It spent its first three weeks on top.

Bruno Mars’s  24K Magic drops from No. 9 to No. 11, ending (for now at least) a 33-week run in the top 10. Two other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. 2 Chainz’s  Pretty Girls Like Trap Music drops from No. 6 to No. 12. Stone Sour’s  Hydrograd plunges from No. 8 to No. 74.

Radiohead’s OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997 2017 reenters the chart at No. 23. This nearly matches the original album’s original peak position (No. 21) in 1997. The album hits No. 1 on Top Catalog Albums, displacing Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain soundtrack.

Chris Stapleton’s From a Room: Volume 1 drops from No. 22 to No. 30 in its 10th week. The album debuted and peaked at No. 2. The album logs its sixth week at No. 1 on Top Country Albums.

As of this week, the Beatles’  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has sold 5 million copies (in traditional album sales) since Nielsen began tracking U.S. music sales in 1991. Of course, the 1967 classic sold millions more in its first 24 years of release.  Sgt. Pepper’s is close behind the Beatles’ 1969 album,  Abbey Road, which has sold 5,374,000 copies since 1991.  Sgt. Pepper’s is a more legendary album, but more than a few fans prefer  Abbey Road.

Coming Attractions: Look for French Montana’s  Jungle Rules to be next week’s top new entry, right around No. 3.