A lack of hoopla has served J. Cole well. The rapper’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, despite no pre-release singles and precious few interviews, has become his third album out of three to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200. And it does so with his strongest first-week sales yet.
Remember, the album chart now includes streams and individual-track downloads. By that measure, 2014 Forest Hills Drive racked up 375,000 “equivalent units” in the week ended Dec. 14, according to Nielsen Music.
On a pure-sales basis, 2014 Forest Hills Drive‘s 354K sold handily outpaces the starts for last year’s Born Sinner and 2011′s Cole World. It’s also the best sales week for a rap album since Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 moved 792,000 copies in November 2013. Only Taylor Swift’s 1989, One Direction’s Four and Coldplay‘s Ghost Stories have had better weeks this year; 1989 did it twice.
Speaking of 1989 (No. 2, 324K units), it takes a hiatus from five non-consecutive weeks at the top. Rounding out the top 10: Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas to Me (No. 3, 218K), Carrie Underwood’s new Greatest Hits: Decade #1 (No. 4, 103K), AC/DC’s Rock or Bust (No. 5, 94K), K. Michelle’s new Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? (No. 6, 88K), One Direction’s Four (No. 7, 82K), Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour (No. 8, 81K), Ed Sheeran’s x (No. 9, 65K) and Garth Brooks’ Man Against Machine (No. 10, 62K).
The greater drama at this point surrounds next week’s chart. Nicki Minaj‘s The Pinkprint is on pace for a top five start and may sell more than 150,000 copies in its first week, industry sources told Billboard. But she’ll have her work cut out for her trying to beat 1989 or That’s Christmas to Me, and she probably won’t succeed.
As for D’Angelo‘s surprise release of his first album in almost 15 years, the epochal Black Messiah, it will probably be right behind Minaj among records released this week. Projections call for sales of roughly 100,000. Though streams and single-track downloads now also factor into the Billboard 200, album sales are still a good sign of how the record will chart.
Meanwhile, on Billboard‘s Hot 100, Taylor Swift‘s “Blank Space” (one of our 75 Best Songs of 2014) spends its fifth week at No. 1. That’s the longest chart reign for any of her singles. “Be that girl for a month,” she sings here, but that was quite an understatement.