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Chart Watch: Thomas Rhett puts country back on top

Paul Grein
Country singer Thomas Rhett’s ‘Life Changes’ debuted atop the Billboard 200, giving country music its first Number One album of 2017.

Thomas Rhett‘s Life Changes this week becomes the first country album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know, which achieved the feat exactly one year ago. That’s a long gap between No. 1 albums for such a major genre. In part, this is a reflection of the new chart methodology (since late 2014) which gives weight to streaming and digital track sales in addition to traditional album sales. Country albums hold their own in traditional album sales, but have had a hard time keeping up with hip-hop and other genres in the streaming and digital track realms.

In the past year, five other country albums were the week’s best-seller in traditional album sales, but fell short of No. 1 on the Billboard 200 when the other metrics were added in. They were Aaron Lewis’s Sinner, Kenny Chesney’s Cosmic Hallelujah, Brantley Gilbert’s The Devil Don’t Sleep, Chris Stapleton’s From a Room: Volume 1, and Brett Eldredge’s Brett Eldredge.

Life Changes is Rhett’s third album to make the top 10. The singer is best known for his hit “Die a Happy Man,” which appeared on his last studio album. It logged 17 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs in 2015-16.

Rhett is the son of country singer-songwriter Rhett Akins, who never came close to having a No. 1 album. Akins’s only chart album, Somebody New, reached No. 102 in 1996 — when young Thomas was just 6 years old.

Adding to the joy in Nashville this week, two other country albums debut in the top 10 on the Billboard 200. Dustin Lynch’s Current Mood debuts at No. 7, becoming his highest-charting album. Kip Moore’s Slowheart debuts at No. 10, becoming his third top 10 album. This is the first time in nearly two years that three country albums have debuted in the top 10 the same week. Rhett had one of the albums the last time this happened, too.  It was on the Oct. 17, 2015 chart, when Don Henley’s Cass County, George Strait’s Cold Beer Conversation and Rhett’s Tangled Up debuted at Nos. 3, 4, and 6, respectively.

Life Changes also enters Top Country Albums at No. 1, displacing Luke Combs’s This One’s for You, which has spent a total of four weeks on top. It’s Rhett’s first No. 1 country album, following a pair of No. 2 albums.

Top Songs

Sam Smith and Taylor Swift took very different approaches in creating the first singles from their first studio albums since 2014. Smith released a ballad, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” which has the same soulful, choir-backed sound as “Stay with Me,” his Grammy-winning breakout hit. Swift confounded expectations with the chilly, dark “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Both singles have gotten off to fast starts. “Look What You Made Me Do” tops the Hot 100 for the third straight week. “Too Good at Goodbyes” is this week’s highest-new entry at No. 5. It’s Smith’s fifth top 10 hit, but his first to enter the chart inside the top 10. The ballad follows his hits “Stay with Me” (No. 2), “I’m Not the Only One” (No. 5) and “Lay Me Down” (No. 8) and Disclosure’s “Latch,” on which he was featured (No. 7).

“Too Good at Goodbyes” sold 90K digital copies in its first week, which allows it to enter Top Digital Songs at No. 1. It displaces another Swift track, “…Ready For It?” It’s Smith’s second No. 1 digital hit. “Stay with Me” was the top-selling song for two weeks in the summer of 2014.

“Too Good at Goodbyes” enters the Official U.K. Singles Chart at No. 1, displacing (you guessed it) “Look What You Made Me Do.” It’s Smith’s sixth No. 1 in his home country. “Look What You Made Me Do,” which spent two weeks on top, was Swift’s first No. 1 in the U.K.

Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” holds at No. 2 in its 11th week. “Bodak Yellow” is the most-streamed song of the week, displacing “Look What You Made Me Do.” Cardi B’s song is No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for the third week.

Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” (featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid) jumps from No. 5 to No. 3 in its 20th week. Logic and his guest artists’ performance of the song was the emotional highlight of the recent VMA telecast.

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (featuring Justin Bieber) dips from No. 3 to No. 4 in its 35th week. The song spent a record-tying 16 weeks at No. 1. “Despacito” is falling at a slower pace than “One Sweet Day,” the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men smash that was the only previous single to spend 16 weeks at No. 1. Three weeks after it ended its run at No. 1, that ballad dropped from No. 7 to No. 9.

DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” (featuring Rihanna & Bryson Tiller) holds at No. 6 in its 13th week. The song spent seven weeks at No. 2, the most for a No. 2 hit since Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” spent eight weeks at No. 2 in 2015.

French Montana’s “Unforgettable” (featuring Swae Lee) rebounds from No. 9 to No. 7 in its 22nd week. The song peaked at No. 3.

Charlie Puth’s “Attention” dips from No. 7 to No. 8 in its 21st week. The song peaked at No. 5.

Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” dips from No. 8 to No. 9 in its 32nd week. The song peaked at No. 4.

Shawn Mendes’s “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” holds at No. 10 in its 20th week. The song peaked at No. 6.

Taylor Swift’s “…Ready For It?” drops out of the top 10 this week.

Three singles in the top 20 reach new peaks this week. Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands” jumps from No. 15 to No. 11 in its 20th week. Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” jumps from No. 18 to No. 14 in its 13th week. J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” jumps from No. 22 to No. 19 in its 11th week.

The week’s top three debuts, after Sam Smith, are Zayn’s “Dusk Till Dawn” (featuring Sia) at No. 44, Kelly Clarkson’s “Love So Soft” at No. 62, and Blake Shelton’s “I’ll Name the Dogs” at No. 73.

Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road” tops Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart for a record-extending 32nd week.

Top Albums
The National lands its highest-charting album as Sleep Well Beast debuts at No. 2. The group’s two previous studio albums, High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me, both reached No. 3. Sleep Well Beast enters The Official U.K. Albums Chart at No. 1. It’s the band’s first No. 1 album in the U.K.

ODESZA lands its first top 10 album as A Moment Apart debuts at No. 3. This is by far the highest ranking for the electronic dance duo. ODESZA’s previous highest mark was set by its 2014 album, In Return, which peaked at No. 42.

Lil Uzi Vert’s first full-length album, Luv Is Rage 2, drops from No. 2 to No. 4 in its third week. The album debuted at No. 1. The album includes his former top 10 hit, “XO Tour Llif3.”

Jack Johnson lands his seventh top five album as All The Light Above It Too debuts at No. 5. Johnson’s last four albums of new material debuted at No. 1 (that’s three studio albums and the Curious George soundtrack).

XXXTENTACION’s 17 drops from No. 3 to No. 6 in its fourth week. The album debuted and peaked at No. 2.

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. drops from No. 4 to No. 8 its 22nd week. The album has logged four weeks at No. 1.

Khalid’s American Teen drops from No. 5 to No. 9 in its 28th week. The album peaked at No. 4. The album includes his former top 20 hit “Location.”

LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream tumbles from No. 1 to No. 56 in its second week. This is the second time in the past three weeks that the No. 1 album has fallen all the way out of the top 50. Two weeks ago, Brand New’s Science Fiction set an all-time record for the steepest fall from No. 1 when it plummeted from No. 1 to No. 97.

Five other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Imagine Dragons’ Evolve drops from No. 6 to No. 13. Kodak Black’s Project Baby Two drops from No. 7 to No. 14. Logic’s Everybody drops from No. 8 to No. 12. SZA’s Ctrl drops from No. 9 to No. 15. Ed Sheeran’s ÷ drops from No. 10 to No. 16.

Gregg Allman’s Southern Blood debuts at No. 11, four months after he died at age 69.  This is the eighth top 20 album of Allman’s career. He first cracked the top 20 with the Allman Brothers Band’s classic live album At Fillmore East, which reached No. 13 in 1971. He first cracked the top 20 as a solo artist with Laid Back, which reached No. 13 in February 1974.

The Moana soundtrack drops from No. 18 to No. 22 in its 43rd week. The album peaked at No. 2.  It’s No. 1 on Top Soundtracks for the 21st week. Moana has sold 804K copies in traditional album sales.

Sam Smith’s new song has boosted his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, which rebounds from No. 116 to No. 40 in its 170th week on the chart. The album debuted and peaked at No. 2 and received a Grammy nom for Album of the Year. It rises to No. 1 on Top Catalog Albums, displacing Eminem’s Curtain Call: The HitsIn the Lonely Hour has sold 2,359,000 copies in the U.S. in traditional album sales.

Coming Attractions: Look for Foo Fighters’ Concrete and Gold to debut at No. 1 next week.