Billboard 200: ‘Empire’ Soundtrack Debuts No. 1, Kelly Clarkson Drops Out of Top 10

FOX’s Empire is not only a record-setting TV success, it’s also conquering the music charts as well.

The soundtrack for Empire has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 130,000 units. The album got a huge bump from promotion on last Wednesday’s episode, as well as on Thursday’s American Idol performance/results show, which featured a live performance from stars Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray, and an appearance from lead star Taraji P. Henson. The show, which airs its first season finale tonight, is riding on a wave of buzz unlike any new show on network TV this season. In fact, in the Nielsen ratings for the week overall, last Wednesday’s episode was only beaten by two longtime ratings juggernauts: NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. For a new show to be able to challenge either of those two ratings behemoths is huge, and at this rate, it wouldn’t be a massive shock for tonight’s two-hour finale to somehow come out on top when this week’s ratings come in.

But back to the music, as the Empire soundtrack was able to outsell new releases from Madonna and Luke Bryan, further cementing just what a big freakin’ deal this show is.

Madonna’s 13th studio release, Rebel Heart, debuted at No. 2 with 121,000 units sold, making this the 21st Top 10 album for the pop legend (all 13 studio albums, plus 8 additional albums in the form of greatest hits collections, live albums, and soundtracks). With each new release, Madonna comes that much closer to reaching Barbra Streisand for most Top 10 albums for a woman. Granted, she still has a long-ass way to go, considering Barbra has 33. That said, Rebel Heart is an even bigger success worldwide, as Madonna is on track to sell over 250,000 units, meaning this album is the perfect promotional vehicle for her 2015 tour. Say what you will about the album itself, which has received its fair share of critical reviews, but this is still a stellar achievement for any artist, even if she never does catch up to Barbra.

As for Luke Bryan, his new album may not have topped the Billboard 200, but it easily topped the Country Albums chart. Spring Break…Checkin’ Out, which debuted at No. 3 on the Top 200, sold 106,000 units to making this his fifth No. 1 album on the Country chart. Three of his five albums have been spring break-themed releases, suggesting Mr. Bryan has this whole “country party album” thing down to a science. And, frankly, I find that kind of awesome. Dude is a Rembrandt in the lost art of the Good Time/Beer Drinkin’/Fun Havin’ Party Album.

As for the rest of the Top 5, the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack falls out of the Top 3, dropping from No. 2 to No. 4 with 72,000 units sold. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift drops from No. 3 to No. 5, as 1989 sold 62,000 copies. Of course, while this represents a 19 percent decrease, it’s kind of stunning that the album is still ranking as high as it is, considering how long it’s been out. It suggests that she’s winning more converts to her music, as those singles she releases get harder and harder to resist. Whether you’re a closet fan or not, there’s just something infectious about her music. I know I found myself downloading it without regrets, and I’m actually pretty anxious to find out which song is going to be her next single, because virtually this entire album is radio-ready.

However, with these successes comes one huge, unfortunate shocker (well, if you’re a fan of her work, that is): Kelly Clarkson went from No. 1 last week, to suddenly falling out of the Top 10 altogether this week. Piece by Piece, which topped the charts in its debut week, plummeted to No. 12 with just 32,000 units sold. This is a 67 percent decrease, and the largest drop since Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear fell from No. 1 to No. 19 last August.

I really have no idea what happened here, other than to guess that there was too much competition on the charts. Really, this week’s Top 10 was virtually clogged up with mainstream, headline-grabbing releases. For instance, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran are both still riding on the Grammy high, while Drake’s surprise mixtape is still garnering a fair share of the buzz. Those albums accounted for three of the spots in the Top 10. Then you had Maroon 5 continuing its impressive chart performance for V with 48,000 units sold (only a four percent drop from last week), while Big Sean’s Dark Paradise further crowded the chart with 38,000 units sold. Essentially, there was just too much competition, and not enough enthusiasm for Kelly’s new album, to keep it in the running. Which is a shame, because it’s actually a return to form for Kelly. I didn’t love “Heartbeat Song” as a single, but the rest of the album is aces. I’d recommend giving it a shot even if you’ve only got a passing interest in the kind of music Clarkson does. It might surprise you.

Here’s the full listing of the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 this week:

Billboard 200 'Empire' Soundtrack Debuts No. 1, Kelly Clarkson Drops Out of Top 10

Credit: FOX

BILLBOARD 200 TOP 10 ALBUMS – 03/18/2015

1. Empire Sountrack, Various Artists (130,000 units sold)
2. Rebel Heart, Madonna (121,000 units sold)
3. Spring Break…Checkin’ Out, Luke Bryan (106,000 units sold)
4. Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack, Various Artists (72,000 units sold)
5. 1989, Taylor Swift (62,000 units sold)
6. In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith (61,000 units sold)
7. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake (58,000 units sold)
8. X, Ed Sheeran (53,000 units sold)
9. V, Maroon 5 (48,000 units sold)
10. Dark Paradise, Big Sean (38,000 units sold)

H/T: Billboard

Music Billboard 200EmpireLuke BryanMadonna