Entertainment

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’ Bows at No. 1 With Year’s Biggest First-Week Debut

Kendrick Lamar had the biggest debut of any album so far this year with “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” his first album in five years and his fourth to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

The truly long-awaited release came in hot with 295,500 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending May 19, according to Luminate via Billboard.

It’s the third straight week in which a new bar has been set for the best 2022 debut to date. Lamar claiming that record means Bad Bunny’s summer blockbuster, “Un Verano Sin Ti,” only had one week in which to hold the title; it debuted last week at No. 1 with 274,000 equivalent album units. The week before that, it was Future’s “I Never Liked You” premiering on top, with 222,000.

In the five years since he released 2017’s cultural shifter “Damn” (which spent four weeks atop the Billboard 200), Lamar became the first hip-hop artist to win the Pulitzer Prize, earned an Oscar nomination for his contribution to “Black Panther,” launched a media company, performed at the Super Bowl and announced his impending departure from the label TDE.

As Variety‘s Andrew Barker wrote in his review of the 19-track, 72-minute album, “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” “is almost entirely concerned with the long periods that Lamar spent out of the spotlight in between. He’s been going through quite a few things since we last heard from him, and he’s never been more willing to share them all.”

Also premiering in the top 10 was the Big Hit group Tomorrow X Together, which scored its second top 10 album and highest-charting release yet with the No. 4 debut of “Minisode 2: Thursday’s Child,” clocking in with 68,500 equivalent album units. The vast majority of that tally, 65,500 units, came via sales, versus streaming. As is typical with major K-pop artists, the album was released in a variety of collectible packages — eight different CD variations, in this case. Virtually all fans purchasing the album wanted one of those physical packages, as digital download sales were almost non-existent, at 500. On-demand streams added up to 4.37 million, as fans skewed toward pride of ownership.

Florence and the Machine landed at No. 7 with the group’s fourth top 10 album, “Dance Fever,” debuting with 54,000 album units. Full-album ales also accounted for the better part of that tally, at 42,500.

The Black Keys also obtained their sixth top 10 with the No. 8 start of “Dropout Boogie.” It comes only a year after the Keys’ last release, “Delta Kream,” which debuted and peaked at No. 6. The new “Dropout” dropped in with 33,000 equivalent album units. This album, too, was propelled primarily by album sales, which came in at 27,500.

Lamar’s latest effort logs enjoyed the second-biggest streaming week of 2022 for any album, with 343.02 million on-demand streams. That’s behind the high-water mark that Bad Bunny’s release had last week, but “Un Verano Sin Ti” had an advantage over “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” in that department with 23 tracks, five more than appear on Lamar’s album.

Lamar’s starting sales figure of 35,000 came solely from digital album sales, as the set won’t be issued on any physical format until it comes out on CD May 27. That sales sum marks the largest sales week for a digital album in 2022, and the biggest for any album since Adele’s “30” debuted with 205,000 digital albums sold in its first week last fall.

At No. 2 on the new chart, Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” was still a powerhouse with a strong 182,000 album units in its second week, down 34%. At No. 3, Future’s “I Never Liked You” had a good hold as well in its third week, with 89,500 units, down 23%.

Among holdover albums, Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous: The Double Album” was brought down one spot to No. 5, and Jack Harlow’s “Come Home the Kids Miss You” falls three slots to No. 6 in its second week. Two former No. 1s hold the last two spots in the top 10, as Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” — which is now celebrating its first anniversary — falls four spots to No. 9, and and Lil Durk’s “7220” is pushed back three slots to No. 10.




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