2014 Albums that Rocked the Billboard 200

Everybody from your three year old niece to your grandma knows that the Frozen soundtrack, Beyonce and Taylor Swift dominated albums sales in 2014. But did you know that:

Alternative airplay for Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know?” peaked at the start of this year (it rose to #2 in early January then hit #1, their first ever single to top the chart), giving its 2013 parent album AM a boost of momentum that has lasted throughout all of 2014. Whereas most new rock albums spend a few weeks (if that) on the Billboard 200, AM has appeared in the top half of the chart week after week for this entire year. To date, that’s 66 weeks. What’s more, no rock album this year has performed better on the charts than AM (assuming you don’t count Coldplay or Maroon 5 as “rock”).

Other 2013 albums that continued to sell well throughout this past year (and rank on Billboard’s year-end 2014 album chart) include Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, The 1975’s self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City, Haim’s Days are Gone and Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt.

In May The Black Keys’ Turn Blue sold 164,000 copies its opening week. This landed it at #1 on the Billboard 200, upsetting the week’s expected new chart-topper, Michael Jackson’s Xscape (a chart move made memorable by Keys frontman Dan Auerbach calling the posthumous release “some fucking bullshit that sucks so bad that it took them three years after [Michael] died to make it listenable” in a Rolling Stone interview leading up to their concurrent releases). With that debut Turn Blue became both The Black Keys’ and Nonesuch Records’ first chart topper (El Camino debuted at #2 in 2011). It stayed on the chart for 27 weeks, making it this year’s top selling rock release (and along with AM, the only rock album among Billboard’s top 40 of 2014). Turn Blue’s success was preceded by lead single “Fever” topping both the Alternative and Rock Airplay charts (their #1 on the former following “Tighten Up,” “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling”).

Jack White scored his second #1 album in 2014, Lazaretto, which sold 138,000 its opening week (the exact same amount as his first chart-topper, 2012’s Blunderbuss). 40,000 of those copies were vinyl, setting a new record for single week vinyl sales in the SoundScan era (ie since May 25, 1991). By August another 20,000 vinyl copies had been sold, beating out Pearl Jam’s 1994 Vitalogy vinyl sales as the best selling LP in any year of the soundscan era. Lazaretto spent 21 weeks on the chart in all – considerably less than Blunderbuss’ 43 weeks, but a major accomplishment nonetheless. It’s essentially the second best selling rock album released this year behind Turn Blue (though again, that’s if blockbusters like Coldplay or Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol.1 are not included as “rock”).

Using this same criteria, Beck’s Morning Phase is essentially the third best selling rock release of 2014 (given these sales figures, it’s no mystery why the recent Grammy nominations for rock artists were lead by Beck with 5, Jack with 4 and The Black Keys with 3). Morning Phase debuted at #3 with 87,000 copies sold its opening week (substantially more than Billboard’s predicted 65,000 copies and #5 debut), making it Beck’s fifth album to reach the Billboard 200 top ten, first top ten on the Digital chart (also debuting at #3) and first #1 on both the Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts. In March “Blue Moon” became Beck’s first #1 single on the Triple A chart (Heart is a Drum peaked at 26 on the same chart in August).

Thom Yorke’s surprise BitTorrent Bundle release of his latest album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes was downloaded about 1.1 million times its opening week (that figure includes the $6 paid downloads of the full album as well as free downloads of the downloads of the single and video) though the actual sales numbers were not revealed. As such it was ineligible for the Billboard charts, though presumably would have been another of 2014’s top sellers had it been.

The list of 2014 albums that went top ten includes Spoon’s They Want My Soul, Robert Plant’s Lullaby and..The Ceaseless Roar, Broken Bells’ After The Disco, Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager, Interpol’s El Pintor, Tori Amos’ Unrepentant Geraldines, Ray LaMontagne’s Supernova, Phish’s Fuego, Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL and Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End.

As for top twenty: Aphex Twin’s Syro, Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead!, Phantogram’s Voices, New Pornographers’ Brill Bruisers, Lucinda Williams’ Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, Morrissey’s World Peace Is None of Your Business, Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Remedy, Drive By Truckers’ English Oceans and the self-titled albums by Natalie Merchant and St Vincent…
…and FYI, War on Drugs, tUnE-yArDs, Sharon Jones, First Aid Kit, and The Pixies came close…

After 37 years of charting, Tom Petty notched his first #1 album in 2014. Ranking aside (which is of course relative to how much other albums sell in a given week – and let’s face, nobody sells the amount that hit albums of former decades did), Hypnotic Eye’s 131,000 copies sold in the week ending August 3rd is Petty’s highest debut week sales in the SoundScan era. That same week Petty’s 1993 Greatest Hits compilation sold 4,000 copies (jumping to #71 on the Billboard 200) and Petty topped Billboard’s Artist 100 list. Hypnotic Eye’s debut sales were helped by attendees of Petty’s summer shows being given the option to buy the album with their ticket purchase (Petty used a similar album/ticket promotion for 2010’s Mojo, which debuted at #2 with 125,000 sales). Perhaps more impressive than its opening week sales – which some see as being inflated by the ticket promo – was that it stayed in the top ten for 3 weeks.

Weird Al Yankovic’s also scored his first #1 album in 2014 with 104,000 copies of Mandatory Fun sold its debut week. This distinguished it as the first comedy album to top the Billboard 200 since Allan Sherman’s My Son the Nut in 1963. Again, ranking aside (which is relative to the fact that all sales are down), it nonetheless outsold every comedy album’s single week’s sales since 1994’s Beavis & Butt-Head Experience, and is Yankovic’s personal best in the SoundScan era. In short, it’s not just that Weird Al outsold other albums (which have dismal sales compared to hit releases of past decades), it’s that in any decade his opening sales would be impressive for a comedy album (even during the industry’s ’90s heyday). Then again, these high sales – the result of a perfectly executed release appearing out of the blue, smothering the internet with daily video premieres on The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, Nerdist, College Humor, etc, then seemingly disappearing back into the nether of the net’s infinity – only became possible because of this decade’s technology and trends.

Patton Oswalt reached his Billboard 200 peak with “Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time” at #54, his fourth Comedy Albums chart topper. With that, Comedy Central Records set a new record for label with the most # 1s on the Comedy Albums chart. One third of all chart-toppers in the nine-year history of the chart have been released by Comedy Central Records.

Robin Williams’ album Weapons Of Self Destruction re-entered the Billboard 200 at #63 following the comedian’s suicide in August, topping the Catalog Albums chart that week. Another Williams’ album, 1986’s A Night At The Met, debuted on the Billboard 200 at #69 the same week.

Following the death of Phil Everly on January 3rd, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones “Foreverly” – the duo’s 2013 remake of the Everly Brothers’ 1958 album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” – rose to its #19 chart peak. Despite never rising any higher it sold consistently and “Foreverly” ends 2014 as the 172nd top album of the year (quite impressive for a low-key 2013 release).

In May Metallica’s eponymous 1991 “Black Album” become the first album to sell 16 million copies in the SoundScan era. It continues to appear on the weekly album charts regularly.

Bob Marley’s Legend is 2014’s highest performing album from a previous decade by a large margin. The 1984 compilation also reached its all-time peak on the Billboard 200 in 2014, hitting #5 this September (its previous peak was #18 in 2012). Though Legend is on the chart almost weekly, it’s usually in the lower half. The spike that catapulted it to its first ever top ten week was sparked by a 99 cent sale at the Google Play store.

Almost weekly throughout this past year Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” broke its own record for most weeks on the Billboard 200, and it finishes 2014 on Billboard’s Year End Albums Chart (though, just barely). What’s more, it returned to the top 20 in early December, jumping to #13 on the Billboard 200 last week. As with Marley’s Legend, this was largely the result of Google Play discounting it to 99 cents (resulting in its highest rank since its “Why Pink Floyd?” reissue catapulted it to #12 on October 15, 2011). Even without special pricing though Dark Side is a regular on the Billboard 200 (albeit usually towards the bottom). To date the 1973 album has tallied 890 weeks on the Billboard 200. To put that in perspective consider some other catalog albums regularly on the chart:
Bob Marley’s Legend has notched 342 weeks on the Billboard 200; Journey’s Greatest Hits has 334; Metallica’s “Black Album” 328; Guns n Roses Greatest Hits 295; Led Zeppelin’s fourth 276; Abbey Road 266; Queen’s Greatest Hits 253; Michael Jackson’s Thriller 229. Legend of Johnny Cash has spent 196 weeks on the chart (that’s impressive no doubt, but less than Adele’s 21, Bruno Mars’ Doo-Wops & Hooligans and Mumford and Sons’ Sigh No More). Most of these albums continue to sell multiple thousands of copies weekly, enough for them to routinely chart among new releases, yet nobody is close to Dark Side’s ever extending record.

The Endless River was Pink Floyd’s 10th top 10 album on the Billboard 200 chart, debuting at #3 with 170,000 copies sold in November. With only a few weeks between its debut and the year-end list, it nonetheless is one of the best selling rock releases of 2014, following the aforementioned Black Keys, Jack White, Beck and Tom Petty albums as well as Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways and Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes.

Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Linkin Park are the only bands to have more than one album on Billboard’s year end album chart.

Led Zeppelin catapulted three albums back into the top 10 with its reissues of their first three LPs this June. This was the first time one act earned three concurrent top 10 albums since Whitney Houston’s death sparked similar success for her in 2012. No other rock group has had three top ten albums at the same time since The Beatles in May 1964. More remarkable still, all three Zep albums – I (which sold 37,000 its reissue debut week), II (which sold 34,000 that week) and III (32,000 copies) – have been absent on the chart since 1979.

To put all the above in perspective, here’s selected 2014 albums that charted in the top 50 of the Billboard 200 (listed with their peak position to the right, in estimated order of their success):

Coldplay Ghost Stories 1
Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol.1 (featuring The Raspberries, David Bowie, The Runaways, more) 1
Black Keys Turn Blue 1
Jack White 1
Beck Morning Phase 3
Linkin Park The Hunting Party 3
Tom Petty Hypnotic Eye 1
Weird Al Mandatory Fun 1
Slipknot .5: The Gray Chapter 1
Foo Fighters Sonic Highways 2
Bruce Springsteen High Hopes 1
Pink Floyd The Endless River 3
Eric Clapton & Friends The Breeze – An Appreciation Of JJ Cale 2
Johnny Cash Out Among the Stars 3
Hozier Hozier 2
Sarah McLachlan Shine On 4
alt-J This Is All Yours 4
Bob Seger Ride Out 3
Foster The People Supermodel 3
AC/DC Rock Or Bust 3
Ray LaMontagne Supernova 3
Rise Against The Black Market 3
Nickelback No Fixed Address 4
Ryan Adams Ryan Adams 4
Broken Bells After The Disco 5
Black Label Society Catacombs Of The Black Vatican 5
Judas Priest Redeemer Of Souls 6
Mastodon Once More ‘Round The Sun 6
311 Stereolithic 6
Neon Trees Pop Psychology 6
Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL 8
Santana Corazon 9
Spoon They Want My Soul 4
Gaslight Anthem Get Hurt 4
Weezer Everything Will Be Alright in the End 5
Willie Nelson Band of Brothers 5
Counting Crows Somewhere Under Wonderland 6
Phish Fuego 7
Interpol El Pintor 7
Tori Amos Unrepentant Geraldines 7
Young the Giant Mind Over Matter 7
Jenny Lewis The Voyager 9
Deadmau5 while(1<2) 9
Robert Plant Lullaby and . . . The Ceaseless Roar 10
Aphex Twin Syro 11
Phantogram Voices 11
The Roots …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin 11
St Vincent St Vincent 12
Neil Young A Letter Home 13
New Pornographers Brill Bruisers 13
Lucinda Williams Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone 13
OAR The Rockville LP 13
Morrissey World Peace Is None of Your Business 14
Leonard Cohen Popular Problems 15
Old Crow Medicine Show Remedy 15
Drive By Truckers English Oceans 16
Gerard Way Hesitant Alien 16
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young CSNY 1974 17
Vance Joy Dream Your Life Away 17
John Mellencamp Plain Spoken 18
Flying Lotus You’re Dead!19
Natalie Merchant Natalie Merchant 20
Tweedy Sukierae 21
Melissa Etheridge This is M.E. 21
R.E.M. Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions 21
Sharon Jones Give the People What They Want 22
First Aid Kit Stay Gold 23
Pixies Indie Cindy 23
Sharon Van Etten Are We There 25
Gary Clark Jr Live 26
War on Drugs Lost in the Dream 26
tUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack 27
Hold Steady Teeth Dreams 28
Death From Above 1979 The Physical World 28
Lykke Li I Never Learn 29
Royal Blood Royal Blood 30
Old 97s Most Messed Up 30
FKA twigs LP1 30
Bruce Springsteen American Beauty EP 31
Damon Albarn Everyday Robots 32
The Afghan Whigs Do to the Beast 32
Steve Aoki Neon Future 32
Neil Young Storytone 33
Bush Man on the Run 33
Real Estate Atlas 34
David Crosby Croz 36
Matisyahu Akeda 36
Chrissie Hynde Stockholm 36
Swans To Be Kind 37
Julian Casablancas + The Voidz Tyranny 38
Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin 38
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Wig Out at Jagbags 40
Future Islands Singles 40
Warpaint Warpaint 43
Better Than Ezra All Together Now 43
Karen 0 Crush Songs 44
Ty Segall Manipulator 45
Benjamin Booker Benjamin Booker 46
Caribou Our Love 46
Umphrey’s McGee Similar Skin 49
G. Love & Special Sauce Sugar 49
The Menzingers Rented World 50

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