The battle on the albums chart was a far more intriguing one. This was one of those weeks where there were no hotly-anticipated new albums which commanded a huge pre-ordered physical sale. This meant that the stage was clear for collections doing impressive streaming numbers to shine instead. So the battle was between two albums which weren’t available physically - Lil Nas X’s Montero and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy.
In the end just 500 chart sales separated them. Drake had 12,414 and Lil Nas X had 11,929. However only 134 people paid for a download of the Drake album. Lil Nas X persuaded 1,063 to part with their cash. But that still isn’t a huge number of people at the end of the day.
Streaming “sales” for albums still remain an awkward conversation point, largely because of the perhaps necessarily complicated NumberWang way they are calculated. But this was actually one of those weeks where they did the job they were supposed to.
Only the 12 biggest tracks on an album are actually counted and the two most popular have their tally “flattened” to the average of the rest. This so sales of albums with a huge smash hit on them but with the rest of its songs don’t have over-inflated numbers. Streaming calculations reward those albums whose popularity is evenly spread across its tracklisting.
That latter point may well have been what counted against Lil Nas X this week. Its two biggest tracks were Industry Baby, which rocketed to No.3 on the singles chart, and That’s What I Want which was the highest new entry of the week at No.10. However, with the exception of Montero (Call Me By Your Name) which rebounded to No.16 after Official Charts once more tore up their own rules and reset its ACR status, few other Lil Nas X tracks actually enjoyed large numbers of streams. Scoop was the next biggest and would have charted at No.44 had it been allowed to, but the next batch of his tracks were all down in the 60s in terms of their notional chart places.
Drake’s two biggest tracks weren’t as big (Girls Want Girls at No.6 on the singles chart, Fair Trade at 12) but he still has far more “starred-out” tracks in higher theoretical positions than his American rival. So the streams of Drake’s big hits flattened out to a far higher level because the overall average of the remaining qualifying tracks on the album was so much higher.
I told you the calculations were complex. But this demonstrates why they are set up this way. The most deserving and more consistently streamed album was the one that edged its way to No.1.
Lil Nas X still has the more awesome videos though. This even had me screaming.