By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Kanye West's Yeezus seizes the summit of Billboardin a mixed chart victory.
The album sold 327,000 copies, the weakest debut of his career, significantly behind the previous low of 441,000 for 2004's The College Dropout, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The total also fell short of the 500,000 initially predicted by industry sources.
On the plus side, it's West's sixth No. 1 and the best showing for rap since Drake's Take Care sold 631,000 in late 2011. Yeezus has the year's third-highest sales week, behind Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience (968,000) and Daft Punk's Random Access Memories (339,000).
In light of West's refusal to market the album, the Yeezus entrance has to be considered a triumph, says Keith Caulfield, Billboard associate director of charts/retail.
"He specifically limited the kinds of traditional promotion done for an album," Caulfield says. "It's a smallish figure compared to what he normally does, but considering what hampered it, it's fairly handsome. If anyone has proven that a lot of risks can be taken to great reward, it's Kanye West. He's not a conventional artist, and that's why people like him. They're purchasing the album without a lot of information about it."
How the album will fare beyond the first week is difficult to predict, especially since it lacks the usual single, video and massive TV push.
"Debuts with a large sales figure normally will have a steep second-week decline of 60% or 70%," Caulfield says. "You can't compare this album to anything else."
West leads a rap trifecta on this week's chart. J. Cole's Born Sinner bows at No. 2 with 297,000, and Mac Miller's Watching Movies With the Sound Off enters third with 102,000.
With Yeezus, West ties Eminem and Nas in No. 1 rap albums. Jay-Z leads with 12 and is second among all artists only to The Beatles, with 19. The rap titan is likely to hit 13 with the July 9 arrival of Magna Carta Holy Grail, another red-tape release.
On July 4, 1 million copies of the album will distributed free to Samsung phone users who downloaded a branded app. While Samsung paid Jay-Z for the music as part of a partnership, the giveaway won't be counted by SoundScan or Billboard because no consumers actually bought the product.
"The ever-visionary Jay-Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy," Billboard's Bill Werde wrote in a letter from the editor. "But in the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale."
Jay-Z's official opening SoundScan take will depend on how many consumers download the app and take advantage of the freebie and how many of them overlap with normal Jay-Z consumers, Caulfield says.
Even with the giveaway, "a No. 1 start seems like a done deal," he says. "Label sources expect a first week of 400,000 to 450,000, but that's a moving target, just as it was with Kanye."