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Gunna Sneaks Past the Weeknd in a Photo Finish to Land at No. 1 on Album Chart

Variety
Variety
 2022-01-18
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Things took an unpredictable turn at the top of the Billboard charts this week as Gunna ’s new album unexpectedly slipped past the Weeknd ’s, albeit in a photo finish that had the rapper pull ahead of the superstar competition by the tiniest of margins.

The Weeknd’s “Dawn FM” debuted with 148,000 album-equivalent units, almost but not quite a match for the 150,300 units registered by Gunna’s “DS4Ever,” Billboard revealed late Monday.

Although the Weeknd is the bigger mainstream name, these two albums actually came into the race evenly matched in many ways. Both  were released Jan. 7 — in what is, ironically, usually a fallow period for new releases — with less than a week of advance notice. Given their near-“surprise” status, neither had time to get any physical product into the general retail marketplace for any competitive advantage there. Both the Weeknd and Gunna had their previous albums debut at No. 1. Both goosed interest by issuing a “deluxe edition” with additional tracks just days after issuing the standard edition. And both sold digital versions of the standard album in their own webstores for extremely low prices — $4 for Gunna’s and $3.49 for the Weeknd’s, Billboard noted.

These close numbers leave a lot of suspense as to which of these stars might be No. 1 next week, since the Weeknd clearly proved to have long commercial legs with his previous album, “After Hours.” Then again, if last week’s chart-topper, the “ Encanto ” soundtrack, continues to surge the way it did this week, it could be due for a return to No. 1 sooner rather than later.

“Encanto” fell two spots to No. 3 on the new chart, but that was illusory in reflecting its actual consumption. The soundtrack for Disney’s animated hit actually enjoyed a 32% boost for the week, chalking up 95,700 album-equivalent units, the highest weekly tally to date for the album since it came out in mid-November.

The Weeknd racked up some impressive bragging rights no one else could: he now has two top 10 albums at once. The other, his greatest-hits collection, “The Highlights,” moved up two spots to No. 8 with 36,000 album-equivalent units logged, an 8% increase from the previous week.

Adele is finally starting to look almost mortal amid this fresh firepower, as her “30” slipped a couple of spots to No. 4, its 48,300 units representing a modest 15% decline for the nearly two-month-old blockbuster.

Among other holdovers on the Billboard 200 was Morgan Wallen’s year-old “Dangerous: The Double Album,” hanging in at No. 5. Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Doja Cat and Taylor Swift filled out the remaining spots in the top 10.

The leading singles in the Billboard Hot 100 will be announced Tuesday, with all of the publication’s charts coming a day later than usual this week due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

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