If one were to wager which country music artist would reign atop this week’s Billboard 200, the safe bet would have been frequent chart-topper Eric Church, who surprise-released his new album Mr. Misunderstood just hours before the CMA Awards. However, Chris Stapleton’s domination of country music’s biggest night – wins for Best New Artist, Male Vocalist and Album of the Year, plus a breakthrough performance with Justin Timberlake – rocketed that singer’s Traveller from charts obscurity to Number One.
Following Stapleton’s monster night at the CMAs, Traveller sold 177,000 total albums, 153,000 of which were pure album sales. The rest came from bulk downloads of the single “Tennessee Whiskey,” which he performed during the ceremony, as well as other Traveller singles that have now found renewed interest. (Even Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 track “Drink You Away,” which he also sang on the CMAs, reemerged on this week’s top singles chart.)
As Billboard notes, Traveller sold more copies in the three days following the CMA Awards than it had in the six months since it was released in May. When the album debuted, it peaked at Number 14 with 27,000 copies before stumbling out of the Billboard 200 entirely. Thanks to the CMA Awards, Stapleton rocketed back into the charts to Number One, becoming the first country artist since Scotty McCreery in 2011 to have their debut LP land at Number One in the process.
CMA Awards co-host Carrie Underwood and her Storyteller held strong at Number Two for the second straight week while the aforementioned Church and his surprise new LP debuted at Number Three with 76,000 total copies. The abbreviated sales week and lack of promotion hurt Church, as his 2014 LP The Outsiders debuted at Number One with 288,000 copies sold.
Last week’s chart-topper, 5 Seconds of Summer’s Sounds Good Feels Good, dropped down to Number Seven as a wave of new releases entered the Top 10: The Now 56 compilation at Number Four, the We Love Disney tribute album at Number Eight and Def Leppard’s self-titled new album at Number 10.
With the influx of new releases and the CMA residual sales surge, a longtime Top 10 resident finally saw their time in the upper echelon of the Billboard 200 come to an end: Taylor Swift’s 1989, which had been in the Top 10 for 53 straight weeks since its October 2014 release, finished Week 54 at Number 11, ending a remarkable charts run for the singer.