The Biggest Albums of 2021 So Far: Pop Strikes Back - Rolling Stone
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The Biggest Albums of 2021 So Far: Pop Strikes Back

After a supposed decline, pop claims a large chunk of the midyear top 10

EVERMOREPhoto credit: Beth GarrabrantEVERMOREPhoto credit: Beth Garrabrant

Beth Garrabrant*

For the past four years or so, the story has been that pop music is dying, comatose, or at the very least, suffering a yearslong debilitating hangover. In 2017, rap overtook pop; 2018 killed the pop star.

Last year around this time, hip-hop dominated our midyear rankings of the biggest albums. While the Weeknd’s After Hours led, six of the top 10 were rap albums, including Roddy Ricch’s Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, Lil Baby’s My Turn, and Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake

But this year, so far, things are looking rather different. Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album leads Rolling Stone‘s yearend ranking of the biggest albums of the year so far in a notably less hip-hop heavy top 10. There are just two rap albums in the top 10 from January 1st through June 24th: Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon is the biggest one, coming in at Number Three, though that album was released in Summer 2020. Lil Durk’s The Voice is the only rap album released in the past six months, taking Number Six.

But it’s pop that’s really dominating, with five of the top 10 albums of the year so far, or six if you count the Weeknd. Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour takes second with more than 930,000 album-equivalent units, which is impressive when you consider that it was only released a month ago. Other pop albums in the top 10 include Taylor Swift’s Evermore (Number Four), Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia (Number Seven), Ariana Grande’s Positions (Number Eight), and Justin Bieber’s Justice (Number Nine). 

Additionally, the top 10 includes two country albums: Dangerous and Luke CombsWhat You See Is What You Get, at Number 10. 

The Rolling Stone 200 Albums chart tracks the most popular releases of the week in the United States. Entries are ranked by album units, a number that combines digital and physical album sales, digital song sales, and audio streams using a custom weighting system. The chart does not include passive listening such as terrestrial radio or digital radio. The midyear chart includes streams and sales from January 1st, 2021, through June 24th, 2021. 

Top Albums: January 1st through June 24th

  1. Morgan Wallen, Dangerous: The Double Album 
  2. Olivia Rodrigo, Sour
  3. Pop Smoke, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon
  4. Taylor Swift, Evermore
  5. The Weeknd, After Hours 
  6. Lil Durk, The Voice
  7. Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
  8. Ariana Grande, Positions
  9. Justin Bieber, Justice
  10. Luke Combs, What You See Is What You Get 


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