Thomas Rhett just did what no other country artist in 2017 could. He topped the Billboard 200 chart, which ranks album sales for all records across all genres. His new release Life Changes sold an impressive 123,000 album equivalents to get there.
That’s big news for country music. Despite the genre being immensely popular, it doesn’t always stack up well against other genre releases. Some of that could have something to do with streaming music, which country lags behind other genres in supporting.
But streaming actually helped Rhett achieve the feat on his third album. Life Changes sold the equivalent of 123,000 units, but that’s not all physical sales. In fact, only 94,000 copies went out. The rest of the “units” came from a combined 30 million streams.
Rhett’s buddy and former co-host Brett Eldredge came so close to notching a No. 1 overall album with his third record, too. But that self-titled album fell just short of the number of sales necessary. He sold 45,000 units, while Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. returned to No. 1 for a fourth non-consecutive week. What factor put Lamar over Eldredge? You guessed it, streaming music.
Still, consider those numbers. Eldredge hit No. 2 on the chart with 45,000 units, just behind Lamar’s 46,000. Thomas Rhett beat both of them combined, without about 30,000 more units to spare.
In other words, Life Changes is a massively impressive album no matter how you cut it. The record’s first single “Craving You (feat. Maren Morris)” also shot up the radio charts to No. 1 pretty quickly. All of the cuts Rhett since released from the record, like “Unforgettable” and “Sixteen” also immediately buzzed their way up the streaming world.
Country music as a whole did fairly well in the Billboard 200, thanks largely to several big releases. In fact, Dustin Lynch and Kip Moore also debuted in the top 10 overall, with Current Mood (No. 7) and Slowheart (No. 10) respectively. That’s a pretty big deal for a continually growing genre.
And don’t look now, but Shania Twain could possibly achieve the notable feat, too. Her new album Now comes out Sept. 29.