Chart Watch: Ed Sheeran's 'Divide' Conquers

Paul Grein

Ed Sheeran’s third album, ÷ (pronounced divide), debuts at #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. this week. ÷ moved 451K “equivalent units” in the U.S. in its first week, which includes 322K copies in traditional album sales. (The balance reflects streaming and digital track sales.) Those are the greatest one-week tallies since J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only last December. (Sales traditionally swell in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For Sheeran to put up December-style numbers in March is remarkable.)

Remarkably, ÷ fared even better in the U.K. It moved 672K equivalent units in its first week there, the largest tally in history for an album by a male solo artist. Among all albums, it’s in third place, behind Adele’s 25 (800K in its first week in 2015) and Oasis’ Be Here Now (696K in its first week in 1997).

Sheeran’s U.S. sales are on a dramatic upward trajectory. His debut album, + (pronounced plus), sold 42K copies in its first week in June 2012. His sophomore album, x (pronounced multiply), sold 209K copies in its first week in June 2014. (Both figures represent traditional album sales, so the comparable figure with the new album is 322K.)

÷ is  Sheeran’s second album in a row to debut at No. 1 in both countries. x also achieved the feat. Sheeran is just the fourth British male solo artist to send two or more albums to No. 1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. Elton John has done it with four different albums, more than anyone else. He scored in 1973-74 with four consecutive album releases, Don’t Shoot Me—I’m Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou and Greatest Hits. (These two stars are pals. Elton joined Sheeran to sing “The A Team” at the Grammys in February 2013. Sheeran’s recent top 10 hit “Castle on the Hill” mentions Elton’s 1972 classic “Tiny Dancer.”)

John Lennon and Phil Collins have, like Sheeran, each had two transatlantic #1 albums. Lennon scored with Imagine andDouble Fantasy (a collabo with his wife, Yoko Ono). Collins scored with back-to-back studio albums, No Jacket Required and…But Seriously.

The first single from Sheeran’s album, “Shape of You,” tops the Hot 100 for the seventh week and tops the Official U.K. Singles Chart for the ninth week.  ÷ is the first album to reach No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, and also include a single that reached No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, since Drake’s Views (which spawned the smash “One Dance”). It’s the first album by an English artist to do this since Zayn’s Mind of Mine (which spawned “Pillowtalk”).

All 16 tracks from Sheeran’s album are listed in the top 20 on The Official U.K. Singles Chart. Sheeran holds down all but one spot in the top 15. (“Something Just Like This” by the Chainsmokers and Coldplay kept him from sweeping the top 15.) This is the seventh time in the past nine weeks that Sheeran has occupied the top two spots in the U.K.

x jumps from No. 49 to No. 21 in its 142nd week on The Billboard 200. It’s No. 1 on Top Catalog Albums for the fourth week. x received a Grammy nom for Album of the Year, while its key track “Thinking Out Loud” was nominated for Record and Song of the Year. (It won the Song award.) ÷ and “Shape of You” are also likely to be nominated in all three categories.

Incidentally, while ÷ is the first album titled “Divide” to reach No. 1, Pink Floyd topped the chart for four weeks in 1994 with an album titled The Division Bell.

Top Albums

Metallica’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct rebounds from No. 14 to No. 2 in its 16th week. The resurgence is linked to a concert ticket bundle. The album debuted at No. 1.

Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic holds at No. 3 in its 16th week. The album has spent four weeks at No. 2, but has yet to reach No. 1.

Future’s Future drops from No. 2 to No. 4 in its third week. The rapper’s other current album, HNDRXX, drops from No. 1 to No. 5 in its second week.

Migos’ Culture holds at No. 6 in its sixth week. The album debuted at No. 1.

The Weeknd’s Starboy holds at No. 7 in its 15th week. The album spent five non-consecutive weeks at No. 1.

The Moana soundtrack holds at No. 8 in its 16th week. The album peaked at No. 2.  The album returns to No. 1 on Top Soundtracks, displacing Trolls. This is its sixth week on top of that chart. That’s the longest run at No. 1 on Top Soundtracks since Suicide Squad: The Album spent 13 weeks on top last year.

Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, opens at No. 9. Khalid, 19, is best-known for his R&B crossover hit “Location.” Khalid isn’t the first artist to use this title concept. Grand Funk titled its 1973 album (and single) We’re an American Band.

The Trolls soundtrack drops from No. 5 to No. 10 in its 24rd week. The album peaked at No. 3.

Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. They are Little Big Town’s The Breaker, Big Sean’s I Decided. and Aaron Watson’s Vaquero.

Hamilton: An American Musical jumps from No. 17 to No. 14 in its 76th week.
This is its 52nd consecutive week in the top 20. (Prior to this continuous streak, it spent two additional weeks in the top 20.)

Sheeran’s album will hold at No. 1 next week. Look for the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack to be the top new entry, right around No. 3.

Top Songs

Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” (featuring Lil Uzi Vert) holds at No. 2 in its 17th week. The song logged three weeks at No. 1.

Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” jumps from No. 4 to No. 3 in its eighth week. Mars pulled two No. 1 hits from each of his first two albums. Will he manage to pull a No. 1 hit from his third album? Stay tuned. (Incidentally, “That’s What I Like” includes the phrase “24 karats.” Mars’ previous single was titled “24K Magic.” What was the last time an artist had back-to-back top five hits that included such a unique phrase?)

The Zayn/Taylor Swift collabo “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)” dips from No. 3 to No. 4 in its 13th week. It peaked at No. 2.

Rihanna lands her 22nd top five hit as “Love on the Brain” inches up from No. 6 to No. 5 in its 21st week. Only four artists have had more top five hits on the Hot 100 (which dates back to 1958): The Beatles (29), Madonna (28), Mariah Carey (26) and Janet Jackson (24). What does it say that four of the five artists to amass 22 or more top five hits (including the last four artists to reach that plateau) are women? It says females rule at pop radio.

Kodak Black’s “Tunnel Vision” jumps from No. 8 to No. 6 in its third week.

The Chainsmokers’ “Paris” holds at No. 7 in its eighth week. The song has climbed as high as No. 6.

Big Sean’s “Bounce Back” rebounds from No. 9 to No. 8 in its 18th week. The song peaked at No. 6.

The British electronic group Clean Bandit lands its second top 10 hit as “Rockabye” (featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie) jumps from No. 24 to No. 9 in its 25th week. The group’s 2014 hit “Rather Be” (featuring Jess Glynne) peaked at No. 10 and won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Both of these songs were long-running No. 1 hits on The Official U.K. Singles Chart. “Rather Be” headed that chart for four weeks. “Rockabye” led for nine weeks. This is the 10th top 10 hit on the Hot 100 for Sean Paul; his second in the past year, following Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.”

The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” (featuring Halsey) holds at No. 10 in its 32nd week. The song, which logged 12 weeks at No. 1, is only the second song in Hot 100 history to log 32 weeks in the top 10. The first was LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” in 1997-98. The two hits have something in common: Neither won a Grammy. “Closer” was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, but lost to Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out.” “How Do I Live” was nominated for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, but lost to a rival version of the same song by Trisha Yearwood.

“Something Just like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay drops out of the top 10 this week. It will probably be back.

Lorde’s “Green Light” vaults from No. 100 to No. 19 in its second week. It’s the first single from her upcoming sophomore album, Melodrama. Lorde’s first album, Pure Heroine, yielded two top 10 hits, “Royals” (No. 1 for nine weeks) and “Team” (No. 6). “Royals” brought Lorde a Grammy for Song of the Year. The up-tempo “Green Light” shows another side of the New Zealand singer.

Deep Trivia: This is the third different song titled “Green Light” to crack the top 40. John Legend’s “Green Light” (featuring Andre 3000) reached No. 24 in 2008. Another song with that title, by American Breed, reached No. 39 in 1968. No songs titled “Red Light” have cracked the top 40, though TLC’s “Red Light Special” reached No. 2 in 1995.