Billie Eilish, 21st-Century Pop Paragon, Hits No. 1 With Big Vinyl Sales

NYT Music

Billie Eilish emerged a few years ago as the embodiment of the new-model pop star — flooding the internet with content, designing merch items herself and accumulating boatloads of fans through social media.

But in some ways her mode of success is thoroughly traditional. “Happier Than Ever,” the seven-time Grammy winner’s second studio album, opens at No. 1 on the latest Billboard album chart with decent streaming traffic but extraordinary sales of vinyl, CDs and even cassettes. It had 114 million streams — far exceeded by other recent chart-toppers by J. Cole, Olivia Rodrigo and Morgan Wallen, among others — but sold 153,000 copies as a complete package.

Altogether, “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish’s second No. 1 album, had the equivalent of 238,000 sales in the United States, according to MRC Data, Billboard’s tracking arm. It was the fifth-best opening for an album this year — beaten by Cole, Rodrigo, Wallen and Taylor Swift.

Released in an array of boxed sets and retail-exclusive variants, “Happier Than Ever” made 54 percent of its total sales in the United States on physical formats, including 73,000 vinyl LPs, 46,000 CDs and nearly 10,000 on cassette. It had the second-highest weekly vinyl haul since at least 1991, when SoundScan, MRC Data’s predecessor, first began keeping accurate data on music sales. (Only Swift’s recent LP release of “Evermore,” which sold 102,000 copies after months of preorders, had more.)

How unusual is that? Well, last year streaming made up 83 percent of recorded music revenues in the United States, and physical formats just 9 percent, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. But CD and LP sales are far more lucrative than streams, and offer a big chart boost. Indeed, “Happier Than Ever” would have taken No. 1 this week on vinyl sales alone.

Also this week, “Welcome 2 America,” an unearthed Prince album recorded in 2010, opens at No. 4, with the equivalent of 54,000 sales. The Kid Laroi’s “____ Love,” last week’s top seller, falls to No. 2, Rodrigo’s “Sour” is No. 3 and Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” is in fifth place.

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