Thomas Rhett Earns First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 Chart & Country’s First of 2017

billboard.com — Country singer/songwriter Thomas Rhett achieves his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, as his new effort Life Changes bows atop the list. The set — which brings country back to No. 1 for the first time in exactly one year — earned 123,000 equivalent album units in the week ending Sept. 14, according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, 94,000 were in traditional album sales, Rhett’s best sales week and the third largest sales week of 2017 for a country effort.

The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new Sept. 30-dated chart (where Life Changes debuts at No. 1) will be posted in full on Billboard’s websites Tuesday (Sept. 19).

Life Changes is the first No. 1 country album in 2017, and the first in a year — since Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know spent one week in the penthouse on the list dated Oct. 1, 2016.

Life Changes was released on Valory Records on Sept. 8, and marks the second No. 1 for the imprint (part of Big Machine). Valory previously led the chart with Reba’s Keep on Loving You in 2009 (on Starstruck/Valory).

Rhett’s new album was led by the single “Craving You,” featuring Maren Morris, which hit No. 3 on the Hot Country Songs chart and No. 1 on the Country Airplay tally. The song was followed by the album’s second radio offering, “Unforgettable,” which hit the top 10 on Hot Country Songs and jumped 13-11 on the most recent Country Airplay chart, dated Sept. 23.

Life Changes is Rhett’s third full-length studio album, and fourth effort overall. It follows Tangled Up (No. 6 on the Billboard 200 in 2015), It Goes Like This (No. 6 in 2013) and his self-titled debut EP (No. 133 in 2012).

Rhett brings country music back to the penthouse on the Billboard 200 for the first time in a year. Four country sets came close to hitting No. 1 earlier in 2017, as titles by Brett Eldredge, Zac Brown Band, Chris Stapleton and Brantley Gilbert all debuted and peaked at No. 2. As noted earlier, the last country album to lead the chart was Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know (Oct. 1, 2016), which also marked the only country effort to hit No. 1 in 2016. Comparatively, in 2015, three country albums hit No. 1: Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde, Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights and Chris Stapleton’s Traveller.

Life Changes additionally notches Rhett his best sales week ever for an album. Its pure sales figure of 94,000 easily beats Rhett’s previous high of 63,000 logged by Tangled Up’s first week. Further, Life Changes has the third-biggest sales for a country set in 2017, following the debut frames of Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 1 (202,000) and Zac Brown Band’s Welcome Home (139,000).

Rhett is also the fourth act in a row to notch its first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, following LCD Soundsystem a week ago (with American Dream), Lil Uzi Vert (Luv Is Rage 2) and Brand New (Science Fiction). The last time the chart housed four first-timers in-a-row at No. 1 was a little more than two years ago, when seven acts notched their first No. 1s in succession.

Rhett leads a big week for country in the top 10 on the Billboard 200, as a total of three country efforts arrive in the top 10. Dustin Lynch’s Current Mood bows at No. 7, while Kip Moore’s Slowheart starts at No. 10. It’s the first time there are three country albums in the top 10 in nearly a year, since the Oct. 8, 2016 chart, when Aaron Lewis’ Sinner bowed at No. 4, Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know slipped 1-6 in its second week, and Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots held at No. 10 in its fourth week. Further, this is the first week we’ve had three country albums bow in the top 10 in almost two years. The top 10 last had a trio of country arrivals on the Oct. 17, 2015 chart, when Don Henley’s Cass County, George Strait’s Cold Beer Conversationand Thomas Rhett’s Tangled Up debuted at Nos. 3, 4 and 6, respectively.

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