(June 23, 2019). What year is this anyway?
On the new Billboard 200 albums chart dated June 29, 2019, Madonna debuts at No. 1 with her ninth chart-topping set, Madame X.
Debuting right behind her at No. 2 is the boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, with his new album Western Stars.
It’s Madonna’s 22nd top ten album overall and Springsteen’s 20th – although he’s got the better batting average as eleven of his albums have reached No. 1.
But what’s more interesting is the history they repeat with their latest sets.
You see, the two legends have been No. 1 and No. 2 on the same chart before. It last happened on the list dated February 16, 1985, when Madonna’s Like A Virgin held for a second week at No. 1 while Bruce’s Born In The USA held at No. 2. The two albums had shared the top two for four consecutive weeks, with Bruce at No. 1 the first two of those.
That marked the only time in history before now that Madge and the Boss have held court over the album chart together. The 34-year, four-month and two-week gap between their last joint reign and the current one has to be some kind of record for two artists.
To put this historic chart occasion in perspective, consider the following:
If you did a similar 34-year time travel between the 1950s and the ‘80s, Madonna and Bruce’s ability to top the current charts would be like Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney or Les Paul and Mary Ford topping the charts in 1985. Sure Bennett has topped the chart in the 2010s, but that was after pairing with contemporary artists Lady Gaga (for Cheek to Cheek In 2014) and others for his Duets series. He certainly wasn’t anywhere near the top ten in the synth-pop dominated ‘80s (his lone and highest peak that decade was No. 160).
The other artists in the top ten during the last week that Madonna and Bruce jointly ruled included Wham! (Make It Big), Foreigner (Agent Provocateur), John Fogerty (Centerfield), Chicago (17), Prince & the Revolution (Purple Rain Soundtrack), Bryan Adams (Reckless), New Edition (self-titled) and Daryl Hall & John Oates (Big Bam Boom). (For grins, knocking on the door at Nos. 11, 12 and 13 were former top-ten classics by Tina Turner (Private Dancer), Billy Ocean (Suddenly) and Cyndi Lauper (She’s So Unusual), respectively.)
On the current chart where Madonna and Bruce preside, the remaining top ten artists are Billie Eilish, Jonas Brothers, Bastille, Khalid, Polo G, DaBaby, Lizzo and Ariana Grande.
(Quick, I challenge readers to name a song by more than three of those acts!)
And get this: of the remaining artists in this week’s top ten, only one person was even alive when Madonna and Bruce had Virgin and Born at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. It was the oldest member of the alt-rock band Bastille, their bass guitarist Will Farquarson. Instead of a six-string, though, he was likely just learning to string together the few words in his nascent vocabulary as he was only 16 months old on February 16, 1985.
To further expand on the time travel theme, Madonna and Springsteen’s current feats would be like Ariana Grande or Polo G having a top-10 album in, say November 2053. It could happen, but I’d rather lay odds on Madonna and Bruce returning with some kind of compilation or unreleased material from an untapped catalog vault.
And speaking of Madonna’s longevity, you might be surprised to learn that she’s had more No. 1 albums in the current millennium (six) than in the previous one (three). Surprisingly, there was an eleven-year gap between 1989’s Like A Prayer and 2000’s Music, as none of her ‘90s albums topped the chart.
Her current album, Madame X, owes its No. 1 status to a 95,000-unit sales week that was bolstered by a concert ticket redemption tie-in, a tactic that has become the new normal for artists who aren’t either current pop or hip-hop acts. With many of Madge’s fans having redeemed their album coupons during the first week of the promotion, it’s likely that Madame X will plummet right out of the top ten (or even the top 20) next week.
Such chart moves were unheard of back in 1985 when Like A Virgin was in the midst of a 33-week top-ten run (and Bruce was less than halfway through an unprecedented 84-week top-10 run with Born).
With point-of-sale scanning technology and streaming/downloading now a thing, such chart runs are harder to come by (although Drake, Adele and Taylor Swift, along with a few others, seem to have the longevity thing down in this era).
So while I don’t expect Madonna’s or Bruce Springsteen’s albums to even be on the charts in a few months from now, much less in the top ten, their ability to connect with their fans and still generate enough sales to top a Billboard chart as we approach the 2020s is nothing short of remarkable.
And with Madonna – who’ll be 61 in August – still teaming with contemporary artists like Swae Lee and Quavo, as well as Latino singer Maluma, she’s likely to be around well into her 60s and beyond.
Congrats to them both!
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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