There’s an old saying that goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s a phrase used to encourage hope and optimism when the odds are stacked against you and you’re faced with adversity and misfortune in life.
The late icon Prince Rogers Nelson apparently bought into that positive thinking, as shown by his many uplifting song lyrics, including this famous line from his 1984 #1 hit “Let’s Go Crazy”: “and if the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy…punch a higher floor!”
It was a foregone conclusion that many albums and songs from Prince’s storied catalog would be punching higher chart floors in the wake of his death, with the only question being to what extent.
Well, let’s just say he did that – and he did it BIG! Prince’s albums and singles dominated the charts in unprecedented fashion on the Billboard lists (dated May 14) representing the first full week of sales and airplay (and streaming) following his death. NINETEEN albums from his back catalog entered the Billboard 200 chart this past week in the wake of his death two weeks ago. FIVE of them reached the top ten (a record)!
But it seems he has some company in the history-making department.
Superstar singer Beyoncé Knowles, who has taken that proverbial old saying to heart with her latest album – an album that, both literally and metaphorically, is her “Lemonade” – simultaneously dominated this past week’s charts and joins Prince on several fronts.
First, let’s take Beyoncé’s new album, Lemonade, which topped the Billboard chart with over 485K albums sold (653K album equivalent units when you also factor in streaming and downloads of individual album tracks, which Billboard now does).
The fact that Lemonade debuted at #1 makes Beyoncé the only artist in history – male or female – to have her first SIX albums not only reach #1, but all DEBUT there.
And not only did she slay the album chart, but the album’s tracks pelted the Hot 100 singles chart as well.
All twelve of them.
Every song on the Lemonade album reached the Hot 100 chart (including eight in the Top 40 – a record).
Having twelve entries on the Hot 100 in the same week makes Beyoncé the woman with the most ever, beating Taylor Swift’s old record of eleven established in 2010.
In the overall standings for that category – including male and female artists – Bey now ranks third behind Canadian artists Justin Bieber and Drake, who just last year had 17 and 14 songs, respectively, on the Hot 100 in the same weeks.
Meanwhile, in the wake of his untimely passing on April 21, Prince makes history by having nineteen of his albums place on the Billboard 200 chart this week, including those five in the top ten I mentioned earlier.
Three of those five are compilations, including the album that topped the chart last week – The Very Best of Prince, which now falls to #2 behind Lemonade.
The other two are the Purple Rain soundtrack, which falls from #2 to #3, and its predecessor 1999, which reaches a new peak of #7. (Note: 1999 never reached the top ten when it was originally released 34 years ago.)
On the singles list, Prince matched Yoncé pound for purple pound with eight top-40 entries of his own – all classics from his ’80s and ’90s heyday, including the two highest-ranked: “Purple Rain” (#4) and “When Doves Cry” (#8). In their original chart runs – both in 1984 – “Rain” peaked at #2 (more on that in a minute) while “Doves” was a #1 smash.
By the way, an artist having eight songs in the top 40 in the same week is a new record (shattering the old record of seven held previously by the Beatles, Lil’ Wayne and Taylor Swift). The fact that two different artists do it in the same week is nothing short of phenomenal!
That Prince AND Beyoncé both made chart history this past week, is like drinking purple lemonade…a bittersweet prospect with all the sourness of a superstar’s untimely death juxtaposed against the sweetness of two legendary artists whose iconic statures in the music industry just got bigger, despite – or maybe more accurately because of – the adversity that has befallen both of them.
Or at least alleged adversity in Bey’s case.
Based on its song content (and we can only go on face value here – none of us really knowing how valid any of the album’s assertions of marital misconduct are), her latest release is the product of several “lemons” being thrown the singer’s way, and the resulting “Lemonade” not only exploits her husband’s philandering ways, but asserts her own power to defiantly overcome them.
It’s then ironic that Jay Z, Beyoncé’s husband of eight years, is a key factor in all this success in more ways than one. Not only is he the clear subject of the lyrics of several songs on the album, but he – or more accurately the TIDAL streaming service he owns – is central to the history-making accomplishments of both his wife and Prince, as both artists’ new music is streamed exclusively on the TIDAL service (in the case of Prince – his entire catalog is).
But the double-edged sword that is TIDAL continues to cut both ways – as it has for several artists since its relaunch in March of 2015.
On the one hand, TIDAL – which Beyoncé also has partial ownership in – only stood to gain from the hype associated with any new Beyoncé release, as well as Prince’s unfortunate demise. One can only imagine how much the streaming service’s subscriptions increased during this unprecedented period for its major artists (recall Kanye West, Rihanna and Prince – before his death – released new material exclusively on TIDAL in the past six months).
But because the multi-artist-owned service doesn’t report its streaming numbers to Billboard, those numbers didn’t contribute to the chart standings of either Prince’s or Beyoncé’s albums and singles this past week. Likewise, because those albums and their various tracks are not available on any other major streaming services, their chart positions were solely based on digital downloads, physical sales of CDs or vinyl albums, or Internet-based user-generated videos using official audio of the songs…not on-demand streaming, which makes up the majority of chart points for most songs these days.
That may not seem like a big deal given both artists’ record-breaking weeks – and don’t get me wrong, their chart accomplishments are nothing short of amazing. But they could have been even bigger!
Take, for instance, the single “Purple Rain.” That was by far the best-selling song on iTunes during the tracking week in question. It also received a boatload of radio airplay as tributes poured out from coast to coast. However, those impressive factors were only enough to give it a #4 ranking on the Hot 100.
Needless to say, had “Purple Rain” been available for streaming on the major services (or had TIDAL’s streaming points counted towards its point total), the 32-year-old song might have actually reached #1 on this week’s chart. (Note: streaming accounts for 70% of the chart points of the current #1 song, “Panda” by rapper Desiigner).
So imagine that: “Purple Rain” – Prince’s signature tune and arguably his greatest musical accomplishment – actually achieving the #1 spot on the Hot 100 – a fate that eluded it in 1984 when it stopped at #2 behind “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!
As for Beyoncé, her album was exclusively available for streaming on TIDAL before being unleashed to iTunes the following day. This release strategy likely didn’t hurt her much – and, in fact, (along with the hour-long “Lemonade” video that aired on HBO on the eve of the album’s release) may have helped build interest for the product once it hit iTunes – the biggest source of its chart points.
But I contend that Beyoncé’s numbers, while pretty darn good already, would’ve been even greater had the album been available on Spotify or one of the other major streaming sites.
As it is, she still made history – as did the late, great icon Prince – and the Purple Lemonade stand they jointly created on this past week’s Billboard charts will likely taste sweet – even if with a hint of sour – for a long, long time to come.
Btw, the record-breaking sixteen songs (and their chart positions) that Prince and Beyoncé placed in the top 40 of this week’s Hot 100 were as follows:
4. “Purple Rain” – Prince & the Revolution
8. “When Doves Cry” – Prince
10. “Formation” – Beyoncé
11. “Sorry” – Beyoncé
13. “Hold Up” – Beyoncé
18. “6 Inch” – Beyoncé
20. “Little Red Corvette” – Prince
23. “Kiss” – Prince & the Revolution
25. “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince & the Revolution
27. “1999” – Prince
28. “Don’t Hurt Yourself” – Beyoncé feat. Jack White
33. “Raspberry Beret” – Prince & the Revolution
35. “Freedom” – Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar
37. “Pray You Catch Me” – Beyoncé
38. “All Night” – Beyoncé
39. “I Would Die 4 U” – Prince & the Revolution