David Bowie scored his first ever No. 1 album in the United States this week by topping the Billboard 200 albums chart with his latest release, Blackstar. He becomes the first artist to hit the top spot posthumously since Michael Jackson’s This Is It soundtrack did so in 2009. Bowie passed away on January 10, two days after the release of Blackstar.
Billboard reported January 17 that Blackstar, David Bowie’s twenty-fifth studio album, debuted at No. 1 on its all-genres album chart for the sales week ending January 14 (from data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan). It was Bowie’s sixth studio album to break the chart’s top ten. Prior to Blackstar, his previous release, 2013’s The Next Day, had scored a No. 2 peak, making it at the time his highest charting album.
Blackstar moved 181,000 equivalent album units in the US to make the top slot. Of that total, 174,000 were actual albums (as opposed to streaming and digital singles sales equivalencies). Not only is the album the iconic artist’s first chart-topper in the US, it also marks Bowie’s biggest sales week since the Nielsen SoundScan era began in 1991.
The South London-born Bowie first charted in the US on the Billboard 200 in 1972 with his fourth album, the 1971 release Hunky Dory, which featured the hit song “Changes.” “Changes” was his first hit in the US but by no means his biggest. “Fame” would hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1975. “Let’s Dance” would do the same in 1983. But “Space Oddity,” a song first released on his second studio album (in 1969) of the same name and re-released in the US in 1973 after the success of “Changes,” might arguably be his signature composition, although it peaked at No. 15.
Blackstar knocked off Adele’s sales juggernaut, 25, an album that had held the No. 1 position on the Billboard 200 for seven consecutive weeks, selling over 7.6 million copies during that time. The English artist still saw 25 garner another 143,000 units moved, good enough to still claim the No. 2 spot.
David Bowie also shared another bit of music history with his fellow Brit artist. His Best Of Bowie, a greatest hits collection released in 2002, jumped back onto the Billboard 200 at No. 4 and shattered its previous peak (No. 70 in 2002). Along with Blackstar, the two albums are the first by an artist to place two works in the top four on the chart since Adele did it in March 2012. That particular week saw 21 at No. 1 and 19 at No. 4.
Bowie’s acclaimed The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars also reentered the Billboard 200 at No. 21. Released in 1972, Rolling Stone rated it at No. 35 on its list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
It was announced on January 11 that David Bowie had passed away after an 18-month fight with liver cancer the previous day, surrounded by members of his family. He had just turned 69, celebrating his birthday with the release of Blackstar on January 8.