In some ways, this week’s U.S. Billboard album chart was just a classic contest between two stars: Nicki Minaj, with her first LP in four years, was challenging Travis Scott, the incumbent, for the top spot.
But these days, victory on the charts is rarely so simple.
Scott’s Astroworld ended up holding No. 1 for a second week in a row, with the equivalent of 205,000 albums in the United States, according to Nielsen. That included 78,000 copies sold as a full album and 167 million streams. Minaj’s Queen came in second by a fair margin — 185,000 equivalents, which, like Astroworld, included about 78,000 sales of complete albums, but just 129 million streams.
Yet Minaj cried foul. In a series of Twitter posts on Sunday that revealed to fans the kind of bitter finger-pointing that often goes on behind the scenes in an industry now dominated by two online powers, Minaj accused Spotify of suppressing promotion of the album as retaliation for her playing it on Beats 1, the online radio station of Apple Music.
“Spotify put drake’s face on every playlist but told me they’d have to teach me a lesson for playing my music 10 mins early on #QueenRadio,” she wrote in one message, referring to her show on Beats 1.
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She also complained that Scott had unfairly gamed Billboard’s chart system by bundling the album with sales of merchandise and concert tickets — a common marketing gimmick, although Scott was trying to entice fans to a tour that had not been announced yet.
But Minaj also knows how to play the game. On Tuesday, four days after Queen was first released as a 19-track album, she added a 20th track: Fefe, a hit collaboration with the rapper 6ix9ine that came out last month — a move that could help lift the overall numbers for Queen. And she also included copies of the album with lots of merch sales — like $ 25 necklaces and $ 60 hoodies — and with concert tickets.
Spotify declined to comment Monday, but by then Minaj had apparently withdrawn her complaints as mere “sarcasm/dry humor.”
Also this week, Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, reached her highest chart position in 46 years. After just one day of sales — the standard accounting week for album sales runs Friday to Thursday — 30 Greatest Hits” reached No. 7. The last time Franklin had reached that high on the chart, it was for her live album Amazing Grace in 1972.
Drake’s Scorpion, meanwhile, is No. 3, while the rapper Trippie Redd opened at No. 4 with Life’s a Trip, and Post Malone is in fifth place with Beerbongs & Bentleys.