February 18, 2015 / 11:09 PM / 4 years ago

Drake's stealth release flies to top of Billboard chart

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hip-hop star Drake’s surprise release “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late” shot to the top of the Billboard 200 chart on Wednesday, and helped relegate reigning queen Taylor Swift’s “1989” to the No. 5 spot.

Rapper Drake smiles during an announcement that the Toronto Raptors will host the NBA All-Star game in Toronto, in this September 30, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Taking a page from Beyonce’s book, Drake released his album on iTunes last Friday with no advance warning and debuted with 535,000 sales units - 495,000 of which were albums, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan for the week ending Feb. 15.

It was Drake’s fourth No. 1 debuting album. Overall album sales for the week were the second largest in the last year, only behind industry-wide sales in the debut week of Swift’s “1989,” Billboard said.

The soundtrack “Fifty Shades of Grey” came in at No. 2 with 258,000 units sold after the book-inspired sex fantasy broke box office records in its debut weekend.

Sam Smith, the big winner from the Feb. 8 Grammy Awards, received a 91 percent Grammy sales boost from the previous week to 164,000 sales units, including 15 million streaming hits.

Fellow British singer and Grammy nominee Ed Sheeran’s “X” saw a 44 percent rise in sales after the Grammys but fell from third to fourth place.

Their good performances pushed Swift to her lowest spot on the chart since “1989” debuted 16 weeks ago. Her sales went up 16 percent to 125,000 units, but unlike the others ahead of her, she has no streaming sales since she famously pulled her material off that platform last year. Every week since release, “1989” has claimed one of the top two spots.

The reformulated Billboard 200 considers album sales, song downloads and online streaming to compile an album’s total sales units.

Los Angeles rocker “Beck,” the surprise winner of the best album Grammy for “Morning Phase,’ moved up to No. 8 from No. 39.

Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” bumped singer Bruno Mars and producer Mark Ronson’s hit “Uptown Funk!” from the top of the downloaded song chart after six weeks holding that spot. Sheeran’s song showed a 17 percent increase in downloads to 314,000.

Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Eric Kelsey and David Gregorio

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