Carrie Underwood has set a slew of new landmarks with her new album Cry Pretty, setting highs for her career, highs for a country artist, and highs for a woman making music in the country realm. And she does it with little support from country radio, which allowed the title track to stall on the format as her album was nearing release.
The debut song “Cry Pretty” logged it’s worst charting performance in Carrie Underwood’s career, stalling at #9 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. But once again illustrating the divide between what radio will play and what consumers want, Cry Pretty‘s debut album sales shattered expectations, and records. With 266,000 equivalent albums sold—including 251,000 in traditional album sales—Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty is the #1 in all the land. But that’s just where the accolades begin.
266K is also good enough for Carrie Underwood to claim the biggest sales week for any woman in music in 2018. You have to go back to Taylor Swift’s Reputation released in December of 2017 to find a better sales week. Underwood even beat out hip-hop superstar Cardi B, who only logged 255,000 units upon her debut sales week in April. 266K is also good enough for the best debut for a country record in 2018. In fact you have to go back three years—all the way to Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights from 2015—to find a better debut. That’s right, Carrie Underwood even beat out Luke Bryan’s 2017 What Makes You Country, and Jason Aldean’s 2018 release, Rearview Town with this debut.
This also makes Carrie Underwood the first country music woman to top the all genre Billboard 200 chart four times, which is an all-time record. Faith Hill, Linda Ronstadt, and a pre-pop Taylor Swift all topped it three times.
What these numbers and records speak to is the incredible appetite for the music of an artist like Carrie Underwood, especially with the amount of physical albums she was able to move, while many Billboard 200 #1’s these days rely on streaming equivalents. Yet even though Carrie’s male counterparts benefit from multiple #1’s on radio to help promote their albums, Carrie debut single was pulled two weeks prior to the album release. One good sign is her second single “Love Wins” was the most added song on country radio last week.
Whether it’s Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton who’s been country music’s best-selling artist for the last 2 1/2 years, or #1 albums from artists such as Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Sturgill Simpson, or Jason Isbell, consistently consumers are proving they support artists radio and the mainstream country music industry often neglect, while programmers continue to prove they are out-of-step with public appetite. Nonetheless, artists like Carrie Underwood continue to persevere, shatter expectations, and set records.