Zach Bryan’s “American Heartbreak” Hits #1, Beats Projections

Zach Bryan has officially ensconced himself as an independent country music superstar, doing what only a select few other non radio-supported artists have done through grassroots support in the past, which is score a #1 album in country music. But for the former Navy enlistee turned viral songwriter, the scenario and ascent seems even more improbable.

Zach Bryan’s new album American Heartbreak debuts at #1 in country this week, beating out early estimates by racking up 82 million total song streams. Combine that with 6,000 physical album sales and downloads, and this gives Zach Bryan a total of 71,000 in sales and streaming equivalents. Early estimates had him at some 70 million streams and 67K in sales, so interest in the album only grew stronger over the week, and he blew out expectations.

These numbers are also good enough for a #5 placement for American Heartbreak in all of music. If it wasn’t for competing with a monster new release from Harry Styles, and Kendrick Lamar’s new album from the previous week, Zach Bryan would could have easily been at #3 all genre. This is also far and away the best debut for a country artist in 2022, while American Heartbreak also set 2022 records on both Spotify and Apple music for the amount of first day streams for a country title.

But it isn’t just the fact that American Heartbreak has 34 tracks that is bolstering Zach Bryan’s numbers. He also has a bona fide hit on his hands with the song “Something in the Orange.” The song is once again the #2 streaming song in all of country music this week, receiving 12 million streams on its own.

Zach Bryan joins Blackberry Smoke, Aaron Watson, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell, and Whiskey Myers in the #1 album club—an achievement that used to be considered impossible a decade ago, then became a bit easier a few years ago before streaming became the main way consumers listen to music, and Morgan Wallen released his own monster album Dangerous: The Double Album, which has been at the top of the charts for the better part of two years, denying #1 albums even from major mainstream stars such as Miranda Lambert.

What makes this achievement especially remarkable is the very amateur nature of Zach Bryan’s ascent, starting out in 2019 with a few viral videos pushed in part by Parker McCollum, and then recording his debut album DeAnn in an AirBNB, and releasing it entirely independently. Still enlisted full time in the Navy and subject to long-term deployments at the time, Zach Bryan contributed to his burgeoning music career when he could until it reached critical mass and he’d fulfilled his military commitments, receiving an honorary discharge in 2021.

Now Zach Bryan is arguably the hottest independent country music artist out there, and is about to embark on his American Heartbreak Tour starting in Salt Lake City on June 2nd.

The next question will be where Zach Bryan goes from here. Commonly what we see from independent country albums cresting the charts is a sharp fall off the very next week. But with the amount of tracks on American Heartbreak, the fact that it has a hit song in “Something in the Orange,” and how Zach Bryan has defied expectations at every turn, it could very well become a perennial at the top of the country charts, at least for the time being, similar to titles from Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, and Tyler Childers.

Zach Bryan hitting #1 became inevitable a few weeks ago. Now the question is if Zach Bryan will further disrupt the order in the mainstream by staying at or near the top for an extended period. Stay tuned.

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