Taylor Swift tops the album chart for the fifth week. Post Malone and Morgan Wallen have the biggest song of the week. : NPR

Post Malone (left) and Morgan Wallen on the red carpet at the 57th Annual CMA Awards on November 8, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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We're trying something new here: every week we take a brief look at the latest Billboard charts to see, in the immortal words of Shakespeare, 'who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out.” (Fortunately, the stakes here are much lower than in King Leardespite the potential for plenty of drama.) Even in this impossibly fickle era, when the days of a homogenized pop music culture are long gone, the weekly charts of Billboard still provide an indication of what listeners are focusing on, which social media trends are taking center stage and who is currently ranking high. What we hope to do is provide a context that helps us ground and understand the current data – and perhaps even help us create bigger stories about what we're listening to. Here we go.

TOP NUMBERS

As NPR Music critic Ann Powers noted on All Things Considered over the holiday weekend, the summer of 2024 seems to be leaning toward country — or at least country-tinged bops. The Billboard The Hot 100, which ranks the top singles (via a combination of data from streaming, digital and physical sales, and radio airplay), is dominated this week by Post Malone's uptempo country breakup song “I Had Some Help” featuring Morgan Wallen.

Post Malone made a name for himself as a hip-hop/pop man, but has collaborated with both Beyoncé and Taylor Swift in recent months. In his current attempt at song of the summer, he teams up with Morgan Wallen – who remains arguably Nashville's biggest star despite (or perhaps partly because of) a series of controversies. This is the second week at the top spot for 'I Had Some Help'.

At No. 2 is one of Kendrick Lamar's many recent Drake diss tracks, “Not Like Us,” followed by Tommy Richman's “Million Dollar Baby” at No. 3. Richman, a largely unknown singer and rapper before last month, teased his vaguely funk- tinged song on TikTok, where it enjoyed massive viral success, racking up millions of views before even releasing the full single.

Two of Ann's other summer hit predictions round out the top 5 singles for the week of June 1: Shaboozey's hybrid country/hip-hop/rock anthem “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” at No. 4 and debuting at No. 5, Billie Eilish's hazy, seductive 'Lunch'. As Eilish recently told Morning Edition on “Lunch”: “It's so fun and it's crazy and it's… I don't know. Life is so unserious. It's important to remember to have a little fun with it. If there was ever a time for something like this, wouldn't it be summer?

TOP ALBUMS

Speaking of Eilish, she and her record labels, Darkroom and Interscope, waged a fierce battle to knock chart queen Taylor Swift out of the top spot of the charts. Billboard 200, the weekly album chart. Swift's album The department of tortured poets had already been at number 1 for the first four weeks. Eilish's new album, Hit me hard and softdidn't do well enough to dethrone royalties, but according to Luminate, the company that used the data for the Billboard On the charts, Eilish earned 339,000 'equivalent album units' – her biggest week ever. (Stay with us for a moment. An “equivalent album unit” is industry-speak for a puzzling formula: the combination of songs streamed or downloaded, plus physical or digital album sales, expressed as an approximation of what decades ago would have been a simple transaction: one album sold.)

Nevertheless, Swift gained a fifth week at No. 1, with a total of 378,000 album units. How did she gain the upper hand? In short, by knowing exactly how to stimulate her fan base in terms of marketing. Team Swift launched a marketing counteroffensive that included six new digital versions of Martyred poets and a new CD version – all of which were sold exclusively on Swift's website. She also released a remix of her song 'Fortnight' – the biggest single from Martyred poetsand the one with a guy named Post Malone.

This is a game Eilish also knows: before racing up the charts, she released nine colored vinyl editions and her own digital version of Hit me hard and soft featuring isolated vocal tracks for each song, as well as a new remix of her song 'L'Amour De Ma Vie'. The full album was also given a promotional price as an iTunes download for $4.99. It's a move reminiscent of marketing campaigns from the pre-streaming era, that is, when Eilish himself was just a teenager. (Given how easy and cheap it is for listeners to inhale entire albums these days, it's not too surprising that all 10 songs from Hit me hard and soft have individually reached the Hot 100.)

All of these feverish machinations took place under the umbrella of a single major corporation: Universal Music Group, which distributes both Swift and Eilish's music. Cynics might note that no matter which individual artist reached No. 1, Universal was guaranteed to take the top spot.

WORTH NOTHING

Zayn Malik's fourth studio album, Room under the stairs, sees the former One Direction star take a turn towards Americana and country, aided by Nashville producer Dave Cobb. (This is clearly the sound of 2024, even for someone born and raised in Bradford, England.)

The album – Malik's first in three years – has not really resonated with a large audience: it is released in the Billboard 200 chart this week at number 15. But it has also given Malik an intriguing career: an entry on the Americana/Folk Album Listpositioned at number 5.

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