No Money, No Problem: Independent Rapper Macklemore Soars Onto Billboard Chart

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Macklemore performs at the Best Buy Theatre on April 9, 2012 in New York City.

It’s time again to look at the latest action in the Billboard charts, tallying the week’s biggest singles and albums and interesting trends. On we go:

  • Moves Past “Jagger.” O.K., what’s more surprising: that Psy charted in the U.S. at all, that he stormed all the way to the No. 2 position — or that he’d be stuck there for five weeks behind Maroon 5? But that’s where we’re at. “One More Night” is on top yet again, giving the band its biggest hit to date, exceeding the four weeks “Moves like Jagger” held the top spot. And guess what: Another Taylor Swift preview track from Red barrels into the charts in the Top 10 — this one, at a sprightly No. 3. The faintly dubstep-decorated “I Knew You Were Trouble” is — you guessed it — a song about an ex-boyfriend who didn’t appreciate her. Keep on keeping on.

(READ: TIME talks to Taylor Swift)

  • Pride Goeth Before a “Skyfall.” It wasn’t the best of times for last week’s big-name debuts. Adele’s “Skyfall” loses all momentum and slips out of the Top 10 to No. 13, while Bruno Mars’ “Locked out of Heaven” manages to move only a single notch upward, to 33. Further down the list, Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” has proved to be anything but; after peaking at a disappointing No. 37 a few weeks ago, the tune’s now out of the 40. Similarly, Matchbox Twenty was able to take its first single in five years, “She’s So Mean,” only to the No. 40 anchor position before tanking. Looks as if a few superstars may have to get their hustle on soon

(WATCH: Behind the Scenes with Matchbox Twenty)

  • A Successful Heist. There was no surpassing Mumford & Sons on this week’s album survey, but the duo of Seattle-based party rapper and self-described “cold-ass honky” Macklemore and his producer Ryan Lewis came impressively close. The Heist, their first full-length effort together, moved almost 80,000 copies to enter at No. 2 — even without major-label backing. Curiously, the album’s selling well without the benefit of a crossover pop hit; the quirky single “Thrift Shop” has made it only to No. 96 thus far. Also coming on strong are two acts of the near geriatric set: Kiss, who storm in at No. 3 with Monster, and the incomparable Barbra Streisand, whose 32nd (!) album to visit the Top 10, Release Me, stands at No. 7. The former marks yet another near miss for Stanley, Simmons and Co., who have still never had a No. 1 album. But we suspect Gene’ll settle for beating Babs.
  • Method of Modern Charts. Billboard’s revision of genre-chart policy to take into account digital downloads and streams hasn’t had as severe an effect as many chart watchers and genre purists had feared. The Country Songs chart is not suddenly composed entirely of Taylor Swift tracks, and R&B balladeers like Miguel and Trey Songz have not been pushed aside for pop confections. Billboard has clarified its policy a bit, at least with regards to Swift, whose “Trouble” does not appear on the Country chart because of its pop sound and absence of promotion to country radio. Still, demographics are a sensitive thing, and the people who feel strongly that Rihanna’s “Diamonds” is ill suited for the R&B tally don’t seem much different from those in the ’70s who decried the presence of Olivia Newton-John and Linda Ronstadt on the Country survey.
  • Liner Notes. British singer Ellie Goulding makes her second visit to the charts this week with the debut of “Anything Could Happen,” the lead single from her new album Halcyon. Touted by many critics already, including TIME’s Melissa Locker, Halcyon looks to be a sizable hit, and “Anything” seems poised for a much faster chart ascension than the slow-burning “Lights” — which is still hanging in there at No. 15 in its 43rd chart week.

(MORE: Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon is Catchy Catharsis)

Got questions about the charts, past and present? E-mail me at Joseph_McCombs@timemagazine.com

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