Pop Stars and Flop Stars: Drake’s Prolonged View from the Top vs. Ariana Grande’s Dangerously Unimpressive Debut

Last Week's Pop & Flop Stars
Drake reigns, while Meghan Trainor suffers thankless debut.

Climb to the top of the pops and dive deep down into the depths with the flops in our new, improved edition of Pop Power Ranking (now called Pop Stars and Flop Stars).

Welcome back to Pop Stars and Flop Stars, which, as I explained last week, is a revitalized (and shortened) restructuring of the feature formerly called Pop Power Ranking. Here’s the drill: each week, I’ll name a Pop Star — someone who secured the lion’s share of No. 1s, trophies, and/or other cultural gold stars (both tangible and intangible) — and one Flop Star who… well, you get the idea. And that’s about all there is to say. Let’s get into it.

This Week’s Pop Star: Drake

Drake’s Views notches its fourth straight week atop the Album 200. Per Billboard, Drake is the first male artist to top that chart for four weeks with one album since Michael Bublé did it in late 2011. Views is now the best-selling album released in 2016. (It’s still miles behind Adele’s 25, which came out last year but continues to sell strongly.) Then there’s the Hot 100, where Drake’s “One Dance” remains No. 1 as well. What else needs to be said? Drake is at the top of the game, quite literally, in nearly every quantifiable respect. Give someone else a chance, Drake.

Runners Up

This Week’s Flop Star: Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande has spent the last three years (and her last three album cycles) trying to convince the pop-consuming public that she is The Next Mariah Big Thing. She’s tallied up enough successes to make a convincing-enough argument, but then the receipts start rolling in… Dangerous Woman, Grande’s much-hyped third album, which has so far not spawned even one true hit single, debuts on the Album 200 at No. 2, behind Drake’s month-old Views. In total, Dangerous Woman moved 175,000 units, 129,000 of which were pure sales. Those numbers aren’t abysmal, but they aren’t great, especially for an artist who clearly has eyes on becoming a legend with a long, storied career. (In terms of pure sales, Dangerous Woman sold less than 2014’s My Everything, which bowed with sales of 169,000.) I get it: selling albums is hard in the era of streaming, and everyone’s struggling. That’s true-ish. In terms of pure sales, Dangerous Woman sold about as much as Rihanna’s ANTI and Zayn’s Mind of Mine did their first weeks out. Unfortunately, those numbers are only marginally better than those of infamous flops like Rebel Heart and Britney Jean, which makes it hard to sell as a smashing success. Speaking of Madonna’s Rebel Heart: that album at least debuted at No. 1 on the Album Sales chart while losing to the Empire soundtrack on the Streaming Chart and the Album 200. Grande lost in streaming (to Drake), sales (to Blake Shelton), and overall on the Album 200 (again, to Drake). Additionally, no single from the album has really stuck the way, say, “Problem” did in 2014, though “Dangerous Woman” does re-enter the Top 10 of the Hot 100 this week and re-peaks at No. 8, so that’s something. While more established artists like Adele, Justin Bieber, Drake, Beyoncé, and to a lesser extent, Rihanna, consistently strike album chart gold, in spite of the changing chart formulas and consumer behavior, this younger generation of pop stars — including last week’s Flop Star, Meghan Trainor — just aren’t cutting it when it comes to the numbers. Not that charts are everything; at least Grande has Trainor beat when it comes to positive reviews.

Runners Down