Jack White's 'Boarding House Reach' tops Billboard charts thanks to vinyl sales


  • David James Swanson
  • Jack White.

Jack White is No. 1.

The rocker's third solo album, Boarding House Reach, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and also landed White on the top of the Billboard Artist 100.

It's his first time topping the Artist 100, but that may only be because the chart didn't exist when he released his last two solo records. Launched in 2014, the Artist 100 tweaks the Billboard formula for the 21st century, blending physical album sales with digital sales and streams, radio airplay, and social media interactions. But perhaps unsurprisingly to die-hard fans, White got there largely the old-fashioned way: vinyl sales.

White sold 121,000 copies of Boarding House Reach, with 27,000 on vinyl. Through his record label, Third Man Records, White has made an industry out of releasing his records on vinyl, often in limited editions on color vinyl in his hallmark primary colors. Boarding House Reach was released as both a standard black edition as well as a limited-edition on "blue and black swirl vinyl" through his "Vault" fan club subscription service.

That's despite the fact that Boarding House Reach is objectively, and by White's own admission, a strange record — mixing techno, hip-hop, and bongos (lots of bongos) to White's well-worn retro-future guitar-based formula.

Yet for better or worse, the record is pure Jack White. White has always been musically omnivorous, and there was always much more going on with the White Stripes beyond being a white blues band.

Much has been made about White's "rapping" on Boarding House Reach's "Ice Station Zebra," but it's not the first time hip-hop influences have seeped into his music, even though he once famously said he hated rap — listen back to the White Stripes' "Icky Thump" or White's "Lazaretto." (There was also that one time the White Stripes covered Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money.") Meanwhile, BHR's closer "Humoresque" — a Tin Pan Alley-sounding track based off of lyrics written by Al Capone while imprisoned in Alcatraz — calls to mind the White Stripes' cover of Marlene Dietrich's "Look Me Over Closely," the b-side of the band's debut single.

As Third Man's artist description for the White Stripes says, "They are almost certainly the only band to have ever played shows with Loretta Lynn, the Stooges, Porter Wagoner, Whirlwind Heat, and Sleater-Kinney." That's what always separated White from the rest of the early 2000s "garage rock" revivalists pack.

White will perform at Detroit's Little Caesars Arena on Thursday, April 19.

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