This week, DJ Khaled achieved a career milestone: his ninth album, Major Key, was his first number one album on Billboard's Top 200.
The accomplishment is a feat most artists strive for their entire career - especially being number one on the Top 200, not just number one on a genre chart. But when was the last time an album charting number one actually meant something?
During the 90s and early 2000s, a number one album almost certainly meant that a moment of time was indisputably yours. With the way records were flying off store shelves, getting a number one spot on the charts meant that you had to beat out fierce competition to do so. Netting a number one album also typically led to the delivery of a platinum plaque, which was an indication that the marker provided real economic power beyond the first week.
Now, earning a number one album is more about picking the right date. If the record label can schedule your album at the right time of the year, when there aren't any other announced high-profile releases on a given Friday, the lack of competition will assure you charting success. Reaching number one is still noteworthy—after all, very few artists can brag about having the top-selling album in the country, and staying at the top for consecutive weeks deserves high praise, but the mark no longer passes the eye test.
Does this apply to DJ Khaled? Somewhat, though not completely. Khaled has absolutely outmaneuvered the majority of the rap game, thanks in part to his Snapchat exploits and his relationships with the biggest artists. But while it'd be difficult to write he didn't earn his place, especially after releasing eight albums over a ten year period, what competition stood in his way? A Drake album that's three months old? In this case, the lack of a real threat makes his number one spot more ceremonial than it is consequential.
A number one album on the charts will always be an accomplishment that deserves kudos. But these days it feels more like a news headline than a career landmark.