Kanye West has so far released 16 songs from his latest album, Donda 2, but they’re not available on any streaming services. That’s because he’s released them exclusively on his Stem Player, a proprietary digital music device that allows people to remix songs while listening to them.
Unfortunately, because he’s releasing the album with the player, he won’t be eligible for placement on the Billboard charts, according to the chart company.
Billboard has fairly strict rules when it comes to bundling merchandise with albums. In 2020, Billboard said it would no longer consider an album bundled with tickets or other items as eligible to be considered for the charts.
This was in response to the practice of juicing album sales with said bundling. Billboard didn’t completely shut off this kind of promotion in the future, however, saying that it was going to continue to watch the evolution of this type of technology when it came to future chart eligibility.
West has 10 total number-one albums on the charts, with the latest being 2021’s Donda. That album was the largest release that year at that point, later surpassed by Drake and Adele. It looks like Donda 2 is not going to be on that list.
Not everyone is happy about the Stem Player, with Slate calling it “the most bizarre release from a major artist in memory.”
The lack of a screen (which, at $200, has to be an aesthetic choice rather than a budgetary one) means that you can’t actually tell what you’re listening to unless it’s music you already know. It also means that if you want to go to a specific track, you need to cycle through the whole player until you find it, since there’s no search interface.
Despite reviews like that, sales have reportedly been good, with West claiming sales of around $1.3 million so far.