Taylor Swift's Fearless logs its 52nd week in the top 10 on The Billboard 200. The country/pop blockbuster is one of only 18 albums to spend a full year in the top 10 since 1963, when Billboard combined its separate stereo and mono charts into one comprehensive listing.
The list of 18 albums is highly eclectic. It includes hard rock, R&B/pop, even a little hip-hop. It includes two movie soundtracks and an album of instrumental pop and a live album. In short, a little bit of everything.
There are some surprises on the list. If you asked people to name the group with the longest-running top 10 album, they'd probably guess the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eagles or Fleetwood Mac before they'd come up with the right answer, Def Leppard. And if you asked people to name the all-female group with the longest-running top 10 album, they'd probably run through such more obvious choices as the Supremes, Go-Go's, Bangles, Dixie Chicks, TLC and Destiny's Child before they'd come up with the correct answer, Wilson Phillips.
With the Grammys coming up on Jan. 31, Fearless is likely to remain in the top 10 and thus continue moving up this list. Fearless is already just one week away from tying Shania Twain's Come On Over as the longest-running top 10 album by a country artist.
Twelve of these 18 albums were released in the 1980s and 1990s. Three were released in the '60s, two in the '70s and only one (Fearless) in the '00s. This suggests that taking out a full year's lease in the top 10 is harder than it used to be.
As usual, I have a little bit of fine print: Michael Jackson's Thriller is in third place on the list, with 78 weeks in the top 10. But Thriller logged 13 additional weeks as one of the nation's 10 best-selling albums in the past two years--five weeks in 2008 (when Thriller 25 was released) and eight weeks in 2009 (following Jackson's death). At the time, catalog albums were barred from The Billboard 200. Billboard wisely changed its policy late last year and now allows catalog albums to compete on the big chart. If the new policy had been in place throughout 2008 and 2009, Thriller would have a total of 91 weeks in the top 10 and would move up to second place on this list.
Pop Quiz: All but four of these 18 albums were nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year. Which four were not? Even if you're not steeped in Grammy lore, try to see how many of the four you get right. You may surprise yourself.
Here's a list of all albums that have logged 52 or more weeks in the top 10 since Aug. 17, 1963. The artist and title are followed by the total number of weeks the album spent in the top 10, and the time frame in which the album was in the top 10. (I went with Billboard issue dates as opposed to Nielsen/SoundScan "week ending" dates in this piece.)
1. Soundtrack, The Sound Of Music, 109 weeks (May 1965 to January 1968). Julie Andrews headlined this blockbuster soundtrack, which appeared in the top 10 in four different years. Oddly, the album was #1 for just two of these 109 weeks. A second Andrews soundtrack, Mary Poppins, spent nearly a year (48 weeks) in the top 10.
2. Bruce Springsteen, Born In The U.S.A., 84 weeks (June 1984 to January 1986). You know how seven is considered a lucky number? This was Springsteen's seventh album, it logged seven weeks at #1 and it spawned seven top 10 singles, including "Dancing In The Dark." This remained in the top 10 longer than any other rock album.
3. Michael Jackson, Thriller, 78 weeks (January 1983 to June 1984). This remained in the top 10 longer than any other pop or R&B album. It spent nearly half of these 78 weeks (37) at #1. The album spawned seven top 10 hits, including "The Girl Is Mine" (with Paul McCartney), "Beat It" (featuring Eddie Van Halen) and "Thriller" (featuring Vincent Price).
4. Def Leppard, Hysteria, 78 weeks (August 1987 to March 1989). This had the longest run in the top 10 of any album by a group. This was the English rock band's fourth album. It logged six weeks at #1 and spawned four top 10 hits, including the #1 "Love Bites."
5. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill, 72 weeks (August 1995 to January 1997). This had the longest run in the top 10 of any album by a female artist and any American debut album. (Morissette had two previous albums in her native Canada.) The album logged 12 weeks at #1 and spawned three top 10 hits: "Ironic," "You Learn" and "Head Over Feet."
6. Soundtrack, Doctor Zhivago, 71 weeks (June 1966 to January 1968). Maurice Jarre composed and conducted this soundtrack, which remained in the top 10 longer than any other instrumental album. The album logged just one week at #1. Ray Conniff turned "Lara's Theme" into the schmaltzy top 10 hit "Somewhere, My Love."
7. Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl, 64 weeks (February 1989 to May 1990). This album, Abdul's debut, logged 10 weeks at #1 and spawned five top 10 hits, including "Straight Up" and "Opposites Attract" (with The Wild Pair). Abdul had just a few years as a top artist, but she was red-hot.
8. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, 61 weeks (July 1965 to March 1967). The album, Alpert's fourth, logged eight weeks at #1. Alpert's zesty version of "Taste Of Honey" reached the top 10. In addition to being the hottest instrumental act of the '60s, Alpert co-founded A&M Records, home of artists ranging from Peter Frampton (see #16) to the Black Eyed Peas.
9. Celine Dion, Falling Into You, 61 weeks (March 1996 to June 1997). This was the Canadian superstar's fourth U.S. album. It logged three weeks at #1 and spawned three top 10 hits: "Because You Loved Me," "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and a cover of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself."
10. Lionel Richie, Can't Slow Down, 59 weeks (November 1983 to December 1984). This was Richie's second album apart from the Commodores. It logged three weeks at #1 and spawned five top 10 hits, including the #1 hits "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Hello."
11. Hootie & The Blowfish, Cracked Rear View, 55 weeks (February 1995 to March 1996). The pop group's debut album logged eight weeks at #1 and spawned three top 10 hits: "Hold My Hand" (featuring David Crosby), "Let Her Cry" and "Only Want To Be With You." Lead singer Darius Rucker is now a country star.
12. Shania Twain, Come On Over, 53 weeks (November 1997 to January 2000). This album, the Canadian star's third, remained in the top 10 longer than any other album that failed to hit #1. (It spent two weeks at #2.) The collection spawned three top 10 hits: "You're Still The One," "From This Moment On" (featuring Bryan White) and "That Don't Impress Me Much."
13. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, 52 weeks (February 1977 to February 1978). This was the second album by the most famous line-up of this veteran band. It remained in the top 10 longer than any other album by a mixed-gender group. Most of these 52 weeks (31) were spent at #1. The album spawned four top 10 hits, including the #1 "Dreams."
14. M.C. Hammer, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, 52 weeks (April 1990 to April 1991). This is the only rap or hip hop album to log a full year in the top 10. The album, Hammer's second, spent 21 weeks at #1 and spawned three top 10 hits: "U Can't Touch This," "Pray" and a remake of the Chi-Lites' "Have You Seen Her."
15. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 52 weeks (November 2008 to January 2010). Swift's second regular studio album has logged 11 weeks at #1 and has yielded four top 10 hits, including "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me." How much longer will it remain in the top 10? Place your bets.
16. Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!, 52 weeks (February 1976 to February 1977). This is the only live album to log a full year in the top 10. The album, the English rock star's fifth, logged 10 weeks at #1 and spawned two top 10 hits: "Show Me The Way" and "Do You Feel Like We Do."
17. Guns N Roses, Appetite For Destruction, 52 weeks (April 1988 to April 1989). This was the debut album by the legendary hard rock band. It spent five weeks at #1 and yielded three top 10 hits: "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Welcome To The Jungle" and "Paradise City."
18. Wilson Phillips, Wilson Phillips, 52 weeks (June 1990 to June 1991). This remained in the top 10 longer than any other album by an all-female group. It was the debut album by the second-generation pop trio. The album logged 10 weeks at #2 and featured four top 10 hits, including the #1 smashes "Hold On," "Release Me" and "You're In Love."
Filler Graph: This is a filler graph so you won't see the Quiz Answer until you've finalized your guesses. (You are playing along, I hope.) All but two of these 18 albums hit #1. The two that didn't, Come On Over and Wilson Phillips, both reached #2. Likewise, all but two of these albums spawned at least one top 10 hit on the Hot 100. The two that didn't were the soundtracks to The Sound Of Music and Doctor Zhivago. (As noted, a cover version of the key song from Doctor Zhivago made the top 10.)
Quiz Answer: The four albums on this list that weren't nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year are Hysteria, Forever Your Girl, Cracked Rear View and Appetite For Destruction. If you got all four right, I salute you.
Shout Out: Joel Whitburn's Billboard Top 10 Album Charts 1963-1998 includes a longer version of this list.