Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" this week becomes the best-selling song by a British artist in the digital era. The song has sold 5,567,000 copies, which enables it to edge past Taio Cruz's 2010 hit "Dynamite," which has sold 5,548,000. Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" is in third place, with sales of 5,200,000 copies.
While "Rolling In The Deep" is the best-selling digital hit by a British artist, it will probably never approach the sales of Elton John's "Candle In The Wind 1997," which is the best-selling single ever by a British artist (physical or digital). According to Nielsen SoundScan, the song sold 8,111,000 physical copies in the last 14 weeks of 1997. It has been certified for U.S. sales of 11 million copies by the Recording Industry Assn. of America. (Elton's best-selling digital hit is "Tiny Dancer," which has sold 1,256,000 digital copies. The 1971 song was featured in a memorable scene in the 2000 movie Almost Famous.)
In case you're wondering, the Beatles' best-selling single is 1968's "Hey Jude," which has been certified for U.S. sales of 4 million physical copies by the RIAA. (The Beatles' best-selling digital hit is 1970's "Let It Be," which has sold 443K copies since the group's catalog became available digitally last fall.)
Nineteen songs by British artists have sold 2 million or more digital copies. Adele, Taio Cruz, Coldplay, Natasha Bedingfield and Queen have each hit that mark with two songs. Both of these Queen songs, "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You," are from the 1970s, making them the oldest songs to have sold 2 million digital copies. The next oldest are Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," from 1981, and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony," from 1998.
Three of the 19 songs by British artists that have sold 2 million or more digital copies are collabos that feature American rappers: Jay Sean's "Down" (featuring Lil Wayne), Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart" (featuring Ludacris) and Estelle's "American Boy" (featuring Kanye West).
Here are the 19 songs by British artists that have sold 2 million or more digital copies, along with the top three runners-up, for a total of 22. The first 14 appear on Nielsen SoundScan's running list of the 200 best-selling songs in digital history. I show the current sales total for each song and, for those first 14 songs, the song's current ranking on the top 200.
1. Adele, "Rolling In The Deep," 5,567,000. The song logged seven weeks at #1 from May to July. It was Adele's first top 10 hit. It's the Grammy front-runner for Record and Song of the Year. Adele Adkins was born in Tottenham, North London. Top 200 rank: #9
2. Taio Cruz, "Dynamite," 5,548,000. Dr. Luke co-wrote the song, which began a three-week run at #2 in August 2010. It failed to match the #1 ranking of Cruz' previous single, "Break Your Heart," though it has sold 2 million more copies than that smash has. Cruz was born in London. Top 200 rank: #10
3. Coldplay, "Viva La Vida,"5,200,000. The majestic song hit #1 in June 2008. It's the band's only #1 to date. It won a Grammy for Song of the Year and was nominated for Record of the Year. The four-man band was formed in London. Top 200 rank: #13
4. Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love," 4,277,000. The dramatic ballad spent four weeks at #1 in April 2008. The smash, which was Lewis' first chart hit, received a Grammy nomination as Record of the Year. Hit-makers Ryan Tedder and Jesse McCartney co-wrote the song. Lewis, who won on The X Factor, was born in Islington, London. Top 200 rank: #37
5. Jay Sean (featuring Lil Wayne), "Down," 4,175,000. The breezy song with the stylish video was #1 for two weeks in October 2009. It was Sean's first chart hit. Sean (Kamaljit Jhooti) was born in London. Top 200 rank: #41
6. Iyaz, "Replay," 3,816,000. The reggae-tinged song reached #2 in January 2010. It was Iyaz's first chart hit. Iyaz (Keidran Jones) was born in the British Virgin Islands, which is a British territory. Top 200 rank: #53
7. M.I.A., "Paper Planes," 3,674,000. The wildly imaginative recording reached #4 in September 2008. It's M.I.A.'s only top 40 hit to date. M.I.A.'s recording was featured in the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. It received a Grammy nomination as Record of the Year. M.I.A. (Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam) was born in London and raised in India. Top 200 rank: #59
8. Taio Cruz (featuring Ludacris), "Break Your Heart," 3,572,000. The melodic collabo reached #1 in March 2010. It was Cruz's first chart hit. Top 200 rank: #64
9. Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars," 3,131,000. The heartfelt rock ballad reached #5 in October 2006. It is the only top 40 hit to date for the five-man band from Dundee, Scotland. Top 200 rank: #95
10. Natasha Bedingfield, "Pocketful Of Sunshine," 3,100,000. The latter-day flower-power song peaked at #5 in July 2008. Bedingfield co-wrote the tune with John Shanks and former child star Danielle Brisebois. Bedingfield was born in Haywards Heath, Sussex, England. Top 200 rank: #99
11. Adele, "Someone Like You," 2,962,000. The tender ballad logged five weeks at #1 from September to November. It's the only #1 in history that consists of just a piano and vocal. Adele co-wrote the song with Dan Wilson. Top 200 rank: #118
12. James Blunt, "You're Beautiful," 2,866,000. The melancholy ballad reached #1 in March 2006. It's Blunt's only top 40 hit to date. Blunt co-wrote the song, which was a Grammy finalist for Record and Song of the Year. Blunt (James Blount) was born in Tidworth, Wilshire, England. Top 200 rank: #132
13. Natasha Bedingfield, "Unwritten," 2,786,000. The inspirational anthem peaked at #5 in April 2006. It was Bedingfield's first top 10 hit. The gospel choir gives it some gravitas. Top 200 rank: #139
14. Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody," 2,643,000. Freddie Mercury's rock/opera mash-up is one of the most theatrical singles in rock history. It made the top 10 twice. It peaked at #9 in April 1976 (becoming the group's first top 10 hit) and at #2 in May 1992, after it had been featured in the box-office hit Wayne's World. The four-man band was formed in England. Top 200 rank: #157
15. Coldplay, "Clocks," 2,307,000. The soft-rock classic reached #29 in May 2003. It was the group's first top 40 hit. Chris Martin's piano playing drives the song. This won a Grammy as Record of the Year.
16. Queen, "We Will Rock You," 2,285,000. The Brian May song reached #4 in February 1978. It was the band's first top five hit. It was usually played on the radio in a coupling with Freddie Mercury's "We Are The Champions" (which has sold 1,467,000 copies). It has gained a second life as a sports stadium staple.
17. Estelle (featuring Kanye West), "American Boy," 2,258,000. The sassy and richly melodic smash hit #9 in September 2008. It's Estelle's only Hot 100 hit to date. Estelle co-wrote the song, which received a Grammy nomination as Song of the Year. Estelle Swaray was born in Hammersmith, West London.
18. La Roux, "Bulletproof," 2,188,000. The techno-edged dance smash reached #8 in June 2010. It's the duo's only Hot 100 hit to date. Lead singer Eleanor Jackson co-wrote the song. The duo is from London.
19. Ozzy Osbourne, "Crazy Train," 2,070,000. The hard rock classic "bubbled under" the Hot 100 (at #106) in July 1981. It appeared on Osbourne's first solo album, Blizzard Of Ozz. Osbourne (John Michael Osbourne) was born in Birmingham, England.
20. Florence + the Machine, "Dog Days Are Over," 1,948,000. The exuberant song with the theatrical video hit #21 in 2010. It is the act's only top 40 hit to date. Florence Welch, who co-wrote the song, was born in London.
21. Amy Winehouse, "Rehab," 1,896,000. The spunky, soulful and now bitterly ironic song reached #9 in June 2007. It's Winehouse's only top 40 hit. It won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. Winehouse was born in Southgate, London.
22. The Verve, "Bitter Sweet Symphony," 1,865,000. The aptly-titled song hit #12 in April 1998. It was the four-man group's only Hot 100 hit. It sampled an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' 1965 hit "The Last Time," which led to a co-writing credit for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The Verve hailed from Wigan, England.