I think what happened in the past year is that people focused on Jackson's music for the first time in many years, and remembered how much they liked it. Sadly, it took Jackson's death for people to look past all the controversies--large and small, troubling and trivial--that turned a lot of people off.
In the year since he died, Jackson has sold 9,023,000 albums in the U.S. This has enabled him to vault from #47 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the top 200 album sellers in its history (which dates to 1991) to #18 this week. That's a tremendous one-year gain.Elvis Presley died in 1977 or when John Lennon was killed in 1980, so precise comparisons aren't possible, but the Billboard charts shed some light on the matter. Glenn Miller and rappers 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. each had three posthumous #1 albums. Nirvana, featuring the late Kurt Cobain, had two. Fred Astaire. In death, he got at least part of his wish: a #1 box-office hit. Michael Jackson's This Is It topped the box-office in its opening weekend at the end of October with a domestic gross of more than $23 million. Prince (1984's Purple Rain); Whitney Houston (1995's Waiting To Exhale); Will Smith (1997's Men In Black); Eminem (2002's 8 Mile); and Miley Cyrus (2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie).
Michael Jackson's This Is It grossed more than $72 million in the U.S., which made it the top-grossing music concert film in history. (The old record was held by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus' 2008 movie Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour, which grossed more than $65 million.) The movie grossed an additional $180 million in foreign markets for a combined worldwide gross of $252 million. It was also a hit on DVD, with U.S. DVD sales estimated at $43 million.
Beyond the box-office success, the movie helped Jackson's image because it showed him in action and in charge. And we haven't seen that side of him since his heyday. Since Bad came out in 1987, he was usually on the defensive, facing slipping sales, image problems, criminal charges, and all the rest. His life spun out of control. Here, he was seen as being in control again.The Beatles came closest, nailing down three of the top four spots in May 1964.) Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had four of the top 10.
As I noted last summer, this has a strong sense of déjà vu for me. I wrote a column for Billboard in 1983 and 1984, when Jackson was setting new records virtually every week. I never imagined that it would all happen again, and certainly not under these sad circumstances.
In the week after he died, Jackson became the first artist to sell more than 1 million digital tracks in one week. (He sold 2.6 million, obliterating the old record.) Combining solo hits with songs he recorded with his brothers, he had a staggering 49 of the top 200 titles on the Hot Digital Songs chart that week. He held down six of the top 10 spots.John Lennon and his widow, Yoko Ono, topped The Billboard 200 for eight weeks. It was the longest that a greatest hits set was the best-selling album in the U.S. since 2000-2001, when the Beatles' 1 held the top spot for eight weeks. It was the longest that Jackson had the top-seller since 1987, when Bad held the top spot for six weeks.
Jackson's phenomenal posthumous success forced Billboard to change its long-time policy of excluding catalog albums from The Billboard 200. Beginning with the chart for the issue dated Dec. 5, 2009, catalog albums were able to compete alongside current product on the magazine's flagship chart. The move came too late for Jackson's albums to take their rightful places in the top 10, but it was welcome development nonetheless.Garth Brooks, who had three of the top 20 albums of 1992. (In Brooks's case, however, all three made the year-end top 10.)
Number Ones sold 2,355,000 copies in the U.S. in 2009. It sold all but 117,000 of those copies after Jackson's death.
Jackson had seven of Nielsen/SoundScan's top 100 albums of 2009. In addition to his four albums that made the year-end top 20, Off The Wall was #66, Bad was #68 and Dangerous was #98.Journey's ubiquitous 1981 smash "Don't Stop Believin'," which has sold 3,819,000 copies. But Jackson tops the arena rock band in one respect: He has a second song on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the 200 best-selling digital songs in its history. "Billie Jean" has sold 1,898,000 copies in the digital era. Justin Timberlake's Justified stayed on top for seven weeks in 2003.
Jackson also had a pair of #1 albums in Japan: King Of Pop (Japan Edition) and Michael Jackson's This Is It.
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