Taylor Swift's Speak Now sold 1,047,000 copies in its first week, which puts it in elite company. It's only the 16th album to sell 1 million copies in one week since Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. Swift's strong showing is all the more impressive because the environment for album sales is much worse than it was a decade ago, when many of these other albums were released.
Speak Now registered the second biggest one-week sales tally for a country album. It trails only Garth Brooks' 1998 smash Double Live. It also posted the second biggest one-week sales tally for an album by a female solo artist, after Britney Spears' Oops!...I Did It Again. (Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack also sold more copies at its peak, but it included tracks by six other artists.)
To put the first-week tally for Speak Now in context, I prepared a list of the 20 biggest one-week sales tallies in the Nielsen/SoundScan era. Garth Brooks is the only artist with three of the 20 biggest tallies. *NSYNC, Eminem and Backstreet Boys each have two.
Pop is the leading genre, with eight of the 20 biggest one-week tallies. Rap (with five albums on the list) edges country (with four) for second place. Rock accounts for two; R&B for one.
*NSYNC's second studio album, No Strings Attached, is the all-time leader for the greatest one-week sales. It sold 2,416,000 copies in its first week in March 2000. Both *NSYNC and the music industry stood at their peaks at the time. The boy band's debut album, *NSYNC, had sold 7,878,000 copies prior to the release of No Strings Attached.
Here are the 20 albums that have sold the most copies in any one week in the Nielsen/SoundScan era. All of these albums ranked #1 on The Billboard 200 at the time. All but four of them were in their first week on the chart. I note the four exceptions.
1. *NSYNC, No Strings Attached, 2,416,000. The boy band's second studio album debuted in March 2000. It spawned the top 10 hits "Bye Bye Bye," "It's Gonna Be Me" and "This I Promise You."
2. *NSYNC, Celebrity, 1,880,000. The quintet's third studio album debuted in July 2001. It spawned the top 10 hit "Girlfriend" (featuring Nelly). Remarkably, *NSYNC has yet to release another studio album.
3. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP, 1,760,000. The rapper's second album debuted in May 2000. It sold more copies in one week than any other rap album or any other album by a male solo artist. It spawned the top 10 hit "The Real Slim Shady" and received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
4. Backstreet Boys, Black & Blue, 1,591,000. The boy band's third album debuted in November 2000. It managed to interrupt the Beatles' run at #1 with 1. Black & Blue spawned the Boys' final top 10 hit "Shape Of My Heart."
5. Eminem, The Eminem Show, 1,322,000. Eminem's third album sold 285,000 copies in its first week in May 2001 due to "street-date violations," where retailers sell an album before its official release date. The album hit this big number in its second week. It spawned the top 10 hits "Without Me" and "Cleanin' Out My Closet" and received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
6. Britney Spears, Oops!...I Did It Again, 1,319,000. Spears was just 18 when this album, her second, was released in May 2000. It sold more copies in one week than any other album by a female artist. It spawned the top 10 hit "Oops!...I Did It Again."
7. The Beatles, 1, 1,259,000. The Fab Four's blockbuster sold more copies in one week than any other greatest hits compilation. It reached its peak of sales in December 2000, in its sixth week of release. The 27-track album includes all 20 of the Beatles' #1 hits on the Hot 100.
9. Backstreet Boys, Millennium, 1,134,000. In May 1999, this broke Garth Brooks' record for one-week sales. It held the record until *NSYNC broke it 10 months later. The album, the quintet's second, spawned the top 10 hits "I Want It That Way" and "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely." It received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
10. Usher, Confessions, 1,096,000. Usher's fourth studio album debuted in March 2004. It sold more copies in one week than any other R&B album. It spawned five top 10 hits: "Yeah!" (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris), "Burn," "Confessions Part II," "My Boo" (a duet with Alicia Keys) and "Caught Up." It received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
11. Garth Brooks, Double Live, 1,085,000. In November 1998, this broke Whitney Houston's record for one-week sales. It held the record until Backstreet Boys broke it six months later. The album still holds the record for one-week sales for a country album, a double album and a live album. "It's Your Song" was the first song from a Brooks album to make the Hot 100.
12. Whitney Houston/Soundtrack, The Bodyguard, 1,061,000. This was the first album in Nielsen/SoundScan history to sell 1 million copies in one week. It achieved the feat in January 1993, when it was in its sixth week. It still holds the record for one-week sales for a soundtrack. The album spawned the top 10 hits "I Will Always Love You," "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing." It won the Grammy for Album of the Year.
13. Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water, 1,055,000. The band's third album was released in October 2000. This is the record for one-week sales for a rock act (unless you count the Beatles, who straddle the line between pop and rock.) The album spawned the chart hits "Rollin' (Urban Assault Vehicle)" (featuring DMX, Redman and Method Man) and "My Way."
14. Taylor Swift, Speak Now, 1,047,000. Swift's third studio album has sold more copies in one week than any other album by a female country artist. It has already spawned three top 10 hits: "Mine," "Speak Now" and "Back To December."
15. Norah Jones, Feels Like Home, 1,022,000. Jones' second solo album debuted in February 2004. It achieved this sales tally without generating a Hot 100 single. ("Sunrise" won a Grammy, but failed to crack the pop chart.)
16. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 1,006,000. Lil Wayne's sixth solo album debuted in June 2008. It spawned the rapper's first three top 10 hits: "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major), "A Milli" and "Got Money (featuring T-Pain). It received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
17. Kanye West, Graduation, 957,000. The rapper's third album debuted in September 2007. It spawned the top 10 hits "Stronger" and "Good Life" (featuring T-Pain) and received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
18. Pearl Jam, Vs., 950,000. The second album by the Seattle-based rock band debuted in November 1993. It spawned the airplay hit "Daughter."
19. Garth Brooks, The Hits, 907,000. Brooks' first compilation album sold 520,000 copies in its first week in December 1994, and climbed to this number in its second week. Only one greatest hits album (the Beatles' 1) has sold more copies in any one week. Twelve of the 18 songs on the album were #1 country hits.
20. Garth Brooks, Sevens, 897,000. Brooks' seventh studio album debuted in November 1997. The album spawned the #1 country hit "Longneck Bottle." In 2000, another song from the album, "Do What You Gotta Do," made the Hot 100.
The Fine Print: Several notable albums that were released prior to 1991 may have sold 1 million copies in one week (we'll never know for sure). Candidates that may have done it include Elton John's Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life (1976), the Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (1978), John Lennon/Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy (1980), Michael Jackson's Thriller (1984) and Bad (1987), Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. (1984) and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-1985 (1985), Prince and the Revolution's Purple Rain soundtrack (1984) and Whitney Houston's Whitney (1987).