Chart Watch

Chart Watch Extra: 20 Years Of Top Albums

Chart Watch

You probably know that Adele's 21 is the best-selling album so far this year. You may not know that if 21 maintains its status through the end of the year, Adele will become the first British solo artist to wind up with the year's #1 album in the Nielsen SoundScan era. Susan Boyle came close two years ago when her debut, I Dreamed A Dream, was the #2 best-seller of 2009.

This year marks 20 years since Billboard began using Nielsen SoundScan data to power its charts. The change began with The Billboard 200 and expanded later in the year to include the Hot 100. For the first time, the music industry (and pop fans) could see actual sales numbers rather than just relative chart rankings. This brought an unprecedented degree of precision and transparency to the weekly charts.

To mark the anniversary, I am posting a few Chart Watch Extras this month. This first one, which went up on Friday, tracked the best-selling songs of each of the past 20 years. If you missed it, here's a link. This companion piece tracks the best-selling albums of each of the past 20 years.

The albums cover a wide range. They include four soundtracks, four rap albums, two rock albums, two country albums, two R&B albums, two albums by "boy bands," an album by a "girl group" and even a Christmas album.

Here are the best-selling albums from each of the past 20 years. The sales tally is the number of albums sold in that calendar year. Note: The records and superlatives cited set apply only to the Nielsen SoundScan era, not to all of chart history.

1992: Billy Ray Cyrus, Some Gave All, 4,832,000. This is the only album by a male country artist to rank as the year's top-seller. (Sorry, Garth Brooks.)  The album spawned the top five sing-a-long smash, "Achy Breaky Heart."

1993: Whitney Houston & Various Artists, The Bodyguard, 5,460,000. This was the first album to sell 5 million copies in a calendar year. It was the first of three albums to be the year's best-seller and also win a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album spawned three top five hits: "I Will Always Love You,"  "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing."

1994: Soundtrack, The Lion King, 4,934,000. This is the only soundtrack to an animated movie to rank as the year's top-seller. The album spawned Elton John's top five hit "Can You Feel The Love Tonight." The album also contains four tracks by film scorer Hans Zimmer. The long-running Broadway show of the same name opened in November 1997.

1995: Hootie & the Blowfish, Cracked Rear View, 7,020,000. This was the first album to sell 7 million copies in a calendar year. The album spawned three top 10 hits: "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry" and "Only Want To Be With You." Lead singer Darius Rucker went on to become a top country star.

1996: Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill, 7,380,000. This is the only album by a Canadian artist to wind up as the year's top-seller. (Sorry, Justin Bieber.) The album spawned three top 10 hits: "Ironic," "You Learn" and "Head Over Feet." This won a Grammy as Album of the Year. An acoustic version of the album was released in 2005.

1997: Spice Girls, Spice, 5,302,000. This is the only album by a British artist to wind up as the year's top-seller. (Adele may follow suit this year.) Also, this is the only album by a "girl group" to wind up as the year's top-seller. The album spawned three top five hits: "Wannabe," "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1."

1998: Soundtrack, Titanic, 9,338,000. This was the first album to sell 9 million copies in a calendar year. Also, this is the only (mostly) instrumental album to wind up as the year's top-seller. The album features James Horner's instrumental score and one vocal track: Celine Dion's chest-thumping #1 smash "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From 'Titanic')."

1999: Backstreet Boys, Millennium, 9,446,000. This was the first album by a "boy band" to wind up as the year's top-seller. The album spawned the top 10 hits "I Want It That Way" and "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely." This was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year.

2000: *NSYNC, No Strings Attached, 9,936,000. This album sold more copies in a calendar year than any other album in the history of the music business. The album spawned three top five hits: "Bye Bye Bye," "It's Gonna Be Me" and "This I Promise You." Justin Timberlake went on to become a multi-media superstar.

2001: Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory, 4,813,000. This is the hardest rocking album to wind up as the year's best-seller. It's also the only album that didn't reach #1 on the weekly charts (it spent four weeks at #2) to wind up as the year's top-seller. The album spawned the top five hit "In The End."

2002: Eminem, The Eminem Show, 7,608,000. This was the first rap album (and the first album to carry a Parental Advisory sticker) to wind up as the year's best-seller. This was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album spawned the top five hits "Without Me" and "Cleanin' Out My Closet."

2003: 50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 6,536,000. This is the only year-end top-seller that later inspired a movie of the same name. 50 Cent and Terrence Howard starred in the 2005 movie. The album spawned three top five hits: "In Da Club," "21 Questions" (featuring Nate Dogg) and "P.I.M.P."

2004: Usher, Confessions, 7,979,000. This is the only album by a male R&B/pop artist to wind up as the year's best-seller. This was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album contained four #1 hits: "Yeah!" (featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris), "Burn," "Confessions Part II" and "My Boo" (a collabo with Alicia Keys which was later added to a "Special Edition" of the album.)

2005: Mariah Carey, The Emancipation Of Mimi, 4,969,000.  This is the only album by a female R&B/pop artist to wind up as the year's best-seller. This was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album contained three top five hits: "We Belong Together," "Shake It Off" and "Don't Forget About Us" (which was later added to a "Platinum Edition" of the album.)

2006: Various Artists, High School Musical soundtrack, 3,719,000. This is the only TV soundtrack to wind up as the year's top-seller. The album spawned the top five hit "Breaking Free" by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu have gone on to land chart albums of their own. A sequel, High School Musical 2, was the #2 album of 2007.

2007: Josh Groban, Noel, 3,699,000. This is the only Christmas album to wind up as the year's top-seller. (Sorry, Kenny  G.) Two songs from the album "bubbled under" the Hot 100: "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "The First Noel" (a collabo with Faith Hill).

2008: Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 2,874,000. This is the only sequel to wind up as the year's top-seller. It was the third album in Tha Carter series, which dates back to 2004. Also, this is the only album to wind up as the year's top-seller that didn't sell 3 million copies during the year. This was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album spawned three top 10 hits: "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major), "A Milli" and "Got Money (featuring T-Pain).

2009: Taylor Swift, Fearless, 3,217,000. Swift, who was just 20, is the youngest artist to have the year's top-selling album. Also, this is the only album by a female country artist to wind up as the year's best-seller. (Sorry Shania Twain.) This won a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album contained five top 10 hits:  "Change," "Fearless," "Love Story," "You Belong With Me" and "Jump Then Fall" (which was later added to a "Platinum Edition" of the album.)

2010: Eminem, Recovery, 3,415,000. Eminem is the only artist to have the year's top selling album twice. Also, Eminem, who was 38, was the oldest solo artist to have the year's top-seller. This was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album spawned the #1 hits "Not Afraid" and "Love The Way You Lie" (featuring Rihanna).

2011: Adele, 21, 1,554,000 (so far). Adele is vying to become the first British solo artist to have the year's top-selling album. The album has spawned the #1 hit "Rolling In The Deep." The album is the front-runner to win a Grammy as Album of the Year.

 

Josh Groban photo by Gregory Pace/FilmMagic

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