Chart Watch

Chart Watch Extra: Fearlessness Pays Off

Chart Watch

Taylor Swift had the top-selling album of 2009 after all. But, boy, was it close. Fearless edged out Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream by just 113,000 copies. That's the second closest margin of victory in Nielsen/SoundScan history. (The Lion King soundtrack squeaked past Ace of Base's The Sign by just 17,000 copies in 1994.)

2009 was the first year in which female solo artists had both of the year's top two best-sellers since 1996, when Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and Celine Dion's Falling Into You led the way.

Fearless is the first country album to emerge as the year's best-seller since Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All in 1992. Fearless, which was the third best-seller of 2008, is only the third album in Nielsen/SoundScan history to rank among the year's top three albums twice. It will follow Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack (#3 for 1992, #1 for 1993) and Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill (#3 for 1995, #1 for 1996).

 Even though I Dreamed A Dream didn't take the 2009 sales crown, it finished higher on the year-end chart than any other album in Nielsen/SoundScan history that was released after Halloween. (The album was released on Nov. 24.) I Dreamed A Dream is the first debut album to rank as high as #2 for the year since Norah Jones' Come Away With Me in 2003.

Billboard's Keith Caulfield notes that I Dreamed A Dream outdid its rival in one key respect: It sold more physical copies in 2009 than Fearless did. Boyle's album sold 3,018,000 physical copies (and a scant 86,000 digital copies). Swift's album sold 2,874,000 physical copies (and 343,000 digital copies).

Both I Dreamed A Dream and Fearless topped the overall sales (physical and digital combined) of last year's leader, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, which sold 2,874,000 copies in 2008. This was the first year since 2002 in which both of the year's two top-selling albums outsold the top-selling album of the previous year. But in general, album sales continued their downward trend.

The Black Eyed Peas have the year's top two songs with the most paid downloads. "Boom Boom Pow" is #1, with sales of 4,762,000. "I Gotta Feeling" is #2, with sales of 4,426,000. No other act has dominated the year-end digital chart to this degree. Timbaland had two of the top five digital tracks of 2007. "Apologize" (featuring OneRepublic) was #4 for the year, "The Way I Are" was #5.

This is the fifth straight year that the year's #1 song sold more digital copies than the #1 hit of the year before. In fact, each of this year's top four digital songs outsold the #1 song of 2008, Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" (which sold 3,420,000 digital copies in that calendar year).

The Peas aren't the only act with two of the year's top 10 digital songs. Lady Gaga scored with "Poker Face" at #3 and "Just Dance" (featuring Colby O'Donis) at #5. The Peas and Lady Gaga also rank in the top 10 on the year-end album chart.

Even in death, Michael Jackson is still setting records. He sold 8,286,000 albums in 2009, all but 298,000 of them since his death on June 25. Jackson is the first artist in Nielsen/SoundScan history to have four albums in the year-end top 20. Number Ones is #3 for the year, followed by Michael Jackson's This Is It at #12, Thriller at #14 and The Essential Michael Jackson at #20. Garth Brooks had three albums in the year-end top 20 for 1992. (In Brooks' case, all three were in the top 10).

By finishing #3 for the year, Number Ones has attained the highest year-end ranking for a greatest hits album in Nielsen/SoundScan history. Garth Brooks' The Hits was the #5 album of 1995. This is also the highest year-end ranking for an album by an artist who had died. 2Pac's All Eyez On Me was the #6 album of 1996. The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death was the #6 seller of 1997.

Number Ones, which was released in 2003, is also the first catalog album to make the year-end top 10 in Nielsen/SoundScan history.

The Beatles were the second biggest-selling catalog act of 2009. They sold 3,282,000 albums during the year.

Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack is the year's #6 seller. That's the highest-year end ranking by a theatrical movie soundtrack since the Eminem-paced 8 Mile was #5 for 2002.

Want the raw numbers? Here you go.

Four songs topped the 4 million mark in paid downloads during 2009. This is the first time in digital history that a song has sold 4 million copies in a calendar year. Seven songs topped 3 million, up from two in 2008. Thirty-one songs topped 2 million, up from 19. Eighty-nine songs topped 1 million, up from 71.

The picture with albums was mixed. Two albums topped the 3 million mark during 2009, up from none in 2008. Five albums topped 2 million, up from four. Twenty-two albums topped 1 million, down from 25. Sixty-two albums sold 500,000, down from 80.

I have two lists for you: the top 10 songs with the most paid downloads in 2009, followed by the top 10 albums (physical and digital combined).

First, here are the top 10 songs with the most paid downloads in 2009. (If the song also had paid downloads in 2008, I make note of that, but it's not reflected in the tally.)

1. The Black Eyed Peas, "Boom Boom Pow," 4,762,000. In addition to being the year's best-selling song, this was the best-seller by a group and the best-selling dance hit. This is the first time that the Peas have had the year's top song, though they came close twice before. "Let's Get It Started" was the #3 digital track of 2004. "My Humps" was the #3 digital track of 2005.

2. The Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling," 4,426,000. The Peas followed the dance smash "Boom Boom Pow" with this more pop-oriented hit, which was nearly as successful.

3. Lady Gaga, "Poker Face," 4,381,000. This dance smash was the year's biggest hit by a female artist. The song sold an additional 170,000 downloads in 2008.

4. Flo Rida, "Right Round," 4,135,000. This rap hit, which samples Dead Or Alive's 1985 hit "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)," was the year's biggest hit by a male artist. This is the second year in a row that Flo Rida has had a song in the year-end top five. "Low" (featuring T-Pain) was #3 for 2008.

5. Lady Gaga featuring Colby O'Donis, "Just Dance," 3,200,000. This dance smash was the year's biggest debut hit. It's also the biggest billed collaboration. The song sold an additional 1,743,000 downloads in 2008, when it was that year's #28 song.

6. Miley Cyrus, "Party In The U.S.A.," 3,157,000. Cyrus' late summer smash is her biggest hit to date. It's taken from The Time Of Our Lives, which was the year's top-selling EP.

7. Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne, "Down," 3,052,000. This was the year's second biggest debut hit. This is the second year in a row that Lil Wayne has finished in the year-end top 10. His smash "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major) was the #2 digital song of 2008.

8. The All-American Rejects, "Gives You Hell," 2,880,000. This robust tune was the year's biggest pop/rock hit. The song sold an additional 532,000 downloads in 2008, when it ranked #149 for the year.

9. Owl City, "Fireflies," 2,748,000. This low-key, DIY charmer was the year's third biggest debut hit.

10. Jason Derulo, "Whatcha Say," 2,712,000. This crossover smash was the year's fourth biggest debut hit.

Now, here are the top 10 albums of 2009. (If the album also had sales in 2008, I make note of that in my text, but it's not reflected in the tally.) At the end of each entry, I show how many songs from that album were listed on the year-end top 200 Hot Digital Songs recap, and the highest-ranking of those songs.

1. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 3,217,000. In addition to being the year's best-selling album, this was the best-seller by a female artist and the best-selling country album. This is the third straight year that Swift has had an album in the year-end top 10. Fearless was the #3 album of 2008, with sales of 2,112,000 that year. Four songs in the top 200; "You Belong With Me" at #14.

2. Susan Boyle, I Dreamed A Dream, 3,104,000. This was the best-selling album released in 2009. It's also the year's best-selling debut album and the year's best-selling adult contemporary album. No songs in the top 200.

3. Michael Jackson, Number Ones, 2,355,000. This was the best-selling album by a male artist and the best-seller in the pop/R&B genre. The 2003 release had sold 1,708,000 copies before 2009. It was the #136 album of 2008, with sales of 334,000 that year. Eight songs in the top 200; "Thriller" at #78.

4. Lady Gaga, The Fame, 2,238,000. This was the year's best-selling dance/pop album. The Fame sold an additional 150,000 copies in 2008. Five songs from the expanded edition in the top 200; "Poker Face" at #3.

5. Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas, 2,207,000. This is the second time in the Nielsen/SoundScan era that a Christmas album has wound up in the year-end top five. Josh Groban's Noel was #1 for 2007. No songs in the top 200.

 

6. Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana: The Movie, 1,823,000. This was the year's best-selling soundtrack. This is the third time in the past four years that Cyrus/Montana has had an album in the year-end top 10. Three songs in the top 200; "The Climb" at #12.

7. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 1,787,000. This was the best-selling album by a group. This is the second time the Peas have had an album in the year-end top 10. Monkey Business was #5 for 2005. Three songs in the top 200; "Boom Boom Pow" at #1.

8. Eminem, Relapse, 1,735,000. This was the year's best-selling rap album. This is the fourth time that Eminem has had an album in the year-end top 10 and the fourth time that he has had the year's best-selling rap album. Three songs in the top 200; "Crack A Bottle" (with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent) at #37.

 

9. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3, 1,515,000.  This marks the first time in his long career that Jay-Z has placed an album in the year-end top 10. Two songs in the top 200; "Empire State Of Mind" (with Alicia Keys) at #13.

10. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 1,398,000. This was the year's best-selling rock album. This was the #149 album of 2008, with sales of 311,000 copies that year. Two songs in the top 200; "Use Somebody" at #11.

Digital album sales were up, but no one album was as massive in the digital realm as Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends was last year. The year's top digital album, Lady Gaga's The Fame, sold 460,841 digital copies. Viva La Vida sold 617,000 digital copies in 2008.

Jersey Boys was the best-selling original cast album for the second year in a row. The album sold 242,000 copies, to rank #164 for the year. The musical tells the story of the 4 Seasons, who exploded in 1962 with the back-to-back #1 singles "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."

Hot N Cold: Each year, Nielsen/SoundScan tallies the total sales (within that calendar year) of the year's top 200 albums. The top 200 albums of 2009 sold 108,452,000 copies. Alas, that's the lowest "cumulative total" for any year in Nielsen/SoundScan history. The top 200 albums of 2008 sold 115,630,000 copies. Except for a one-year blip in 2004, in which the total actually increased over the previous year (imagine that!), the "cume total" has declined every year since 2000. (The number peaked in 2000 at 275,250,000.)

It's a different story with digital songs. The top 200 digital songs of 2009 sold a combined total of 237,948,000 copies. That's a healthy jump from 2008, when that year's top 200 songs sold a combined total of 200,337,000 copies.

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