Both albums, of course, also hit #1. Born logged seven weeks at #1. 21 has spent 23 weeks on top. Adele's still active album will doubtless add to its tallies of weeks at #1 and #2. (In fact, it's expected to return to #1 next week.) But for now at least, it has spent more time at #2 than it has at #1. For an album that has had been so charmed in every way, that's a surprise.
Obviously, ranking #2 on a chart that runs 200 albums deep is great. But it's also bound to be a little frustrating, because you're so close to a position that gets more attention and commands greater glory.
Here are the 21 albums that have logged 12 or more weeks at #2 since 1963. They're listed in descending order.
Adele's 21, 24 weeks (and counting). Adele's sophomore album has spent 23 weeks at #1 and 24 weeks at #2 (behind a record 20 different #1 albums). Michael Buble's Christmas has been its chief rival, keeping it to #2 three times. Adele's 2011 album won a Grammy as Album of the Year. It has spawned three #1 hits: "Rolling In The Deep," "Someone Like You" and "Set Fire To The Rain."
Michael Jackson's Thriller, 17 weeks. In addition to its 37 weeks at #1 (more than any other album since 1963), this landmark album spent 17 weeks at #2. It spent 14 of those weeks stuck behind the Police's Synchronicity. Thriller, which won a Grammy for Album of the Year, was Jackson's sixth studio album (and his second as an adult pop star). The 1982 album spawned seven top 10 hits, including the #1 classics "Billie Jean" and "Beat It."
M.C. Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, 16 weeks. Hammer's third album spent more weeks at #1 than any other hip-hop album (21) and also more weeks at #2 (16). Its chief rival was Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme, which beat it 11 times. Please Hammer was the first hip-hop album to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. The 1990 album spawned three top 10 hits including the smash "U Can't Touch This."
Stray Cats' Built For Speed, 15 weeks. This 1982 album spent 15 weeks at #2, more than any other album that failed to reach #1. It spent 13 weeks at #2 behind Men at Work's Business As Usual and then two more behind Thriller. Built For Speed, the group's third album, spawned two top 10 hits: "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut."
Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, 14 weeks. Morissette's U.S. debut album spent 12 weeks at #1 and 14 weeks at #2 (behind nine different albums). Its chief rival was Nas' It Was Written, which beat it three times. Pill won a Grammy for Album of the Year. The 1995 album spawned three top 10 hits on the Hot 100 or Hot 100 Airplay charts, including "Ironic," but not including the album's most famous song, "You Oughta Know" (which stalled at #13).
Dr. Zhivago soundtrack, 13 weeks. The Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever and Prince & the Revolution's Purple Rain spent more weeks at #1 than any other soundtrack since the charts merged in 1963 (24 weeks each), but this 1966 album spent more weeks at #2 (13). That helps to make up for the fact that it spent just one week at #1. It spent seven weeks at #2 behind The Monkees' eponymous debut album; six weeks behind the Beatles' Revolver. Orchestra leader Ray Conniff took the album's "Lara's Theme" into the top 10 (under the title "Somewhere, My Love").
Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down, 13 weeks. Richie's second solo album spent three weeks at #1 and 13 weeks at #2. Thriller and the Footloose soundtrack each spent six weeks at #1 while this album was stuck at #2. Can't Slow Down won a Grammy for Album of the Year. The 1983 album spawned five top 10 hits, including the #1 smashes "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Hello."
Eagles' Hotel California, 12 weeks. The fifth studio album by this band logged eight weeks at #1 and 12 weeks at #2 (behind four different albums). Its chief rivals were Barbra Streisand's A Star Is Born soundtrack and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, each of which bested it five times. Hotel, a 1976 release, spawned two #1 hits: "New Kid In Town" and the epic title track.
Journey's Escape, 12 weeks. The band's seventh regular studio album became its first and only #1 album. It spent just one week on top, but it logged 12 weeks at #2 behind four different albums. Its chief rivals were the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You and J. Geils Band's Freeze-Frame, each of which beat it four times. Escape, a 1981 release, spawned three top 10 hits. "Open Arms" and "Who's Crying Now" climbed higher at the time, but "Don't Stop Believin'" has had the longest life.
Milli Vanilli's Girl You Know It's True, 12 weeks. The U.S. debut album by the lip-synching twosome spent eight weeks at #1 and 12 weeks at #2, behind five different albums. Its chief rivals were Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl and Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, each of which beat it four times. Girl You Know It's True, a 1989 release, spawned five top five hits, including three that reached #1: "Baby Don't Forget My Number," "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" and "Blame It On The Rain." (The duo's story is far more memorable than its hits.)
Boyz II Men's II, 12 weeks. The R&B group's second regular studio album spent five weeks at #1 and 12 weeks at #2. It finished second behind eight different albums. Its chief rival was Garth Brooks' The Hits, which beat it three times. II, a 1994 release, spawned three top five hits, including the #1s "I'll Make Love To You" and "On Bended Knee."
Fun With Numbers: If the Stray Cats' Built For Speed is the "unluckiest" album in history (15 weeks at #2 without reaching #1), the "luckiest" album in history is More Of The Monkees, which spent 18 weeks at #1 without once touching down at #2 (or #3, for that matter). So every week that it was a serious contender for #1, it was #1. Here are other albums that had long runs at #1 but never ranked #2: Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All (17 weeks at #1), Titanic soundtrack (16 weeks), Men at Work's Business As Usual (15 weeks) and the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night soundtrack (14 weeks).
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