Chart Watch

Chart Watch Extra: The Biggest Month Of The Year

Chart Watch

Susan Boyle is proving once again that December is the best month of the year to have a hit album. Album sales surge around this time every year as people search for last-minute Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. Some people who haven't bought an album all year long will pick up a CD or two every December.

Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream is certain to wind up as the month's best-selling album. It has a good chance of toppling Taylor Swift's Fearless as the best-selling album of the entire year. This will be the 14th time in the past 18 years that the album that is the best-seller for the month of December has wound up in the top 10 for the year.

Because Nielsen/SoundScan publishes precise weekly sales totals, I was able to go back and determine which album sold the most copies in the month of December for every year since 1992, the first full year that Nielson/SoundScan tracked sales for Billboard.

The Beatles' 2000 smash 1 and Whitney Houston's 1992 colossus The Bodyguard are the biggest December hits of the Nielsen/SoundScan era. Both albums sold more than 3 million copies in that month alone.

Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks and Eminem each had the best-selling album of December twice. (Brooks and Eminem both led in back-to-back Decembers, which underscores their dominance when they were at their peaks.)

Greatest hits albums have traditionally done well at this time of year. Celine Dion, The Beatles and Eminem have all had the biggest album of December with hits compilations. Christmas albums, of course, also peak in December. Kenny G and Josh Groban have each had the best-selling album of December with a holiday collection.

I Dreamed a Dream will be the first debut album to emerge as the best-selling album of December. No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom, the December 1996 champ, was their first album to crack The Billboard 200, but their second release.

Only once in the Nielsen/SoundScan era has December's top album failed to sell 1 million copies in that month. That was in 2006, when the Hannah Montana soundtrack sold 933,000 copies. This was also the only time that the December champ didn't appear at #1 in any one week that month. Hannah was a runner-up every week but came out on top for the month because no real blockbusters emerged.

This list shows the albums that sold the most copies in December of each of year since 1992. The artist's name and album title are followed by the total number of copies the album sold that December. I also show the week that the album entered the Nielsen/SoundScan chart and its position on Nielsen/SoundScan's year-end chart.

1992: Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard soundtrack, 3,169,000. This movie soundtrack charted on Nov. 29 and wound up as the year's #3 best-seller. It was #1 for all five weeks of December. The album spawned three top five hits, including the #1 smash, "I Will Always Love You."

1993: Mariah Carey, Music Box, 1,706,000. This charted on Sept. 5 and wound up as the year's #5 best-seller. It sold 95,000 more copies in December than the month's runner-up, Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle. Music Box featured back-to-back #1 hits, "Dreamlover" and "Hero."

1994: Kenny G, Miracles-The Holiday Album, 2,550,000. This holiday album charted on Nov. 6 and wound up as the year's #8 best-seller. (This was the tightest December showdown in Nielsen/SoundScan history. Pearl Jam's Vitalogy sold just 8,000 fewer copies that month.)

1995: Mariah Carey, Daydream, 2,030,000. This charted on Oct. 8 and wound up as the year's #4 best-seller. The album featured three consecutive #1 hits, "Fantasy," "One Sweet Day" (with Boyz II Men) and "Always Be My Baby."

1996: No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom, 1,548,000. No Doubt's breakthrough album charted on Jan. 7 and wound up as the year's #4 best-seller. It was #1 for all four weeks of December. The album featured "Don't Speak," which topped the Hot 100 Airplay chart for 16 weeks.

1997: Garth Brooks, Sevens, 2,499,000. This charted on Nov. 30 and wound up as the year's #4 best-seller. It was #1 for all four weeks of December. The album featured the #1 country hit "Longneck Bottle" as well as "In Another's Eyes," a duet with Brooks' future wife, Trisha Yearwood.

1998: Garth Brooks, Double Live, 2,157,000. This double-disk live album charted on Nov. 22 and wound up as the year's #7 best-seller. The album featured the chart hit "It's Your Song."

1999: Celine Dion, All The Way...A Decade Of Song, 2,189,000. This greatest hits set charted on Nov. 21 and wound up as the #13 album of 1999. The album featured one new top 10 hit, "That's The Way It Is."

2000: The Beatles, 1, 3,205,000. This greatest hits set charted on Nov. 19 and wound up as the year's #6 best-seller. The album was #1 for all four weeks of December. It sold more copies in December 2000 than any December champ in Nielsen/SoundScan history.

2001: Creed, Weathered, 2,276,000. This charted on Nov. 25 and wound up as the year's #8 best-seller. It was #1 for all four weeks of December. The album spawned the top 10 hits "My Sacrifice" and "One Last Breath."

2002: Shania Twain Up!, 1,409,000. This double-disk studio album charted on Nov. 24 and wound up as the year's #9 best-seller. The album featured the top 40 hits "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" and "Forever And For Always."

2003: Alicia Keys, The Diary Of Alicia Keys, 1,701,000. This charted on Dec. 7 and wound up as the #27 album of 2003. The album featured the top 10 hits "You Don't Know My Name," "If I Ain't Got You" and "Diary" (featuring Tony! Toni! Tone!).

2004: Eminem, Encore, 1,464,000. This charted on Nov. 14 and wound up as the year's #3 best-seller. The album featured the top 10 hit "Just Lose It."

2005: Eminem, Curtain Call: The Hits, 1,383,000. This greatest hits set charted on Dec. 11 and wound up as the #28 album of 2005.  The album featured two new top 10 hits, "When I'm Gone" and "Shake That" (featuring Nate Dogg).

2006: Hannah Montana TV soundtrack, 933,000. This TV soundtrack charted on Oct. 29 and wound up as the year's #8 best-seller. The album featured "Best Of Both Worlds," which made the Hot 100 twice, five months apart.

2007: Josh Groban, Noel, 2,183,000. This Christmas album charted on Oct. 14 and wound up as the year's #1 best-seller.  It was the biggest December hit since 2001. The album featured "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "The First Noel" (with Faith Hill).

2008: Britney Spears, Circus, 1,104,000. This charted on Dec. 7 and wound up as the #24 album of 2008. It sold 70,000 more copies in December than the month's runner-up, Taylor Swift's Fearless. Circus featured the top five hits "Womanizer" and "Circus."

2009: Susan Boyle, I Dreamed A Dream, 2,280,000 (so far). Boyle's debut album charted on Nov. 29 and is already the year's #2 best-seller. (That's probably where it will wind up for the year.)

The Fine Print: Many weeks are split between two months (in this case, either November/December or December/January). I assigned those weeks to the month in which four or more of the days occurred.

My thanks to Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote a story that inspired this idea.

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