Chart Watch

Chart Watch Extra: The Top 20 Album Sellers Of The 2000s

Chart Watch

Eminem, who was born 2-1/2 years after the Beatles broke up, is the only artist who has sold more albums in this decade than the fabled foursome. Eminem's new album Relapse sold 608,000 copies this week, lengthening his lead as the artist who has sold the most albums in the 2000s. The rap superstar has sold 31,127,000 albums since the first week of January 2000. In second place: The Beatles, who have sold 27,591,000 albums in the same period. (That's not bad for a group that broke up in 1970.) The Beatles have done better in this decade relative to the competition than they did in the '90s, when they were the #5 album-selling act.

Only four of the top 20 album sellers of the 1990s also rank among the top 20 album sellers so far in the 2000s. The Fab Four is joined by Metallica, Alan Jackson and Celine Dion. Nielsen/SoundScan, which has tracked sales for Billboard since 1991, doesn't carry a list of the top album sellers of the 2000s on its site. But the information is all there, if you know where to look (and can do simple subtraction).

Garth Brooks and Mariah Carey, the top two album sellers of the 1990s, don't rank among the top 20 album sellers so far in the 2000s. Other '90s titans have slipped even more dramatically in this decade. Michael Bolton, who sold more than 20 million albums in the '90s, has sold just 1,809,000 albums since January 2000. Vince Gill, who sold more than 15.5 million albums in the '90s, has sold 2,825,000 albums in this decade. Yanni, R.E.M.Boyz II Men, Alanis Morissette, Billy Joel and Van Halen have each sold less than 5 million albums in this decade, also a far cry from their '90s tallies.

Seven of the top 20 album-selling acts so far in the 2000s are country, six are rock, four are pop and three are rap. This represents a big gain for rap (none of the top 20 acts of the 1990s were rap). Five of the top 20 acts first hit The Billboard 200 in this decade. Four others had charted in the 1990s, but didn't rank among Nielsen/SoundScan's top 200 artists of that decade. Thus, 9 of the top 20 artists so far in the 2000s registered in a big way only in this decade.

Here are the 20 acts that have sold the most albums since the first week of January 2000. The number immediately after the artist's name is the total number of albums that the artist has sold in this decade. I also identify when the artist first cracked The Billboard 200, and the title of their best-selling album since January 2000.

1. Eminem, 31,127,000. First charted: 1999. Eminem, 36, is the top male artist and the top rap artist so far in this decade. His 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP is his best-seller. It has sold 10,178,000 copies.

2. The Beatles, 27,591,000. First charted: 1964. The Beatles have sold more albums in the 2000s than any other group, rock act or foreign act. Their 2000 compilation 1 is their best-seller. It has sold 11,402,000 copies. The Beatles were the #5 album-selling act of the 1990s.

3. Tim McGraw, 24,295,000. First charted: 1994. McGraw, 42, is the #1 country artist so far in the 2000s, nosing out Toby Keith. McGraw was the #38 album-selling act of the '90s. His 2000 compilation Greatest Hits is his best-selling album of the decade. It has sold 5,995,000 copies.

4. Toby Keith, 24,189,000. First charted: 1993. Keith, 47, is the #2 country artist of this decade. His 2003 album Shock'n Y'All is his best-seller. It has sold 4,420,000 copies.

5. Britney Spears, 22,937,000. First charted: 1999. Spears, 27, is the youngest artist on this list, edging out Josh Groban by one year. She is also #1 female artist in this decade. Her 2000 album, Oops!...I Did It Again, is her best-seller of the decade. It has sold 9,183,000 copies. Spears was the #108 album-selling act of the '90s.

6. Kenny Chesney, 21,396,000. First charted: 1996. Chesney, 41, is the #3 country artist of this decade. His best-selling album is 2004's When The Sun Goes Down, which has sold 4,111,000 copies.

7. Nelly, 21,206,000. First charted: 2000. Nelly, 34, is the #1 new artist to emerge in this decade, edging out Linkin Park. He's also the #1 African American artist, edging out Jay-Z, and the #2 rap artist. Nelly's 2000 debut, Country Grammar, is his best-selling album. It has sold 8,454,000 copies.

8. Linkin Park, 21,125,000. First charted: 2000. Linkin Park is the #2 rock group of the decade, behind the Beatles. It's also the #2 new artist. The band's 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, is its best-seller. It has sold 9,600,000 copies.

9. Creed, 20,398,000. First charted: 1997. Creed is the #3 rock group of the decade. 1999's Human Clay is the band's best-selling album. It has sold 9,480,000 copies since January 2000. Creed was the #167 album-selling act of the '90s.

10. Jay-Z, 19,379,000. First charted: 1996. Jay-Z, 39, is the #3 rap artist of the decade. 2003's The Black Album is his best-selling album of this decade. It has sold 3,338,000 copies. Jay-Z was the #152 album-selling act of the '90s.

11. Nickelback, 19,158,000. First charted: 2000. The Canadian group is the #2 foreign act of this decade (after the Beatles). Nickelback is also the #3 new artist and the #4 rock group. 2005's All The Right Reasons is its best-seller, with sales of 7,159,000 copies.

12. Josh Groban, 19,115,000. First charted: 2001. Groban, 28, is the #1 pop male artist of this decade. He's the #4 new artist. The pop/classical star's 2003 album Closer is his best-seller, with sales of 5,746,000 copies.

13. Rascal Flatts, 18,831,000. First charted: 2000. The trio is the #1 country group of this decade, nosing out Dixie Chicks. It's also the #5 new act. 2004's Feels Like Today is the act's best-selling album. It has sold 5,134,000 copies.

14. Metallica, 18,490,000. First charted: 1984. Metallica is the #1 hard rock act of the decade (unless you count the genre-bending Linkin Park). The band's 1991 blockbuster Metallica is the band's best-selling album of this decade. It has sold 3,691,000 copies since January 2000. Metallica was the #3 album-selling act of the '90s.

15. Alan Jackson, 18,479,000. First charted: 1990. Jackson, 50, is the oldest solo artist on this list, edging out Toby Keith. 2002's Drive is his best-selling album of this decade. It has sold 3,508,000 copies. Jackson was the #17 album-selling act of the '90s.

16. *NSYNC, 18,402,000. First charted: 1998. The boy band is the #1 pop group of this decade (assuming you classify the Beatles as rock). *NSYNC's 2000 album No Strings Attached is its best-seller, with sales of 11,111,000 copies. The quintet was the #80 album-selling act of the '90s.

17. Dixie Chicks, 18,293,000. First charted: 1998. The female trio is the #2 country group so far in this decade. 2002's Home is the act's best-selling album of this decade. It has sold 5,997,000 copies. Dixie Chicks was the #105 album-selling act of the '90s.

18. Johnny Cash, 17,860,000. First charted: 1958. The country legend, who died in 2003 at age 71, is the most surprising name on the list. He made it on the strength of an enormous catalog and a renewed focus on him after his death. His 1999 compliation 16 Greatest Hits is his best-seller of the decade. It has sold 2,846,000 copies since January 2000.

19. Kid Rock, 17,606,000. First charted: 1999. Kid Rock, 38, is the #1 male rock artist of this decade. Kid's 2001 album Cocky is his best-seller of the decade. It has sold 5,045,000 copies.

20. Celine Dion, 17,579,000. First charted: 1991. The Canadian diva, 41, is the #2 pop female artist of this decade, behind Britney Spears. Dion's 1999 greatest hits album, All The Way...A Decade Of Song, is her best-seller in the decade. It has sold 4,971,000 copies since January 2000. Dion was the #4 album-selling act of the '90s.

The Fine Print: Artists who emerged very early in the decade stood a much better chance of making this list than artists who emerged later on. Sales peaked around 2000, and have been dropping since about 2004. So it's hard for even the hottest acts of recent years to compete with the stunning sales totals from the turn of the last decade.

Also, when I refer to the best-selling artists of the '90s, I'm referring to the period from May 25, 1991, when Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard, through the last week of 1999.

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