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Chart Watch Extra: The Year’s Top Albums

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You probably already know that Adele's 21 is the year's best-selling album, but did you realize that Adele also has the year's #1 single ("Rolling In The Deep") and #1 music video (Live At The Royal Albert Hall)? No other artist in Nielsen SoundScan history (which dates to 1991) has ever topped all three of these year-end charts.

21 sold 5,824,000 copies, which is the most for any album in a calendar year since 2004, when Usher's Confessions sold 7,979,000 copies. It's the most for an album by a female artist in a calendar year since Britney Spears' Oops!..I Did It Again sold 7,894,000 copies in 2000. And it's the most for an album by a British artist in a calendar year in Nielsen SoundScan history. (The old record was held by Spice Girls, whose debut album Spice sold 5,302,000 copies in 1997. In third place: The Beatles, whose hits collection 1 sold 5,068,000 copies in 2000.)

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21 sold more than twice as many copies as the year's #2 album, Michael Buble's Christmas. This is only the second time in Nielsen SoundScan history that this has happened. In 2004, Confessions sold more than twice as many copies as that year's runner-up, Norah Jones' Feels Like Home.

21 is also the first album to rank as the year's best-seller both in CD sales (it sold 4,006,000 CDs in 2011) and digital sales (it sold 1,801,000 digital copies).

Buble's #2 ranking is the highest for a Christmas album since Josh Groban's Noel was the #1 album of 2007. It's the best showing for an album by a Canadian artist since Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love was the #2 album of 1998. This year marks the first time that artists who were born outside the U.S. have had both of the year's top two albums since 1996, when Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and Celine Dion's Falling Into You held down the top two spots.

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Lady Gaga's Born This Way ranks #3 for the year. This marks Gaga's highest ranking to date on a year-end chart. The Fame was the #4 album of 2009.

A second Christmas album, Justin Bieber's Under The Mistletoe, ranks #8 for the year. This is the first year in Nielsen SoundScan history in which two holiday albums made the year-end top 10.

Watch The Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West ranks #9 for the year. It's the first collaborative album to make the year-end top 10 in Nielsen SoundScan history. Before this, the highest-ranking for a collabo was #42, the ranking for both Live At The Troubadour by Carole King & James Taylor last year and Riding With The King by B. B. King & Eric Clapton in 2000.

This marks the first time in Nielsen SoundScan history that five of the year's top 10 albums were by foreign-born acts. Buble, Bieber and Drake were born in Canada. Adele and Mumford & Sons are English. This year marks the first time in 15 years that three Canadian acts have had albums in the year-end top 10. This last happened in 1996, when Morissette and Dion were joined in the top 10 by Shania Twain.

Album sales were basically flat in 2011. Thirteen albums sold 1 million copies during the year, the same number as in 2010. The number of albums to sell 500,000 copies (48) was also unchanged from 2010. But here's a reality check: As recently as 2007, twice as many albums sold 500K. All of which explains the music industry's new marketing slogan, "Buy an album. You know, it won't kill you."

Here are the top 10 albums of 2011, and selected other title holders.

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1. Adele, 21, 5,824,000. Adele is the first British artist to have the year's best-selling album since Spice Girls scored in 1997 with Spice. 21 debuted at #1 the week ending Feb. 27. It has logged 14 weeks at #1, more than any other album since the Titanic soundtrack had 16 weeks on top in 1998.

2. Michael Buble, Christmas, 2,452,000. This is the year's best-selling album by a male artist. It's the fourth time in the past five years that a Christmas album has ranked among the year's top five albums. Josh Groban's Noel was #1 for 2007, Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas was #5 for 2009 and Susan Boyle's The Gift was #5 for 2010. Buble's album debuted at #3 the week ending Oct. 30, 2011. It spent five weeks on top.

3. Lady Gaga, Born This Way, 2,101,000. This is the year's best-selling album by an American artist. This is Gaga's highest ranking to date on the year-end chart. Her debut album, The Fame, was #4 for 2009 and #6 for 2010. Born This Way debuted at #1 the week ending May 29. It spent two weeks on top.

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4. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV, 1,917,000. This is the year's best-selling rap album. It's Lil Wayne's second appearance in the year-end top 10. Tha Carter III was the #1 album of 2008. The new album debuted at #1 the week ending Sept. 4. It spent two weeks on top.

5. Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party, 1,576,000. This is the year's best-selling country album. It's also the year's best-selling album that was released in a prior year. The album sold an additional 687,000 copies in 2010, which made it that year's #31 album. It debuted and peaked at #2 the week ending Nov. 7, 2010.

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6. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More, 1,420,000. This is the year's best-selling album by a group or duo. The album got a boost from the group's performance with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers on the Grammy Awards in February. sold an additional 626,000 copies in 2010, which made it that year's #36 album. It debuted at #127 the week ending Feb. 21, 2010. It peaked at #2.

7. Drake, Take Care, 1,247,000. This marks the second year in a row that Drake has had an album in the year-end top 10. Thank Me Later ranked #8 last year. Take Care debuted at #1 the week ending Nov. 20.

8. Justin Bieber, Under The Mistletoe, 1,245,000. This marks the second year in a row that Bieber has had an album in the year-end top 10.  My World 2.0 ranked #4 last year. Under The Mistletoe debuted at #1 in the week ending Nov. 6.

9. Jay-Z/Kanye West, Watch The Throne, 1,232,000. This is the first collaborative album to rank among the year's top 10 albums in the Nielsen SoundScan era. This marks Jay-Z's second appearance in the year-end top 10; West's third. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Aug. 14. It spent two weeks on top.

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10. Lady Antebellum, Own The Night, 1,204,000. This is the second year in a row that Lady A has had an album in the year-end top 10. Need You Now was #2 for 2010. Own The Night debuted at #1 the week ending Sept. 18.

11. Beyonce, 4, 1,058,000. This is the year's best-selling (non-rap) R&B album. All four of Beyonce's solo studio albums have earned that distinction. Beyonce's three previous solo albums all finished in the year-end top 10.  4 debuted at #1 the week ending July 3. It spent two weeks on top.

12. Katy Perry, Teenage Dream, 1,006,000. This is one of three albums to rank among the top 20 albums of both 2010 and 2011. (Taylor Swift's Speak Now and Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday are the others.) The album also sold 997,000 copies in 2010, which made it that year's #14 album. It debuted at #1 the week ending Aug. 29, 2010.

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13. Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto, 1,006,000. This is the year's best-selling rock album (this counts Mumford & Sons' album as contemporary folk). The album debuted at #1 the week ending Oct. 30.

17. Adele, 19, 857,000. This 2008 album is the year's best-selling catalog album. The album, which features Adele's Grammy-winning hit "Chasing Pavements," sold an additional 883,000 copies in previous years. The album debuted at #62 the week ending June 15, 2008. It peaked at #10 in February 2009, the week after she won two Grammys.

34. P!nk, Greatest Hits…So Far!!!, 653,000. This is the year's best-selling greatest hits set. The album, which collects P!nk's hits from "Get The Party Started" to "F**kin' Perfect," sold an additional 284,000 copies in 2010, which made it that year's #122 album. It debuted at #14 the week ending Nov. 21, 2010. It peaked at #5.

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37. Jackie Evancho, Dream With Me, 636,000. This is the year's best-selling "classical crossover" album. The album features two prominent guest stars, Susan Boyle and Barbra Streisand. The album debuted and peaked at #2 the week ending June 19.

64. Kirk Franklin, Hello Fear, 401,000. This is the year's best-selling gospel or Contemporary Christian album. The album features such well-known gospel artists as Marvin Sapp and Marvin Winans. It debuted and peaked at #5 the week ending March 27.

68. Soundtrack, Lemonade Mouth, 379,000. This album from the Disney Channel TV series is the year's best-selling soundtrack. This is the lowest-ranking for the year's top soundtrack since 2004, when Shrek 2 was the year's top soundtrack despite ranking just #74 for the year. Lemonade Mouth debuted at #18 the week ending April 17. It peaked at #4.

69. Kidz Bop Kids, Kids Bop 19, 378,000. This is the year's best-selling children's album. The album debuted and peaked at #2 the week ending Jan. 23.

71. Soundtrack, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part One, 368,000. This is the year's best-selling soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie. It debuted and peaked at #4 the week ending Nov. 13.

98. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplanes, 315,000. This is the year's best-selling bluegrass album. It debuted and peaked at #3 the week ending April 17.

148. Bob Marley & the Wailers, Legend, 237,000. This 1984 compilation is the year's best-selling reggae album. It debuted at #168 in August 1984. It has climbed as high as #26.

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165. The Lonely Island, Turtleneck & Chain, 215,000. This is the year's best-selling comedy album. This marks the third year in a row that the trio has had the year's top-selling comedy album. Nobody else has had the year's top comedy album three years running in Nielsen SoundScan history. The album debuted and peaked at #3 the week ending May 15.

200. Prince Royce, Prince Royce, 186,000. This is the year's best-selling Latin music album. It debuted at #151 the week ending Sept. 26, 2010. It peaked at #77.

These next albums aren't among the year's top 200 sellers, but hold distinctions of note.

Mannheim Steamroller/Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Christmas Symphony, 184,000. This is the year's best-selling new age album. It debuted at #160 the week ending Oct. 23. It peaked at #19.

Broadway Cast Recording, The Book Of Mormon, 182,000. This is the year's best-selling original cast album. That distinction was held by either Wicked or Jersey Boys in each of the last five years. The album from the Tony-winning musical debuted at #31 the week ending May 22. It peaked at #3, which made it the highest-charting original cast album since Hair reached #1 in 1969.

The Beatles, Abbey Road, 146,000. This 1969 classic sold 41,000 vinyl copies this year, more than any other album. The album entered the chart at a bizarrely low #178 in October 1969. It logged 11 weeks at #1.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., That's Life, 119,000. This is the year's best-selling jazz album. (Note: I'm classifying Michael Buble's Christmas and Tony Bennett's Duets II as traditional pop, rather than jazz.) The album debuted and peaked at #34 the week ending Nov. 27.

Celtic Thunder, Heritage, 106,000. This is the year's best-selling world music album. It debuted at #40 the week ending Feb. 27, 2011. It peaked at #11.


Related Links:

Week Ending Dec. 4, 2011. Albums: Headed For A Triple Crown

Grammy Snubs and Surprises

Yahoo's 2011 Year In Review

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