Chart Watch Extra: The Year's Top Albums

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Adele's 21
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Adele's 21

Adele’s 21 is officially the first album to wind up as the year’s best-seller twice since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. The album sold 4,414,000 copies in 2012. It sold 5,824,000 copies in 2011. It’s one of only four albums in the Nielsen SoundScan era to sell 4 million or more copies in each of two calendar years. It follows Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (1995-1996), Shania Twain’s Come On Over (1998-1999) and Santana’s Supernatural (1999-2000).

Even though it was in its second year of release, 21 sold more copies in 2012 than the best-selling albums of 2006 through 2010 did in those years. The album spawned three #1 hits, “Rolling In The Deep,” “Someone Like You” and “Set Fire To The Rain.” It won six Grammys in February, including Album of the Year.

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Taylor Swift’s Red is #2 for the year with sales of 3,107,000. This is the fourth time that Swift has had an album in the year-end top three. Fearless was #3 for 2008 and #1 for 2009. Speak Now was #3 for 2010. In the Nielsen SoundScan era, only one other artist, Eminem, has ranked in the top three on the year-end chart four times.

This marks the first time that female artists have held the top two spots on the year-end album recap since 2009, when Swift and Susan Boyle were #1 and #2.

Red was the year’s best-selling album that was released in 2012. It has spawned four top 10 hits, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Begin Again,” “Red” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

A record five of the year’s 10 best-selling albums have been big country hits. Red is followed by albums by Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Jason Aldean. The previous best showing for country came in 1992 and 2002, when the genre was responsible for four albums in the year-end top 10.

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One Direction has two of the year’s top five albums. Up All Night is #3 with sales of 1,616,000. Take Me Home is #5 with sales of 1,340,000. The British/Irish boy band is the first act to place two albums in the year-end top five in the Nielsen SoundScan era (though Eminem came awfully close in 2002. The Eminem Show was #1 for the year and the 8 Mile soundtrack was #5. So why doesn’t that count? While Eminem starred in the movie and performed the key song on the soundtrack, it wasn’t an Eminem album per se.)

One Direction is the first non-country act to place two albums in the top 10 on the year-end chart in the Nielsen SoundScan era. Garth Brooks had three of the top 10 for 1992. Taylor Swift had two of the top 10 for 2008.

Up All Night, which spawned the top 10 hit “What Makes You Beautiful,” is the year’s best-selling album by a group. It’s also the year’s best-selling debut album. This is the fifth time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that a boy band has ranked in the top three for year. Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC each achieved the feat twice.

Take Me Home has also spawned a top 10 hit: “Live While We’re Young.”

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One Direction is the first act to sell 1 million or more copies of two different albums in a calendar year since 2009, when Michael Jackson (who died that year) achieved the feat with four albums and Miley Cyrus (who was then at the peak of her career) achieved it with two albums.

Mumford & Sons’ Babel is #4 for the year with sales of 1,463,000. This is the second year in a row that the British folk revival band has ranked in the year-end top 10. Sigh No More was #6 for 2011. Babel is a Grammy finalist for Album of the Year and Best Americana Album.

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Justin Bieber’s Believe is #6 for the year with sales of 1,324,000. It’s the highest-ranking album by a male solo artist. This is the third year in a row that Bieber has ranked in the top 10. My World 2.0 was #4 for 2010. Under The Mistletoe was #8 for 2011. Bieber is the first male artist to place an album in the year-end top 10 three years in a row since Garth Brooks scored from 1991 through 1993. (The Fine Print: The Nielsen SoundScan site doesn’t carry archival charts from 1991, its first year of operation. But Billboard’s year-end chart for 1991 has Brooks’ No Fences at #2.)

Believe has spawned three top 10 hits, “Boyfriend,” “As Long As You Love Me” (featuring Big Sean) and “Beauty And A Beat” (featuring Nicki Minaj). Deep trivia: This is the second time in the past three years that Bieber has had the year’s best-selling album by a Canadian artist. Michael Buble and Drake edged him out last year.

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Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away is #7 for the year with sales of 1,203,000. This marks the second time that Underwood has had an album in the year-end top 10. Some Hearts was #3 for 2006. Blown Away has spawned two top 20 hits, “Good Girl” and “Blown Away.”

Luke Bryan’s Tailgates & Tanlines is #8 for the year with sales of 1,105,000. The album sold an additional 651K copies in 2011. The album has spawned four top 30 hits, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me),” “I Don’t Want This Night To End,” “Drunk On You” and “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.”

Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee is #9 for the year with sales of 1,071,000. Richie, 63, is the oldest artist to rank in the year-end top 10 in the Nielsen SoundScan era.

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Jason Aldean’s Night Train is #10 for the year with sales of 1,024,000. His 2010 album My Kinda Party is #29 for the year with sales of 594K. (It ranked #5 for 2011.) Aldean is the only male solo artist who sold 500K copies each of two albums in 2012. (Two female artists, Adele and Rihanna, and two groups, One Direction and Mumford & Sons, also achieved the feat.) My Kinda Party, which spawned the top 10 hit “Dirt Road Anthem,” was a Grammy finalist for Best Country Album of 2011. Night Train, which spawned the top 15 hit “Take A Little Ride,” was released too late for consideration this year. It will probably be a finalist for Best Country Album next year.

The music industry can’t be happy with the 2012 sales numbers. Just 10 albums sold 1 million or more copies during the year, which constitutes a new low for the Nielsen SoundScan era. (The previous low was 13, which was the final tally for both 2010 and 2011.)

Just 43 albums sold 500K copies, which is also a record low. (The previous low was 48, which was the final tally for both 2010 and 2011.)

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Maroon 5’s Overexposed is #11 for the year with sales of 988K. The album spawned the megahits “Payphone” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) and “One More Night,” both of which rank in the top 10 on the year-end songs tally. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.

P!nk’s The Truth About Love is #12 for the year with sales of 945K. The album spawned the top five hit “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.

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fun.’s debut album, Some Nights, is #13 for the year with sales of 903K. The album spawned the smash hits “We Are Young” (featuring Janelle Monae) and “Some Nights,” both of which rank in the top 10 on the year-end songs tally. The album received Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.

Whitney Houston’s Whitney: The Greatest Hits is #14 for the year with sales of 886K. (All but about 2,500 of this tally were sold after her death on Feb. 11.) The album, which was first released in 2000, is the year’s #1 catalog album. It sold an additional 1,738,000 copies prior to this year.

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Rod Stewart’s Merry Christmas, Baby is the year’s top-selling Christmas album, with sales of 858K. Stewart, 67, is the oldest artist to have the best-selling Christmas album of the year in the Nielsen SoundScan era. He surpasses Andrea Bocelli, who was 51 when My Christmas was the #1 holiday album of 2009. Stewart’s album was released too late for Grammy consideration this year, but it will probably be up for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album next year.

Adele’s 19 ranked #20 for the year, giving Adele two albums in the year-end top 20 for the second year in a row. 19 ranked #17 for 2011. Adele is just the third artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era to have two of the year’s top 20 albums two years running. She follows Celine Dion (1997-1998) and Justin Bieber (2010-2011).

Drake’s Take Care is the year’s top-selling rap album with sales of 698K. The album sold an additional 1,247,000 copies in 2011. (I’m classifying Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which sold 785K during the year, as pop.) Take Care is a Grammy finalist for Best Rap Album. It spawned two top 10 hits, “Make Me Proud” (featuring Minaj) and “Take Care” (featuring Rihanna).

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The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond is the year’s best-selling soundtrack with sales of 463K. This is the first time since 2009 that the soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie has been the year’s top soundtrack. Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album beat out The Twilight Saga: Eclipse in 2010. Lemonade Mouth edged out The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 in 2011. The Hunger Games spawned a pair of top 30 hits by Taylor Swift: “Eyes Open” and “Safe & Sound” (featuring The Civil Wars).

Shake It Up: Live 2 Dance: Music From The Disney Channel Series is the year’s top-selling TV soundtrack with sales of 210K.

(Glee ran out of gas this year. No Glee albums rank among the top 200 for the year. The Glee phenomenon peaked two years ago when Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album was the year’s #16 best-seller.)

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Usher’s Looking 4 Myself is the year’s top-selling R&B album with sales of 450K, nosing out Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange (443K). (I’m classifying albums by Whitney Houston, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna as pop and albums by Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross and 2 Chainz as rap.) Looking 4 Myself spawned the top 10 hit “Scream.”

Romeo Santos’ Formula, Vol. 1 is the year’s top-selling Latin music album, with sales of 123K. It nosed out Prince Royce’s Phase II (111K).

Tenacious D’s Rize Of The Fenix is the year’s top-selling comedy album, with sales of 113K copies. The comedy troupe features Jack Black.  The album is a Grammy finalist for Best Comedy Album.

I said at the outset that Adele’s 21 is the first album to rank #1 for the year twice in the Nielsen SoundScan era. The previous best showing for a year’s #1 album on the following year’s year-end chart was #17. That was the ranking for both Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory in 2002 and Taylor Swift’s Fearless in 2010.

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As a bonus, here are the top 10 Christmas albums of 2012. Note that three of the top five are country albums. I show the year of release for all albums that weren’t first released in 2012. Rod Stewart’s Merry Christmas, Baby (858K), Michael Buble’s Christmas (2011, 622K), Lady Antebellum’s On This Winter’s Night (439K), Blake Shelton’s Cheers, It’s Christmas (428K), Scotty McCreery’s Christmas With Scotty McCreery (348K), Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Dreams Of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night) (217K), Cee-Lo Green’s Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment (181K), Justin Bieber’s Under The Mistletoe (2011, 173K), Josh Groban’s Noel (2007, 142K) and Andrea Bocelli’s My Christmas (2009, 123K).

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As a second bonus, here are the top 10 soundtracks of 2012. Eight of the top 10 (including the top six) are from theatrically-released movies. The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond (463K), Rock Of Ages (267K), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (229K), The Bodyguard (227K), Project X (217K), Pitch Perfect (212K), Shake It Up: Live 2 Dance: Music From The Disney Channel Series (210K), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2 (210K), The Fresh Beat Band: Music From The Hit TV Show (189K) and Les Miserables (178K).

Happy new year, everybody.

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