In the very last week of 2014, Taylor Swift's 1989 pulled ahead of the Frozen soundtrack to finish as the year’s best-selling album. 1989 sold 3.66 million copies in the calendar year, compared to 3.53 million for Frozen.
Frozen was #1 for the year-to-date from the first week of January to the next-to-last week of the year. This echoes what happened in 1994, when Ace of Base's The Sign was #1 for the year-to-date in every week from May 15 to the next-to-last week of the year. But in the final week of the year, The Lion King soundtrack overtook it.
Swift’s 130K edge over Frozen represents the closest race for the year-end crown since 2009, when Swift’s Fearless ended up with a 113K lead over that year’s runner-up, Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream.
(All figures in this story are actual album sales, not based on Billboard's new hybrid formula which also factors in on-demand streaming and digital track sales.)
This is the second time that Swift has had the year’s top-selling album. Swift is the third act to have the year’s best-selling album twice since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music sales. She follows Adele (whose 21 finished first in both 2011 and 2012) and Eminem (whose The Eminem Show was #1 for 2002 and whose Recovery was on top for 2010).
Swift released just one album between Fearless and 1989. That was Red, which was the #2 album of 2012.
This is the fourth time that Swift has had the year’s top-selling album by a female artist. No other female artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era has achieved that feat. Mariah Carey had the top-selling album by a female artist three times.
This is the fifth time that Swift has put an album in the year’s top three. She’s only the second artist to do that in the Nielsen SoundScan era, following Eminem.
As for Frozen, this the first time that the soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie has finished in the year’s top two since Titanic was #1 for 1998. (Two TV soundtracks made the top two in the intervening years. High School Musical was the best-selling album of 2006. A sequel was #2 for 2007.)
Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour is #3 for the year (1.21 million). It’s the year’s top-selling debut album, the year’s top-selling album by a male artist and the year’s top-seller by a foreign-born artist.
Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas To Me is #4 for the year (1.14 million). It’s the year’s top-selling album by a group or duo. It’s the fifth holiday album to rank among the top five best-sellers for an entire year. All have come in the past eight years—a sign that holiday albums are holding up better than the album market overall. The first four were Josh Groban's Noel (#1 for 2007), Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas (#5 for 2009), Susan Boyle's The Gift (#5 for 2010) and Michael Buble's Christmas (#2 for 2011).
This frankly pathetic tally of four million-selling albums for the year is the lowest in decades. The old low mark for the Nielsen SoundScan era was 10 million-selling albums in 2012.
Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix is #5 for the year (898K). This is the first time that two soundtracks from theatrically-released movies have appeared in the year-end top five in the Nielsen SoundScan era. It’s the first time that two have appeared in the year-end top 10 since 2002, when 8 Mile ranked #5 and O Brother, Where Art Thou? ranked #10.
Beyoncé's Beyoncé is #6 for the year (878K). This is the seventh year that Beyoncé has placed an album in the year-end top 10. (That tally counts her work with Destiny’s Child). No other artist has achieved this feat in the Nielsen SoundScan era. This is also the seventh time that Beyoncé has had the year’s top R&B album (again, counting her work with Destiny’s Child). By ranking #6 for the year, Beyoncé equals her previous best year-end ranking. Her solo debut, Dangerously in Love, was #6 for 2003 (albeit with a much healthier sales total—2,527,000.)
Barbra Streisand's Partners is #7 for the year (856K). Streisand, 72, is the oldest solo artist to rank in the year-end top 10 in the Nielsen SoundScan era. The old record was held by Lionel Richie, who was 63 two years ago when Tuskegee was the #9 album of 2012. These two albums are the only two duets albums to rank in the year-end top 10 in the Nielsen SoundScan era. (Note: Richie teams with Streisand to sing her greatest hit, “The Way We Were,” on Partners.) Streisand, of course, pre-dates the Nielsen SoundScan era (by a mere 28 years). On Billboard's annual chart recaps for 1964, she had three of the year's top 10 albums.
Lorde's Pure Heroine is #8 for the year (841K).
One Direction's FOUR is #9 for the year (814K). The boy band had two of the top five albums on the year-end chart for 2012.
Eric Church's The Outsiders is #10 for the year (811K). It’s the year’s best-selling country album. (This is the first time Church has taken that title.)
Thirty-one albums sold 500K or more copies during the year, down from 45 in 2013. This year’s total of 500K-sellers is just half of what it was as recently as 2009.
Overall album sales fell by 11%, from 289.4 million in 2013 to 257 million in 2014.
Digital albums accounted for 41% of all albums sold in 2014, the same percentage as in 2013. 1989 and Frozen were also the year’s top digital albums, with digital sales of 1.41 million and 1.26 million, respectively, during 2014. It’s the first time that two albums have each sold more than 1 million digital copies during a calendar year.
Frozen is #1 on Billboard's already-published chart recap for 2014 (which recaps the charts in the issues dated Dec. 7, 2013 through Nov. 29, 2014.) Frozen is the sixth soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie to top this chart since 1956. It follows West Side Story (which was #1 for both 1962 and 1963), Mary Poppins (1965), the Bee Gees-paced Saturday Night Fever (1978), the Whitney Houston-dominated The Bodyguard (1993) and Titanic (1998).
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