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Taylor Swift, 'Frozen,' and the Battle for the Year's #1 Album

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Taylor Swift's 1989 and the Frozen soundtrack are locked in a close race to wind up as the best-selling album of 2014. With two weeks to go, Frozen has sold 3.4 million copies in this calendar year, compared to 3.0 million for 1989. But 1989 may be able to overcome Frozen's 410K lead. This week it sold 238K copies more than Frozen did.

(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 closest race for the year-end crown since 2009, when Swift’s Fearless ended up with a slim, 131K lead over that year’s runner-up, Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream. (This year’s race is a reversal of 2009. That year, Fearless had been the year’s top-seller all year long, but it was nearly eclipsed by Boyle’s album, which was released on Nov. 23. This year, Frozen has been the year’s top-seller all year, but is in danger of being eclipsed by Swift’s album, which was released on Oct. 27.)

If Frozen hangs on to the title, this will be the first time that the soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie has come out on top since 1998, the year of Titanic. (A TV soundtrack, High School Musical, was #1 for 2006.)

If 1989 comes out on top, this will be the second time that Swift has had the year’s top-selling album. Swift would be the third act to have the year’s best-selling album twice since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music sales. She would follow 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).

Whichever album comes out on top, this will be 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.

This will be 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 has achieved that feat. Mariah Carey had the top-selling album by a female artist three times.

Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour is #3 for the year-to-date (1 million). It’s the year’s top-selling album by a male artist and the year’s top-seller by a foreign-born artist.

It is, of course, pathetic that an album that has sold just a little more than 1 million copies is #3 for the year-to-date. Worse, only one other album (see Pentatonix at #5) has a good shot at reaching 1 million before the year is over. This projected tally of four million-selling albums would be the lowest in decades. The old low mark for the Nielsen SoundScan era was 10 million-selling albums in 2012.

Beyoncé's Beyoncé is #4 for the year-to-date (845K). This will be 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 will be the sixth year that Swift has placed an album in the year-end top 10, which puts her in a tie for second place with Garth Brooks, Eminem and Mariah Carey.)

This will be the seventh time that Beyoncé has had the year’s top R&B album (again, counting her work with Destiny’s Child).

Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas To Me is #5 for the year-to-date (819K). It’s the year’s top-selling album by a group or duo.  It will be 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).

Lorde's Pure Heroine is #6 for the year-to-date (817K).

Eric Church's The Outsiders is #7 for the year-to-date (788K). It’s best-selling country album so far this year.

Coldplay's Ghost Stories is #8 for the year-to-date (774K). If it is still in the top 10 when the chart becomes final, this will be the fourth year the band has appeared in the year-end top 10.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix is #9 for the year-to-date (755K). If it stays on track, this will be the first time that two soundtracks from theatrically-released movies have appeared in the year-end top 10 since 2002, when 8 Mile ranked #5 and O Brother, Where Art Thou? ranked #10.

Luke Bryan's Crash My Party is #10 for the year-to-date (754K). It will probably lose its place in the top 10 to one of these current hot-sellers: Barbra Streisand's Partners (#11, 748K), Ed Sheeran's X (#12, 686K) or One Direction's FOUR (#16, 625K).

J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive sold 354K copies in its first week. It has a shot at becoming the year’s top-selling rap album. That title is currently held by Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (545K copies in 2014). Eminem has had the year’s top rap album six times in the past.

Weird Al Yankovic's Mandatory Fun is #82 for the year-to-date. If it stays on track, it will be the first comedy album to rank in the year-end top 100 since Yankovic’s Bad Hair Day, which ranked #37 for 1996.

Frozen is #1 on Billboard's already-published list of the top albums of 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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