Adele's 21 this week becomes the 24th studio album to sell 9 million copies since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard. Studio follow-ups to the first 23 have achieved varying degrees of success. On the high end, Backstreet Boys' 1999 album Millennium has sold 120% as many copies as its predecessor, Backstreet Boys. On the low end, Usher's 2008 album Here I Stand has sold just 13% as many copies as its predecessor, Confessions.
I took a look at the studio follow-ups to the 23 studio albums that have sold 9 million or more copies since 1991. I focused on how well they sold relative to the sales of their predecessors. I then assigned each a letter grade.
Two follow-ups to 9 million sellers managed match the sales of (or even outsell) their predecessors.
Backstreet Boys' 1999 album Millennium has sold 12,186,000 copies, which is 120% of the tally for its 1997 predecessor, Backstreet Boys (10,122,000). Millennium even managed to snag a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Millennium spawned two top 10 hits on the Hot 100 or Hot 100 Airplay charts: "I Want It That Way" and "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely." Backstreet Boys generated five.
Garth Brooks' 1991 album Ropin' The Wind has sold 9,571,000 copies, which is 106% of the recorded sales of its predecessor, No Fences (9,011,000). (No Fences was released in September 1990, so all of its sales aren't included in its tally.) Ropin' spawned three #1 country hits: "What's She Doing Now," "The River" and a cover of Billy Joel's "Shameless." No Fences spawned four. Both albums were voted Album of the Year by the Country Music Assn.
Three other follow-ups to 9 million sellers have achieved sales of 85% or better of their predecessors.
Eminem's 2002 album The Eminem Show has sold 10,067,000 copies, which is 95% as many as 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP (10,598,000). The Eminem Show spawned two top five hits ("Without Me" and "Cleanin' Out My Closet"), compared to just one ("The Real Slim Shady") for Marshall. Both albums received Grammy nominations for Album of the Year.
Celine Dion's 1997 album Let's Talk About Love has sold 9,575,000 copies, which is 89% as many as 1996's Falling Into You (10,791,000). Love spawned just one top 10 hit, but it was a monster: "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From 'Titanic')." Falling Into You generated three: "Because You Loved Me," "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and a cover of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself." Let's Talk About Love failed to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, an award that Falling Into You won.
Britney Spears' 2000 album Oops!…I Did It Again has sold 9,194,000 copies, which is 87% as many as 1999's …Baby One More Time (10,544,000). The title song from Oops! made the top 10. Two songs from …Baby One More Time made the top 10: the title song and "(You Drive Me) Crazy."
Linkin Park's 2003 album Meteora has sold 5,924,000 copies, which is 60% as many as 2000's Hybrid Theory (9,949,000). "Numb," the biggest hit from Meteora, reached #11. "In The End," the biggest hit from Hybrid, reached #2. Reanimation, which contained new mixes of the songs from Hybrid, was released in between the two studio albums.
Pearl Jam's 1993 album Vs. has sold 5,991,000 copies, which is 60% as many as 1992's Ten (9,945,000). Vs. spawned "Daughter," the band's first hit on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. ("Jeremy," from Ten, cracked that same chart three weeks later.)
Kid Rock's 2001 album Cocky has sold 5,190,000 copies, which is 56% as many as 1999's Devil Without A Cause (9,217,000). Cocky spawned Kid's first top 10 hit, "Picture" (featuring Allison Moorer or Sheryl Crow). "Only God Knows Why," the biggest hit from Devil, reached #19. The History Of Rock, a compilation of songs Kid Rock recorded between 1991 and 2000, was released in between the two studio albums.
Creed's 2001 album Weathered has sold 6,400,000 copies, which is 55% as many as 1999's Human Clay (11,579,000). Both albums spawned two top 10 hits. Weathered had "My Sacrifice" and "One Last Breath." Human Clay yielded "Higher" and "With Arms Wide Open."
Garth Brooks' 1992 album The Chase has sold 5,127,000 copies, which is 54% as many as 1991's Ropin' The Wind (9,571,000). The Chase spawned two #1 country hits: "Somewhere Other Than The Night" and "That Summer." Ropin' The Wind spawned three. Brooks released a Christmas album, Beyond The Season, in between the two studio albums.
Eminem's 2004 album Encore has sold 5,288,000 copies, which is 53% as many as 2002's The Eminem Show (10,067,000). "Just Lose It," the biggest hit from Encore, reached #6. The Eminem Show spawned two top five hits.
Britney Spears' 2001 album Britney has sold 4,346,000 copies, which is 47% as many as 2000's …Oops! I Did It Again (9,194,000). "I'm A Slave 4 U," the biggest hit from Britney, reached #27. The title song from Oops! reached #9.
Backstreet Boys' 2000 album Black & Blue has sold 5,435,000 copies, which is 45% as many as 1999's Millennium (12,186,000). Black & Blue spawned one top 10 hit, "Shape Of My Heart," compared to two for its predecessor.
*NSYNC's 2001 album Celebrity has sold 4,912,000 copies, which is 44% as many as 2000's No Strings Attached (11,125,000). Celebrity spawned one top 10 hit, "Girlfriend" (featuring Nelly). No Strings Attached (which sold a record-setting 2,416,000 copies in its opening week) spawned three: "Bye Bye Bye," "It's Gonna Be Me" and "This I Promise You."
Norah Jones' 2004 album Feels Like Home has sold 4,632,000 copies, which is 43% as many as 2002's Come Away With Me (10,830,000). "Sunrise," the key song from Feels Like Home, didn't crack the Hot 100. "Don't Know Why," from Come Away With Me, made the top 30. Feels Like Home failed to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, an award that Come Away With Me won.
Celine Dion's 2002 album A New Day Has Come has sold 3,305,000 copies, which is 35% as many as 1997's Let's Talk About Love (9,575,000). The biggest hit from A New Day Has Come was the title track, which peaked at #22. The biggest hit from Let's Talk About Love was the #1 smash "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From 'Titanic')." Dion released a Christmas album, a greatest hits album and a compilation in between the two studio albums.
Shania Twain's 1997 album Up! has sold 5,410,000 copies, which is 35% as many as 1997's Come On Over (15,517,000). "Forever And For Always," the biggest hit from the double-disk Up!, reached #20. Come On Over spawned three top 10 hits: "You're Still The One," "From This Moment On" and "That Don't Impress Me Much."
Metallica's 1996 album Load has sold 5,088,000 copies, which is 32% as many as 1991's Metallica (15,776,000), which is the best-selling album of the Nielsen SoundScan era. Load spawned the band's only top 10 hit, "Until It Sleeps." "Enter Sandman," the biggest hit from Metallica, peaked at #16. A triple-disk live album, Live Shit: Binge & Purge, was released in between the two studio albums.
Hootie & the Blowfish's 1996 album Fairweather Johnson has sold 2,361,000 copies, which is 23% as many as 1994's Cracked Rear View (10,265,000). "Old Man & Me (When I Get To Heaven)," the biggest hit from Fairweather, reached #13. Cracked yielded three top 10 hits: "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry" and "Only Want To Be With You."
Santana's 2002 album Shamen has sold 2,517,000 copies, which is 21% as many as 1999's Supernatural (11,726,000). Shamen spawned two top 10 hits, "The Game Of Love" (featuring Michelle Branch) and "Why Don't You & I" (featuring Alex Band or Chad Kroeger). "Smooth" and "Maria Maria," the two biggest hits from Supernatural, spent a combined 22 weeks at #1. Shamen failed to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, an award that Supernatural won.
Alanis Morissette's 1998 album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie has sold 2,604,000 copies, which is 18% as many as 1995's Jagged Little Pill (14,738,000). "Thank U," the biggest hit from Junkie, reached #2 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. Pill spawned three top 10 hits on the Hot 100 or Hot 100 Airplay charts: "Ironic," "You Learn" and "Head Over Feet." Junkie failed to receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, an award that Pill won.
Usher's 2008 album Here I Stand has sold a mere 1,308,000 copies, which is just 13% as many as 2004's Confessions (9,987,000). "Love In This Club" (featuring Young Jeezy), the biggest hit from Here I Stand, reached #1 on the Hot 100. Confessions spawned three #1 hits: "Yeah!" (featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris), "Burn" and "Confessions Part II." (An expanded edition contained a fourth, "My Boo," a duet with Alicia Keys).
The Fine Print
I'm not listing Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, the band's 1975 follow-up to 1973's The Dark Side Of The Moon, because both albums were released long before the advent of the Nielsen SoundScan era. But, for the record, Dark Side has sold 9,320,000 copies since 1991, an astounding achievement for an album that came out in March 1973. Dark Side included "Money," a top 15 hit. No songs from Wish You Were Here cracked the Hot 100.
In addition, five non-studio albums have sold 9 million copies since 1991: the soundtracks to The Bodyguard and Titanic and greatest hits albums by the Beatles, Bob Marley & the Wailers and Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band.