Chart Watch Extra: Top Albums Of Last 10 Years
Adele's 21 tops the 8 million mark in U.S. sales this week. After just a little more than a year (55 weeks, to be precise), it's already the fourth best-selling album of the last 10 years, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Only Norah Jones' Come Away With Me, Eminem's The Eminem Show and Usher's Confessions have sold more copies in the last 10 years.
Adele and Jones both appeal to an "upper-demo," adult contemporary audience, though Adele has also broken through to a young, singles-buying demographic with three #1 hits on the Hot 100. (By contrast, Jones' highest-charting single to date, "Don't Know Why," peaked at #30).
A total of 25 albums have sold 5 million or more copies in the last 10 years. Four artists have reached that plateau with two albums in this period: Eminem, 50 Cent, Taylor Swift and Josh Groban. (Groban, somewhat surprisingly, is the only artist with two albums among the 20 best-sellers of the last 10 years. His 2003 studio album Closer is the 16th best-selling album of the last 10 years. His 2007 holiday album Noel is the 19th best-seller for this period.)
Nielsen SoundScan has tracked sales for Billboard since 1991. It maintains a running list of the 200 best-selling albums in its history, but that list is dominated by albums from the 1990s and early 2000s, when overall sales were much more robust than they are today. Phenomenal hits like 21 were much more common back then. It's almost unfair to compare albums from that era to albums from the last decade. So I extracted this list, of the best-selling albums of the last 10 years, from Nielsen SoundScan's larger list. Now we're comparing apples to apples.
Here are all albums that have sold 5 million or more copies in the last 10 years. The sales tally is the number of albums the album has sold from the week ending March 10, 2002 to the week ending March 11, 2012. (If the album was released prior to March 2002, I also show its total sales in parentheses. This affected only Jones' album.) I cap each entry by showing the month of the album's release and the album's current rank on Nielsen SoundScan's running list of the top 200 best-selling albums since 1991.
1. Norah Jones, Come Away With Me, 10,797,000. (Total sales: 10,807,000). This was Jones' first album as a lead artist. It won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Released: February 2002. Top 200 rank: #11.
2. Eminem, The Eminem Show, 10,049,000. This is the best-selling rap album of the last 10 years, beating out 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin' and Nelly's Nellyville. The album, Eminem's third, spawned the top 10 hits "Without Me" and "Cleanin' Out My Closet." Released: May 2002. Top 200 rank: #18.