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Main Page Content:

The 20 biggest selling albums of the 21st Century

Wednesday March 12, 2008

Another week, another achievement for Amy Winehouse’s blockbusting Back To Black album which now moves into the Top 10 list of best-selling albums of the 21st century. As of close of business last Saturday (8th March), the album had sold 2,467,575 copies, made up of 2,020,063 copies of the original edition of the album (issued in November 2006), and 455,512 of the deluxe edition, which was released just 18 weeks ago.

The deluxe edition has become the dominant version of the album recently, helped by discounting, and reached number one on the album chart last week, before slipping to number two behind Duffy’s Rockferry this week. The original version of Back To Black has dived 12-30-37 in the last fortnight.

Back To Black’s move into the Top 10 is at the expense of Norah Jones’ 2002 debut album, Come Away With Me. It means that nine of the 10 biggest-selling albums of the 21st century in Britain are by homegrown acts, while the other – The Scissor Sisters’ self-titled debut – is a UK-signed American act who have had very limited success in their homeland.

The Top 10 are as follows:

1 BACK TO BEDLAM – JAMES BLUNT

Recorded in 2003, released in 2004, and first charting in 2005, former soldier James Blunt’s debut album got off to a slow start, with first week sales of just 482 – not enough to secure a placing in the chart. It remained outside the Top 75 for a further 20 weeks, finally entering the list when You’re Beautiful started to receive airplay. The album arrived at the top of the chart in July of that year, a week before You’re Beautiful topped the singles list. Three further hits were plucked from the album, which continues to sell well, adding nearly 28,000 to its overall sales thus far in 2008, to reach 3,120,833 sales.

2 NO ANGEL – DIDO

Dido’s 2000 debut album was kickstarted into action when Eminem sampled one of its tracks, Thank You, for his hit single Stan. Thank You subsequently became one of three Top 10 singles plucked from No ANgel, which spent six weeks at number one, and was in the Top 10 for 32 weeks in a row. It sells very slowly now, adding just 2,015 copies so far in 2008 for a to date total of 3,023,288.

3 WHITE LADDER – DAVID GRAY

Mancunian singer/songwriter David Gray’s first three albums all fell short of the Top 75 but his fourth, White Ladder, made its introductory chart appearance at number 69 on sales of 2,056 in May 2000, with demand stoked by the success of introductory single Babylon, which subsequently peaked at number five. The album spawned four further Top 40 hits but it took it well over a year to reach number one. Sales to date of 2,888,025 include 4,593 this year.

4 LIFE FOR RENT – DIDO

Following up an album as successful as No Angel was a daunting prospect for Dido but with introductory single White Flag reaching number two, Life For Rent hit the ground running in 2003, with a spectacular first week sale of 400,351. It subsequently stormed past its first million sales in 43 days – and then sped up, reaching the magical 2m. mark on its 85th day in the shops. By year’s end, it had sold 2,168,302. It has slowed down somewhat since then but has so far sold 2,823,569 copies, including 2,180 this year.

5 1 – THE BEATLES

Collecting together all 27 of The Beatles’ British and American number one singles more than 30 years after the fact, 1 was a triumph of marketing, and stormed to the top of the chart the week it was released in 2000, on sales of 319,126. It spent its first nine weeks at number one, and had sold nearly 2m. copies by the time it was dethroned in January 2001. The only compilation to make the 21st century Top 10, 1 has sold 2,775,654 copies, including 7,361 this year.

6 SCISSOR SISTERS – SCISSOR SISTERS

After introductory single Laura scraped to a number 54 peak, The Scissor Sisters’ quirky electro cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb raced to number 10 on the UK singles chart providing the impetus for their self-titled debut album to sell 21,395 copies on its first week in the shops, to earn a number 11 debut in February 2006. Proving to be far from one trick ponies, their ultra-commercial hit-laden album also generated Top 20 hits in the form of Take Your Mama, the reissued Laura and Mary before the last single off the set – Filthy/Gorgeous – became the biggest hit of them all, climbing to number five. The album rose to number one on three separate occasions, and has so far sold 2,686,705 copies, including 7,376 this year.

7 A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD – COLDPLAY

Coldplay’s 2000 debut Parachutes was one of the most impressive ever, spinning off the hits Shiver, Yellow and Trouble, and selling nearly 2.4m copies. The anticipation of follow-up A Rush Of Blood To The Head was intensified by the enormous popularity of first single In My Place, which reached number two. The album duly raced to first week sales of 273,924. With subsequent single The Scientist and Clocks also reaching the Top 10, the album spent more than a year in the Top 40, and has accumulated sales of 2,638,927, including 9,683 this year.

8 HOPES AND FEARS – Keane

Keane had already reached #3 with debut single Somewhere Only We Know and #4 with follow-up Everybody’s Changing, when their first album, Hopes And Fears, rocketed straight to #1 in May 2004 with first week sales of 155,373. The first UK rock band to debut atop the album chart since July 2000 when Coldplay - a band with whom they are often compared - did likewise, they took a further two Top 20 singles off the album. Their melodic, piano-based style has made them very popular, and Hopes And Fears has so far sold 2,627,253, including 8,733 this year.

9 X&Y – COLDPLAY

Just as In My Place set the pace for A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Speed Of Sound was the first single from Coldplay’s follow-up album, X&Y, and also raced to number two. Although the band’s two previous albums selling 5m copies between them, it was still something of a surprise that X&Y scorched to the second highest first week sales in history to that point, selling a stellar 464,471 copies to debut emphatically at number one in June 2003. Number one for four weeks, it has now sold 2,473,433 copies, 17,511 of them this year.

10 BACK TO BLACK – AMY WINEHOUSE

2,467,575 sales, of which 318,350 have been made in the last 10 weeks. The album will overtake Coldplay’s X&Y later this week to rank ninth for the 21st century, and seems certain to replace the other ‘Back To’ behemoth – James Blunt’s Back To Bedlam – at the top of the 21st century best-sellers list in due course.

Nine other albums have sold more than 2m. copies so far in the 21st century, and it would be churlish to deny them a mention. They are:

11

COME AWAY WITH ME

NORAH JONES

2,432,712

12

PARACHUTES

COLDPLAY

2,385,676

13

BEAUTIFUL WORLD

TAKE THAT

2,372,280

14

THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP

EMINEM

2,245,624

15

SWING WHEN YOU'RE WINNING

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

2,235,240

16

SING WHEN YOU'RE WINNING

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

2,187,283

17

EYES OPEN

SNOW PATROL

2,098,620

18

GREATEST HITS

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

2,095,703

19

ESCAPOLOGY

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

2,047,299

Completing the Top 20, The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ By The Way has sold 1,945,495 copies.

Readers' comments

  • Charles Willard 14 March, 2008

    Thanks Alan, very interesting. Btw, what is the correct UK total for U2's The Joshua Tree? I only ask because on the November 2006 OCC top 110 all-time list you guys had it in 26th place with total UK sales of 2,665,553. But a few months ago, when the 20th anniversary edition was released, you said, in your weekly sales report, that the original version had now only sold 'nearly 2m' in the UK.

  • Khulekani 18 April, 2008

    This can't be true.

    They're lying! 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Trying is certified the best-selling debut album in history and James Bunt's debut is above his?

    It's not even possible. Something doesn't add up!

  • Neil 21 April, 2008

    Khulekani, this article is referring to sales in the UK only.

  • Adam 28 April, 2008

    Where is Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory? It was released in October 2000 and I know for a fact that it had sold 24 million records as of 2007. It dwarfs all of these!

  • Neil 6 May, 2008

    Adam,

    Hybrid Theory was certified 4 times platinum last February, meaning it has shipped 1.2 million copies to UK stores, so its sales tally is likely somewhere just short of that amount.

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12 March, 2008

 

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