The Best-Selling Album Of 2009 Is Actually A Compilation From 2003

Aug 26th, 2009 // 16 Comments

Buried in this week’s Billboard 200 wrapup (the No. 1 record, Reba McEntire’s Keep On Loving You, somehow managed to sell 96,000 copies! Woo?) is a little note about the race for the best-selling album of 2009, which up until this week was led by country cutie-pie Taylor Swift and her second album Fearless. No matter how youthful and ebuillent she might be, though, she apparently can’t compete with a dead guy. (OK, so this particular person might be a special case.)

Yes, Michael Jackson’s Number Ones is now the best-selling album of 2009, having moved 1,619,000 copies over the course of the past eight-ish months. Fearless is lagging by approximately 11,000 copies. This week, Number Ones moved 68,000 copies, a 15% decline in overall sales but still enough to make it the catalog-inclusive Comprehensive Chart’s No. 2 for the week (eek!); Fearless, meanwhile, sold 34,000 units, and was No. 8 on the Billboard 200, which doesn’t count moldy old records like Jackson’s 2003 hits compilation.

This should certainly shape up to be an interesting race to the 2009 finish line, what with Jackson’s hits-flogging concert film set to drop in October—just before the holiday shopping season starts—and Swift presumably still being able to promote her album with singles and promotional appearances on the Video Music Awards, the American Music Awards, and other televised entertainments. But if Number Ones does finish the year at, for lack of a better term, No. 1, will Billboard relent on its “no old albums allowed” policy for its charts? Honestly, in this time of ever-declining retail outlets for music and Americans’ even-more-quickly declining appetite for caring about what record companies have been up to recently, turning the Comprehensive Chart into the real big board seems like the best way to accurately reflect the national mood. (And if nothing else, having him end the year at No. 1 will certainly put that absurd rumor about him maybe being alive to rest.)

Reba McEntire Nets Second No. 1 on Billboard 200 [Billboard]

  1. (And if nothing else, having him end the year at No. 1 will certainly put that absurd rumor about him maybe being alive to rest.)


  2. Wow. I remember, like 5 or 6 years ago, the best selling album of those years would be selling around 5 million copies. Then, more recently, I remember the HSM soundtrack to be the best-selling album of whatever year and it selling around the 3 million mark. And even then I was like, damn! that’s a lot less records.

    This year, however, the candidates are far below 2 million records. Is music dead, daddy?

    Disclaimer: I’m not a chart expert, so sooorry if any oh those facts is kinda whacked out.

  3. @fre2daa: Actually that was a very succinct and accurate summary! Your memory is basically spot-on. Music might not be dead, but the commercial album is, nearly.

    The RIAA and Billboard have a more generous macro measure of music sales that combines physical disc sales and digital album-bundle sales with something they call the “track-equivalent album,” or TEA for short. Basically, they take the number of digital singles sold and divide it by 10, then add that to the total. Even with this (exceedingly generous) handicap thrown in, annual bundled-music sales are off in the high single digits, percentage-wise. Counting just traditional albums, they’ve been down 14ish percent per annum since about 2006.

  4. One more addendum to Maura’s writeup above: As far as Billboard‘s concerned, Swift still beats Jackson for 2009′s top album by a mile. And it has nothing to do with the age of the Jacko compilation.

    As I’ve mentioned here a gazillion times, the annoying thing about Billboard‘s year-end tallying is their definition of the “chart year.” For publication purposes, they define it as December 1–November 30.

    That makes a huge difference for Swift, who dropped her album last November, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. By January 1, she’d already shifted about 2.2m copies, about half of them between December 1 and 31. Let’s call it a million, to be conservative. (Remember: it was the holidays, and the Swift album sold like a monster.)

    So in reality, for Billboard year-end 2009 purposes, Fearless still leads Number Ones by about a million albums. Which is what makes Maura’s supposition about October’s Jackson movie interesting: if Number Ones gets another massive burst of movie-plus-Santa sales before December 1, another million-plus in sales is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Then, by any yardstick, even Billboard‘s skewed calendar, the Jackson compilation would own the title.

    In that instance, I suspect the pressure on Billboard to report the truth would be so great, they’d have to concede and give Jackson the title. But right now, they can plausibly say, “According to our chart year, it’s still Swift by a mile,” and, annoyingly, to them, it’s the truth.

  5. But then will the chart that actually makes sense (the SoundScan list of top albums of the year) actually anoint Jackson as the best-seller of 2009? They actually use the calendar year, and won’t care about older “catalog” albums, right?

  6. @chachwitablog: yeah, good question. The regular Soundscan year-end tally (they’re affiliated with Billboard but separate; confusing!) goes by the regular calendar year and has no age restrictions on albums. So MJ will be properly rewarded there.

  7. Tina

    Love you Michael Jackson. Rest in Love and Peace.


    Michael Jackson RIP. LOVE the number ones. But everyone must have the MJ Essential Collection…. that rocks.

  9. agathi

    yay baby…Michael Jackson will always be the King,….bring it on baby:))

  10. Jayme


  11. Rhilo


    Long live DA KING!

  12. lyla

    love th king of pop
    rest in peace

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