Eminem Is The Best-Selling Artist Of The Decade Despite Being On Hiatus For Three Of The Last Ten Years

Dec 8th, 2009 // 11 Comments

Eminem has spent the last decade trying to convince the pop world that he either is or isn’t Elvis Presley, but in the end it turns out his closest competition in the 00′s was the Beatles. How’s this for a legacy: Marshall Mathers III beat out the Fab Four (you know, that group from Rock Band) to rank as the best-selling artist of perhaps the most turbulent decade in music industry history, according to new stats from Nielsen SoundSan.

Rising from hardscrabble Detroit, Em sold 32.2 million units combined, triumphing over JohnPaulGeorgeRingo, who racked up sales of 30 million. (The Beatles still trump him with the best-selling album of the decade, their compilation 1.) An incredible feat when you consider that Em all but vanished from the scene between 2006 and 2009—but also an indication of how the slide in album sales really accelerated mid-decade. It’s getting harder and harder for anyone to put up the numbers Eminem did in the early 00′s.

Not to take anything away from the guy: he’s both popular and influential. Which is why it’s been so interesting watching him struggle through Relapse and its eventual followup.

Though Relapse was an instant hit, debuting at number one, in an interview with Complex mag, Em admits that his mind wasn’t “clear” while writing and recording the album since he was still recovering from drug addiction.

Complex reporter Noah Callahan-Beve starts off the interview sadly describing the change in personality between first meeting a fresh-faced Eminem back in 1998 and then meeting him each subsequent time:

The dude I met in that strip mall parking lot more than a decade ago, listening to mixes on the stock system of his Buick rental, was outgoing, hilarious, genuine, razor-sharp, and endlessly talented. He was a walking adventure and an inspiration. But, with him being overwhelmed by the fame—and then the work, and then the drugs—every encounter we shared after the release of The Slim Shady LP got incrementally more awkward, involved less eye contact, and left me feeling more concerned about the collateral damage of his unmitigated success.

Ouch. Not a pretty picture. But Em would probably agree with him. “I became more on-point towards the end of recording [Relapse],” Em admits. “I still feel like I have room to get better but I feel like I’m definitely on my game right now.”

“I was still working the drugs out of my system, so there was a lot of…just jokey shit. It was a lot of punchline-y, funny, shock value—kind of going back to The Slim Shady LP. And that was cool, but I’ve kind of flipped the page. Now I’m going for songs instead of one-liners. I don’t want to make shit that you hear once and then the joke’s over; I want to make records that you could play a hundred times, a thousand times.”

How will his sequel to Relapse fare? Complex’s reporter even thinks “Relapse 2 is to Relapse what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins.” That’s a bold statement, and we truly want to believe it, but with homophobic rhymes towards out gay musicians on the Relapse: Refill track “Elevator,” seemingly included just to get a shock out of people, this doesn’t exactly scream new-and-improved territory for Mathers, but just more of the same tired schtick he’s done since the beginning of his career. (And if he does end up taking that X-Factor gig, let’s hope he learns how to bite his tongue unlike some judges.)


  1. Is there some sort of list with this list you can link us to?

  2. @hun*ter: sorry ’bout that, link added. and here’s the USA Today article for easy reference: http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2009-12-08-musicdecade08_ST_N.htm

  3. ASID

    Relapse Refill and Relapse were made together…Relapse 2 is way different

  4. No, where is the actual Nielsen list? USA Today doesn’t report it, nor do they link to it. They give us bits and pieces of the artist and album lists but not the whole thing.

  5. If you look at the article on the first page he says that leftover tracks from Relapse will be on Relapse: Refill and that his “whole new approach” that he recorded with Dre in Hawaii will make up Relapse 2.

  6. SS

    This is retarded he said he was realeasing the refill because he didnt want that shit on RX2 because it sounded just like Relapse. He is goin in a different direction with RX2 shit is gonna hit the fan

  7. Alv B

    actually more reliable sales tracking publications show Britney Spears as top revenue earning performer of the decade. Nielsen is based only on the sales of a few vendors. Sorry eminem nothing against you but your not all that influential as you thought you were.

  8. Chris

    Eminem should not be spoken in the same breath as the GREAT Elvis. Eminem in crude and Vulgar. No one will ever ever ever compare to the most wonderful singer and entertainer the world has ever seen.

    • john..

      stop this rubbish……………..michael jackson is greatest entertainer of all time…………elvis sucks.

  9. Justin

    Trying to compare Em to Elvis is one of the most idiotic things I have ever heard. It's not even in the same genre, so you can't really do that. Another example would be comparing Em to Dizzy Gillespie, it's not right.

  10. John

    If Em was absent from 2006, the Fab Four were absent from 1970.

Leave A Comment