Former Billboard writer Paul Grein, one of the grade-A music journalists that inspired me to want to work there, has put together some boffo lists for his Yahoo! Chart Watch column, based on the 20th anniversary of Billboard's use of Nielsen SoundScan's point-of-sale data, which tallies the album and Hot 100 charts by actual sales numbers, as opposed to potentially shady retail record store reports.
First, of course, the Celine Dion kudos: The 1997 Titanic soundtrack is the best-selling (mostly) instrumental album of the last 20 years. James Horner composed the score, though we all know it was Celine's No. 1 "My Heart Will Go On" that pushed this album to move 10,141,000 copies.
The biggest-selling soundtrack is The Bodyguard. After selling 11,825,000 copies, it won the Album of the Year Grammy, thanks to Whitney Houston's stellar "I Will Always Love You," "I Have Nothing," "Run To You," "Queen of the Night" & "I'm Every Woman."
Titanic is also the best-selling album of 1998—and the first to sell as many as 9 million copies in a calendar year. Thanks again, Celine!
The best-selling single of the last two decades is "Candle In The Wind 1997," from Elton John, with 8,111,000. Ugh. The single logged 14 weeks at No. 1. At No. 2 and 3, respectively, thanks to iTunes, are Black Eyed Peas' wretched "Boom Boom Pow" from 2009; and Katy Perry's "California Gurls," f/Snoop Dog in 2010.
It gets worse: The No. 4 sales single is one-hit wonder Los Del Rio's "Macarena," one of the worst songs ever recorded. The novelty hit was lodged at No. 1 for 14 dismal weeks. Ending on a stellar note is No. 5, the regal "Bleeding Love" from Leona Lewis in 2008, with four weeks at No. 1 and Grammy nod for Record of the Year. Runner-up at No. 6: "I Will Always Love You" from Whitney Houston, No. 1 for 14 weeks and a Grammy for Record of the Year.
More fun facts: The biggest-selling album of the last 20 years is Metallica by, uh, Metallica. The 1991 release has sold 15,664,000 copies. It's also the best-selling rock and group album.
'N Sync's 2000 No Strings Attached, is awarded the highest one-year sales tally (in history), with 9,936,000 copies. It spawned three top 5 hits: "Bye Bye Bye," "It's Gonna Be Me" & "This I Promise You." Oh, for the days when Justin Timberlake still recorded melodic music. Meanwhile, Backstreet Boys' 1999 Millennium, with a total of 12,119,000 copies, is the best-selling pop album of the last 20 years.
Shania Twain's 1997 Come On Over, walloped Celine Dion by ranking as the best-selling female artist album and by an artist born outside the U.S. (Like Celine, she's Canadian). The release has sold 15,504,000 copies.
So far, Adele's 21 is in line to finish 2011 as the best-selling album. She would become the first British solo artist ever to achieve the feat. Man, that would certainly start off the decade on a high note, after No. 1 albums of the year last decade by Eminem, Lil Wayne & 50 Cent. Let's hope talent is at last reestablishing itself in the U.S.