Once upon a time, selling ten million records seemed an attainable feat for a superstar artist. For sure, diamond certification is a rarity: according to Soundscan’s official tally, only 107 albums have ever crossed the ten million sold mark in the United States. While that might appear a considerable number, it cannot be divorced from context: an era when bootlegging was more time-intensive and official channels held a stronger grip on how we discover and digest our music. The precipitous decline of the music industry’s ability to sell records–the crumbling cornerstone of its existence–has been well documented elsewhere, so it doesn’t warrant too much more reinforcement of facts most of you may already know.
In July, Usher’s 2004 smash Confessions became only the 19th album in the Soundscan era (1991-present) to cross the 10 million sold threshold. Just two months before, Adele’s 21 barreled into the record books as the 29th album in the Soundscan era to sell nine million units in the United States. When 21 completes its inexorable creep past the 10x platinum mark, it will become only the 11th album since 2000 (not to mention the first since 2004) to reach the rare plateau.
Over the next ten years, the state of Soundscan and the very nature of how we quantify musical success (YouTube plays? Spotify streams? number of times tagged on Shazaam?) promises to change in likely unpredictable ways, perhaps decreasing the once awe-inspiring notion of “platinum” sales–after all, once Justin Bieber has amassed over a billion views on YouTube, how can a million seem impressive? For now, let’s celebrate some old-world statistics and take a look at the 10 albums that have sold 10 million copies in the United States since the year 2000.
By Jon Tanners
Hit “next” or click the pictures to read on…
‘N Sync – No Strings Attached (2000)
Total U.S. Sales: 11,000,000
In the pantheon of early 2000s boy band albums, ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached is Zeus, unsinkable king of the pop gods. Sporting three number one singles (“Bye Bye Bye,” “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and “This I Promise You”), No Strings dominated the pop world, selling a record two million copies in its first week.
The Beatles – 1 (2000)
Total U.S. Sales: 12,072,000
A bit strange to see a band that’s been broken up for over forty years on this list, but the Beatles’ 1 commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the quartet’s split by reminding old fans of past glory and introducing a new generation to twenty-seven indelible Beatles tunes. Over 12,000,000 signs that sometimes you just can’t get enough of a good thing.
Britney Spears – Oops!…I Did It Again (2000)
Total U.S. Sales: 10,400,000
After avoiding one-hit-wonderdom with a string of successful singles from her debut album …Baby One More Time, Britney Spears next set her sights on avoiding the sophomore slump. Oops!…I Did It Again solidified Britney’s seat as the princess of pop, peppering the Billboard charts with hit singles and following her 14 million unit selling debut with another diamond certification to decorate her walls.
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory (2000)
Total U.S. Sales: 10,000,000
Putting a unique spin on the rap-rock that bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit had made stale by 2000, California’s Linkin Park assaulted an unsuspecting populace with Hybrid Theory, an album that spawned an unlikely three top five Billboard singles, “Crawling,” “One Step Closer,” and “In the End.”
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Total U.S. Sales: 12,169,000
Eminem’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album, The Marshall Mathers LP marked the rapper’s ascent to superstardom (and nationwide infamy), as well as his first trip past the diamond mark. The album sold well on the heels of a huge lead single and a healthy dose of controversy surrounding its content.
Shania Twain – Up! (2002)
Total U.S. Sales: 5,800,000 (double album–RIAA treats each disc as a single album)
After the towering success of her third album Come On Over (the tale of the tape reads like an impossible dream: 20 million copies sold in the US, 40 million worldwide, 121 weeks in the Billboard top 10), country star Shania Twain took a five year break before releasing her final studio album, Up!. Its diamond status proved that, even if her popularity had waned a bit, fans still clamored for new material.
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Total U.S. Sales: 10,830,000
In a landscape dominated by sugary pop and pounding beats, Norah Jones unleashed the quiet storm of Come Away With Me. Released on iconic jazz label Blue Note, Come Away With Me captivated the American public with its lilting lead single “Don’t Know Why.” Unusual is often the best order of the day, and Jones rode her surprise hit to one of the best selling albums of the early 2000s.
Eminem – The Eminem Show (2002)
Total U.S. Sales: 10,000,000
Following a career-defining album like The Marshall Mathers LP often presents an insurmountable challenge, in terms of both creative and commercial prospects. Continuing his turn of the century hot streak, Eminem used The Eminem Show to tone down the shocking theatrics, turn up the politics, and prove himself once again as both a spectacular writer and hit maker.
Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
Total U.S. Sales: 5,500,000 (double album–RIAA treats each disc as a single album)
Buoyed by the dual success of singles “The Way You Move” and the massive “Hey Ya,” Outkast followed the success of 2000’s Stankonia with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, an eclectic gargantuan that divided fans of classic ‘Kast. Positive reviews and indelible singles steamrolled that schism, however, making Speakerboxxx/The Love Below Outkast’s most commercially successful album.
Usher – Confessions (2004)
Total U.S. Sales: 10,017,000
The most recent addition to the Rushmore of ten million sellers, Usher’s Confessions mixed classic r n’ b with club ready beats, slow burners and party-starters, catapulting the already popular singer to the pinnacle of pop music. Four Billboard number one’s (and five top ten singles over all) all but assured Confessions major sales.