25 Million Drops In the Bucket: Why Adele's Continued Success Matters For All of Us

According to @chartnews, last week 27,772 people either visited their local record store or went online to purchase Adele's 21. Even though the album came out here in the states on February 22, 2011 there will still 27,772 people out there who decided last week was the week they were finally going to buy the album.

I often wonder how something like that happens. Adele has been everywhere this year (metaphorically speaking; don't remind me about your canceled tour tickets), so it's hard to imagine people just now discovering her. This is an album that has sold 25 million units worldwide, after all.

We'll get back to the 27,772 in a bit, but let us consider for a moment the first 25 million. It's sold more than 99.9999 percent of albums ever released, and yet when you look at a list of best-selling albums of all time it still looks kind of bush-league.

And sitting at the top of that list is an album that was released 30 years ago today: Michael Jackson's Thriller.

We'll probably never know how many copies Thriller has officially sold. It could be 110 million. It could be 65 million. It's at least 42 million, if Wikipedia is to be believed. No matter what number you go with, it's a staggering about of copies.


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What's less staggering is the fact that of the Top 20 best-selling albums of all time (based on claimed sales), only one of them has been released since the year 2000. The lone
entry in the Top 20 of the post-millennium is The Beatles' 1.

Both of these facts make sense. Albums that have been out longer have been available for purchase for a greater period of time and they don't have to worry about Soundscan calling them out if the numbers had been fudged before 1991. The Beatles are among the few acts beloved enough to be able to sell that many units in a post-Napster world.

I find all of these numbers to be kind of sad, really, because when you start to think about it, it's hard to believe there will ever be another album that sells as well as Rumours (40 million units claimed), let alone Thriller.

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Justin Allen Norwood
Justin Allen Norwood

Is she close to beating out Jagged little pill yet? Hopefully not. I like Adele, but she's no Alanis.

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