What do Lil Wayne, the Backstreet Boys, and Garth Brooks have in common? They’ve all released albums that sold over one million copies domestically in their respective first weeks on shelves. If industry projections are accurate, Taylor Swift is about to join that elite group thanks to Speak Now’s spectacular debut week.
The instant-million club is a strange place. The very first member was Garth Brooks, whose Live Garth set sold 1.08 million copies when it debuted back in 1998. At the time, no album had ever sold that many copies in its first sales frame. (The soundtrack for The Bodyguard had previously sold 1.06 million during one week in 1993, a few months after its release.) Swift’s victory this week brings things full circle in a couple of ways, then – not only is she the first country artist since Brooks to join the club, but she’s joining at a time when moving a million is similarly unheard of. In 1998 and 2010 alike, this is a rare accomplishment worth noting.
Things were different for a brief, wild period around the turn of the century. Brooks ushered in an era where pop stars routinely broke the million mark. It started in May 1999, when the Backstreet Boys’ Millenium sold 1.13 million in a week, but the following year was the really crazy one. In March 2000, *NSYNC shattered the previous record with an astounding 2.42 million-copy opening week for No Strings Attached. (*NSYNC’s record still holds today, by the way.) Britney Spears joined the club that May by selling 1.32 million copies of Oops!…I Did It Again. Eminem followed suit in June with 1.76 million copies of The Marshall Mathers LP, the first rap album in this category. Limp Bizkit became the club’s first (and last) hard-rock members that October, selling just over 1 million copies of Chocolate Starfish & the Hot Dog Flavored Water. In November, BSB lapped everyone else, scoring a second instant-million badge for Black & Blue (1.6 million). Finally, the Beatles rounded out the busy year by selling 1.26 million copies of their compilation 1 during Christmas week (again, somewhat after the week of release).
The club’s membership rolls began quieting down after 2000. *NSYNC went for two in a row with July 2001’s Celebrity (1.88 million). Eminem did the same a year later with June 2002’s The Eminem Show (1.3 million). No new members appeared until February 2004, when Norah Jones sold just over a million copies of Feels Like Home. That March, Usher landed an R&B record by selling 1.1 million copies of Confessions in a week. Another year went by before 50 Cent’s The Massacre moved 1.14 million units in March 2005. He was the last new member until June 2008, when Lil Wayne shifted almost exactly 1 million copies of Tha Carter III. And that was it until this week.
Swift’s entry into the instant-million club means more today than it might have 10 years ago. Many major artists this year have struggled to sell 500,000 copies in a week, let alone a million. As you can see from the list of previous million-sellers, Swift’s feat doesn’t necessarily guarantee her a long career in the future, but it’s undeniable proof of how important she is right now – and it’s fantastic news for a music industry that could really use some positive headlines.
What do you think of Taylor Swift’s incredible sales week? Surprised she pulled this off? Think she can sustain a high level of sales over the coming months? Which instant-million club member’s career do you think hers will most resemble in the end? Speak now in the comments.
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More on Taylor Swift from EW’s The Music Mix:
Taylor Swift’s Speak Now officially No. 1 album with 1M sold; see the week’s Top 10
Taylor Swift’s Speak Now sells a million in a week
Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’ on track for year’s biggest sales week
Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’: The 10 best lines from her new album
Taylor Swift, vinyl lover: She tells EW why she’s releasing ‘Speak Now’ as an LP