The Queen of Pop?

Last night at 1am my friend Jalani tweeted that MJ’s Thriller sold 32 million copies (it’s actually 29 million copies, AND that number is only in the U.S. making it that much more impressive). I promptly replied that while that number is extremely high, he’s also had almost 30 years to reach that mark, not to mention a huge posthumous record sale surge.

By contrast, Adele’s 21 has sold 12 million worldwide in only one year (!!!) and Jalani’s reply, “Jeez-us!”, pretty much sums it up: that is one incredible feat. To put it further in perspective, 21 has sold one million copies per month since its release.

This is not to say that Adele is more or less talented than MJ, and we can’t even determine who’s more influential until much later on in history. (I’m sure some people wouldn’t even want to entertain the idea that Adele will be more influential than MJ but any objective commenter can realize that quite simply, none of us knows yet.) What we do know is that right now Adele is one of the biggest names in the music business and there’s a good case to be made that she is floating the record industry and the RIAA.

Assuming every copy of 21 cost at least $10 – and physical copies and and deluxe editions often cost more than that – that’s at least $120,000,000 in direct contributions to the RIAA. She is riding the best one year total since Billboard announced that Taylor Swift’s Fearless, at 6.3 million copies, was the best-selling album in the five year total of 2004-2009. (As of March 2011, that total is up to 8.7 million and as far as I could tell, nothing besides 21 has topped that since then.)

While the numbers for 2011 are still out, Adele easily will top the charts at #1, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way should come in at #2 and #3 is anyone’s guess. Can Rihanna make a late push or will her sales spill over into 2012? Coldplay perhaps, but unlikely because of its late release date. The point in all of this is that right now, the music industry has no clear front runner besides the shy 23 year-old from Tottenham.


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