December always brings out the end-of-the-year retrospectives and top ten “best of” lists. This year has inspired decade recaps, and, inevitably, debates as to which albums best encapsulate the spirit of the 2000s thus far. Recently Nielsen Soundscan released its list of the top-selling albums of the decade, which includes very familiar names (‘NSYNC, Britney Spears, Eminem) and a newcomer who earned critical and commercial success (Norah Jones). So who ranks as number one—Beyonce? Jay Z? Usher?
No need to recheck your calendars—The Beatles are the biggest selling act of the past decade. According to Soundscan, the 2000 hits compilation 1 sold a staggering 11,499,000 copies; the runner up, ‘NSYNC’s No Strings Attached, moved 11,112,000 units. 1 also set a record for the fastest-selling album ever, with 3.6 million copies sold in its first week, and 12 million units sold in the third week (see CNN’s 2000 report). No wonder Rolling Stone named The Beatles the “World’s Hottest Band” on its March 1, 2001 cover, even at a time when Spears, ‘NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, and other bubblegum pop acts were ubiquitous.
These figures continue to astound—after all, the material (27 number one hits) was already available in various forms. Many fans probably owned the songs on vinyl, tape, or the original 1987 CDs. In addition, the band broke up almost 40 years ago; why is there continued interest?
Perhaps the convenience factor played a major part in sales. Casual fans who simply wanted the major hits could purchase one CD instead of the entire catalogue. To this day, fans cannot buy individual tracks from iTunes or other online music stores. In addition, back in 2000 and 2001, some of my friends purchased 1 to play for their kids. After hearing the songs, their children would sing along in the car or at home; therefore 1 successfully introduced the Beatles’ legendary music to younger generations.