After taking a seven-year hiatus from the music business, Justin Timberlake crooned his way back to the Billboard charts this week, selling a whopping 968,000 copies of The 20/20 Experience in its first week of release. Those numbers make it one of the fastest-selling records of all time, or more accurately, since Soundscan started tracking sales in 1991.
The feat got us thinking about other impressive opening weeks, like Taylor Swift's recent streak of dominance, or that time N Sync's sophomore LP went double platinum during its first seven days of availability. Keep in mind that albums like Eminem's The Eminem Show and Whitney Houston's soundtrack for The Bodyguard sold over a million copies in weeks other than their first. We're only talking about projects that sold massively out the gate.
These are The 25 Biggest First-Week Album Sales in Music History.
Kanye West, Late Registration: 860,000
Release Date: 8/30/2005
The release of Late Registration couldn't have been executed better. Kanye West was on the cover of TIME that week. "Gold Digger" was buzzing, climbing towards its 10-week stay at No. 1 on the pop charts. And the Friday after it dropped, 'Ye went on national TV and said that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." It was a perfect storm, and for a moment, Yeezy was easily the most famous man in America. The first-week sales of his sophomore album, almost double that of his debut, proved it.
50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin': 872,000
Release Date: 2/6/2003
After recovering from his near-fatal shooting, 50 Cent hit the mixtape scene, lit the streets on fire, and became the most talked about up-and-coming rappers in hip-hop. After he signed with Eminem of Dr. Dre and dropped No. 1 hit "In Da Club," <em>Get Rich Or Die Tryin'</em> was one of the most anticipated albums ever. The album's first-week performance reflects that.
Shania Twain, Up!: 874,000
Release Date: 11/18/2002
Up! holds a number of distinctions. It's Shania Twain's third consecutive diamond LP, it's her fastest-selling record, and it's also her last release. Who needs to keep making music when you've sold nearly 100 million albums?
The Beatles, Anthology 1: 885,000
Release Date: 11/20/1995
It should come as no surprise that the Beatles still put up huge numbers well into the '90s. Anthology 1 had the advantage of re-worked John Lennon demo "Free as a Bird," which was marketed as the band's first new song in a quarter century and actually featured new vocals and instrumentation from the three living members.
Creed, Weathered: 887,000
Release Date: 11/20/2001
Before Creed was a punchline, they were, technically, the biggest rock band out. Weathered topped the Billboard 200 chart for eight consecutive weeks, and went on to sell six million units.
Garth Brooks, Sevens: 897,000
Pearl Jam, Vs.: 950,000
Release Date: 10/19/1993
After their massively successful debut, Ten, the pressure was on for the grunge band to repeat their success. They did exactly that, selling close to a million copies of Vs. in its first week of release, and setting what was at the time the record for first-week sales, a title the album held for five years. The album is certified seven-times platinum.
Kanye West, Graduation: 957,000
Release Date: 9/11/2007
Graduation had two distinct advantages over Kanye's previous releases. The record had the dual impact of "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (his first true street anthem) and "Stronger" (one of his biggest crossover hits) which helped firm up and expand Yeezy's already massive fan base. He also got into a highly publicized sales battle with 50 Cent which proved to be a brilliant marketing maneuver.
In the end, Kanye not only bested 50 in sales, but as a cultural force, too. The showdown determined whether the future of hip-hop would go for more of the dated gangsta rap tropes 50 followed or the more eccentric approach Kanye championed. We know which style has dominated since.
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV: 964,000
Release Date: 8/29/2011
After establishing himself as a cultural icon and Billboard behemoth, Lil Wayne found himself sitting in a jail cell. When he finally got out, hip-hop fans were excited to see Lil Wayne hit the mic again, but one question lingered: Would Weezy come out and unleash the beast like 2Pac in '96 or would he be damaged goods like Shyne post-prison? When the album dropped, Weezy's die hard fan base showed up (they always do, even Rebirth went gold) and the album sold close a million copies in one week, even though the consensus was that he'd lost a step.
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience: 968,000
Release Date: 3/15/2013
It doesn't matter that Justin Timberlake took a long time off, or that Kanye West isn't a fan of "Suit & Tie," or that people compared his latest sounds to Robin Thicke. Justin Timberlake dominated the charts with his third solo album, The 20/20 Experience, and moved nearly one million units in its first week of release. The lead single, "Suit & Tie," peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100, and "Mirrors" is currently at No. 1 in the UK. JT is, without question, back to (music) business.
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III: 1,006,000
Release Date: 6/10/2008
Lil Wayne had been in the rap game for years before he became its hottest commodity. He found his voice in the mid-Aughts and, leading up to the release of Tha Carter III, went on an unprecedented run where he flooded the market with fire mixtapes and monster features. The anticipation for his next project became immense. On Like Father, Like Son cut "Don't Die" he rapped, "I'm one sellout record away from being famous." He found that "sellout record" with No. 1 hit "Lollipop." When C3 finally hit shelves, Weezymania was at an all time high.
Norah Jones, Feels Like Home: 1,022,000
Release Date: 2/10/2004
At the time, Feels Like Home was the first album to sell a million first-week copies since The Eminem Show two years earlier. Her effort was the second-best selling album of 2004, and stands as the fifth largest opening week for a female artist. The single "Sunrise" landed Jones a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Taylor Swift, Speak Now: 1,047,000
Release Date: 10/25/2010
Taylor Swift's third album, Speak Now, spawned six singles, with the lead being "Mine." The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on the back of strong digital sales. All 14 songs on the album charted on the Hot 100. To boot, Speak Now has been certified quadruple platinum.
Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water: 1,055,000
Release Date: 10/17/2000
Following up the wildly successful Significant Other was a tough task, but Limp Bizkit succeeded with flying colors. Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water sold over a million copies in one week, at that point the fastest-selling rock record of all time. Some speculate that the band managed this task thanks to a fan base that wasn't just male. According to MTV's then-director of music programming, Amy Doyle, the hook-y songwriting helped draw a notable female audience. WXRK's music director described the group's appeal another way: ''For some unknown weird reason, Fred has become a sex symbol.''
Garth Brooks, Double Live: 1,085,000
Usher, Confessions: 1,096,000
Release Date: 3/23/2004
For Usher's fourth album, the R&B star set his ambitions higher, broadening his scope and incorporating additional producers. With the debut of high-profile Lil Jon collaboration "Yeah!" three months earlier, the album was set to be a crossover smash. Although dogged by problems with its marketing and release schedule (it was originally supposed to be released in November 2003), the LP finally dropped in March, sold 1.096 million records, and became Usher's first No. 1 album.
Lady Gaga, Born This Way: 1,108,000
Release Date: 5/23/2011
Lady Gaga rose to the top with her 2008 debut, The Fame, and followed up with her best-selling record to date, Born This Way. The album charted in the top five of every major market. It also sold 1.108 million in its first week, a figure largely aided by the album's $0.99 selling price on Amazon.
Backstreet Boys, Millennium: 1,134,000
Release Date: 5/18/1999
Backstreet Boys prepped for Y2K with one of the best selling records of all time. The album stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 10 non-consecutive weeks and broke records by selling 500,000 copies on its first day. It was the best selling album of 1999 and has sold 28 million copies worldwide.
50 Cent, The Massacre: 1,141,000
Release Date: 3/8/2005
With the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50 Cent became one of the biggest rap stars in the world. When The Massacre rolled around, 50 had mastered his marketing technique. He started headline-grabbing beefs with Jadakiss and Fat Joe to get the streets buzzing. At the same time, he dropped No. 1 pop smash "Candy Shop" to hedge his bets. What's more impressive than the number of copies sold is the amount of time it took. The album was originally supposed to be released on March 8 but was pushed up five days to counter Internet leaks. 50 not only had some of the biggest first-week sales ever, but did it in a short week.
Taylor Swift, Red: 1,208,000
Britney Spears, Oops!...I Did It Again: 1,319,000
Release Date: 3/27/2000
Britney had already set sales records with her debut, ...Baby One More Time, the previous year; the album went double platinum within a month, on the strength of the title track's pop chart performance. A few months after that, she graced the cover of Rolling Stone with an iconic, controversial, and provocative photo. In Summer 1999, she toured North America, recorded a new album, and then went overseas, appearing on TV and touring in Europe. With so much lead-up to her sophomore album's release, the record sold 1.3 million copies in its first week, and remains the highest one-week sales numbers for a female artist.
Backstreet Boys, Black & Blue: 1,591,000
Release Date: 11/21/2000
Black & Blue broke an international sales record, selling over five million copies worldwide in its first week. It was the last Backstreet Boys effort during the era of boy bands, and it was the first album on which a majority of the songwriting was done by the artists themselves. BSB became the first group in Soundscan history to sell over a million first-week copies with back-to-back albums.
Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP: 1,760,000
Release Date: 5/23/2000
The Slim Shady LP made Eminem a pop star and set the stage for the release of his highly anticipated follow-up. Like "My Name Is," first single "The Real Slim Shady" sparked controversy for calling out the teen idols like Christina Aguilera and 'N Sync. Eminem offered an angry middle-finger waving alternative to the top acts of the day, and fans showed up in droves. There really were a million of us who dressed like him, cursed like him, and just didn't give a fuck like him.
N Sync, Celebrity: 1,880,000
Release Date: 7/24/2001
N Sync hasn't released an album in over a decade, and there's still no artist who can best their first-week sales. It was on their third and final album, Celebrity, that Timberlake emerged as the soulful lead singer, leading him into his own solo career. But before the five members split ways, Celebrity dropped to massive fanfare before being certified five-times platinum.
N Sync, No Strings Attached: 2,416,000
Release Date: 3/21/2000
The boy band pandemonium surrounding 'N Sync began in 1997 with the release of their self-titled debut album. Three years later, the group released their second effort, No Strings Attached, and the album sold 2.4 million copies in its first week, setting a record that has yet to be broken. Despite fierce competition from the Backstreet Boys, this N Sync's claim to the boy band throne. No Strings Attached was eventually certified seven-times platinum.