Most music lists are so flattering that any artist would love to be on them. The most #1 hits! The longest-running #1 albums! The most Grammys! It’s an endless orgy of the first, the fastest, the longest and the greatest.
This is a list that no artist would want to be on. These are the worst-selling #1 albums between May 1991, when Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard, and the end of 2006. (I excluded 2007 and 2008 albums on the theory that they’re still adding to their totals. Also, singling out low-selling albums from the past two years, when sales have been down industry-wide, would be like shooting fish in a barrel.)
Let me reiterate that all of these albums reached #1. (In fact, they all debuted at #1.) For one week (tellingly, none managed a second week on top) each of these albums was the best-seller in America. But they didn’t sustain over the long haul. None of these 25 albums has sold more than 830,000 copies over the course of its entire run. Lil’ Wayne did better than that in his first week with Tha Carter III.
The list includes a few artists who are known only by committed music fans. But it also includes a surprising number of household names, including such megastars as Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. Duds, it seems, can happen to anybody.
Just ask Marilyn Manson, who has had the lowest-selling #1 album of the year twice since 1991. No other performer can match that claim–or would want to. Mechanical Animals was the lowest-selling #1 album of 1998. The Golden Age Of Grotesque was the lowest-selling chart-topper of 2003.
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