The UK Singles Chart celebrated 60 years and the Official Charts Company (OCC) has compiled a book on The Million Sellers. Despite fear over the crumbling music industry, its downfall and saviour could still come from the internet as 2012 was another record-breaking year for singles sales. There are still only 123 entries that have reached the cream of the crop and earned their place as part of the million-sellers.
The first million seller came the year the UK chart began. Bing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter Orchestra sold 1.01 million singles in 1942 and ranks 116th on the chart. Little did he know that he would be setting a precedent for chart-busting Christmas number ones like Wham!’s double A-side Last Christmas / Everything She Wants. Not to mention making it to the hallowed OCC excel spread sheets of million-selling singles.
The 90s had the highest number of performers to make the list in any decade. It was a banner year in 1997 when a total of nine names were added including the number one spot of all time. Elton John’s iconic double A-side Something About The Way You Look Tonight /Candle In The Wind 97 commemorated Diana Princess of Wales’ death and became the anthem paying tribute to her life and the nation’s tragedy, selling 4.9 million singles. The song outstripped Band Aid’s 1984 tune Do They Know It’s Christmas? that came second place and saw 3.69 million copies of the single fly off the shelves in aid of poverty.
The year the world lost Diana also said goodbye to the New York hip-hop artist The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls and he was immortalised by Puff Daddy (as he was formerly known) and Faith Evans in I’ll Be Missing You. This heart breaking rap-ballad came in 22nd with 1.56 million singles sold in honour of the rapper’s close relationship to the two performers and proved the 90s was the decade of anthems.
The highest selling year, ‘97 was not all pop gold like Robbie William’s Angels that only got to 81 with 1.11 million. Guilty pleasure pop act Aqua had their hit record Barbie Girl and reached number 13 with a total of 1.79 million sales and Teletubies unforgettable number one Teletubies Say “Eh-Oh” managed a staggering 83 on the list, hot on the on-again off-again Take That star, Robbie Williams’ heels with 1.11 million.
After the influx of singles-grabbing millions in the 90s, the noughties saw a drop off and it was probably the home of singles buying, Woolworths who felt that pinch the hardest. The former staple of British high streets saw out the decade in 2009 by shutting their final stores and like singles they moved online.
In 2012 album stats continued to decline as the majority of sales still come from CDs though physical sales are decreasing. Singles, however, are predominantly sold in digital format and continue to break records in digital sales each year .
There’s no universal nickname for this decade yet but there has already been ten million-selling singles since the beginning of 2012 and after only 15 in the 00s it seems they are set to make a comeback. The last week in 2012 saw 1.3 million albums sold in the UK and 5.6 million singles which was the biggest selling week for both formats.
So far only one song has made it into the top 50 million-selling singles in UK Chart history and that was Adele’s 2011 heartbreak ballad Someone Like you. The best-selling track of 2011 made it to 42 on the list with 1.36 million sales. It was the biggest song of the decade and was released on the indie label XL Records, proving that signing to a big label may not make the biggest splash.
Adele was the first singer of this decade to sell more than a million copies. The track spent four weeks in February 2011 at the number one spot before making a surprise return a month later after the star’s controversial appearance at the Brit Awards. The scandal had nothing to do with her rendition of the song but came from her flipping the bird after an interruption during her acceptance speech to make way for Blur’s performance. The British singer-songwriter also missed out that year on the Mercury Prize Award for her highly acclaimed 21 that was named by the OCC as the best-selling album of the 21st century.
Urban crossover superstar Rihanna has already made three appearances amidst the chart-toppers this decade. At number 76 is We Found Love featuring Calvin Harris that shifted 1.13 million copies in 2011. The year before she also collaborated with Eminem for Love The Way You Lie and it reached 100 with 1.05 million sales. In 2010 she has another million-selling single in Only Girl (In The World), racking up 1.04 million singles sold, at number 103.
Unlike the highest selling reality TV star, Will Young who sits happily at number 15 from his phenomenally selling 2002 Anything Is Possible / Evergreen of 1.79 million, Matt Cardle is the only pop singer of his ilk this decade to make it as a million-seller with his 2010 Christmas number one When We Collide sitting at the bottom in 123rd with a cool million. Whether this is the diminishing power of the X Factor or less stock in Christmas number ones, it’s hard to tell but one is probably a symptom of the other.
Singles lend themselves to digital sales and even though it’s a slow process they give us a glimmer of hope for the music industry’s future: that independent labels can have hits and maybe that TV “talent” shows are a bit boring and done already. If nothing else, the UK Singles Chart can bring you back to a nostalgia of pick ‘n’ mix and maybe even cassettes so one day you can tell your grandchildren that it was better, simpler and the most people stole was a penny sweet, which cost a penny in those days!