Adele’s ‘21’ passes ‘Thriller’ for Top 10 chart longevity

Adele's '21' album surpasses Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' for Top 10 chart longevity.
(Jonathan Short / Associated Press)

Last week, Adele’s “21” album dropped out of the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 ranking of national album sales for the first time since it was released last year and subsequently turned into one of the biggest-selling albums in pop music history.

Its exit from the Top 10 after 78 weeks bordered on the unnecessarily cruel: that left it tied with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This week, however, “21” has returned to the Top 10 for a 79th week, edging past Jackson’s landmark collection.

According to figures from the Nielsen SoundScan sales monitoring service, “21” logged an additional 23,000 copies last week, enough to nudge it back up two slots to No. 10. Overall, the album has sold 9.76 million copies in the U.S., and it appears to be certain to pass the 10 million mark before the end of the year. The Recording Industry Assn. of America has certified only 108 albums as having sold 10 million or more copies in the U.S.

At 79 weeks, “21” now boasts the greatest longevity in the Top 10 in 50 years. But it has a long way to go to catch the all-time Top 10 record holders, all soundtracks or cast albums from the early days of the Billboard album chart.


Next in its sights would be the “South Pacific” soundtrack from the 1958 film, which remained in the Top 10 for 90 weeks. “The Sound of Music” original cast album from 1960 stayed even longer, spending more than two years -- 105 weeks -- in the Top 10.

No. 2 on the all-time Top 10 longevity list is the 1961 “West Side Story,” which posted 106 weeks. After that, it’s a long, long ride to catch the album that lived the longest in the Top 10: “My Fair Lady,” the 1956 original cast album that spent a phenomenal 173 weeks in the Top 10. In addition, it spent 292 weeks -- almost six years -- in the Top 40 and 480 weeks in all on the chart.

That total chart lifespan is bettered by just two albums: Johnny Mathis’ “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” from 1958, which surpassed “My Fair Lady” by 10 weeks, and the all-time longevity champ: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” with more than 762 weeks, according to the seventh edition (2010) of Joel Whitburn’s “Top Pop Albums” book of Billboard chart information.


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