By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Suggesting that familiarity breeds contentment, Adele's 21 wins the 2012 album sales race, repeating her feat of 2011 for the first back-to-back leader since Michael Jackson's Thriller topped sales in 1983 and 1984.
The British songbird's sophomore album sold 4.41 million copies in 2012, Nielsen SoundScan reports in year-end data that track sales from Jan. 2 to Dec. 30. Added to the 5.82 million copies sold in 2011, 21 became the 21st album in SoundScan history to surpass sales of 10 million.
Taylor Swift's Red, which has sold 3.11 million copies in just 10 weeks, lands in second place, the fourth time she's had an album in the year-end top three.
With 1.62 million copies sold, One Direction's debut Up All Night is No. 3. Follow-up Take Me Home, also released in 2012, is No. 5 after selling 1.34 million. Sandwiched in between at No. 4 with 1.46 million is Mumford & Sons' Babel, the year's biggest rock seller and the only rock entry to crack the top 10. Justin Bieber's Believe is No. 6 after selling 1.3 million.
Country sweeps the rest of the top 10: Carrie Underwood's Blown Away at No. 7 (1.2 million), Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines at No. 8 (1.1 million), Lionel Richie's Tuskegee at No. 9 (1.07 million) and Jason Aldean's Night Train at No. 10 (1.02 million).
Titles in the year-end top 10 were the only albums to sell more than 1 million copies each in 2012.
The year's song tsunami resulted in a record 1.34 billion tracks sold, up 5% from 2011's record-setting 1.27 billion. Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know led the digital song pack after selling 6.8 million downloads. Carly Rae Jepsen's YouTube copycat catalyst Call Me Maybe is second with 6.47 million, trailed by fun.'s We Are Young with 5.95 million. All three broke Adele's 2011 record for biggest-selling song in a year, earned after Rolling in the Deep racked up 5.81 million downloads.
Rounding out the year's top 10 are Maroon 5's Payphone (No. 4, 4.76 million), Nicki Minaj's Starships (No. 5, 3.98 million), One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful (No. 6, 3.89 million), fun.'s Some Nights (No. 7, 3.84 million), Kelly Clarkson's Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) (No. 8, 3.82 million), Psy's Gangnam Style (No. 9, 3.59 million) and Maroon 5's One More Night (No. 10, 3.46 million).
The muscle of Adele and Swift couldn't lift album sales, which fell 4.4% to 316 million from 330.6 million the year before. While digital album sales, which accounted for 37% of album sales, grew by 14% to a record 118 million, CD sales dropped 13%.
Overall music purchases reached a record high of 1.65 billion units in 2012, up 3.1% from last year's record. The boost results largely from digital's rise, though consumers continue to favor the physical album format.
Other nuggets from SoundScan's report:
- Up 4.1%, country showed the greatest gain among genres. Rock, which remains the biggest-selling genre, was up 1.4%. In album sales, all other genres slipped, with jazz (down 26%) and classical (20%) suffering the steepest declines.
- Most genres rose in track sales, particularly world music (111%), dance/electronic (36%) and blues (24%).
- With 34,000 copies, Jack White's Blunderbuss was the year's top-selling album on vinyl, a format that continues to flourish. Consumers bought 4.6 million vinyl albums in 2012, more than any other year in SoundScan history, breaking last year's record of 3.9 million. White eclipsed The Beatles' Abbey Road, at No. 2 with 30,000. It was 2011's vinyl leader.
- Rod Stewart's Merry Christmas, Baby was the top holiday album, though it failed to reach platinum status, ending the year at No. 15 with 858,000 copies. Behind him is Michael Bublé's Christmas, a 2011 release that sold 622,000 in 2012 for a total haul of 3.07 million. For the first time since 2008, no holiday disc landed in the top 10.
- During the holiday season of Nov. 5 to Dec. 30, Swift's Red was the best-selling album, moving 1.55 million copies. The biggest song in that period? With 1.78 million copies, it was a 1958 chestnut, Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, which outsold modern hits by Swift, Bieber, Bruno Mars, Psy, Rihanna and Maroon 5.