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Taylor Swift may be polarizing, but she’s still raking in the cash. Last week, Reputation—Swift’s sixth studio album—became the first record in over two years to sell two million physical copies. Before then, Adele’s 25 was the last album to hit (and surpass) the two million mark. But while 25 sold two million copies almost instantaneously (within three days of its release, to be exact), it took Reputation 18 weeks to achieve that same milestone. Meanwhile, Swift’s 1989 sold two million copies in just three weeks while Red sold two million copies in five weeks. In fact, it hasn’t taken Swift this long to sell two million album copies since 2006, when Taylor Swift finally managed to reach two million after a whopping 61 weeks.
Reputation’s slow rise to two million has almost nothing to do with its quality. According to Billboard, traditional album sales have been declining since 2001 and will likely continue to decline as more and more listeners opt to stream their music. In all honesty, it likely won’t be long until the two million copy album, like Blockbuster and HMV (RIP), becomes nothing but a long-forgotten myth.
However, a handful of recently released high quality records did very nearly give Reputation a run for its money in terms of traditional album sales. The relative success of those albums isn’t particularly shocking (they were all released by critically and commercially successful artists). But taking a look at 25 and Reputation’s closest competition is still super fascinating in a “this is what people are willing to fork over 15 dollars to buy” kind of way—especially because expected chart-toppers like The Weeknd and Bruno Mars tend to excel when it comes to online streaming but falter when it comes to traditional album sales.
So to give you an idea of who Swift and Adele should keep an eye on over the next few years, here are the five (recent) albums that came the closest to selling two million copies. Keep in mind that we based our numbers off of Nielsen Music’s end-of-year reports from 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Selling just over 1.6 million copies by the end of 2016, Drake’s Views is the only Canadian representative on this list. But it’s also a worthy one—Views gave us “One Dance,” “Controlla,” and the unforgettable “Hotline Bling.”
If Lemonade hadn’t been on this list, we might have revolted. Beyoncé’s seminal visual album didn’t sell as many copies as 25, nor did it win an Album of the Year Grammy. But it’s one of Queen Bey’s most widely talked-about, beloved, and deeply personal albums, featuring numerous instant classics including “Sorry,” “Formation,” and “Hold Up.” It also sold around 1.5 million copies by the end of 2016—a pretty impressive feat when you consider that high-profile albums Anti and Dangerous Woman only sold around 600,000 and 300,000, respectively, that same year.
Apart from Reputation, Divide is apparently the only 2017 album to have sold more than one million copies—fitting, considering that Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran have been close friends and collaborators for several years. Sheeran’s X was also one of the highest-selling albums of 2015, so if we had to guess we’d bet that Sheeran, like Swift and Adele, will be one of the few artists who manages to hold on to his small but mighty album-buying fanbase for a little while longer.
Out of all the albums on this list, we were probably most surprised to see Traveller, country artist Chris Stapleton’s debut studio album. Although it dropped in May 2015, it didn’t make waves until 2016 when it managed to sell over one million copies—not too shabby for a newcomer. His subsequent two albums— 2017’s From A Room: Volume 1 and Volume 2—didn’t perform as well. But after featuring on Justin Timberlake’s “Say Something” earlier this year, we wouldn’t be surprised if Stapleton’s next album comes close to or even passes the two million mark.
Like Lemonade, DAMN. unfortunately didn’t win an Album of the Year Grammy. But like Views did for Drake, DAMN. helped win over listeners who stubbornly resisted Lamar’s talent after he dropped the critically praised To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015. It also introduced Lamar’s music to those who were previously unaware of its existence. DAMN. sold just under one million copies in 2017, but with an entire movie soundtrack and five additional Grammy wins now under his belt we’re hoping Lamar’s next album will far exceed that amount.