There are only a handful of artists in the history of ever whose careers can even be mentioned in the same sentence with diva supreme Whitney Houston. Her illustrious Hot 100 and Billboard 200 resume read of almost untouchable heights and more records set than can be adequately mentioned in one article (“first female to debut at #1 on Billboard 200,” “first artist to sell 1 million albums in one week,” “first and only artist to have 7 consecutive #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100” merely touch the tip the iceberg).
But, as the age old adage goes: ‘records are made to be broken.’
For, just two weeks ago, Adele said ‘Hello’ to the Hot 100 and history books as her long-awaited return brought with it a massive 1.1 million sold in just one week. Seeing her name penciled atop the list of ‘most singles sold in one week’ tally, the song’s performance was nearly double that of former record-holder Flo-Rida‘s 636,000 sold for his 2009 single ‘Right Round.’ The impressive chart triumph was widely celebrated, that is, until some outlets began pitting its success against Houston’s signature hit ‘I Will Always Love You’ – which held the overall record for most singles sold in one week at 632,000.
Then, Nippy fans cried foul. The premise of their argument is simple: Billboard records should have context…
Let it be understood, regardless of how you slice it, Adele does rightfully hold the record for most singles sold in one week as reports have it ‘Hello’ was ushered to #1 on the heels of massive streaming and 1.1 million sold. But, therein lies the problem because that 1.1 million figure was solely comprised of digital downloads.
Houston, on the other hand, saw her record of 635,000 built on physical sales only. Granted, it may have been 20 years ago and physical copies were the only option at the time, but this does not discount the self-evident merit of nor testament to its massive popularity as fans did not have the convenience of simply clicking a button to purchase or stream it. Thusly, if such was an option to the fans of the early 90s, that number of 635,000 would be astronomically increased.
It should be noted this isn’t the first time fans of pioneering pop stars have burned Billboard using new charting metrics to oust the legends from their reigning spots in history books. Earlier this year Madonna fans were none-too-pleased when her ‘Rebel Heart’ album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 despite selling more than its competitor ‘Empire’ soundtrack. Prior to that, Michael Jackson fans were in uproar when ‘Roar’ singer Katy Perry tied his record for ‘most #1 singles from one album’ with her ‘Teenage Dream’ set.
The comparisons beg the question: should Billboard begin to note chart records in context? In other words, should Adele, and subsequent “new age” artists, have their records contextually titled as “most digital downloads in one week” or should “highest selling song in one week” remain?
Tidbit: In 2012, Adele also bested ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack to claim the title of ‘longest weeks at #1 on Billboard 200 by a female artist.’ This feat, however, was accomplished before Youtube began factoring streaming points into chart rankings.