Keith answers readers' questions on Ex-American Idols, French singer Mylene, Bjork and more!

THE REAL AMERICAN IDOL

Dear Keith,

With all the hype surrounding "American Idol," I've been wondering: with regard to sales figures, who is the most successful "American Idol" contestant? Both Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" and Carrie Underwood's "Some Hearts" have been certified five times platinum. However, ("Idol's") Simon Cowell predicted that Carrie Underwood would out-sell all the rest and "Some Hearts" is still charting very high on The Billboard 200. It seems, though, that Kelly Clarkson's singles are more popular in terms of digital sales.

Can you provide a breakdown of the best selling singles and albums by "American Idol" contestants?

Kind Regards
Peter Linde
South Africa


Hello Peter,

It seems that we are really trying to figure out who is the biggest selling "American Idol," so, we only have to examine the sales of two people: Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Everyone else is quite a ways behind in terms of sales.

Clarkson has sold 8.3 million albums in the U.S. - 2.6 million of her "Thankful" debut and 5.7 million of "Breakaway" - according to Nielsen SoundScan. She has sold an additional 6.7 million digital tracks and another 642,000 singles (you know, those old fashioned CD or vinyl singles).

Underwood has moved 5.3 million of her first effort, "Some Hearts." Add to that another 3 million digital tracks and 458,000 singles.

Right now, Clarkson is still ahead, and with her "My December" album on the horizon, her sales will certainly increase. But with Underwood on her fourth top two Hot Country Songs hit ("Wasted" is at No. 1 this week, in fact), perhaps there's no stopping the Carrie train.



COMMENT VOUS FAIRE DIT CHARTS?

Dear Keith,

I discovered your weekly column a few years ago while briefly living in the United States and have checked in nearly every week since. I realize the column is focused on how acts that have had material released in America have done on the charts, but I was wondering if you might tell me of Mylene Farmer.

Here in France, Mylene is one of the biggest superstars our country has seen, and though I don't believe she's ever had anything released in the United States, I was wondering if any of her albums have racked up a notable amount of import sales, particularly "Anamorphosee."

Do you think one day an American label might release a special Farmer compilation there in America? Celine did it with "The French Album," afterall.

Best,
Eric Gaultier,
Lyon, France


Bonjour Eric!

This is where my six years of French in school completely fails me. Alas.

It's true, Mylene Farmer has not released any material in the U.S. Though, Nielsen SoundScan has tracked some of her imported material. All told, she has sold 14,000 in the U.S. via imports since SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. Mind you, SoundScan won't have all of Farmer's imports in their tracking system, so that 14,000 figure is likely not exact.

"Anamorphosee" has moved about 2,000 while "Innamoramento" is her biggest import seller, with 5,000 sold.

She's signed to Polydor in France, which is part of Universal Music. There is always hope that Universal could go out on a limb and release, say, an iTunes-only Farmer album in America. There's not much of a risk there and it could be a good test to see what kind of market there might be for her in the U.S.



BJORK INTRUDES POP

Hi Keith,

You answered my question about the Donnas a couple of years back (and I thank you for that!) but this time around I'm curious about Bjork. I'm excited about her new album "Volta" and her upcoming tour, which I'm seeing - a couple times - in New York.

It seems that "Volta" has her going more intentionally "pop" than her previous albums, especially considering she teamed up with Timbaland for a couple of tracks. Her last two full studio albums, "Medulla" and "Vespertine," were pretty "out there" in terms of content. I'm really excited to hear where she goes next!

I've always wondered about the sales of her albums. How have they been over the years? I'm especially curious about those two "out there" albums in particular. Do you think her first single from "Volta" - the Timbaland-produced "Earth Intruders" - has a chance of cracking the top 40? Can Timbaland work the same magic with Bjork that he has with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in the last year?

A longtime fan,
Bryan Chin
New York


Hi Bryan,

"Medulla" has sold 237,000 while "Vespertine" has moved 404,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her biggest seller remains "Debut," at 921,000.

Bjork has never exactly been mainstream, though she did have a handful of modern rock, dance and MTV hits in the '90s. Her new single "Earth Intruders" is bubbling under our Alternative/Modern Rock radio chart, so there is a chance it may reach the chart in the coming weeks.

"Earth Intruders" still sounds like a Bjork track, despite the Timbaland production of the song. Will it catch on with top 40 radio stations? I'd imagine it's fairly unlikely, since Bjork has never had any real presence at that format. In fact, she's only scored two Billboard Hot 100 hits: "Big Time Sensuality" (No. 88 in 1994) and "Earth Intruders" (which debuted on the April 28 chart at No. 84, but has since fallen off the list).

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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