Ask Billboard: Britney Spears' Career Album & Song Sales, on the 20th Anniversary of '...Baby One More Time'

Larry Busacca/WireImage
Britney Spears photographed in 1998 in New York City.

Plus, Louis Bell chimes in atop the Hot 100 & Lauren Daigle is the latest Christian-to-pop crossover.

Submit questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, tweet @gthot20

'ONE' TO WATCH

Hi Gary,

Jan. 12 marked the 20th anniversary of Britney Spears' debut album, ...Baby One More Time. In honor of the set's two decades, can we please get her U.S. sales updated?

Thank you,

Paul Callaghan
Portland, Oregon

Hi Paul,

…Baby One More Time has sold 10.6 million copies in the U.S. to date, making it the 17th-best-selling album since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991. It's one of just 24 albums to break the 10 million-sold barrier.

Meanwhile, 2000 follow-up Oops…I Did It Again has sold 9.2 million, a sum that ranks it No. 32.

Let's recap the sales of all 15 Spears albums that have hit the Billboard 200 chart:

10.6 million, …Baby One More Time; 9.2 million, Oops…I Did It Again; 4.4 million, Britney; 3 million, In the Zone; 1.8 million, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative

1.7 million, Circus; 1 million, Blackout; 803,000, Femme Fatale; 276,000, Britney Jean; 266,000, The Singles Collection

161,000, Playlist: The Very Best of Britney Spears; 154,000, Glory; 138,000, B in the Mix: The Remixes; 55,000, The Essential Britney Spears; 30,000, B in the Mix: The Remixes: Vol. 2

Spears has sold 33.6 million albums in the U.S. and ranks as the 18th-best selling album artist in the Nielsen era. Her songs have drawn 25 billion in cumulative radio airplay audience and 2.6 billion on-demand U.S. audio and video streams combined and she's sold 39.8 million singles (36.9 million via downloads).

On Jan. 12, 1999, "…Baby One More Time" held at its then-No. 4 high on the Billboard Hot 100, on its way to No. 1 on Jan. 30, the same date that the album would debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Also in the Jan. 30 issue, Billboard reviewed the album, a recap that stands up well 20 years later: "The teenage heartthrob who cut through the fourth-quarter clutter with the pop/R&B single '... Baby One More Time' delivers her debut album, a top 40-ready workout filled with hook-laden songs from the same bag as the title cut.

"Blessed with a sweet voice and a wholesome, girl-next-door image, Spears has hit a nerve among a teen fan base primed by the likes of Hanson, 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. ('Baby' was written and produced by Max Martin, best known for his work with the Backstreet Boys and Robyn.)

"Among this album's other highlights are the bouncy 'Sometimes,' the heartbreak ballad 'From the Bottom of My Broken Heart,' the rocking 'I Will Be There' and 'I Will Still Love You,' a duet with Don Philip.

"Although much of the world will be introduced to Spears by this album, she already tasted the limelight in a two-year run on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club.

"A talent to watch."

So was Martin: "…Baby One More Time" became the first of his 22 Hot No. 1s as a writer, and the only leader that he solely wrote. His most recent No. 1? By one of those guys from that group 'N Sync, Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!" in 2016.

BELL HAS A FAMILIAR RING

Hi Gary,

Thanks for all the fun trivia related to Halsey's "Without Me" in your story about the song hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 this week. Notably, both "Without Me" and the song it replaced at No. 1, Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next," were co-written by the female singers who took their self-assurance anthems to the top.

I see that Louis Bell is credited for producing "Without Me" (and by himself, for that matter), as well as co-writing it. Perhaps "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)," by Post Malone and Swae Lee, will rise to No. 1 next; that would give Bell successive No. 1s as both a writer and producer, as he also co-produced and co-wrote that collab.

Pablo Nelson
Oakland, California

Thanks Pablo.

My Spidey sense isn't telling me yet what No. 1 will be on the Hot 100 this coming week. Check the web tomorrow.

CHRISTIAN CROSSOVERS

Hi Gary,

I'm so proud of Lauren Daigle and her success with her hit "You Say," which, as you wrote about, becomes her first top 40 hit on the Hot 100 this week and is just the second song to go top 10 on both the Christian Airplay and Adult Pop Songs charts, after The Fray's "How to Save a Life."

But, why no mention of Amy Grant's pop chart success in the '90s?

Thanks,

Jen

Hi Jen,

I focused only on Christian Airplay and Adult Pop Songs in that post, given Daigle's success on each chart with "You Say." As the former tally began in 2003 and the latter, in 1996, in Billboard, I didn't flash back to Grant's impressive crossover of her own from Christian to pop earlier.

As far back as late 1986, Grant crowned the Hot 100 with Peter Cetera, thanks to their ballad "The Next Time I Fall." That duet followed her first top 40 Hot 100 hit, "Find a Way," which reached No. 29 in 1985.

In 1991, Grant dominated the Hot 100 again, as "Baby Baby" reigned for two weeks. Parent album Heart in Motion became her first of three Billboard 200 top 10s and spun off three more Hot 100 top 10s: "Every Heartbeat" (No. 2), "That's What Love Is For" (No. 7) and "Good for Me" (No. 8), as well as the No. 20 hit "I Will Remember You." (All five songs hit the top five on the Adult Contemporary chart.)

Grant returned to the Hot 100's top 20 in 1994 with "Lucky One" (which maintains a presence 25 years later: as proof, I heard it over the speakers in CVS last week! It's always fun to hear lost pop hits in stores, isn't it? But, don't you hate when they get interrupted by an intercom announcement that more cashiers are needed at the checkout counter? Of course, if you're in a long line, extra cashiers will make your wait shorter, so that's good. And, the cashiers at the CVS in town are very friendly. But, does that offset a good song getting interrupted? ...)

Um, right, Amy Grant.

Oh, she took a new version of "Baby Baby" to the Hot Christian Songs chart's top 10 as recently as 2016, for the original's 25th anniversary. The update, featuring Tori Kelly, reached No. 8.

Other artists have translated Christian music success to pop, including a Grant collaborator, Michael W. Smith, who followed Grant to the Hot 100's top 10 in 1991 with the No. 6-peaking ballad "Place in This World." Over 27 years later, he's currently on the AC chart with the catchy "A Million Lights."

Other Christian crossover acts have included Bob Carlisle, MercyMe and Plumb, who this week debuts her latest single, "Crazy About You," at No. 39 on Christian Airplay.