Carrie Underwood may have recorded “Independence Day,” but it is Kelly Clarkson who made American Idol history on Wednesday (July 4), as the latest sales figures from Nielsen SoundScan confirm her current hit, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” to be the best-selling Idol single of all time, surpassing the long-time champion, Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.”
“Stronger” has sold 3,510,000 singles as of today, beating “Before He Cheats,” which has moved 3,509,000 copies since its release in 2006. “Stronger” ruled The Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, making it Clarkson’s longest-running No. 1 (“A Moment Like This” reigned for two weeks in 2002 and “My Life Would Suck Without You” ruled for two weeks in 2009). “Stronger” went to No. 1 on 11 different Billboard charts, including Hot Digital Songs, Adult Top 40, Hot Dance Club Play and the Adult Contemporary tally, where it is in pole position for the fifth consecutive week.
“Before He Cheats” peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100 and was on the chart for 64 weeks. Only five songs in the 54-year history of this survey have had longer runs. On Hot Country Songs, “Before He Cheats” was No. 1 for five weeks in November-December 2006.
“Stronger,” which rebounds 22-21 in its 27th week on the Hot 100, recently surpassed “No Air” by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown, which was the previous Idol sales runner-up to “Before He Cheats.” “No Air” peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 in 2008 and has sold 3,437,000 copies to date.
While Clarkson has bested Underwood’s record for best-selling single by an Idol, the latter is still ahead in total domestic album sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Underwood has sold 13,205,000 albums to date and Clarkson is close behind with 11,664,000. That fulfills a prediction made by Simon Cowell during the fourth season of American Idol. The theme was Billboard’s No. 1 hits and Underwood sang Heart’s “Alone.” In his comments after her performance, Cowell said, “Not only will you win this show, you will sell more records than any other previous Idol winner.”
It seemed like too bold a prediction in light of Clarkson’s success. Turns out, he was right. “I’m sure he must love that, doesn’t he?” Underwood laughs. But how did she feel at the time Cowell made that pronouncement? “I was very flattered and very happy,” she recalls. “But then I thought, ‘What are the other contestants going to think? They’re going to hate me.’ And it could have worked against me if people didn’t like Simon and were rooting for someone else.”
Just counting digital downloads of singles, Clarkson wins the race with 24,100,000 copies sold as of today, ahead of Underwood’s sales total of 22,535,000 digital songs.