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Ask Billboard: Kelly Clarkson’s Career Sales & ‘Wild Thoughts’ About Rihanna

A recap of Clarkson's top sellers & Rihanna likely has added another No. 2 Hot 100 hit. Plus: the hottest new musical genre.

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

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Hi Gary! Since <a href=””>@kelly_clarkson</a>&#39;s releasing her Atlantic Records debut,  can u please recap her US sales with RCA? tnx <a href=””>#AskBillboard</a></p>&mdash; Padme (@padmeamidala098) <a href=”″>August 31, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Hi Padme,

In honor of Kelly Clarkson‘s return Sept. 7 with “Love So Soft,” the lead single from her first Atlantic Records album, Meaning of Life, due Oct. 27, let’s recap the career sales (in the U.S., through the week ending Aug. 31, according to Nielsen Music) of the original American Idol queen, and future member of The Voice.

Album Sales
6,355,000, Breakaway (2004); 2,800,000, Thankful (2003); 1,129,000, Stronger (2011); 1,004,000, All I Ever Wanted (2009); 942,000, Wrapped in Red (2013); 858,000, My December (2007); 728,000, Greatest Hits: Chapter One (2012); 284,000, Piece by Piece (2015); 17,000, iTunes Session (EP) (2012)

Clarkson’s career U.S. album sales stand at 14,150,000. She’s the second-best-selling Idol alum, in terms of albums sold: Carrie Underwood leads with 16,389,000.

And …

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Best-Selling Digital Songs
4,954,000, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”; 2,973,000, “Since U Been Gone”; 2,855,000, “My Life Would Suck Without You”; 2,712,000, “Don’t You Wanna Stay” (Jason Aldean with Clarkson); 2,128,000, “Breakaway”

2,079,000, “Because of You”; 2,009,000, “Already Gone”; 1,919,000, “Mr. Know It All”; 1,834,000, “Catch My Breath”; 1,644,000, “Behind These Hazel Eyes”

1,306,000, “Walk Away”; 1,211,000, “Never Again”; 1,035,000, Miss Independent”; 909,000, “Heartbeat Song”; 882,000, “Dark Side”

823,000, “I Do Not Hook Up”; 813,000, “Piece by Piece”; 738,000, “A Moment Like This”; 621,000, “Because of You” (Reba McEntire duet with Clarkson); 526,000, “People Like Us”

Clarkson has sold 35,173,000 song downloads.

As for why she’s segueing from Idol to NBC’s The Voice (back Sept. 25), click here for Friday’s (Sept. 8) Billboard News report.


Hi Gary,

It looks like Rihanna‘s current single “Wild Thoughts,” by DJ Khaled and featuring both Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, has peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, as it dips to No. 4 on the Sept. 16-dated chart after seven weeks at the runner-up spot.

If it doesn’t ascend to No. 1 (a perhaps unlikely move with Taylor Swift‘s “Look What You Made Me Do” having soared to the top), Rihanna would enter an elite club. How so? “Thoughts” would mark Rihanna’s third song to peak just one spot shy of No. 1.

That got me thinking: who are the other music acts with three or more songs that have peaked at No. 2? I analyzed the Hot 100’s archives to find out.

Here are the acts that have achieved three or more No. 2 hits and … good news for Rihanna: they include some of the most iconic artists in music history, along with a few that may surprise. And, one has collected four No. 2 hits in the past decade: Swift.

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Artists With the Most No. 2-Peaking Billboard Hot 100 Hits

Madonna: “Frozen,” “I’ll Remember,” “Cherish,” “Express Yourself,” “Causing a Commotion,” “Material Girl” (along with 12 No. 1s)

Carpenters: “Yesterday Once More,” “Hurting Each Other,” “Superstar”/”Bless the Beasts and Children,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” (three No. 1s)

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”/”Long as I Can See the Light,” “Travelin’ Band”/”Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Green River,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Proud Mary”

Mariah Carey: “Shake It Off,” “Loverboy,” “Endless Love” (with Luther Vandross), “Can’t Let Go” (18 No. 1s)

Diddy: “I Don’t Wanna Know” (Mario Winans feat. Enya & P. Diddy), “I Need a Girl (Part One)” (P. Diddy feat. Usher & Loon), “Satisfy You” (Puff Daddy feat. R. Kelly), “Been Around the World” (Puff Daddy & The Family feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Mase) (five No. 1s)

Janet Jackson: “Any Time, Any Place”/”And On and On,” “Come Back to Me,” “Rhythm Nation,” “Let’s Wait Awhile” (10 No. 1s)

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Elton John: “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Daniel” (nine No. 1s)

Elvis Presley (who career predated the Hot 100’s 1958 launch by two years): “Burning Love,” “Return to Sender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” (the latter three billed to Elvis Presley with The Jordanaires) (seven No. 1s)

Taylor Swift: “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)” (with Zayn), “I Knew You Were Trouble.,” “Today Was a Fairytale,” “You Belong With Me” (five No. 1s)

Ashanti: “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby),” “Mesmerize” (Ja Rule feat. Ashanti), “What’s Luv?” (Fat Joe feat. Ashanti) (two No. 1s)

The Beatles: “Yellow Submarine,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “Twist and Shout.” (20 No. 1s; additionally, Paul McCartney has notched two solo No. 2 hits and George Harrison and John Lennon each earned one.)

Blood, Sweat & Tears: “And When I Die,” “Spinning Wheel,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

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En Vogue: “Don’t Let Go (Love),” “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Hold On”

Jackson 5: “Dancing Machine,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Mama’s Pearl” (four No. 1s; and, Michael Jackson added two solo: “The Girl Is Mine,” with McCartney, and “Rockin’ Robin”)

Prince: “U Got the Look,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Purple Rain” (the latter two billed to Prince and the Revolution) (five No. 1s)

R. Kelly: “Ignition,” “Satisfy You” (Puff Daddy feat. R. Kelly), “I Believe I Can Fly” (two No. 1s)

Linda Ronstadt: “Don’t Know Much” (feat. Aaron Neville), “Somewhere Out There” (Ronstadt & James Ingram), “When Will I Be Loved” (one No. 1)

Usher: “I Need a Girl (Part One)” (P. Diddy feat. Usher & Loon), “My Way,” “You Make Me Wanna…” (nine No. 1s)

Of these acts, only three fell short of ever reaching No. 1: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blood, Sweat & Tears and En Vogue.

Honorable mention for Glenn Frey, who notched two solo No. 2 hits – “You Belong to the City” and “The Heat Is On” – after the Eagles reached No. 2 with “Lyin’ Eyes,” featuring his lead vocals.

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And, that brings us to Rihanna, now with three No. 2-peaking Hot 100 hits (it appears): “Wild Thoughts” (likely), 2009’s “Run This Town” (by JAY-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West) and her debut, 2005’s “Pon De Replay.”

So, even if “Wild Thoughts” has peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, Rihanna has joined several other legendary acts with three or more No. 2 hits.

Jesse Rifkin
Washington, D.C.

Great research, Jesse.

And, good point about Rihanna now standing alongside incredibly lofty company. It also stands to reason that if you’re going to get so many No. 1s – The Beatles (20) and Carey (18), both on the list above, are the only acts with more No. 1s than Rihanna, with 14 – you might come up just a bit short sometimes.

(Sort of like how the New England Patriots have lost two Super Bowls … among their five championships since 2002. Sorry, as a fan, I needed a reminder of their wins after Thursday’s season opener …)


Hi Gary,

With a multitude of music niches, is there a genre of music covering a person possessing less-than-melodious vocal skills but who nonetheless creates a classic recording? I’m thinking along the lines of Joe Cocker‘s “You Are So Beautiful,” Louis Armstrong‘s “What a Wonderful World” or Jimmy Durante‘s “September Song.”

Perhaps the genre name “contrasts” would be appropriate. In every one of these types of songs, a beautiful melody is accompanied by a more gruff vocal … but it works.

Allen Epstein

Hi Allen,

This is one of the more intriguing “Ask Billboard” questions that I can remember. I’m all for it: “contrasts,” it is!

Who’d be on a Hot Contrasts Billboard chart? I’ll add these five artists who have recorded noteworthy ballads all given a nice … contrast … thanks to their raspy voices, which add grit and character: Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”), Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Ozzy Osbourne, whose “Close My Eyes Forever,” with Lita Ford, hit No. 8 in 1989 … that same year that another contrast hit (see? It’s catching on) reached the top 10: White Lion‘s “When the Children Cry,” sung by gravelly-voiced frontman Mike Tramp.

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Unsurprisingly, rock acts showing off their softer sides would be central to this sound. Last year brought Disturbed‘s remake of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” and another cover is currently rising on Billboard‘s rock charts: All That Remains‘ version of Garth Brooks‘ “The Thunder Rolls.”

Feel free to add more examples in the comments section below and we can compare and … contrast … further suggestions.