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Ask Billboard: Madonna’s Career Album Sales

A look at the Material Girl's best-selling material. Plus, it's time to send in your favorites of 2016.

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

Hi Gary,

With Madonna receiving Billboard‘s 2016 Woman of the Year award, what better time to discuss the Queen of Pop’s success? Can you please provide an update of her album and digital song sales in the Nielsen Music era?

Thank you, keep up the good work and, as always, get into the groove.

Jim Radenhausen
Reeders, Pennsylvania

Thanks Jim. Billboard‘s 2016 Women in Music celebration took place Friday (Dec. 9) in New York and will air on Lifetime tomorrow (Dec. 12) at 9 p.m. ET. Check out all of Billboard‘s coverage of the event here, along with the entire red carpet livestream, hosted by Chelsea Briggs and Keith Caulfield … and featuring a stop-and-chat with Madonna herself, among many other special guests. (Would she ever run for President, she was asked? “Maybe,” she answered, adding that the first change she would enact would be to “pay schoolteachers a lot more money.”)

As for Madonna’s career U.S. album sales since Nielsen Music began tracking retail in 1991 (through the week ending Dec. 8, 2016), here are her 10 best sellers:

5,992,000, The Immaculate Collection (1990); 3,891,000, Ray of Light (1998); 2,934,000, Music (2000); 2,336,000, Bedtime Stories (1994); 2,102,000, Something to Remember (1995)

2,025,000, Evita (soundtrack) (1996); 1,905,000, Erotica (1992); 1,734,000, Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005); 1,397,000, GHV2: Greatest Hits Volume 2 (2001); 751,000, Hard Candy (2008)

Meanwhile, Madonna’s most recent LP, 2015’s Rebel Heart, has sold 238,000. Her career album sales in the Nielsen era stand at 28.5 million, making her the 34th-best-selling album artist in that 25-year-plus span. She ranks at No. 7 among women in the stretch; Mariah Carey leads with 55 million, followed by Celine Dion (52.6 million), 2016 Billboard Women in Music Icon award-winner Shania Twain (34.7 million), Britney Spears (33.5 million), Reba McEntire (30.5 million) and Taylor Swift (29.8 million). (Next up after Madonna among female soloists? New age queen Enya, at 27.3 million.)

Among all acts, Carey ranks fourth (and Dion, fifth), below Garth Brooks (71.1 million), The Beatles (68 million) and Metallica (56.8 million).


Looking at Madonna’s digital song sales (since Nielsen began tracking downloads in 2003), 2008’s “4 Minutes,” featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, leads with 3.1 million sold. She boasts two other million-selling downloads: 2005’s “Hung Up” (1.4 million) and her 1989 classic “Like a Prayer” (1.1 million).

Speaking of those years when Madonna released her earlier material, The Immaculate Collection sports the highest certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) among her catalog: Diamond, representing 10 million shipped. 1984’s Like a Virgin is also certified Diamond for 10 million. Following are 1986’s True Blue (7-times Platinum); Evita (5-times Platinum); and Ray of Light and Like a Prayer (each 4-times Platinum).


Hi Gary,

As 2016 comes to a close, lots of songs we loved this year will give way to new songs for our ears as soon as 2017 starts. So, I would love to share my favourite tracks of this year with you and readers. (I chose only one song per artist.) Let’s do this!

First, five honorable mentions:
“Roses,” by The Chainsmokers feat. Rozes
“Capsize,” Frenship feat. Emily Warren
“Hurts So Good,” Astrid S
“The Greatest,” Sia feat. Kendrick Lamar
“Million Reasons,” Lady Gaga

Now, my top 10:
10, “Freak of Nature,” Broods feat. Tove Lo
Both of these artists released brilliant, underrated albums in 2016 and this song perfectly combines their styles and voices, starting with a smooth hum from Georgia Nott (Broods’ vocalist) all the way though to when the song reaches a climax with both artists’ finest vocals this year.

9, “Do You Miss Me at All,” Bridgit Mendler
Wow, 2016 Bridgit is a whole lot more mature than 2012 Bridgit. The production team did an amazing job with this one, as well. After repeated listens, I was captivated; definitely give it two or three listens.

8. “Work From Home,” Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla $ign
Not only do all the group’s members sing flawlessly and harmonize (ha) perfectly together, but this song also showed how successful a catchy song can be.

7, “One Dance,” Drake feat. WizKid & Kyla
I especially love the little echo it’s got going in the background.

6, “False Alarm,” The Weeknd
Although I absolutely love “Starboy,” I can’t deny that this song is just a little bit better. From its vocalization to its chorus, it’s just a true milestone of 2016.


5, “Spoon Me,” Elliphant feat. Skrillex
I chose it because I felt like I had the most fun with it. Just jokingly screaming the lyrics with friends while dancing to Skrillex’s beats makes it one of the standout songs for this artist. (Also a shoutout to “Where Is Home,” featuring Twin Shadow, which I almost equally love.)

4, “This Is What You Came For,” Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna
The track that got everybody to the dancefloor this year, punctuated by its No. 1 rank on Billboard‘s year-end Dance Club Songs chart for 2016.

3, “Stone Cold,” Demi Lovato
Demi just slays. The most emotional song since Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” is delivered with the feels. And … when she hits that last note.

2, “Desperado,” Rihanna
Yes, I know I said no artists twice but, technically, “This” is Calvin’s song. And who can blame me for putting perhaps the most omnipresent artist of 2016 here again? I get chills every time I listen, from my favourite artist of all time.

1, “Into You,” Ariana Grande
Her album Dangerous Woman is full of songs to last. Beginning in May, I found myself coming back to this song almost every day and I still love, love, love it. The production is on point, it’s so catchy, her vocal performance is crazy and, overall, the whole tune just feels so good.

I hope you enjoyed my rundown, and I’d love to know your and other Billboard readers’ picks!

Norman Große
Saxony, Germany

Thanks, Norman, for getting the ball rolling on readers’ year-end favorites for 2016. Great picks, by the way; I hope “False Alarm” becomes a Starboy single, while “Into You” stood out to me as the best song on Dangerous Woman the first time I heard the album (even if the title cut and “Side to Side,” featuring Nicki Minaj, have become bigger hits on the Billboard Hot 100, each hitting the top 10 as opposed to the No. 13 peak of “Into You.”)

And, always great to see songs like Astrid S’ “Hurts So Good” shining a spotlight on what hits readers around the world like that may not have found mainstream success in the U.S. (although that track did reach No. 7 in May on the U.S.-based Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart.)

So, time to send in your favorites of 2016! Please feel free to email your top songs, albums, concerts and/or more from the past year to, and we’ll serve up readers’ favorites in the annual year-end “Ask Billboard.” We’ll also present lists from the Billboard charts dept. (including mine), covering music from Adele to Zayn (and Ariana to Zay & Zayion) and everything in between.