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Ask Billboard: Sugarland’s Sweet Success

Readers discuss the latest Billboard 200 No. 1 by a duo and divas' digital success. Plus, share your favorite brushes with famous musicians.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


Hey Gary!

I was reading this week about Sugarland scoring its third No. 1 on the Billboard 200, “The Incredible Machine.”

I was wondering how many other duos have enjoyed No. 1 albums. I know that Simon & Garfunkel have at least three.


Also, which duo, among all genres, is the best-selling? If not Simon & Garfunkel, perhaps Brooks & Dunn?

I appreciate your hard work! Thank you!

Sam DiSalvo
New York, New York

Hi Sam,

Thanks. Here are the albums by duos that have reigned during the Billboard 200’s 54-year history.

Perhaps surprisingly, noted twosomes such as the Everly Brothers, Sonny & Cher, Daryl Hall and John Oates and Roxette, all of whom have topped the Billboard Hot 100, have not ruled the Billboard 200.

Artist, Title, Weeks At No. 1, Peak Year

Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd, “Jazz Samba,” one, 1962
Simon & Garfunkel, “The Graduate” soundtrack, nine, 1968
Simon & Garfunkel, “Bookends,” seven, 1968
Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” 10, 1970
Carpenters, “The Singles 1969-1973,” one, 1973
John Lennon/Yoko Ono, “Double Fantasy,” eight, 1980
Wham!, “Make It Big,” three, 1985
Tears for Fears, “Songs From the Big Chair,” five, 1985

Milli Vanilli, “Girl You Know It’s True,” eight, 1989
Kris Kross, “Totally Krossed Out,” five, 1992
Big Tymers, “Hood Rich,” one, 2002
OutKast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” seven , 2003
R. Kelly & Jay-Z, “Unfinished Business,” one, 2004
UGK, “Underground Kingz,” one, 2007
Sugarland, “Love on the Inside,” one, 2008
Sugarland, “Live on the Inside,” one, 2009
Sugarland, “The Incredible Machine,” one (to-date), 2010

(Not included above is the Blues Brothers’ “Briefcase Full of Blues,” which led for a week in 1979. While fronted by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, the act, rounded out by multiple members, is widely considered a group, not duo).

As for the best-selling duo, both your guesses could be considered correct.

Since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking U.S. sales in 1991, Brooks & Dunn is the top-selling album pair (23 million), with OutKast second (17.6 million).

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), formed in 1952, Simon & Garfunkel lead all duos with 38.5 million units certified, followed by Brooks & Dunn (26.5 million), the Carpenters (24.5 million), OutKast (22 million) and Hall and Oates (13 million).


Hi Gary,

Seeing how digital song sales now far outpace sales of physical singles, I’m curious about the to-date digital sales of the “divas” who enjoyed a large portion of their success in the ’80s and ’90s.

I’d appreciate information on the top-selling downloads for the following acts since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking digital data: Madonna, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.

Thank you and keep up the great column.

Jim Radenhausen
Reeders, Pennsylvania

Hi Jim,

Here is a breakdown of the five singers’ top-selling digital songs. Madonna (two) and Carey (four) are the only artists of the quintet with songs that have each shifted more than a million downloads:

2,814,000, “4 Minutes”
1,224,000, “Hung Up”
493,000, “Like a Prayer”
366,000, “Sorry”
347,000, “Material Girl”

Whitney Houston
739,000, “I Will Always Love You”
447,000, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
267,000, “Greatest Love of All”
215,000, “How Will I Know”
206,000, “I Have Nothing”

Janet Jackson
822,000, “Feedback”
242,000, “That’s the Way Love Goes”
235,000, “All for You”
212,000, “If”
179,000, “Call on Me”

Mariah Carey
1,591,000, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
1,563,000, “Obsessed”
1,467,000, “Touch My Body”

1,362,000, “We Belong Together”
718,000, “Shake It Off”

Celine Dion
871,000, “My Heart Will Go On”
508,000, “Because You Loved Me”
462,000, “Taking Chances”
307,000, “A New Day Has Come”
300,000, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”


Hi Gary,

No surprise: Susan Boyle appears on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Oct. 19 and her “I Dreamed a Dream” album surges on the charts. Jackie Evancho also finds herself atop the Holiday Digital Songs chart a week after appearing on “Oprah.”

But, what about Oprah’s final “Next Big Thing” guest, Debby Boone? Did the “Oprah effect” finally help her 2005 album, ‘Reflections of Rosemary,’ reach any charts or affect the digital sales of “You Light Up My Life?” And, how many digital copies has the biggest Hot 100 hit of the ’70s sold to-date?

I look forward to you shedding some “light” on this. (Sorry!)

Thomas Bart
New York, New York

Hi Thomas,

While Boyle’s debut album re-enters the Billboard 200 at No. 101 (4,000, up 98%, according to SoundScan) and Evancho’s “Pie Jesu” debuts at No. 1 on Holiday Digital Songs, also with sales of 4,000, Boone’s signature song likewise gains.

“You Light Up My Life,” which topped the Hot 100 for 10 weeks in 1977, this week logged its best digital sum in the six years that SoundScan has tracked the song’s sales. While not enough to grant Boone her first appearance on a Billboard chart since 1989, the song sold 2,000 downloads following her “Oprah” visit, a 403% improvement over the previous week.

To-date, “You Light Up My Life” has shifted 99,000 downloads.


Hi Gary,

Last week, New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser‘s third album “Flags” debuted at No. 59 on the Billboard 200. What were the album’s sales?

Also, how have other New Zealand-born artists fared in the past on Billboard charts?


Michael Hueston
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Hi Michael,

“Flags” began last week with sales of 7,000, according to SoundScan, good for its debut at No. 59 on the Billboard 200, No. 4 on Folk Albums, No. 9 on Independent Albums and No. 19 on Rock Albums.

As for other notable artists with New Zealand heritage:

Daniel Bedingfield was born in the country, as were his parents John and Molly. (Younger sister Natasha, whose “Strip Me” enters the Hot 100 this week at No. 95, was born in the UK). Daniel’s “Gotta Get Thru This” reached No. 41 on the Billboard 200 in 2002 and has sold 654,000 in the U.S., according to SoundScan. The title cut peaked at No. 10 and “If You’re Not the One” No. 15 on the Hot 100.

Led by Te Awamutu-born Neil Finn, Crowded House placed five songs on the Hot 100, including the No. 2 smash “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (which Susan Boyle covers on her forthcoming album, “The Gift”), and six albums on the Billboard 200 between 1987 and this year. With Split Enz, Finn also sang the alternative classic “I Got You,” a No. 53 Hot 100 hit in 1980.

In 1997, OMC, fronted by Auckland-born singer Pauly Fuemana (who, sadly, passed away in January), reached No. 1 on Pop Songs with “How Bizarre.”

And, one of Nashville’s biggest stars is Whangarei-born Keith Urban. His resume includes 23 top 10s, 11 of which have reached No. 1, on Country Songs, three No. 1s on Country Albums and U.S. album sales of 11.5 million, according to SoundScan.


The following comes courtesy of Billboard’s new R&B/Latin chart manager Rauly Ramirez, as related during this week’s charts department meeting.

While in the men’s room recently in Billboard’s Los Angeles office, Ramirez recognized the person exiting a stall: Snoop Dogg. The iconic rapper was visiting radio station KDAY, which is located in the same building.

Snoop Dogg’s greeting to Ramirez? “W’sup, nephew?”

What chance encounters have you had with musicians?

As an intern at WBMX/Boston in 1996, Rod Stewart greeted me by tousling my hair.

Livingston Taylor sat next to me in the lobby the day I interviewed at WMVY/Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. (I got hired and he got airplay for his single, “Yes”).

And, a career highlight remains, while interning at WBMX, my picking up Bruce Hornsby at Boston’s Logan Airport for a performance in 1995. As we waited for his luggage, I played with his two then-toddlers, the gregarious Hornsby telling them, “That’s Gary!”

Share your musician meet-and-greet memories (made, hopefully, in locations other than restrooms) in the comments section below or by e-mailing askbb@billboard.com.