First impressions count. This could be said about a job interview or meeting someone’s parents. Your first impression is the standard that you are held to, and it can be both a blessing and a curse.
A band’s first impression is based on how many albums sold and how much airtime they recieve. The success of a debut album usually gives an idea as to how popular the band or artist will be. While this is a good thing it can also serve as a double-edged sword. High standards are set when an artist’s first work is a huge success, and the pressures of creating something similar can be a daunting task, especially for artists looking to experiment with different sounds. It’s a common complaint with music fans, that a group’s “older” material is better. While it is true that some artists may decide to move to a new sound, it doesn’t mean that the quality of music is any worse, just different. All that being said, debut works are key to setting up a fan base and making impressions in the music community.
Theses are the top 10 Best Selling Debut Albums in US History.
10. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory – 10 million copies sold
Within the first five weeks of its release, Hybrid Theory was certified gold by the RIAA, and sold 4.8 million copies in its first year. The album spawned four singles. While the first two singles, “One Step Closer” and “Crawling” peaked at #75 and #79 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100, it was the band’s fourth single “In the End” that proved to be a huge success peaking at #2 on the chart. Hybrid Theory came around at the start of the Nu-Metal craze. The mix of Chester Bennington‘s vocals and Mike Shinoda‘s rapping gave the band a distinct sound and vibe that carried them throughout the early stages of their career. At the 44th Annual Grammy Awards, Linkin Park won Best Hard Rock Performance for their song “Crawling”.
T-8. Jewel – Pieces of You – 12 million copies sold
The first album by American folk artist Jewel, Pieces of You took some time to hit the mainstream media. The album hadn’t made it onto the Billboard 200 till two years after its initial release but when it did it peaked at #4 and was certified 12x Platinum in the US. Two of the four singles from the album “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant for Me” both peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was re-released two years later with re-recorded versions of “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant for Me”.
T-8. Matchbox Twenty – Yourself or Someone Like You – 12 million copies sold
The diamond certified debut was released back in 1996, putting the young band on the map. Yourself or Someone Like You was a hit in the states, peaking at #5 on the US Billboard 200. It spawned six singles. Two of those singles, “Real World” and “Back 2 Good“, peaked at #38 and #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively, while their final single “Girl Like That” failed to make the charts. Almost a decade after the album’s release the band was sued by the man on the album cover who claimed that he’d never given his permission to the use of the photograph and that the picture caused him mental anguish.
7. Pearl Jam – Ten – 13 million copies sold
To this day, Ten stands as Pearl Jam’s most commercially successful album. After Mother Love Bone disbanded, Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready and Dave Krusen were added to the line up that included former Mother Love Bone bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard. The result was Pearl Jam and the newly formed band released their debut Ten shortly after forming. Ten peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum in five countries and Gold in seven. The singles “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” did very well on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart peaking at #3 and #5 respectively.
T-5. Backstreet Boys – Backstreet Boys – 14 million copies sold
The pop-group’s debut album was released the day after the release of their second international album “Backstreet’s Back” in 1997. Initially, Backstreet Boys was released in 1996 in Canada, Europe and Asia – as well as several other markets – but the group had yet to make their debut in the states. The US release contained tracks from both the original 1996 debut and the 1997 follow-up “Backstreet’s Back“, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200 and producing 6 singles.
T-5. Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time – 14 million copies sold
Britney Spears’ debut was a hit worldwide, reaching the top five in several different countries. It peaked at #1 on the US Billboard 200 and the Canadian Albums Chart respectively and the first of the album’s five singles “…Baby One More Time” peaked at #1 on every chart it appeared on and became one of the most successful singles of all time. Spears earned two Grammy nominations for …Baby One More Time as well as a multi-album deal from record label Jive.
4. Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston – 15 million copies sold
The self-titled debut that launched the legendary singer’s career landed back in 1985. Three singles – “Saving All My Love for You“, “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All” – peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was both the first time a debut album and the first time a female artist had achieved the feat. Although it took a little time, Houston’s debut topped the Billboard 200, where it stayed for 14 weeks. The album earned Houston four nominations at the 28th Grammy Awards where she won for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “Saving All My Love For You“, and in 1999 Whitney Houston was certified 15x Platinum.
3. Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View – 16 million copies sold
The band’s debut album was released back in 1994 on Atlantic records and spawned five singles, 4 of them being hits in the US. The album’s third single “Only Wanna Be with You” was the subject of some controversy when the band was sued by Bob Dylan for unauthorized use of his lyrics. The song both mentions and quotes Dylan’s songs, such as “Idiot Wind” and “You’re a Big Girl Now“. The incident was settled out-of-court in 1995. Cracked Rear View remains Hootie & the Blowfish’s most successful album. Their 1996 and 1998 follow-ups Fairweather Johnson and Musical Chairs both went platinum in the US respectively, but none have ever matched the success of their 1994 debut.
2. Boston – Boston – 17 million copies sold
The popularity of Boston’s debut album was a surprise, even to those who’d signed the band. The lead single “More Than a Feeling” peaked at #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and is still one of the band’s most popular songs today. Although the airwaves were ruled by disco music at the time, Boston’s mixture of hard rock riffs and pop hooks quickly gave them momentum on the charts and in sales, with 500,000 units sold within the first month of its release. It peaked at #3 on the US Billboard 200 and to this day has sold 20 million copies worldwide.
1. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction – 18 million copies sold
The album that made Guns N’ Roses a household name, Appetite For Destruction produced a number of hits. With 7 singles, the album spent 147 weeks on the Billboard 200, four of those at #1. “Sweet Child O’ Mine“, “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” each peaked at #1, #7 and #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. Appetite is Guns’ most critically acclaimed album, and is greatly responsible for having launched their careers in the music industry. Apart from being the best selling debut album in the states it’s also one of the best selling albums in the world with 30 million copies sold, in the same company as Michael Jackson‘s Bad, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Beatles’ Abbey Road, to name just a few.
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