Unless you’ve been under a rock—and perhaps, even then— it will come as no surprise that Adele’s “21” is the best selling album of the year.

The British singer’s second set sold 5.82 million copies in the U.S. during 2011, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making it the best-selling album since Usher’s “Confessions” sold 7.98 million in 2004. The title is in its 14th non-consecutive week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week.

Adele is a double winner in that “Rolling In the Deep,” the biggest cross-format smash in two decades, sold  5.2 million copies, making it the top selling single of 2011.

Returning to albums, Michael Buble’s “Christmas,” which came out in mid-October, covered a lot of territory quickly to claim the No. 2 spot with sales of 2.45 million albums. It sprinted past Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which sold 2.1 million.

Rounding out the diverse list of  top five album sellers for 2011 were Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” at 1.92 million units and Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” at 1.58 million.


Overall, album sales were up 1.3% in 2011 over 2010, reported Billboard. Modest as it was, the growth marked the first annual uptick since 2004.  Album sales tallied 330.6 million compared with 2010’s 326.2 million. 

Though much was made of the demise of the physical CD, with many reports claiming that some major labels would quit manufacturing the discs in 2012, it looks like the CD has a little life left in it yet. Yes, digital sales continue to climb, and for the first time, digital album sales and digital track equivalents (when someone purchases 10 tracks from an album) surpassed the 50% mark for the first time this year, yet 49.7% of all album sales are still from physical goods.  The industry isn’t about to walk away from those kinds of numbers any time soon. In fact, when the fan decided to purchase an entire album (excluding track equivalent albums), the physical CD percentage soared to 68.7%.

Digital track sales saw an 8.5% gain over 2010, with total numbers reaching 1.27 billion. Think we aren’t totally living in a singles world? In 2011, 112 tracks scanned more than 1 million units, compared with 80 in 2010. Only 13 albums sold more than 1 million copies last year, the same number as 2010.

Following “Rolling in the Deep,” the top digital single sellers were LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” at No. 2 with 5.47 million copies, Katy Perry’s “E.T.” at 4.83 million, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” featuring  Christina Aguilera at 4.11 million and Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer at  3.87 million.

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