Justin Timberlake may have topped the annual sales charts in 2013 with his eagerly awaited “comeback album,” The 20/20 Experience. But he managed that distinction by selling fewer copies than any yearly chart-topper since 1991.
That was the year Nielsen, the audience-measurement company also responsible for television and radio ratings, began tracking sales of music recordings.
This year’s Justin Timberlake album certainly did well for the star, who had not made a recording since his 2007 album FutureSex/LoveSounds. Since then, Timberlake, who as a child was on TV as part of The Mickey Mouse Club, has directed his career entirely toward Hollywood.
But his film career, while prolific, has failed to produce a breakout starring role. Now 32 years old, Justin Timberlake has become primarily a character actor, who specializes in supporting roles, as in the current Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis.
Timberlake issued two albums in 2013. The 20/20 Experience and The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2. The first one was the better-selling, leading the way among all albums sold in 2013 with sales of 2.43 million copies.
That may sound like a lot, and of course it is, but by music industry standards the numbers for Justin Timberlake’s album are pretty bleak. The 20/20 Experience was the only album of the year to break the 2 million mark — and it is the first top-selling album not to exceed 3 million sales since Nielsen started tracking in March of 1991, The New York Times reports.
The Justin Timberlake album sold only 55 percent of 2012’s chart-topper, 21 by British singer Adele. In fact, Timberlake comes nowhere near Adele’s achievement, because in addition to the 4.41 million copies of 21 that sold in 2012, 5.82 million sold in 2011 when 21 was also the year’s bestseller.
In 1992, the first full year that Nielsen tracked album sales, country star Billy Ray Cyrus led the way selling 4.832 million copies of Some Gave All, which featured his single, “Achy Breaky Heart.”
Justin Timberlake’s previous group, the “boy band” *NSNYC, still holds the Nielsen record for most albums sold in a single calendar year, moving 9.936 million units of No Strings Attached in 1996.
Placing at Number 2 behind Justin Timberlake in 2013 was 41-year-old rapper Eminem who sold 1.73 million copies of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, The Huffington Post reports.
2013 may have been the year of Justin Timberlake, but it was a poor year for the music industry overall. Album sales plunged 8 percent to 289.4 million from nearly 316 million in the previous year. Even digital downloads declined, though only slightly, the first decrease of any amount since Nielsen began counting downloads in 2003.