Celine Dion struggled to sell records in France. Yes, for real. What may seem absolutely impossible from today point of view giving the insane amount of records she sold since 1995, was true until the release of D’Eux.
Her 80s albums in French failed to chart, including after Eurovision winning of the artist. Her English-speaking debut, Unison, failed to chart as well in 1990. So did Dion Chante Plamandon first released in France in 1992. It took her to be linked with Starmania revival with Ziggy song to finally hit the Top 50, climbing to #4 at her peak. The album was Platinum after two years of sales. The following year, The Colour Of My Love, a huge international success, barely reached Gold in France. Celine Dion still had some work to do before getting into super stardom in the country.
At that point, the most famous X Factor of French music industry came into the picture: Jean-Jacques Goldman. Utterly successful singer-songwriter worked closely with Canadian vocalist to deliver D’Eux album, released in March 27 1995. The lead single Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore success was beyond madness. One may know that French single chart contains no airplay, at the time physical singles were the favorite product for younger consumers as they were cheaper than albums. Most big hits were targeted to 12-25 audience. Thus, for a love song flagged Adult Contempary to crack the single chart the way it did – 12 weeks #1, 25 weeks top 3 – tells how outstanding the smash was.
The album followed the way set by the single, replacing the Cranberries cult No Need To Argue at the Top from its debut week. Admittedly, apart from the strong Cranberries album, the competition was rather bad. During its first six weeks, no album troubled this duet of albums. On its seventh week, apart from those two, the remaining eight albums inside the Top 10 included six Live albums, a real indicator of low sales overall. No sales figures are available but the most likely scenario is that during those six weeks Celine Dion plus Cranberries combined outsold the rest of the Top 10 together.
The first real challenger for the top spot was Celine own mentor. In fact, Du New Morning Au Zenith, the new live album from Goldman trio Fredericks / Goldman / Jones, debuted at #2 behind her on strong sales. It sold over 500,000 units when all was said and done, but still failed to dislodge D’Eux. The second huge contender for the top arrived two weeks later as French favorite UK band Pink Floyd released P.U.L.S.E album. It failed to crack Celine Dion yet.
After getting the crown for 10 weeks, the first album to push it down to #2 was Michael Jackson new album HIStory. Following week D’Eux was even down to #3 – Johnny Hallyday entered at #2 behind Michael Jackson. In other words, to drop Celine Dion from her perch it took the best selling foreign act ever and then the best selling French act ever. It didn’t last long yet as the following week D’Eux recovered the top spot, highlighting how massively it was still selling. Next months were just about the same: #1 again, and again, and again. Only TF1 supported German New Age project Indian Sacred Spirit disturbed D’Eux hegemony during two non consecutive weeks.
In the meantime, the album was obviously certified Diamond, in August, some four months after its release. It has to be said yet that Sony Music did no audit from April 19 to August 18 meaning this blockbuster album possibly crushed the million barrier even faster.
Jumping to September when big releases start to be more frequent. At that point, after five months of sales plus over a million copies sold the logical expectation is to see the album dropping. New albums by Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC, Oasis, Mariah Carey, coming from a million seller, Jacques Dutronc and Charles Aznavour all failed hit the top. Climbing to 1,6 million sales by mid-October the insanity was still not over. Second single was barely being launched. Je Sais Pas got to #1 instantly, sticking there for seven weeks despite the copies sold by the album. That one got pushed even further. In fact, newly released Mylène Farmer album, who was at her peak, Anamorphosée, missed the top too, getting blocked at #2 for two weeks behind Celine Dion. Ace Of Base, Queen, the Rolling Stones, Alain Souchon, Bruce Springsteen, all kept trying, all kept failing.
By mid-November, the album tied the all-time record of 29 weeks at #1 set just a few months earlier by Francis Cabrel album Samedi Soir Sur La Terre. When aiming to beat that record, the Beatles Anthology 1 entered at #1. During this era Celine was always getting the last word yet and went right back to #1 during the entire month of December. Her sales went threw the roof, up to 2,3 million by early December (please note Billboard publication date is delayed by 3 weeks) and closing the year at an unreal total of 3 million copies shipped.
Although this total obviously included copies remaining unsold due to large Christmas shipments, the album continuous success in 1996 pushed sales higher. In January and February, D’Eux saw no competition at all, accumulating weeks at the top. By early March, after an all-time record that still remains 44 weeks at #1, the album had its final whisper in the throne, being topped by… Celine Dion follow up album Falling Into You. New Sting album released the same week had to settle at #3 because of this absolute Celinemania as it was referred to. As no subsequent singles were released, D’Eux album started to slow down very smoothly. It secured a top 10 placing until July and remained top 40 all year long. By late September 1996, the album had shipped 3,5 million copies. Those results concluded into a #4 placing in 1996 year end chart with about 700,000 copies sold, an estimated 100,000 of them coming from the 3 million units shipped during 1995.
Despite Celine Dion and more generally AC acts not being dominant in catalog sales area, D’Eux status is so big that it became one of the biggest selling catalog albums in France and still is to this day. Below are its yearly sales after the 3,6 million copies shipped until the end of 1996:
- 1997: 150,000
- 1998: 75,000
- 1999-2002: 120,000
- 2003-2008: 95,000 (GFK figure)
- 2009-2010: 30,000
- 2011-2015: 50,000
- 2CD packs: 90,000 (including 29,000 from 2003 to 2008)
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 4,210,000 copies.
As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!
Sources: SNEP, IFOP, GFK, Billboard, Le Monde.