France best selling albums ever:
Romanza by Andrea Bocelli (1997)

Although he registered monster sales in both Italy and Germany among other countries prior 1997, in France Andrea Bocelli was still a newcomer until that year.

This kind of Opera / Vocal act tend to get slow burner status, accumulating sales slowly over many months, even more when they never charted before. What’s more unusual then than such an act debuting massively – bigger than the 2be3 debut album Partir Un Jour that was outrageously promoted at the time, with a first album that was actually a compilation? After recording big studio albums elsewhere that focused on a few countries, his Polydor label decided to package all his past hits into Romanza album to penetrate markets that were still resisting to the Italian tenor.

The strategy made wonders as the album shot to #1 on its first full week thanks to the initial airplay Con Te Partiro was getting. The timing was perfectly as it was released during a latin music madness. In fact, in February 1997, within’ a month Baila by Alliage, Bailando by Paradisio, Maria by Ricky Martin or even Don’t Cry For Me Argentina by Madonna were Top 5 hits, the latter two #1s, so Con Te Partiro perfectly fitted the context. Also, despite France never being too much into tenors, 1996 was marked by Florent Pagny crossover hit Caruso.

All those favorable elements still weren’t enough to predict the earthquake Romanza was going to be in France. During an extensive period of 27 weeks, a mere three albums managed to crack it, each for one week only – U2, Michael Jackson and MC Solaar, the biggest French rapper of all-time. In the other side, Texas, Patricia Kaas, IAM, Julien Clerc, Depeche Mode, Jean-Louis Aubert, Mylène Farmer, Ben Harper and Prodigy all failed to disturb Andrea Bocelli supremacy over the album chart.

Its 24 weeks total at #1 remains the official record for a foreign release.

By May 17 1997, the album was already over the million plateau, an average of more than 50,000 copies per week during over four months. In September 27, 1997, Le Monde newspaper reported the total passed 1,5 million. At that point, the album was low top 10 and dropping. Second single Vivo Per Lei, released in France in a duet version with Hélène Ségara, became a hit on its own yet rocketing the album back to the Top 3 during the Christmas season. Nevertheless, the album was also Top 10 in the compilation chart as a 2CD box with Viaggio Italiano. By the end of the year, sales were higher than 2 million.

The hype was staying well alive in early 1998 for Romanza with 7 more Top 5 weeks being added to its tally for an incredible 45 total. With all 2CD boxes – it also charted Top 75 in 1999 Christmas season packaged with Sogno – the 1997 release was up to an unbelievable 2,7 million units by January 2000. Quite strangely, the album never reappeared on charts this century yet despite being an insanely good catalog seller in most countries.

Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 2,850,000 copies.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: SNEP, IFOP, L’Express, Le Monde, Consumer Goods Europe.

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