CSPC: Whitney Houston Popularity Analysis

We'll Miss You Whitney 1963 - 2012

Selling high amounts of albums and singles with the same material is a tough target. This being said, The Bodyguard managed it perfectly. The lead single I Will Always Love You sold an absurd total of 10,56 million physical units, making it the highest selling single studied so far and replicating the album achievement, an unreal result. Just like in the album front, it tops none other than the Grease Soundtrack lead single, You’re the One That I Want. The Top 10 prior to this article is displayed below.

1 1978 SoundtrackYou’re the One That I Want [Grease] – 10,400,000
2 1997 Céline DionMy Heart Will Go On [Let’s Talk About Love] – 8,100,000
3 1984 George MichaelCareless Whisper [Make It Big] – 6,500,000
4 1975 QueenBohemian Rhapsody [A Night At The Opera] – 6,400,000
5 1999 Britney Spears…Baby One More Time […Baby One More Time] – 6,000,000
1 1992 – Soundtrack / Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You [The Bodyguard] – 10,560,000
2 1978 – Soundtrack – You’re the One That I Want [Grease] – 10,400,000
3 1968 – Beatles – Hey Jude [Orphan] – 8,200,000
4 1997 – Soundtrack / Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On [Let’s Talk About Love] – 8,100,000
5 1963 – Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand [Orphan] – 7,800,000
6 1977 – Soundtrack / Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive [Saturday Night Fever] – 6,470,000
7 1975 – Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody [A Night At The Opera] – 6,400,000
8 1984 – George Michael – Careless Whisper [Make It Big] – 6,290,000
9 1999 – Britney Spears –  …Baby One More Time […Baby One More Time] – 6,000,000
10 1979 – Bee Gees – Too Much Heaven [Spirits Having Flown] – 5,640,000

Whitney Houston sold way more singles during the 90s than just this one with at least 2 songs from each era topping the million mark. With 7,44 million units sold combined, My Love Is Your Love hits performed incredibly well.

The Bodyguard (1992) – 4,074,000 equivalent albums

I Will Always Love You – 10,560,000
I Have Nothing – 1,150,000
I’m Every Woman – 1,440,000
Run to You – 290,000
Queen of the Night – 140,000

NB: Song It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day which isn’t from Whitney Houston sold 300,000 units, adding 90,000 units to the album as we will see in final totals.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996) – 741,000 equivalent albums

I Believe in You and Me – 1,110,000
Step by Step – 1,280,000
My Heart Is Calling – 80,000

My Love Is Your Love (1998) – 2,232,000 equivalent albums

It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay – 1,450,000
Heartbreak Hotel – 1,600,000
My Love Is Your Love – 2,640,000
When You Believe – 1,320,000
If I Told You That – 130,000
I Learned from the Best – 300,000

50 thoughts on “CSPC: Whitney Houston Popularity Analysis”

  1. MJD, i know i said this a thousand times, but again, absolutely fantastic work! Especially with this analysis! You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see an analysis on Queen Nippy!

    If I could provide some comments, I’m quite surprised by her debut album “only” at 21,9m considering it was widely reported as a 25m seller, as well as the biggest selling debut album ever. I’m Your Baby Tonight being under 10m, as well as selling less than My Love Is Your Love surprised me as well. Still, what surprised me the most is how freaking massive The Bodyguard Soundtrack is on pure album sales! It truly smashed in every single continent worldwide! I want to ask something about it’s sales though. There’s still 4m left from that album that isn’t listed in the countries mentioned, and those 4m should come from Asia (bar Japan) and the Middle East. Can you tell me how many copies that album sold in Asia, and answer me whether it is the biggest selling international album in the continent, or perhaps there are others who hold that title? (Eg. Mariah’s #1’s, Music Box etc.)

    Also, I’m positively surprised by how many singles Whitney sold. 50m+ physical singles was already massive, but adding 34m digital downloads is quite impressive as well. For comparison sake, Whitney’s only 6m behind Madonna in terms on digital downloads, and the majority of Whitney’s download sales comes from her earlier works, whereas Madonna had some big hits in the digital era.

    Finally, i know you and Hernán did amazingly with this analysis and the one you did with The Backstreet Boys in these past few days, but all of us are quite thirsty for more! Take your time of course, but I hope that you would do a CSPC analysis on these artists:
    1. Mariah Carey
    2. Janet Jackson
    3. Christina Aguilera
    4. Pink
    5. Usher
    6. Aaliyah
    7. 2Pac

    Once again, thank you and great job for your work. Hope to see more in the future!

    1. Hi Raffi!

      Well, as you know we can find easily a lot of fanciful figures over the internet. No serious source ever claimed 25m units for Whitney debut album – such a tally is completely out of question giving its results.

      It was indeed the higher selling debut album ever when first released – but it wasn’t meaning that much since 7m was enough to occupy that position at the time, as it was the figure of previous record holder by Boston. This is the first time the record was awarded to the album by the Guiness Book:
      “The best-selling album by a woman is Whitney Houston by Whitney Houston released in 1985. It had sold over 14 million copies by May 1987, including over 9 million in America, one million in the UK, and a further million in Canada. This is also the “best- selling debut album of all time”.

      Then, by June 1994, she had sold 62 million albums including 25 million units of Bodyguard, letting 37 million units for her other albums. As you know, her first two albums haven’t sold that much as catalog items making usual fans claims of 25/23/12 million for her first three albums completely ludicrous. This is also validated by breakdowns which add for nowhere near such figures. One must consider Asian markets were still fairly weak during the 80s.

      Bodyguard has an estimated 3,4 million Asian sales outside Japan, 250,000 units in Latin America outside Argentina / Brazil / Mexico and 400,000 units in Africa / Middle East. By best selling album in Asia, do you mean with or without Japan? Without Japan, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous sold more than 3,4 million units. I haven’t studied it in details lately, but Mariah Carey album Music Box must be close to that figure too. Factoring in Japan, then Bodyguard is likely the top seller at 6,3m, ahead of Mariah’s #1’s.

      I keep in mind the list of acts you provide, I would expect P!nk to be the next studied among that pack 😉

      BTW, one word about me and Hernan doing a great job: Anthony is also extensively contributing, doing wonders to facilitate the task for us by collecting streaming figures and building all Excel macros which generate every calculations / screenshots displayed / articles templates / final rankings etc. Thus, you should thank him too! 😉

  2. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been waiting on a Whitney article! Could you please consider analyzing Mariah Carey’s career next?

  3. Strangely low ESTIMATIONS for “Whitney Houston”, “Whitney”, “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “My Love Is Your Love” and “Greatest Hits”

    1. Hi Xyz!

      The success of Bodyguard in Latin America / Asia was often extrapolated into her earlier albums creating inflated sales figures as those records sold nowhere near *that* well in those markets as explained in previous comments. Considering the amount of figures I have and how consistent all valid sources are I’m very safe on sales displayed in this article.

  4. I think you guys have dubbed down sales for Whitney’s first two albums.just dont know how you have come up with these sales figures.no doubt mariah carey’s sales will proberly be inflated because she is suppose to be the best selling female artist of all time according to sources which i doubt.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Sales of Whitney Houston are just like figures of all other artists figures – as realistic as possible. Absurd inflations / deflations are good for fans boards, they are not welcome here. Mariah Carey will be treated just like every other act.

  5. Thanks but excluding Waiting to Exhale from her tally is ridiculous.

    1) She had multiple songs on it and the promos mostly used her name for the soundrack. She’s even on the cover and wrote the thank you’s inside
    2) It was her movie
    3) it was her long awaited comeback after The Bodyguard and the main reason why it sold so much.
    4) At the grammys she got nominated for album of the year under her name “Whitney Houston – Various Artists”
    – All the ladies were so thankful and greatful publically that they were invited by Whitney for the soundtrack because they knew that with her name headlining it it was going to be massive.
    Etc.

    Basically Whitney’s music career can’t jump from The Bodyguard to The Preacher’s Wife, in the 90’s she starred in 3 movies and 3 soundtacks.

    1. Hi Sam,

      No official organization ever considered Waiting to Exhale as a Whitney Houston album. The album sold so much because it had various successful singles from various artists – Brandy, Mary J Blige and Toni Braxton all had Top 2 hits from it. Arguying WTE was all about Whitney is pure nonsense.

      Grammy’s just used her name for their own publicity – check the Billboard, the RIAA, the BPI none they all put the album under Various Artists category.

      I don’t think even Whitney Houston fans would rate it as her album. Claiming it should be counted for her just because she was the most famous singer on it doesn’t held, that’s a powerless argument. Following that logic each and every time a popular singer features on a song from a less known act he should be assigned the album sales of the other – like counting Mark Ronson album Uptown Special into Bruno Mars discography. That makes no sense. Credits have a meaning.

      1. Arista records credits it to Whitney’s sales totals cause they know that her name sold the soundtrack. Without Whitney not only there would be no soundtrack made but if there were it would top max at 2-3 million and not 10+ million. It was her star power and comeback after the Bodyguard that made Waiting to Exhale (both the movie & soundtrack) become blockbusters. It can’t be erased from her career.

        1. That’s utterly incorrect.

          First, when speaking about “records sold”, all majors quote sales of all products on which artists got involved, this doesn’t mean a thing. Second, as previously mentioned, no official organization ever considered it as a Whitney Houston album. Third, your comments about sales coming from her only is not only powerless as this is irrevelant in a credits discussion, it is plain wrong. The album is fully written and produced by Babyface who was turning everything into gold – most notably the Boyz II Men. Not only that, most artists in that soundtrack releasded 3+ million selling albums like Brandy, Toni Braxton, Mary J Blige and SWV.

          It isn’t a Whitney Houston – that’s quite clearly an Arista compilation. Whitney features on it, which is a very different thing that being her album.

          1. No official organisation counts sales like you do either (for example by not counting Greatest hits and accrediting the songs for their albums, etc.). So what’s your point by using this argument?

            Look, Whitney started her career by releasing 3 studio albums (WH, W, IYBT) and following them with 3 movies/soundtracks (TBG, WTE, TPW). To completely erase WTE from her career is ridiculous. Every Whitney fan went out and bought it because it’s her movie, multiple songs, on the cover, follow up to TBG, etc. but a Mary J Blige or Brandy fan needed to only buy their 1 single Whitney headlined all these projects that I mentionned. The impact and sales of WTE cannot just be completely ignored from her career.

            If you want to at least count half of its sales towards her it’s one thing and more logical than to count it for ZERO. If she had even more songs on it it would have sold more and if she had no songs on it it would have sold less. She was the biggest star in the world after TBG and the fact that she headlined her movie WTE with multiple songs is what made it the event it was.

            I understand that you are trying to set and follow rules for yourself, but to *completely* ignore Whitney’s selling power for the WTE project when she both headlined the movie & soundtrack is not fair. It doesn’t have to be a 0 or 100 thing, leave that to a robot calculating sales not a human being that can use a brain.

          2. Which human with a brain would consider Waiting To Exhale a Whitney album though?

            The logic adopted by the RIAA has pretty much the same basics as mine. Within’ a few years it will be the industry standard as we won’t be talking about studio albums or compilations anymore but playlists only. Billboard Top Artist ranking is quite on par with CSPC system too. The comparison is pointless anyway since objectives are different for the formula, while assigning credits now that’s something all organizations do. And when they did, they never gave WTE credit to Whitney, a fact you can’t deny.

            The contribution of Whitney into WTE got considered – she received sales of all her physical singles, their downloads, their streams and sales of greatest hits they generated. There is no reason why she would be getting sales of a physical CD made by Babyface for Arista, no matter her popularity. Once again, would you include sales of Uptown Special album by Mark Ronson into Bruno Mars tally? Should sales of Pipes of Peace by McCartney be given to Michael Jackson too? I don’t think so.

    1. Hi NicoleJen!

      Lately I have been reading various messages on boards showing a strong misunderstanding of presented figures. It now appears quite clear to me that explanations are not good enough and no doubt I’ll try to improve it within’ the next CSPC article which is almost ready 🙂

      1. Hey MJD,

        would you be so nice to give us the breakdown for “The Ultimate Collection”, too ?
        (It sold in the same range as Mariah’s Greatest Hits, for which you were so kind to give us a breakdown for).

        Thanks!

  6. Great Analysis! Do you include all the Divas’s idol Barbra in your next plans to study? She is the top2 choice in vote, and now the only “miss” one of the Biggest Five Divas in your site.

    1. Hi Skkywill!

      She won’t come within’ the very next artists as the schedule is already very busy for next 4-6 weeks while Barbra requires a lot of time, hopefully she will come during the summer!

      1. Thank you very much, I wait to, as we know, she is one of the top album sellers, but she also sold millions of single, and it’s interest to read how her digital and streaming

  7. Thank you for updating Whitney! Thankfully her totals didn’t drop that much. Great job as always by the way.

    Which artists can we expect to be updated next?

  8. I don’t understand your criteria… You put Mariah’s Greatest, which was a platinum record in Brazil, as only 90k , because you said that here in Brazil double albums are certified like in USA, and Whitney’s Greatest as 135k. Why not 67,5k?? And why “Just Whitney” has 100k copies, if this album flopped here and everywhere, and Spice Girls Forever, which is also certified Gold here, you put as 40k sold…?

    1. Hi Marcus,

      Criterias are not mine, they are from ABPD. Greatest Hits hasn’t stop selling, may I remind you Whitney Houston passed away a few years ago ? It remains the leading compilation of her catalog, its DVD got a single shipment of 42,000 units after her death. Mariah’s Greatest Hits is replaced for long, selling only 9/10k since 2003. Just Whitney had a single shipment of 12,000 units on its 10th post-June 2003 shipment, proving it was successful there, while Spice Girls Forever never shipped a single copy after its release, which proves the opposite, that the initial shipment was never sold.

  9. Hi, MJD

    Great article and thanks a lot for update Whitney. I have a question: Is Whitney a good catalog’s saller?

    I am always impressed that “The Ultimate Collection” always back to UK Charts.

  10. Hi MJD,how many of Whitney and mariah’s singles have RIAA certifications?Do you have the actual sales of their compilation albums? Is One Wish certified in the USA? How do you get to know their Spotify views?
    thanks a lot and keep up the nice work.

    1. For questions 1) and 3), you can check it yourself at RIAA.com
      For question 2), yes… he provides the sales right here
      For question 4), Spotify has a counter. Easy to see

  11. hi sir. with regards to whitney’s second album whitney, clive employed some very shady promotional tactics. The first was with where do broken hearts go. Skip to the third paragraph—-> http://stargayzing.com/the-greatest-love-of-all-on-what-really-killed-whitney-houston-and-the-mainstream-medias-coverup-of-the-stars-sexuality/. Also I sense Clive overshipped the album to stores to get those RIAA certifications and he got away with it because of his clout. Check the Billboard top selling albums of the year in 1987 and 1988 https://books.google.co.za/books?id=JCgEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA49&dq=top+selling+albums+100+billboard+1987&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=top 100 albums pop&f=false and https://www.sporcle.com/games/Alstair/1988-top-100-albums . But whats crazy is it got certified 6x platinum by 1988 and it never reached the top 10 in year end sales. Phil Collins album “No Jacket Required “was in the top 10 for the year-end chart for 2 years ( 1985 and 1986) and check out how the certfications were done https://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/?tab_active=default-award&se=phil+collins+no+jacket+required#search_section Whitney is definately the greatest singer of her era but monster hit singles like “I will will always love you” or Unbreak my heart by toni braxton are VERY hard to find so that might explain clive’s very aggressive marketing strategies to make her a crossover act. What do you think MJD?

    1. Hi Lulu!

      You are mixing different concepts which bring you to wrong conclusions! The first things which needs to be said is that albums certified regularly over a long period of time (87,88,93,94,95) like Whitney are not overshipped. Overshipped copies are returned so you can’t only ship 1 new million to get an extra Plat cert. In the same way, albums are never overshipped by the millions especially 1 year after release. A few albums bombed so hard that initial shipments were too high by a couple of millions (BSB’s Black & Blue and Sgt Pepper’s Soundtrack instantly come to my mind) but those are rare occurences and certainly do not concern LPs that spent weeks at #1.

      The Whitney / Collins comparison is wrong for several reasons:
      1) Collins certs were always late, that’s how he got quick awards in 89/91 and then still jumped 5 million more in later years although it sold barely 1 million since 1991.
      2) Billboard YE charts were not based on sales but on chart performance. Whitney’s massive first weeks are erased by this methodology. Also, albums that chart all year long are largely inflated. That’s how No Jacket Required made the top 10 of 1986 in spite of never charting higher than #15 and dropping out of the Top 100 that same year by Christmas time. In a Soundscan-like chart, it wouldn’t even have been Top 25. U2’s Rattle & Hum and Bon Jovi’s New Jersey, #1 for 10 weeks during the fourth quarter, aren’t even in the Top 100 for the year due to the cheap methodology.
      3) The competition is immensely different. Nothing big came out in 85/86. Some albums sold very well over time (Brothers In Arms, True Blue etc), but in the US, no album bar Whitney’s debut did even 5 million in one of those years. In the other side, years 87/88 were the most competitive of the last 35 years with The Joshua Tree, Appetite For Destruction, Bad, Hysteria, Dirty Dancing etc.
      4) The market was strongly increasing. Album sales rocketed from 522,7 million to 672,2 million in two years from 1986 to 1988. That’s a phenomenal 28,6% increase between the era of Jacket and the one of Whitney.

      In reality, a Soundscan-like chart would have most likely shown Whitney at #1 for 1987, edging out Slippery When Wet and Whitesnake by a small margin. MJ’s Bad (not even Top 100 as per BB ranking) and U2’s Joshua Tree would complete the Top 5 close behind too. Dirty Dancing, Licensed to Ill, Anita Baker and Hysteria a bit lower, with all those albums topping 3 million sales during the year.

      1. okay thanks for the insight because i didnt understand why her second album didnt make the top 10 and it was certified 6x platinum in april of 1988. Also Im not American but music clubs like Sony BMG and Colombia House, how many copies were free and how many did you have to pay for because I know the riaa used to count the sales from those clubs. Is it true that some copies, record labels gave them for free to those music clubs?

        1. Hi again Lulu!

          No, actually this is a false myth. In fact, labels never gave nor sold copies to music clubs. The main reason why Clubs were for long largely ignored by RIAA certifications or even on label’s annual reports is because Clubs used to purchase the license to produce an album rather than the product itself. Albums sold by Columbia House were indeed produced by Columbia House itself. Various albums were even available on some formats like 8-tracks carts only on those Clubs.

          They did have several strong, eye-catching promotion like “12 CDs for $1”, but it was against a 1-year subscription with the obligation to buy 2 or more CDs per month at $13-16 a piece. Let say $1 + 2 (units)* 12 (months)* 15 (dollars) = $361 for 12 + 2*12 = 36 albums, more than $10 each. At the end of the day, the initial 12 albums ended being as expensive as anywhere else, which is why BMG / Columbia music clubs still made a hell lot of money. It’s the standard “buy 2 get 3” trick that makes you feel that you are getting a free copy, while the first 2 are more expensive than they should be, so in reality you are barely being forced a 3rd purchase! They played this game to perfection as for many years Clubs refused to pay royalties to the labels (who thus couldn’t pay the artists either) for those subscription bundles while the consumer was paying them with a price spread over following purchases. So rather than labels giving albums away for free, it was more about Clubs stealing the labels 😉

  12. Here is another link for the top selling albums of 1987 https://www.sporcle.com/games/Alstair/1987-top-100-albums but this is the original issue of billboard magazine that had the figures. https://books.google.co.za/books?id=JCgEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=billboard+26+dec+1987&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh88eQldzWAhWCCsAKHUnODrgQ6AEIJDAA#v=onepage&q=billboard%2026%20dec%201987&f=false If you notice also control by janet was a top 10 album for 2 years in 1986 and 1987 and it never went 6x platinum in those two years which is why I have a problem with the certification for whitney’s second album.Here is more proof from an article in the chicago tribune on 3 feb. 1989 http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-02-03/entertainment/8903020512_1_bon-jovi-whitney-houston-anita-baker . I dont hate her at all but I guess it was a marketing strategy by her label or help me understand the RIAA MJD

  13. Hey mjd! Some people are really mad at you for excluding “waiting to exhale” but they would be disappointed to learn that toni braxton’s single “you’re making me high” was a bigger hit than “exhale (shoop shoop)” in America and international markets in terms of sales and airplay. Also TLC, Toni Braxton and Mary J Blige were multi platinum acts. I understand the Bodyguard made her a huge celebrity but Mariah,Celine,Alanis Morissette had bigger hits than shoop shoop. How do you deal with overzealous fans???
    Whitney :
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhale_(Shoop_Shoop)
    Toni: http://www.uk-charts.top-source.info/top-100-1996.shtml

    http://www.bobborst.com/popculture/top-100-songs-of-the-year/?year=1996
    http://www.aria.com.au/pages/aria-charts-end-of-year-charts-top-50-singles-1996.htm
    You will also notice lauryn hill and the fugees sold more with “killing me softly”
    I will keep it quiet about “unbreak my heart”.

  14. Also to add to the “Waiting to Exhale” debate you are right about Baby face having many hits. Boyz II Men’s song “I’ll make love to you” spent 14 weeks at no.1 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27ll_Make_Love_to_You and their second album was certified 12x platinum us sales alone https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/II_(Boyz_II_Men_album) Crazysexycool also sold more going than the soundtrack. None of the people i just mentioned were America’s Sweetheart or big celebrities like Whitney. Even if you are a big celebrity, the A&R department at your record label still needs to find the right songs/hit singles. You must have a lot patience because record labels are guilty of inflating sales and when die hard fans see the accurate figures being lower, all hell breaks loose.

  15. Question. Why did you dramatically change Whitney’s 2nd album sales in Europe. Your previous predictions were…

    Europe : 7.480.000
    – UK : 2.450.000
    – France : 500.000
    – Allemagne : 1.400.000
    – Italie : 600.000
    – Espagne : 250.000
    – Suède : 300.000
    – Pays-Bas : 400.000
    – Suisse : 140.000
    – Autriche : 130.000
    – Finlande : 60.000

    Now you don’t even have her at 6 million in Europe for “Whitney.” How is that possible?

    1. Hi Ingrid!

      It is mostly due to the low market / low competition the album had in various countries. The figure from Germany was way too high for that reason. Formulas give a boost to long-lasting #1 albums, but that one remained at the top for long mostly because sales were very low during its summertime. This has thus been fixed with the help of various data officially stated by her label at the time.

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