France best selling albums ever:
Les Mots by Mylène Farmer (2001)

Being as mysterious as popular may seem a strong contradiction. Nevertheless, that’s exactly the case for the one of a kind artist that is Mylène Farmer. Everything on her career has always been different, results of her first compilation album Les Mots, released in 2001.

In fact, this best of album sold pretty much as a studio album. Supported strongly by very successful lead single Les Mots, a duet with Seal, the album sold large amounts of copies in a few weeks only. While those type of albums are excluded from the main chart, we do know this album outsold Chanson Pour Les Pieds by Jean-Jacques Goldman upon release, which was #1 on the main chart.

In its six weeks from 2001, the compilation sold 670,000 copies. Standard run for such a cash-in product would have steep drops after Christmas rush, but second single C’est Une Belle Journée took over the torch to maintain the album sales during most of 2002. Ending that year with 655,000 sales as per inside GFK information, it did just as well as in 2001. Data is confirmed by the July 2002 million sales certified in Europe by the IFPI. This album remains to this day the very last million selling compilation.

Ironically, after over-performing during its first two years, the album failed to get the consistent catalog sales managed by other compilations from A-league artists. Yearly sales collapsed year after year:

  • 2003: 63,000
  • 2004 : 23,000
  • 2005 : 15,000
  • 2006 : 14,000
  • 2007 : 7,000
  • 2008 : 5,000
  • 2009 : 4,000
  • 2010 : 3,000
  • 2011 : 3,000
  • 2012 : 2,000

In late 2011, a new best of covering years 2001-2011 was released. To boost Les Mots while pushing old fans to pick the new compilation that didn’t had that many well known songs, Universal removed the stand-alone Les Mots album to package it as a 3CD box with 2001-2011. This pack sold 72,000 since its release. All in all, a total of 1,535,000 copies sold at retail.

Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,550,000 copies.

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

Sources: SNEP, GFK, IFOP, IFPI, Billboard, Le Parisien, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro.

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