There is obviously no need to introduce Madonna, the best selling female artist of all-time worldwide. In France, as in most markets, she managed impressive sales throughout her career. Although, the early 90s weren’t that successful, with her four 90-96 studio albums averaging less than 300,000 copies. However, 1998 album Ray Of Light was a real tour de force for the singer sending her back to her hey-day success.
The album was off to an unusual start by hitting #2 seven weeks in a row. What could have been an impressive showing at the top ended as a frustrating episode behind the giant soundtrack Titanic. Still, this was a strong comeback, which was achieved thanks to the solid #2 hit single Frozen, itself blocked by the Titanic single, Celine Dion‘s My Heart Will Go On. Both songs shared all the Top 3 placings with Janet Jackson‘s Together Again during an extensive eight weeks period that can be regarded now as one of the most epic Divas battle of all-time.
Despite following singles not being as big as the lead, still proved to be of good assistance for the album helping it to never drop below #41 until April 1999 on its 59th week. Selling most of its copies in 1998 due to the release very early in that year, the #10 position in the year end chart seemed prohibitive in order to hope for a million sales.
This being said, looking at the Top 9 makes one understand how misleading the relatively low ranking of Ray Of Light is. In fact, all those albums sold at least 1,5 million copies in total and half of them came close or surpassed the 2 million mark.
The year 1998 remains the most extraordinary of all-time in terms of big sellers. Even the 14th best selling album of the year passed the 2xPlatinum criteria during the year.
On its side, Ray Of Light kept going quietly, finally increasing its 1998 2xPlatinum to 3xPlatinum, representing 900,000 sales, on July 3 2001. The album was having its last week inside the Top 100 that same week – the 2-year limit on charts wasn’t existing at this time.
By April 2003, the album was on 950,000 copies shipped. We can then add GFK sales from 2003 to 2008, which in that timespan led the album to sell a further 38,000 copies. From 2009 to 2015, it added an additional 20,000 units.
These figures explain why the record has never been certified Diamond. In fact, it reached the million mark around 2010. From mid-2005, certifications were updated by SNEP, with Diamond award representing 750,000 rather than 1 million units, meaning all albums that got to that mark after this date can’t be certified anymore.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,015,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, IFOP, Le Parisien.