France best selling albums ever: Ainsi Soit-Je… by Mylène Farmer (1988)
If Mylène Farmer has been able to create controversy during the promotion of her 1986 debut album, that’s her sophomore effort Ainsi Soit-Je, released in April 1988, which made her a superstar.
The lead single Sans Contrefaçon was released in the 1987 fall. It turned into a classic song. Ironically, this song where Mylène Farmer claims to be a boy peaked at #2 blocked by its complete opposite, one-hit wonder Sabrina with Boys and her cult music video. It wasn’t safe that the album Ainsi Soit-Je would become a strong seller yet. In fact, her debut record Cendres De Lune had four singles released including two Top 10 hits but still never managed to chart on its own. Sans Contrefaçon was bigger than anything she dropped previously yet, rocketing the album to a #8 chart entry.
The album remained in positions 6-12 during its first 12 weeks and then between positions 18-26 during the following 16 weeks during the promotion of the #12 peaking title track. Great run, but not record breaking, the album appeared poised to end as a Platinum record, possibly 2xPlatinum with extensive promotion.
This was underestimating the massive smash third single was going to be. Released in September 1988, Pourvu Qu’Elles Soient Douces quickly increased the momentum around both the single and the album, but also around Mylène Farmer as a whole. This hit topped charts for five weeks during December 1988, selling at some point 15,000 units per day.
The album climbed 23-11-5-4-3-1 just in time to top the chart for Christmas, selling large amounts within’ a few weeks. It is responsible of the two-weeks hiatus during the 12 out of 14 weeks at the top by Dire Straits mega compilation Money For Nothing. The album was closing in the 2xPlatinum mark in shipments (600,000 units) when 1988 was completed.
By the end of February 1989, it was still comfortably inside the Top 5, selling 800,000 units worldwide up to that date. Most of those copies were sold in France as it took over later elsewhere, charting most notably in Germany in 1990. Only about 50,000 of those copies were sold abroad, mostly in other French-speaking territories.
While no subsequent single was as big as the third one, the couple more that got released maintained the album quite well. Just like during previous year, it was incredibly consistent. During the first quarter it remained in positions 2-4, during second quarter it floated from 6 to 13, in Q3 it never moved from 10-16 span. These results brough the album to the million sales milestones with a Diamond award received on November 14 of 1989.
Exactly at that point, large shipments ended as the album dropped from #10 to #23 and never recovered, sticking inside the Top 50 for three more months before vanishing definitely. It still added over 100,000 extra shipments during 1989 Christmas season and as much in 1990 to bring the record to 1,2 million copies shipped at that point.
After the drop out in early 1990, the album was very quiet on charts during the 90s. Once again, this was mostly due to the short sized charts. Mylène Farmer released three consecutive million sellers during this decade so with no best of compilation available there is little doubt Ainsi Soit-Je was selling decent amounts. When the ranking was extended to a Top 150 in 2001, this record featured one week at #119 in February. Estimates are on 1,3 million copies shipped by the released of Les Mots compilation later that year.
From 2002, the album had what we may call fake re-entries. Charting in the catalog chart in both 2005 and 2009, those results aren’t relevant sales-wise as they were barely the consequence of newly released fans-targeted editions of all her catalog. In fact, GFK figures show the set sold 65,000 copies since 2002 including all aforementioned editions, an average of less than 5,000 copies per year. Not bad by any means but lower than suggested by the multiple entries in recent years.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,465,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, Billboard, GFK, Platine.