France best selling albums ever: The Very Best Of by Elton John (1990)
For a citizen of the US or the UK, it may seem hard to believe that Elton John first album to reach Platinum status in France was his studio album number 22, e.g. 1989 set Sleeping With The Past.
The timing couldn’t have been better for comprehensive 2CD set The Very Best Of, released in the 1990 fall just a few months after that former studio album big single Sacrifice was a #1 hit in France. If his first compilation, the US/UK monster selling Greatest Hits release from 1974, needed five years to reach Gold status in France, the 1990 package performed infinitely better. Numerous weeks at #1 and various months in the Top 10 of the Compilation Chart spread from 1990 to 1995 gave this record impressive sales.
Certified Gold upon release, the new compilation climbed to 2xPlatinum status in 1991, with sales on 700,000 units by May of that year. The 1974 song Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me was then re-released in late 1991 as a live duet with George Michael then stormed into the Singles Chart, peaking seven weeks at the Top during 1992. This is sustained catalog sales of the best of package that contained the track.
It was a new hit that made Very Best Of come back even stronger in 1994 yet. Although not on the compilation tracklist, the song Can You Feel The Love Tonight, part of the million selling Lion King soundtrack, was an absolute beast charting 10 weeks at #1 including the entire December month. The compilation catapulted to #1 in its dedicated chart as well. In November 1994, the set was certified Diamond.
Large sales during the busy gifts season rocketed the album to #1 position in year end list with over 300,000 units and 1,2 million copies sold to date. During the first seven months of 1995 his fame wasn’t slowing down and as such this record retained a Top 25 placing, including a couple of weeks at #1 at the beginning of the year.
Released later in the year, Love Songs mostly replaced Very Best Of. The former was the top selling compilation of 1995, meaning Elton John succeeded to himself, while Very Best Of was the third best seller of the year despite much stronger competition that year. It sold some 400,000 units to push the total up to an incredible 1,6 million.
In 1997, while Candle In The Wind was achieving the highest sales figures ever seen in the Singles area, Billboard published an Elton John-dedicated issue. They mention 2,3 million sales of The Very Best Of in France. Considering known facts, it is an impossible amount. The piece of article stating it also refers to incredible sales of Very Best Of and Love Songs in Italy. That’s most likely the root cause of the error: 2,3 million perfectly fits with the cumulative tally of both The Very Best Of (1,65 million) and Love Songs (650,000).
The former album never charted since the release of the later. In most, it was ultimately deleted in 2002 when replacement compilation Greatest Hits 1970-2002 was issued. The popularity of Elton John also suffered a strong backlash as since the #4 1997 album The Big Picture, his highest peak has been #19 and 8 out of his 9 albums charted less than 10 weeks inside the Top 200.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,730,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, Billboard.