Yearly Most Successful Female Album: The Divas (1983-1998)

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1988 – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

One time per decade, there is an album embraced by a generation. An album which perfectly summarizes the mindset of the general public from its time. In 1971, it was King‘s Tapestry, in 1988, it was the eponymous debut of Tracy Chapman.

The record contains 3 absolute classics, Fast Car, Baby Can I Hold You and Talkin’ Bout A Revolution. The former has 194 million streams on Spotify, quite simply the second most streamed catalog song ever by a female artist behind Mariah Carey‘s All I Want For Christmas Is You.

Tracy Chapman was huge everywhere, but its sales in continental Europe impress even more. In France, it sold over 1,3 million units, the highest selling international female album of the 80s. In Italy, it topped 1 million. In Germany, it sold an incredible 2,3 million units. In the Netherlands, it is over 600,000 copies. We are speaking about more than 8 million sales in the continent – outside the UK, where it sits on 2,7 million. Truly insane!

The discography of the singer songwriter is axed around studio albums, but this record still created 5 million equivalent album sales through remaining formats, on top of its 21 million sales in its original album format.


The runner up for 1988 is Enya‘s Watermark. As reviewed recently, the album created nearly 20 million equivalent album sales triggered after the release of the hit Orinoco Flow. It sold 13 million pure album units.

Enya has been known as a very discreet star. Paula Abdul was the complete opposite. The former dancer exploded North American charts just as strongly as Whitney Houston or Madonna. The album Forever Your Girl reached #1 in the US on its 64th week, the deepest climb to the top ever. It remained there for 10 weeks as part of a stunning run of 64 weeks inside the Top 10. This was made possible thanks to 4 #1 hits extracted from it. The album quickly sold 8 million units in North America alone. It is never compared to the big ones from female stars for two reasons. The first, it failed to do that well abroad, the second is that the album had little enduring appeal as Abdul‘s career was short-lived. A remix album of this record sold over 1 million units. May I say there was a Lady Gaga before Lady Gaga?

Heavily discussed on online boards, Kylie Minogue arrived in 1988. Her singles Locomotion and I Should Be So Lucky were big hits in her native Australia and in Europe. She failed to break the American market though which reduced severely her global statistics. The popularity of these songs also quickly vanished. They are up to barely 6 million streams combined on Spotify, 10 times less than Can’t Get You Out Of My Head alone. This explains why Minogue never got a big selling compilation during the 90s.

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