With a bundle of hype that included an endorsement from Eminem and almost mythical tales of gunplay, 50 Cent ruled the charts in 2003, as his Get Rich or Die Tryin' sold 6.5 million copies, according to SoundScan, far and away the best-selling album of the year.
Get Rich was a bright spot in a year strapped for them. Overall music sales slipped from 693 million to 687. Further proof that the year was lacking blockbusters was the presence of two 2002 releases in the annual Top Ten: Norah Jones' Come Away With Me was the year's second best seller, moving 5.1 million copies and Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head sold 2.2 million, at Number Ten.
The year saw some established acts continue to put up strong numbers. Linkin Park's Meteora proved that rap/metal hadn't yet let out its last gasp, as it sold 3.5 million copies at Number Three. OutKast sold 3.1 million copies of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below at Number Five, a strong tally for a fall release. And R. Kelly and Toby Keith both posted big sales at Numbers Seven and Nine with sales of 2.4 million and 2.3 million, respectively. As for newcomers, Evanescence sold 3.4 million copies of their debut, Fallen, at Number Four, while Hilary Duff sold 2.4 million copies of Metamorphosis at Number Eight.
While much of the year was plagued by grim sales, the end of the year offered cause for optimism. CD sales for the fourth quarter of the year were up 5.6 percent from the same period in 2002. The year-end spike seemed to put the brakes on what had been a long, steep fall for album sales. The Internet was responsible for some of the relief. Internet album sales rose from 18 million to 21.7 million between 2002 and 2003. And 19.2 million song sales were reported between July and the end of December, a number that is certain to grow in 2004.
To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here
MUSIC 9 Classic Devo Videos
OLYMPICS 18 Epic Opening Ceremonies