Celine Dion's Sales Will Go On -- and On and On

As 1998 winds to a close, don't look for middle-of-the-road pop diva Celine Dion to garner any Artist of the Year honors from music critics. But if record stores were handing out statues for outstanding sales performance, Dion would sweep them all.

What the Canadian-born singer has quietly accomplished over the last twelve months is astounding. Not only has she released two blockbuster albums of her own, but she was the grease of the entire Titanic soundtrack phenomenon (which included a Back to Titanic follow-up) and had cameo appearances on nearly half-a-dozen other titles in just the last year.

Taken as a whole, according to SoundScan, Dion has sold more than twenty million albums in America in just one year's time. And that figure is a precise one reflecting the actual number of albums purchased, not the number of albums shipped out to stores, which is how more liberal platinum certifications are determined.

True, that total is spread over several records, but the idea that a single artist could be responsible for selling more than twenty million albums in one year was once unthinkable. Even Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and Hootie and the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View, two of the best-selling albums of the Nineties (selling 13.2 million and 9.7 million copies, respectively), took nearly two years to accumulate those huge tallies. As Billboard chart chief Geoff Mayfield puts it, "If you could buy stock in an artist, I'd buy stock in Celine Dion."

How'd Dion do it? According to SoundScan, the soundtracks to Titanic and Back to Titanic, which helped introduce the singer to a much younger fan base, have sold ten million copies combined. Dion's Let's Talk About Love, which also includes Titanic's hit single "My Heart Will Go On," has sold eight million copies. Her recently released Christmas album, These Are Special Times, has sold 1.7 million copies. And then there are the '98 releases Dion appears on: R. Kelly's R (Dion and Kelly's duet single, "I'm Your Angel," just went to No. 1), the TV soundtrack to Touched by an Angel, VH1's Divas Live and the Bee Gees' One Night Only. All together, those records have sold another 1.5 million. (At one point in November, all eight of the Dion-related records appeared on the Billboard album chart at the same time.) Plus, Dion's 1997 studio release, Falling Into You continued to do well in '98, selling 640,000 copies. That brings Dion's twelve-month total to twenty-two million albums sold.

Executives at 550 insist that despite Dion's recent saturation coverage, the singer's in no danger of being over-exposed. Nonetheless, label executive vice president and GM John Doelp reports, "she's definitely slowing down next year."

Maybe that'll a give everybody else a chance to sell a few more records.