The race for the best-selling album of 2009 was tight, and had Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream been released one week earlier, the headline on this story would be reversed. But according to Nielsen SoundScan's final figures, Taylor Swift managed to stave off the Britain's Got Talent sensation as Fearless sold 3,217,000 copies to become the top seller of 2009. Boyle was right on Swift's heels, ending the year with 3,104,000 in sales and the distinction of having the best-selling release of 2009 (Fearless debuted in November 2008).
Unsurprisingly, Michael Jackson was the year's best-selling artist, as the singer's June 25th death led to a massive resurgence of his catalog. In total, the King of Pop sold 8,286,000 units in 2009, easily beating out the 4,643,000 combined albums Swift sold last year. Jackson's 2003 compilation Number Ones was also the year's third-best-selling album, totaling 2,355,000 units sold. Jackson came in at Number Three on the top-selling digital artists chart.
In a year that featured new releases by U2, Green Day and Pearl Jam, it's surprising that the year's best-selling band is, well, no longer a band. As Rolling Stone previously reported, the Beatles' best-of collection 1 was the decade's top-selling album, and 40 years after the breakup, the Fab Four were amazingly also the top-selling act of 2009. Thanks to their remastered catalog, the Beatles sold 3,282,000 units in 2009 without the aid of digital music services, placing the group third behind Jackson and Swift and in front of Boyle on the 2009 top-selling artist chart. Additionally, Abbey Road was the year's best-selling vinyl with 34,000 copies, beating out Jackson's Thriller and Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. Radiohead, however, was the year's best-selling artists on vinyl with 45,700 records combined.
The year-end digital charts tell a completely different story. Lady Gaga was the queen of the downloads, shifting 15,297,000 digital units (combined number of digital tracks sold) to outpace the Black Eyed Peas, Jackson and Swift, all of whom finished in the vicinity of 12 million digital units. Gaga's The Fame was also the Number One digital album with 461,000 copies. Our Hot Diva also ended the year as 2009's fifth-top-selling artist total. Over on the digital singles chart, the Black Eyed Peas wrapped up a year of Hot 100 domination by scoring 2009's top two best-selling songs, with "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling" getting downloaded 4,762,000 and 4,426,000 times apiece.
For a look at the year's biggest sales trends, check out 2009 Wrap-Up: Music Purchases Up, Album Sales Down.
• Eminem and The Beatles: The Top-Selling Artists of the 2000s
• James Blunt, Snow Patrol Rule Decade-End U.K. Charts
• On the Charts: Boyle Sails On As Sales Begin Post-Holiday Slide
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