Three years ago this month, the British soul singer Adele achieved the unthinkable. Her second album, “21,” passed the 10-million-sold mark: the first reported by the Recording Industry Association of America to reach that milestone since Usher’s “Confessions,” which came out in 2004.
Adele’s latest album, “25,” smashed a seemingly even more unapproachable record after just a few days on store shelves. According to Nielsen Music, “25” set the US album sales record in four days, selling 2.433 million copies between Friday and Monday — breaking the record set by *NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached,” which sold 2.416 million copies during the week ending March 26, 2000.
The success of “25” follows that of its lead single, “Hello,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this month.
Sales numbers for the album were helped along by its lack of presence on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. People who wanted to hear “25,” which Boston Globe critic Sarah Rodman said “lingers in the neighborhood of the contemplative mood of [‘Hello’],” had to buy it, whether in physical form or as a download.
Adele’s previous numbers put her in an elite group of artists who can make their albums events — and who can, as a result, dictate where their records are made available. The eighth album by the Barbadian shape-shifter Rihanna, “Anti-,” reportedly will be available exclusively to subscribers of the high-quality streaming service Tidal during its first week of release, which is expected to commence on Friday. And Taylor Swift, whose “1989” has broken the 5 million sold mark, pulled her music from Spotify and tussled publicly with Apple Music over artist compensation.
Streaming services have helped make over the album-sales landscape in 2015. Last December, Billboard, which publishes album and singles charts in conjunction with Nielsen Music, began incorporating streaming-equivalent albums (1,500 streams of songs from the same album equal a unit) and track-equivalent albums (10 downloads from the same album equal a unit) into its tallies. This resulted in “Rebel Heart,” by the boundary-pushing doyenne Madonna, debuting at No. 2 despite selling more copies than that week’s No. 1, the soundtrack to Fox’s “Empire.” That collection, which featured performances by the soapy drama’s principals as well as Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige, was streamed more times.
Adele’s “25” has already become the best-selling album of 2015, beating out Swift’s “1989,” which sold 1.76 million copies this year after its release in November 2014. It will replace Justin Bieber’s “Purpose,” which debuted at No. 1 with 522,000 sales and 100 million streams (in the United States) through Thursday. Before Adele’s startling debut, “Purpose” had the highest first-week sales for an album in 2015.
After the record-setting news was announced on Tuesday, members of *NSYNC congratulated Adele on social media. Lance Bass posted on Twitter, “We officially say Bye Bye Bye as @Adele says Hello to the World Record of Most Albums Sold in a Single Week. Congratulations!! #IDemandARecount #NSYNC #Adele”
“Well done Adele,” JC Chasez chimed in.
“I even bought the damn album,” former *NSYNC member and current “Family Feud” announcer Joey Fatone admitted in a Billboard interview.
Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.