Here’s Why Michael Jackson Still Beats Adele

Michael Jackson HIStory World Tour
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 10: Michael Jackson performs on stage during is "HIStory" world tour concert at Ericsson Stadium November 10, 1996 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Photograph by Phil Walter — Getty Images

We’ve heard a ton lately about the success of Adele’s 25, a record that has already sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. in three weeks. It’s an astonishing feat in any era, but particularly in this time of dwindling music sales.

But that is still a long way off from the numbers posted by Michael Jackson’s 33-year-old blockbuster record Thriller, which the Recording Industry Association of America on Wednesday said had surpassed 30 million copies sold in the U.S.

The record, which included classics like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” is the first record ever to hit the 30-time platinum mark. Thriller has pulled ahead of the Eagles’ Greatest Hits 1971-75, which has sold 29 million copies, as the best selling record of all time in the U.S. By some estimates, Thriller has hit 100 million copies worldwide. The album’s label is Epic/Legacy.

Jackson’s 1979 Off the Wall is eight times platinum, while his Bad CD from 1987 has hit the 9 million mark, according to the RIAA, which certifies U.S. album sales.

“What an exceptional achievement and testament to Thriller’s enduring spot in our hearts and musical history,” RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman wrote in a statement to the Associated Press.

Thriller became a smash largely because it crossed over to different fan bases, appealing to African American as well as white listeners, along with rock fans as well as dance fans. That kind of crossover appeal has also fueled the success of Adele’s CDs, of which, 21 has sold 11 million copies stateside. Adele is signed to XL Recordings.

Jackson died in 2009, but his estate has continued to capitalize on his continued appeal by releasing new music, outtakes from tour rehearsals as featured in the movie This is It, as well as shows by Montreal-circus company Cirque du Soleil.

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