High School Rules '06 Album Sales

Disney Channel's surprise hit soundtrack finishes as year's biggest album, selling 3.7 million copies; overall sales lag behind 2005, but digital downloads way up

By David Jenison Jan 05, 2007 1:27 AMTags

High School Musical officially graduated at the top of its class.

The surprise hit soundtrack accompaniment to the Disney Channel's tween song and dance fest finished as 2006's chart valedictorian, selling more than 3.7 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures released Thursday. In the SoundScan era, the only other soundtracks to finish atop the year-end chart were The Bodyguard in 1993 and Titanic in 1998.

Remarkably, High School Musical debuted on the charts at number 143 in January 2006. The disc increased its position each week, eventually hitting the top spot on two nonconsecutive weeks in March. It was the first TV soundtrack to hit number one since the Miami Vice soundtrack in the '80s and was the first soundtrack of any kind to hit number one since Bad Boys II in '03.

Keeping up the superlative soundtracks theme, Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George and another Mickey-approved smash, Hannah Montana, also hit number one last year. The Hannah Montana soundtrack made the year-end list, selling nearly 2 million copies at number eight, while Curious George was the fourth bestselling digital album.

(Until last year, only three soundtracks had topped the charts this side of Y2K. The others were Bad Boys II, 8 Mile and O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

To the Mouse's good fortune, Disney's country label, Lyric Street, held down the year's number two spot with Rascal Flatts' Me & My Gang moving about 3.5 million copies. The country trio's catalog albums helped make them the year's overall top-selling artist with just under 5 million in total sales, edging out Johnny Cash by about 140,000 copies.

Though both released in 2005, Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts and Nickelback's All the Right Reasons sold enough copies in 2006 to finish at three and four, selling 3 and 2.7 million copies, respectively. Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds, which is still a regular on the weekly Top 10, took the number five spot with 2.4 million copies.

James Blunt's Back to Bedlam finished at six with 2.1 million; Beyoncé's B'Day celebrated at seven with 2.01 million; the Dixie Chicks' cemented their comeback by landing Taking the Long Way at nine with 1.9 million; and Hinder's Extreme Behavior claimed the 10 spot with 1.8 million.

The list of digital album bestsellers bore little resemblance to the record store Top 10. Fray's How to Save a Life took number one on 198,000 downloads and John Mayer's Continuum took number two with 177,000. Rounding out the Top 5: FutureSex/LoveSounds finished at three (142,000), Curious George at four (135,000) and James Blunt's Back to Bedlam at five (131,000). The two top retail sellers, High School Musical (123,000) and Me and My Gang (106,000), finished at six and 10, respectively.

Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" topped the Top 10 Digital Songs chart, which combines sales for all versions of a given song. Powter registered more than 2 million downloads, the first digital track to surpass that milestone. Twenty-two digital tunes cracked the 1 million mark in 2006, compared to only two in 2005.

Also making the Digital Songs chart: Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" at two (1.71 million), Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback" at three (1.66 million), Gnarles Barkley's "Crazy" at four (1.63 million) and James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" at five (1.62 million). Overall, a record 30.1 million digital tracks were sold, smashing the 2005 record of 19.9 million.

On other year-end charts, Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" was the most played song on radio; Nickelback was the most played artist; Cassie's "Me & U" was the most streamed Internet song; Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" was the most streamed music video; Akon's "Smack That" was the top Mastertones ring tone; and the "Super Mario Bros. Theme" was the top Polyphonic ring tone.

While total album sales were down 5 percent compared to 2005, overall music purchases—which includes digital downloads and ring tones—were up: 1.2 billion units were sold in '06, compared to 1 billion the year previous.

Here's a recap of the Top 10 bestselling albums of 2006:

1. High School Musical, soundtrack, 3.7 million
2. Me & My Gang, Rascal Flatts, 3.5 million
3. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood, 3 million
4. All the Right Reasons, Nickelback, 2.7 million
5. FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake, 2.4 million
6. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt, 2.1 million
7. B'Day, Beyoncé, 2.01 million
8. Hannah Montana soundtrack, 1.99 million
9. Taking the Long Way, Dixie Chicks, 1.9 million
10. Extreme Behavior, Hinder, 1.8 million