The ten worst selling albums of all time obtain such distinction for their performance against industry expectations. These expectations are usually built on star power, which often peaks at the time of release or is riding the wave of success from previous albums. Too often, however, that’s just not enough.
- “Pop” – U2. U2 can urinate on their competition at will. Their following is so mammoth it’s hard to believe they could release an album that wouldn’t explode. 1997's “Pop” would have been considered a stellar offering by other, mortal bands. But for U2, the 1.5 million units sold was a pittance, and despite their solid discography, “Pop” remains one of the worst selling albums of all time.
- “Devils & Dust” – Bruce Springsteen. When “The Boss” released “The Rising” in 2002, it was a critical and commercial success. Three years later, and the “Born to Run” singer released “Devils” to underwhelming fanfare. En route to joining the ranks of the ten worst selling albums of all time, “Devils & Dust” would top out at 650,000 copies.
- “Golden Age of Grotesque” – Marilyn Manson. Manson’s star was past its prime in 2003 when he released “Grotesque”, but it debuted at #1 regardless. To this day, Manson remains the only artist to debut the lowest-selling #1 album on two separate occasions (“Mechanical Animals” was the other). “Grotesque” managed only 526,000 copies sold.
- “3121” – Prince. The Purple One is one of the most highly-respected artists in music, even if he doesn’t sell like he used to. In 2006, “3121” became Prince’s fourth album at #1 and his first in seventeen years. But to date, it’s still one of the worst selling albums of all time by topping out at 530,000 units.
- “Unfinished Business” – Jay-Z & R. Kelly. Let all initialed artists beware: Teaming up leads to abbreviated sales. “Unfinished Business” saw the pairing of hip hop icon Sean “Jay-Z” Carter and R&B superstar Robert Sylvester “R.” Kelly. Such titan tune-smiths typically shift major units by themselves. Unfortunately, however, Young Hova and the Pied Piper fizzled out with an eventual tally of 524,000, leading to one of the worst selling albums of all time.
- “Dead Ringer” – Meat Loaf. Michael Aday, aka Meat Loaf, was on top of the world in 1977 with “Bat Out of Hell”. That record netted more than 14 million units for the big guy, spawning multiple hit singles that continue to thrive. “Ringer” was his follow-up, but it couldn’t support Loaf’s previous success. It bottomed out with 500,000 copies sold.
- “Forever” – Spice Girls. Remember the Spice Girls? Girl Power? Or their attempt at acting, “Spice World”? Well, the heady days of 1996—which saw their debut album “Spice” sell more than 7 million copies—were long gone when 2000’s “Forever” hit shelves. This was confirmed when this “album” of “songs” was palmed by a paltry 200,000 customers.
- “Schizophrenic” – J.C. Chasez. After Chasez’ pop super group N*Sync took a break in 2003, bandmate Justin Timberlake saw crazy success with his debut solo effort, “Justified”. Chasez, one year later, released “Schizophrenic” and the widely-played single, “Blowing Me Up (With Her Love)”. Being one of the more visible faces in the group didn’t ensure automatic success, however, as “Schizo” pushed only 120,000 units.
- “Playing With Fire” – Kevin Federline. Take your first initial and couple it with the first syllable of your last name. Instant generic nickname! Kevin Federline became “K-Fed” whilst enjoined to pop mega-star Britney Spears. The moniker was indicative of the curious celebrity shrouding the former back-up dancer, and following his divorce from Brit, Federline rode that celebrity horse into Death Valley. “Fire” dropped a laughable 18,000 copies, rightly branding it as a worst selling album of all time.
- “Superficial” – Heidi Montag. It’s almost unfair picking on someone with so little talent and business savvy as Spencer Pratt’s wife, but facts are facts: “Superficial” climbed the charts like a three-toed sloth by moving less than 1,000 copies during its first week. When you sell less than Britney Spear’s ex-husband despite having been one of the “stars” on a popular “unscripted” reality show, you know you’ve made the worst selling album of all time.
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