Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | No. 1 With A Proiettile

Track 199 | Rockin' all over the world.

I was looking for a nice Shaddap You Face gif to send to an Italian co-worker friend of mine, who was late for our daily gossip walk-for-coffee. (When you have ADHD, these are precarious moments.) Anyway, it wasn’t long before I was shoulders-deep in singer Joe Dolce’s backstory — like how he managed to have an ethnically derivative hit single even though he was raised by Italian-Americans. Weirder still, he emigrated from the U.S. to Australia in 1978 and had been there two years when this song came out. It was then, as it remains today, the most successful Australian-made single of all time. Who would have guessed that?

So, as I got later and later for our gossip walk-for-coffee rendezvous, I checked to see how easy it is to figure out this distinction for other countries. Turns out, that’s a bit tougher. What is fairly simple, however, is figuring out the biggest-selling single or album in a particular country — regardless of where the song originates. Here’s the results of some of the more surprising ones.


The Spanish-speaking country with an Italian name has the tango as a national symbol. The unofficial record for sales of a hit single was set back in 1979. Abba’s Chiquitita moved around 700,000 units during the height of the so-called Dirty War when an estimated 20,000 political dissidents were murdered by the Argentine Anti-communist Alliance death squads. Two years before Abba, Bonnie Tyler’s It’s A Heartache unofficially sold 100,000 copies. With the exception of a Barbra Steisand / Donna Summer single in 1979, everything else is Spanish. The top albums are all by Spanish-language artists, including Julio Iglesias. Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982) is the best-selling English album in Argentinian history.


Unlike Argentina, Australia is able to provide certified results. The Top 40 best-selling singles down under have all been released in the past 20 years or so. No. 1 on the list is 2015’s Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. It sold more than 1.5 million units. That’s 22x platinum. The top Canadian on the list is The Weeknd, who placed 14th overall with his 2019 single Blinding Lights, which sold nearly 1.2 million copies, or 17x platinum. The best-selling album in Australian history is Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell from 1977. It went 26x platinum, selling more than 1.8 million copies. But — No. 2 on the list is Canadian! Shania Twain’s 1997 album Come On Over has sold more than 1.7 million copies — 25x platinum. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (1995) is No. 11 and Michael Bublé»s 2011 Christmas album is tied for 12th spot (with Eminem’s The Eminem Show). All three Canucks outsold Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon in Australia. Who knew?


Elton John’s 1997 reworked charity single Candle In The Wind, in memory of Princess Diana is in many of these global lists. It has the distinction of being Austria’s biggest-selling single of all time, with certified sales in excess of 300,000. Thriller is the best-selling album — 400,000 shipments.


Wow, Belgium is weird. They like fun stuff. The best-selling single of all time in the NATO and EU headquarters is a tie between Lambada by Kaoma from 1989 and YMCA by The Village People from 1978. Both moved 300,000 units. Waterloo by Abba is next, followed by The Smurfs Song from 1977 and Rivers of Babylon by Boney M. All three sold 200,000 copies.


We’re one of those countries where Elton’s Candle In The Wind was the top-selling single. It sold 1.9 million copies here. One in every 15 people had a copy. The top homegrown artist is Carly Rae Jepsen, whose 2012 hit Call Me Maybe sold 800,000 copies — good for roughly 17th overall. Thriller was the best-selling album, with three million copies sold. Ottawa’s Alanis Morissette was the top Canadian, coming in at No. 2 with Jagged Little Pill, which sold 2 million.


The Scandinavian home to Hans Christian Andersen has two Danish artists taking the No. 1 and No. 2 spots — but the third-best selling album ever was Mungo Jerry’s In The Summertime from 1970. It sold 70,000 copies, unofficially. That said, if you look at certified sales, Ed Sheeran holds both the No. 1 and No. 2 spots with his 2017 singles Shape of You (720K) and Perfect (630K). When it comes to album sales, late Danish pop-rock artist Kim Larsen holds both the No. 1 and No. 2 spots with releases from the 1980s. He’s actually tied for first, technically. But third on the list is Abba Gold, their 1990 greatest hits compilation. It sold 560,000 copies to Larsen’s 600,000 on each of his top albums. Interesting to note, however, that six of the top 14 albums were all made by Larsen, who sold more than five million albums in Denmark during his career. He died in 2018.


Here’s a country whose homegrown talent dominates the charts. Looking at the top 100 singles ever in Finland, 87 are Finnish. But No. 1 is British. Yep, it’s Elton again with his Diana single — more than 55,000 copies. It’s a similar story with Finland’s album sales where only seven of the top 50 albums are not Finnish. Of those four, Queen’s Greatest Hits II sold the most copies — just under 150K. Greatest Hits II? Really? Weird.


The French love the classics. The best-selling single of all time remains the 1946 Christmas song Petit Papa Noel by Tino Rossi. With 5.7 million in sales, nothing else is even close to it. Canada’s Celine Dion has the third most successful single in France, Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore, from her 13th album D’eux. The song sold 2.1 million copies — 100,000 more than Elton’s Diana single, and 300,000 more than the Grease classic, You’re The One That I Want by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. I got chills. Belgian singer Stromae — the Alors On Danse dude — has the distinction of having France’s best-selling album of all-time. Funny enough, it’s not his debut, but his sophomore album, 2013’s Racine Carrée. It has certified sales in excess of two million copies. There are four Celine albums which have sold in excess of a million copies in France, but there are only two English albums amongst the top dozen sellers — Happy Nation by Sweden’s Ace Of Base, and Bob Marley & The Wailers best-of Legend.


There isn’t one English-language hit among Italy’s best-selling singles, but there is a Canadian. Ottawa’s lonely boy Paul Anka is in the Top 5 with his 1964 track Ogni Volta. Italy’s best-selling single is the 1980 disco hit Ma Quale Idea by Pino D’Angiò, which sold 2.5 million copies compared to Anka’s 1.5 million. I wonder how he would have fared with “Stai per avere il mio bambino.” The best-selling album in Italy has no competition. La Vita È Adesso by Claudio Baglioni was No. 1 for 27 consecutive weeks when it came out — from June 16, 1985 to Jan. 12, 1986 — a record that still stands today. It spent 90 weeks in the Top 10 and has sold five million copies. It’s closest competitor is Zucchero Fornaciari’s Oro Incenso & Birra from 1989, which sold slightly more than 2 million. The top English album isn’t far behind — Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece Dark Side Of The Moon clearly resonates with Italians, selling 1.9 million copies.


In Japan they have two lists — one for domestic acts and one for western ones. They’re not even close, in terms of sales. Japanese singles destroy English ones. The top Japanese single is the 1975 hit Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun by Masato Shimon, which sold nearly 4.6 million copies. That’s more than a million more than its closest competitor, and more than twice as many as the top western single, Beautiful Sunday by Daniel Boone — which was a hit in the U.S. in 1972, but was big in Japan in the spring of 1976, selling more than two million copies. Incidentally, the western runner up is Mariah Carey’s awful All I Want for Christmas Is You.


Here’s another list of singles which is a little odd. The top entry is from an Egyptian, followed by two songs by the same French singer, then an Italian, and then Paul freaking Anka again. This time the song is 1957’s Diana. The top single in Lebanon was Ya Mutafa by Bob Azzam from 1960. When it comes to albums, it seems the Lebanese prefer North American records.The best-selling album ever in Lebanon was Backstreet’s Back by The Backstreet Boys — though, they claim the record sold 5,000 copies, which seems a tad sus to me. This is followed by the Mamma Mia soundtrack and My World 2.0 by Justin Bieber.


Wow, the list of best-selling singles in the Netherlands reads like the playlist at a karaoke party. Elton’s damn Candle In The Wind remake is tops with 600,000 sales. Then you’ve got the unfortunately named Johnny Hoes — known as king of the tear-jerkers — with his 1969 hit, Och Was Ik Maar, which means Oh, I Wish I’d Stayed Home With My Mother. Then it’s Boney M. and the frigging Smurfs again. The top albums in the Netherlands are all North American — Thriller (1.4 million), the Grease soundtrack (1 million), and Hotel California by Eagles (800K).


No surprise that The Beatles aren’t included in the top singles, considering their disastrous visit in 1965, which helped set the stage for the group’s withdrawal from touring. The top spot goes to Filipino musician Freddie Aguilar and his 1978 hit Anak (which means Son). It sold 400K copies. Then things get silly — Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, sandwiched between two Donna Summer disco songs. Hmmm. The top album — in fact, the top TWO best-selling albums — are both by Filipino “King of Philippine Christmas” Jose Mari Chan. Both Christmas In Our Heart and Constant Change sold more than 800K copies. The third album? The self-titled debut by Irish boy band Westlife. Incidentally, did you know there’s a bizarre cover of Seasons In The Sun on that album?


Poles sure love Ed Sheeran. The top two singles ever sold in Poland are both by him — Shape Of You and Perfect. The former sold 1.25 million and the latter one million copies. Polish artists do far better in album sales than they do with singles. Most of the top albums are by Polish acts — with the exception of Abba’s 1977 fifth album (Abba: The Album) in there at No. 3 with one million copies sold.


When it comes to singles in Portugal , it’s almost exclusively U.S. and U.K. bands, with one Portuguese singer (Paulo Alexandre) thrown in. The top two songs couldn’t be more different, really. No. 1 is Coldplay’s Yellow and No. 2 is In The End by Linkin Park. They both sold in excess of 200,000 units.


OK, here’s an outlier for you. The top-selling single of all time in Russia came out in July 1717. That’s not a typo. It’s Air from Water Music by George Frideric Handel. I’m so confused. It has sold 3.5 million copies. And, as Handel often is, it is followed by Romanian Eurodance group Morandi, with their track Angels — with just 1.4 million in sales by comparison to the one-headed monster Handel. Then you’ve got a Swedish dance song and Lady Gaga’s Alejandro. Bizarre. As for albums… Well, this is weird, too. The top-selling album ever in Russia was a 1997 CD compilation called Soyuz-21. Next up is a Russian folk group called Gold Ring — not to be confused with the 1970s contemporary cover band The Golden Ring, who imitated popular artists for budget compilation albums. The Russian album is called Go Away, Grief. It sold two million copies. The Soyuz-21 compilation sold five million.


Can you guess the top band in Sweden? You’re right — Abba! So, which Abba song do Swedes like best? It’s an oldie — Ring Ring from 1973. That predates their 1974 Eurovision win, bloody showoffs. Next up is another homegrown artist — ’50s rocker Little Gerhard, followed by The Name Of The Game by Abba from 1977 and (sad face) The Ketchup Song by Las Ketchup. These are all uncertified. When you look at the certified charts, things are quite different. The top single in Sweden was a tie between Wake Me Up by Avicii and Swedish DJ Alan Walker with Faded. Both sold 520K units. Bieber is here too but a little ways down the list — 2015’s Love Yourself sold 360K copies. Looking at the top five albums — three are by Abba, one by Swedish pop singer Carola and that damn Look Sharp! album by Roxette.

United Kingdom

The U.K.’s top singles suck. Top spot is the double A-sided Elton John record Something About The Way You Look Tonight / Candle In The Wind 1997. It sold nearly five million copies. Then you’ve got another charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band-Aid. Then there’s the double Queen single Bohemian Rhapsody and These Are The Days of Our Lives from 1991. The latter won best British single in 1992. It wasn’t paired with Bohemian Rhapsody until its second pressing. The video was the last to feature lead singer Freddie Mercury before he died. The next biggest-selling single held the top spot for years — Mull Of Kintyre by Wings. The top two best-selling albums in the U.K. are lame best-of compilations. Queen’s Greatest Hits sold more than seven million copies, and Abba Gold sold more than six million. Then you’ve got a proper British studio album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles’ 1967 masterpiece has sold more than 5.4 million copies.

United States

It’s a very similar story with American singles — that damn Elton song at No. 1 with nearly nine million in sales, followed by the U.S. version of Do They Know It’s Christmas — the awful awful We Are The World, which sold more than eight million. Next is Gene Autry’s 1949 classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at No. 3. Eight reindeer, seven million in sales. The best-selling albums list is lame. The top three consists of Thriller sandwiched between two Eagles records — Greatest Hits and Hotel California. The Yanks redeem themselves with Nos. 4 and 5 — Back in Black by AC/DC and Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album — because all that glitters is gold.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.