When Eminem was choosing a title for his third major-label album, one can only wonder whether he realized The Eminem Show would make for an appropriate summation of 2002.
With help from the singles "Cleanin Out My Closet" and "Without Me," the album stands as the best-selling LP of last year, according to SoundScan. Since its release in May, when it began a five-week run at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, Em's follow-up to 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP racked up a whopping 7,607,925 copies sold in stores participating in SoundScan's monitoring system.
The soundtrack to "8 Mile," the semi-autobiographical film starring Eminem as a Detroit rapper, is also among the year's top sellers, likely due to Em's adrenaline-laced first single, "Lose Yourself." The album placed fifth on the list of top sellers, with scans of more than 3.4 million.
"8 Mile" was tops at the box office during its opening November weekend. The film's $54.4 million in receipts gave it the second-largest opening for an R-rated picture of all time and made it the highest debut for a first-time lead actor (see "'8 Mile' Goes The Distance With Record-Breaking Opening Weekend").
And don't expect Em to hide in his closet in 2003, now that it's all cleaned out — he's assisting on new albums by rappers 50 Cent and Obie Trice, plus he promises a second release from his D12 crew by year's end.
The second-most popular album of 2002 also comes from a rapper who put his name in the title of his album. Nelly's Nellyville lagged behind The Eminem Show by nearly 3 million copies, despite a tremendous number of radio spins for "Dilemma" and "Hot in Herre" — 315,076 and 312,411, respectively, according to Neilsen Broadcast Data Systems, which ranked the singles at #9 and #10 on its most-played list. Released two month after Eminem's opus, Nelly's follow-up to 2000's Country Grammar sold more than 4.9 million copies.
Debutantes Avril Lavigne and Ashanti scored big with their first LPs. Lavigne's Let Go has the honor of being the top-selling debut as well as the best-selling album by a woman in 2002. Propelled by the singles "Complicated" (#7 with 352,000 spins), "Sk8er Boi" and "I'm With You" — not to mention her trend-setting tie-'n'-tank-top obsession — the Canadian rocker sold more than 4.1 million albums.
Ashanti took the #7 position with her eponymous April release. The Murder Inc. songstress moved more than 3 million copies of the album, thanks to the massive airplay of "Foolish" and its remix "Unfoolish," which featured the Notorious B.I.G. "Foolish" ranks #8 on the radio list with more than 333,000 spins.
Alecia Moore was tickled pink — er, tickled as Pink — in 2002. The punky-chic chick's second album, Missundaztood, was one of two top 10 albums to have benefited from a full 52 weeks in stores. Following its release in November 2001, Pink's follow-up to 2000's Can't Take Me Home began the year with more than 1.2 million copies already scooped up. It then managed to wrangle up another 3.1 million copies in 2002, thanks to a flurry of singles including the lamenting "Just Like a Pill." The album has sold 4.4 million copies, just about double the figure amassed by her debut.
Another best-selling LP to enjoy a full year on shelves was the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," which first came out at the tail end of 2000 and continued its retail consistency throughout the next two years, fueled by Grammys in 2001, home video releases of the film and all-around good word of mouth. The LP of traditional bluegrass, country and gospel tunes sold more than 2.7 million copies this past year to bring up the rear of the top 10. In all, it's moved more than 6.2 million copies.
Country cashed in last year with three albums in the top 10 (four if you count "O Brother"). The Dixie Chicks' Home, released in late August, leads the posse at #4 with more than 3.6 million copies under its belt. Driven by the September 11-inspired "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," Alan Jackson's Drive landed at #8 with just over 3 million copies sold.
Most impressive are the strides made by Shania Twain's Up! With the latest release date of any disc in the year's top 10, Twain's first album in five years needed just six weeks to rank among the year's most popular. Her follow-up to 1997's Come on Over welcomed 2003 at #9 with more than 2.9 million copies in tow.
Still, it has a long way to go before it rivals Come on Over, which continues to be the most popular album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. The former title holder, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill (1995), trails Twain's third album by less than 500,000 copies. Metallica's 1991 eponymous LP ranks third with 13.3 million copies, Backstreet Boys' Millennium (1999) comes in at #4, and the 1992 soundtrack to "The Bodyguard" takes the #5 spot.
The list of the most-played songs at radio finds Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" at #1 with more than 426,000 spins, followed by Puddle of Mudd's "Blurry" (415,000), Linkin Park's "In the End" (397,000), and Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle" (367,000). The remainder of the top 10 is rounded out by the Calling's "Wherever You Will Go" at #5 and Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" at #6.
While album sales were universally down by 8.7 percent from 2001's totals — 712 million in 2001 compared to 649.5 million last year — the number of albums sold online rose from 16.6 million to 18 million.