Sales of Whitney Houston's albums and singles have soared since news of her death arrived late Saturday afternoon, so much so that the late pop superstar's 2000 hits package, Whitney: The Greatest Hits, is expected to re-enter the album charts this week in the top 10.
Billboard is projecting that Houston's Hits package likely moved 50,000 copies in the day-and-a-half window between when news of her death was first reported and the close of Nielsen SoundScan's business week.
"In terms of sales impact, it won't quite be like Michael Jackson, but it will be big," Billboard's associate director of charts Keith Caulfield told MTV News of the spike in sales for Houston's albums and songs. "Most big pop stars have a perfect great hits and Whitney doesn't, and that could factor into how the sales play out. I do think her track sales are going to be really big."
Houston released only one greatest hits package in the U.S., and it has been the album fans have turned to since her passing. It is, however, considered "a flawed greatest hits to a lot of people," Caulfield said. "Half of it is remixes of her dance songs, so it's not the familiar version of 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody.' It's not the perfect greatest hits package for fans to turn to, so I don't think it's going to sell as well [as Jackson's]."
A look at the iTunes song and album charts reveals that Houston's back catalog is indeed in demand: The singer currently has 28 tracks on the iTunes top 100 sellers list, including the #1 song ("I Will Always Love You"), and her 2000 hits package is the #2 album, trailing only Adele's 21, which is itself experiencing a post-Grammy surge.
Only one of Houston's six studio albums (2002's Just Whitney) is not currently charting on the iTunes top 100 albums chart. The three soundtrack albums ("The Bodyguard," "The Preacher's Wife" and "Waiting to Exhale") that feature her prominently, however, do appear. Seven of the top 10 titles on Amazon's album chart also belong to Houston.
It is, of course, not uncommon for a musician's records to re-emerge on the charts in the wake of a tragic passing. Last summer, Amy Winehouse's two albums, Frank and Back to Black, both leapt back onto the charts after the star's death. Back to Black even reappeared in the Billboard 200 top 10 for several weeks, and sales of her most popular singles surged, with more than 111,000 digital track sales rung up in just the first week after her passing. The previous week, Winehouse had moved 5,000 downloads.
However, nothing compares to the massive sales spike experienced after Michael Jackson's death. Jackson died on June 25, 2009, and in the six months that followed, his back catalog moved 11 million digital downloads and 8 million albums. Two years later, those numbers had increased to 16.3 million downloads and 10.6 million albums, respectively, according to Billboard.
Etta James also recently saw a sales surge following her passing from leukemia and other ailments.
How long Houston's albums will continue to play strongly on the charts remains to be seen, and Caulfield noted that Jackson's massive posthumous sales had a great deal to do with the iconic nature of his earlier works and the "well-curated" hits packages that were released during his lifetime.
"Michael had a couple of albums that were de facto greatest hits album, like Thriller, Bad or Off The Wall. They were self-contained greatest hits albums, in a way. Whitney's earlier albums are much the same but they don't have that iconic status," Caulfield told MTV News. "Being the biggest-selling album of all time has a certain impact that, no matter how many hits [another album] has, it's not on the same level on a global scale."
"The second thing, Michael had the #1s album, which was a very easy, obvious choice for people to purchase because it had all the big hits, or you had The Essential Michael Jackson, which had all that and more. There was even a box set," Caulfield added. "There was a wealth of well-curated greatest hits albums for casual fans of Michael to purchase, and Whitney doesn't have that."
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