We knew it was coming, and now it's official: Adele's 25 has sold more copies in the US in its first week available than any other album in history. Billboard and Nielsen are reporting the British superstar has already sold at least 2,433,000 copies of her new album since its release on November 20th, the highest total since Nielsen began accurately tracking album sales in 1991. 25 is breaking the record set by *NSYNC's No Strings Attached in 2000, when it sold just over 2.4 million copies in its first week on sale.
Adele's achievement is even more impressive when you consider the larger health of the music industry around her. When *NSYNC set its sales benchmark back in 2000, the industry was at or near its absolute commercial peak; albums released now sell a mere fraction of what comparable releases did then. The gap between Adele and her contemporaries is staggering compared to the difference between *NSYNC and its competitors. Part of that gap can be chalked up to Adele's controversial decision to withhold the album from major streaming services, but it's also a testament to the insane anticipation for new material that built up in the half-decade between 21 and 25.
Now that Adele's nabbed the American single-week record, she still has to sell a few hundred thousand copies before breaking Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada's single-week domestic sales record. (Utada sold over 3 million copies of her album Distance in Japan in 2001.) Even if she falls short of that benchmark — industry experts are suggesting she'll end up around 2.9 million copies sold — 25's still going to cast a long shadow over the next few years of major album releases.