A mind-boggling 1.23 billion – that’s a rough (and conservative!) estimate when you add up the achievements of these 11 top-selling LGBTI musicians.
We thought we’d tot up the numbers following today’s news that Queen’s Greatest Hits package is officially the UK’s biggest-selling album, with 6.1 million copies sold.
Of course, it all comes down to how you decide to define ‘LGBTI music artist’. Madonna and Rihanna’s have both sold over 200 million records, and according to reports, have both experimented sexually – but neither have ever publicly identified as LGBTI.
We’re also discounting multi-million selling bands like *NSYNC and Westlife here, even though they contained gay members (Lance Bass and Mark Feehily, respectively), choosing instead to focus on bands with gay frontmen, like Queen and R.E.M.
And while it’s impossible to know exact figures (veteran artists’ discographies are always so hotly-contested), in the interest of giving these high achieving LGBTIs their dues, we’re giving it our best shot based on the information out there… respect, guys!
11 Pet Shop Boys (fronted by Neil Tennant) – 50+ million
The British electro-pop duo are comprised of Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant – with Tennant coming out in a 1994 interview with Attitude. They reached the top of the UK album charts with 1993’s Very, and this year released their thirteenth studio album Super, which saw them return to the top three of the UK album charts.
10 Culture Club (fronted by Boy George) – 50+ million
Boy George is instantly-recognisable as the make up-clad and ferociously queer frontman of Culture Club. It’s less known that he had a secret four-year relationship with the band’s drummer Jon Moss at the height of the band’s popularity in the 80s. CK scored number one single on both sides of the Atlantic with Karma Chameleon in 1983, and topped the UK albums chart with Colour By Numbers the same year. They are currently on tour in the US.
9 Ricky Martin – 70+ million
Ricky Martin is best-remembered for his monster 1999 hit Livin’ La Vida Loca, another cross-Atlantic number one hit. The song’s parent album, the self-titled Ricky Martin, sold 22 million copies around the world. He released his tenth studio album A Quien Quiera Escuchar last year, reaching the US top 20. Oh, and the father-of-two is hotter than ever.
8 R.E.M. (fronted by Michael Stipe) – 80+ million
R.E.M have amassed an amazing 15 studio albums since their 1983 debut Murmur. They reached the top of the UK and US album charts with Out of Time, and again in 1994 with Monster. They never scored a number one single in either territory, with their signature song Losing My Religion reached number four in the US and number 19 in the UK. Their last studio album, Collapse Into Now, was released in 2011.
7 Barry Manilow – 80+ million
He made headlines around the world when he married his longtime manager Garry Kief, but Barry Manilow’s most recognised song (arguably) is an ode to a woman. Mandy, a cover of Scott English’s 1971 hit, gave Barry his first Billboard Hot 100 number one in 1974. As any most people despise the song, we’ll instead remind you of the slightly more tolerable Copacabana (at the Copa) from 1978. He’s scored two number one albums in the US: Barry Manilow Live in 1977 and the Greatest Songs of the Fifties in 2006.
6 George Michael – 80+ million
As one half of Wham!, George’s career total is even higher than the figure listed, but his sales as a solo artist pushed him to the greatest heights heights. His debut album Faith sold a whopping 20 million copies, and won the 1989 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. His classic 90s hits include Fast Love and Outside, and his last studio album, Symphonica, was released in 2014.
5 Lady Gaga – 114+ million
It’s amazing to think of all Gaga’s achieved in less than eight years in the spotlight: her debut album The Fame, released in 2008, has sold 15 million copies, while follow up Born This Way, released in 2011, sold six million. Other US number one albums include 2013’s Artpop and 2014’s Cheek to Cheek (with Tony Bennett). Her best-selling single is 2008’s Poker Face, which has sold 14 million copies worldwide, followed by 2009’s Bad Romance, which has shifted 12 million.
4 David Bowie – 140+ million
His back catalogue saw a sales surge after his untimely death on January 10 this year, but David Bowie reached legend status decades before. He released an astonishing 27 studio albums and 121 singles throughout his career. His UK number one singles include Ashes To Ashes and Let’s Dance; he hit number one in the US with Let’s Dance and Fame. His most recent album Black Star, released just days before his death, went to number one in the UK and the US.
3 Queen (fronted by Freddie Mercury) – 150-200+ million
Queen released their self-titled debut in 1973 and went on to release 14 more studio albums over the next 22 years. Their most iconic include A Night At the Opera (1975), News of the World (1977) and A Kind of Magic (1986). In addition to the 6.1 million sold in the UK, their aforementioned Greatest Hits package, released in 1981, has sold eight million copies in the US.
2 Whitney Houston – 170-200+ million
Since her death in February 2012, Whitney Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown confirmed her long-rumored bisexuality, claiming she was in a long-term relationship with her assistant Robyn Crawford. Whitney’s number one albums include 1987’s Whitney (20 million copies sold), and the Bodyguard soundtrack from 1992 (44 million copies sold). Her cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You from the latter album spent 14 weeks atop the US Billboard Hot 100, a record at the time.
1 Elton John – 250-300+ million
It’s not easy picking highlights from Elton John’s mammoth discography, especially as some of his most iconic hits, such as 1971’s Your Song, weren’t even number ones (it reached number seven in the UK and number eight in the US. It was re-released in the UK in 2004 and reached number four). That said, we of course have to mention his moving tribute to Princess Diana – Candle in the Wine 1997 – which is officially the biggest-selling single of all time, with at least 33 million copies sold. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) is probably his magnum opus with 30 million copies sold. He released his most recent studio album Wonderful, Crazy Night to positive reviews earlier this year.
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