We all know that the Official Charts Company is the one and true source when it comes to record sales. Although these days, there are more streams than physical sales, prior to 2004, the top 10 charts were based only on the sales of physical records – vinyl, CDs and even cassettes.
We go back in time and look at the top 10 selling songs from between 1990-1999, going in reverse order!
10 – I Will Always Love You
Released in 1992, this classic song was written by Dolly Parton in 1973, but re-recorded by Whitney Houston for the soundtrack of 1992 film – The Bodyguard.
It wasn’t just a hit in the UK, but internationally. It topped charts between 1992-1993 in over 20 different countries, and also see moderate success in 2012, the same year that Houston tragically passed away.
In total, the track went on to sell millions of copies worldwide – where it went 2x platinum in the UK and diamond (including streams) in the U.S!
9 – I’ll Be Missing You
I’ll Be Missing You is a song by rapper Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and R&B group 112, written in memory of artist The Notorious B.I.G who was tragically murdered.
The song is well known for sampling The Police’s hit song – ‘Every Breath You Take’ – also won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance and became one of 1997s top selling singles in the UK with 1.4 million copies sold.
It wasn’t just the UK where it was popular. It spent 11 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number-one status in 15 other countries.
8 – …Baby One More Time
Until writing this article, I never knew that the official title of this song was “…Baby One More Time” as opposed to “Hit Me Baby One More Time”.
But this debut single from Britney Spears in 1999 put her well and truly in musical folklore with a catchy tune, and music video that in itself has seen critical acclaim. Not much of a surprise based on the iconic images of Britney dressed as a school girl.
The song – named as one of Britney’s personal favourites – sold over 1.4 million copies, has gone platinum in multiple countries, been nominated – and won – plenty of awards is an iconic tune that you can’t deny you know the words to.
Here’s the music video to refresh yourself of the iconic 4 minutes:
7 – (Everything I Do) I Do It for You
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You is a power ballad by singer-songwriter Bryan Adams which was another song in this list recorded as a soundtrack – this time for the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Not only did the song sell over 1.5 million copies in the UK in the year of its release – 1991 – it reached the number-one position of various music charts in at least 19 countries.
In the UK however, it holds the record for the longest time at number one – sixteen consecutive weeks – and has unsurprisingly gone on to be Adam’s best selling single of all time!
6 – Perfect Day
In this top 10 list, there are four songs from 1997, with this song only managing to be the third highest selling from that year – only beating ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ listed above.
Originally written and performed by musician Lou Reed, the song was re-released in 1997 as a charity single for Children in Need, featuring a wealth of musical talent including artists such as Bono, Elton John, David Bowie, Boyzone and Lou Reed himself.
The song was number-one for a total of three weeks, across two different spells. In total, it sold in excess of 1.5 million copies that year, raising over £2 million for a great cause.
Here’s the music video, if you need a reminder!
5 – Believe
My favourite of all on this top 10 list is Believe by Cher.
The song that was included on Cher’s 1998 album – also named Believe – was her 22nd studio album, and without a doubt the best selling song that she has ever performed.
Featuring an upbeat dance-pop style, the song sold over 1.6 million copies that year, and has gone on to be included in many of the all-time greatest song lists.
If you don’t recognise the song by name, you will definitely recognise it when you hear it. A great song, that you should all take a moment to enjoy!
4 – Barbie Girl
This catchy infectious tune by Aqua – not to be confused with the popular toy “Barbie” – was a song that took school discos by storm after its release in 1997.
The song was a number-one hit for four weeks in the UK, but also topped charts across the globe, that saw Aqua perform the song at the perfect venue for it, Eurovision.
The song didn’t escape without controversy however. Mattel – the company that makes both Barbie and Ken dolls – filed a lawsuit against the writers after lyrics were heavily focused around both, even though claims were made in reference to the ‘social’ aspect of ‘Barbie and Ken’ connotation.
If you need a reminder of how the song sounds, here’s the official music video with over 1 billion views!
3 – Love Is All Around
Love Is All Around is a popular cover version of the song by Wet Wet Wet, originally performed by English rock band The Troggs, which was recorded for the soundtrack of 90s film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.
The new version of the song went on to sell 1.7 million physical copies in the the year it made number-one – 1994 – remaining at number-one for a massive 15 weeks – the joint third longest chart reign ever!
It was popular worldwide, where it also topped the charts in other countries including Australia, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
2 – Unchained Melody / (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover
The English pop-duo of Robson Green and Jerome Flynn – who worked with Simon Cowell – mainly produced song covers, with a cover of both songs – Unchained Melody and The White Cliffs of Dover being undoubtedly their biggest success.
The double A-side single straight to number-one, where it remained for seven weeks, and becoming the best-selling single of 1997. In total, it sold over 1.8 million copies, but is more of an act that parents of 90s kids will be more familiar with.
1 – Candle in the Wind 1997 / Something About the Way You Look Tonight
The top selling single of the 1990s decade goes to Elton John with this double A-side single of Candle in the Wind / Something About the Way You Look Tonight, with an estimated sales in excess of 4.8 million in 1997.
The song was tragically written as a tribute to Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris the same year, with the proceeds from the best-selling UK single ever going towards Diana’s charities.
Here is a video of the one and only time that Elton John has played the adapted version of Candle In The Wind live at Diana’s funeral.