Expected Hits

Songs That Were Expected To Be Hits

The charts are littered with colossal artists whose singles and albums were practically guaranteed to hit the top. 

Blockbuster releases with millions behind them in promotion and marketing tend not to fail, and hotly-anticipated follow-ups tend to rocket up the charts. 

This article contains 5 examples of albums or songs that were expected to be hits and duly obliged. 

1: Ed Sheeran – Equals (=)

Ed Sheeran has achieved seismic success with each of his four major studio albums, which are all neatly named after the mathematical symbols of x, +, ÷, and the latest, =. 

In total, Ed has scored ten number 1s on the UK Singles Chart, with his new album reaching number one in album reached number one in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Given the incredible success of Sheeran’s preceding three albums, there’s no doubt that = was destined to be a worldwide commercial success. The album’s success continued into 2022 when Sheeran sold out several stadium gigs. 

x and ÷ are number 3 and 4 in the best-selling albums since 2010, and Shape Of You from the latter is the most-streamed song on Spotify

So, who scored number 1 and 2 on the best-selling albums since 2010, if not Ed Sheeran?

2: Adele – 30 

Adele’s albums 21 and 25 were both phenomenal successes, immortalizing Adele as one of the most prolific and popular modern singers and artists. 21 achieved number 1 in more than 30 countries, becoming the world’s best-selling album of the year for both 2011 and 2012. In the UK, it’s the best-selling album by a solo artist of all time. 

Following 21, 25, Adele’s latest album 30 was highly anticipated and reportedly received colossal marketing and promotional backing ahead of its 2015 release. The album obliged as expected, debuting at number one in 32 countries and breaking records for first-week album sales in the US and UK. 

Adele’s third album, 30, took six years to release due to turbulent events in Adele’s personal life, including a divorce. As such, 30 was hugely anticipated and backed by a massive marketing campaign that included a CBS US TV special Adele One Night Only, a UK ITV special called An Audience with Adele, a Las Vegas concert residency titled Weekends with Adele, and two concerts at British Summer Time festival in London. 

The album reached number one in 27 countries, with one of its singles Easy On Me breaking the record for the most-streamed song in a single day on Spotify, totaling 24 million streams. 

3: Michael Jackson – Bad

Rewinding the clock to when physical record sales governed musical success, Michael Jackson’s Bad was released five years after Thriller became a record-smashing success for the ages. 

A fantastic seven singles were released from Thriller, including The Girl Is Mine, Billie Jean, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Human Nature, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), and Thriller. Each one achieved the top 10 in the US, and with 32 million copies sold by the end of 1983, Thriller took the record for the best-selling album of all time, where it remains today. 

Bad was certainly expected to be a hit, then! When Bad was released, it became the best-selling album of both 1987 and 1988, sitting behind Thriller as the second best-selling album of all time by 1991. 

The Bad tour became the highest-grossing solo tour of all time, with an epic 123 concerts in 15 countries – a combined audience of over 4.4 million. Of the nine songs released from Bad as singles, a record-breaking seven charted in the top 20 of the US Billboard Hot 100, with five number ones. 

4: Queen – Greatest Hits

Greatest hits albums often do ok, but Queen’s Greatest Hits, released in 1981, became the band’s best-selling album to date. 

Of course, such a compilation by Queen is guaranteed to be a hit, but Greatest Hits has spent over 900 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, with over six million copies, making it the best-selling album in the UK. 

The albums also spent over 400 weeks on the Billboard 200 as of 2021. Greatest Hits also achieved 15× platinum in Australia and 10× platinum in New Zealand. To date, it’s easily the most successful compilation album of all time.

5: Various – X-Factor Christmas Numbers 1s

In the UK, the X-Factor competition has a reputation for producing Christmas Number 1 singles. There have been at least six winning X-factor artists that achieved this, mostly due to heavy marketing from the show and its music mogul promotor Simon Cowell.

The following X-Factor winners all achieved Christmas Number 1 in the UK:

  • Shayne WardThat’s My Goal
  • Leona LewisA Moment Like This
  • Leon JacksonWhen You Believe
  • Alexandra Burke – Hallelujah 
  • Sam Bailey – Skyscraper
  • Ben Haenow – Something I Need

Perhaps one of the most famous defeats was when Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name beat X-Factor’s Joe McElderly in 2009, driven by a grassroots campaign. Radio and TV stations had no choice but to play the song, including a daytime live performance where Rage predictably ignored watershed limits on expletives!

In the US, Christmas number 1s are generally more traditional, with genuinely Christmas-themed songs hitting the charts even in the last ten years. 

What Makes an Expected Hit?

These five songs/albums have one thing in common: marketing budgets. However, a hefty delay between releases almost certainly helped Adele and Michael Jackson

Well-established bands and artists can still flop, but significant promo and advertising give them a very good chance of commercial success. Adele’s promo for her album 30 is an excellent example – her labels planned numerous preview shows across the UK and US before its release. 

There are many other examples of expected hits. Take Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You, which never fails to chart every Christmas – it’s a certainty! 

Other examples include Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album, which followed up their extremely successful self-entitled album, and John Lennon’s Imagine, which was a near-guaranteed success as his first major solo single since The Beatles. 

Today, expected hits are certainly driven by marketing spending as well as artistry.

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