"Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons joined an elite company today, becoming only the sixth song in history to attain diamond status from the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning that it's moved the equivalent of 10 million units in sales, or 10-times platinum status. Wondering what the other five are? So were we, so we looked up the five hits and ranked them from least sales to most...but when you're talking about diamond status...there's really no such thing as "least sales." You may be surprised at how new most of these songs are.
05) "Not Afraid" by Eminem (10 million)
Eminem's "Not Afraid" will probably not go down in history as one his most recognizable singles, yet it certainly will stand as one of his bestselling singles. When it dropped during 2010, it was only the 16th song in history to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and the first hip-hop song to do so since Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" in 1997. Of course, DJs were inspired to play the latter single due to how fresh the unfortunate death of the Notorious B.I.G. was in everyone's minds. We may never know what inspired Eminem's huge debut, considering that some of his biggest hits (such as "Lose Yourself"...hint for the aforementioned statement: "one of his biggest singles") needed weeks to climb the Hot 100 to no. 1. We can look at the Hot Digital Songs Chart and figure things out pretty quickly however: "Not Afraid" had the fourth-biggest one-week debut in terms of downloads in history, trailing only Flo Rida's "Right Round," the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and his own "Crack A Bottle". Despite being one of the bestselling singles of all time, "Not Afraid" fell out of the no. 1 spot after just one week. Perhaps that's because Nielsen didn't track video and song streams yet at that point. Nearly half of "Not Afraid"s 10 million sales are attributed to equivalent streaming numbers.
04) "Candle In The Wind" / "Something About The Way You Look Tonight" by Elton John (10 million)
A quick primer on how we're breaking ties here: All of these songs have been certified diamond by the RIAA, and some have even another couple million on top of that. Don't think that all of these songs have actually sold 10 million copies. In fact...none of them have (at least within the United States, which is the territory overseen by the RIAA and the one that we're focusing on). Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" (released as a double A-side during 1997 with "Something About The Way You Look Tonight" as a tribute to Princess Diana) has sold more than 28 million copies worldwide, with more than 8.84 million of those coming from the United States. As we mentioned, the RIAA now takes streams into consideration when determining equivalent sales totals. Based strictly on actual sales, "Candle In The Wind" is the biggest seller here, by far. Not only was streaming not an option when "Candle" was at its peak popularity, digital downloads weren't an option either. Therefore nearly all 8.84 million copies of the song that sold were actual physical copies. This isn't a surprise to vinyl collectors, who enjoy a 45 as much as a full length LP, but those who rely strictly on iTunes might be shocked to consider buying a physical album with two songs. Anyway, John gets the nod over Eminem in this case for relying less on streams to hit the diamond mark.
03) "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga (11 million)
Now that we've gotten the one '90s entry on this list out of the way, we can return to the era where people don't necessarily have to pay anything to register a "purchase" of singles (thanks to streaming). Understand that when we talk about streaming, we don't mean strictly audio, such as Spotify or Pandora. We also mean video streams: Assuming that you use an approved source, such as Vevo or the artist themselves, performers actually get a small royalty payment even time you watch a music video on YouTube or similar. That works just fine for Lady Gaga, who was known just as much for her music videos during the Fame Monster-era than for the music itself. She put a lot of money into those videos, so it's excellent that she made some sort of money back. "Bad Romance," actually one of her less extravagant affairs, was at one point the most watched video in YouTube history (until it was passed by Justin Bieber's "Baby") and that's what helped propel her to 11 million in equivalent sales. Just like with Eminem, nearly half of Gaga's hits for "Bad Romance" were thanks to streams...around 4.43 million of her "sales" come from views and digital streams. Your correspondent can say that he shelled out for the download.
02) "Love The Way You Lie" by Eminem ft. Rihanna (11 million)
Ha...bet you took our "hint"earlier as suggesting that "Lose Yourself" was the bestselling single in Eminem's catalogue. Sorry, we did that on purpose. The correct answer is "The Way You Lie" off of his Relapse album. Interestingly, "Love The Way You Lie" didn't rely on streams and video views nearly as much as "Not Afraid" did to reach its historic status. Don't get us wrong: There was still a huge portion of its 11 million equivalent sales were made up of streams and other options—4.6 million equivalent sales in fact—but that's a far smaller percentage than the other '00's era tracks we've looked at (and will look at). It's somewhat surprising, considering how much more appealing this video is compared to those options: It features Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan in a dysfunctional relationship, complete with sex and violence. It brought in plenty of viewers, but the song itself also generated more actual sales than the rest of the 21st Century songs on this list, with 6.4 million downloads.
01) "Baby" by Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris (12 million)
If you were bothered by the fact that two of the entries on this list made nearly half of their "sales" from video views and other streams, then you may not want to read this entry. Bieber, using the RIAA's new standards, is technically owner of the bestselling digital single in American history. Therefore you would reason that he must also be close to the top in terms of actual sales...and you would be incorrect. In fact, "Baby" has earned less in terms of actual sales than any other song on this list. Less than 4 million in fact...at 3.9 million. So yes, more than two-thirds of those singles were earned by some sort of streaming. It's not tough to figure out which kind: "Baby" is the second most-viewed video in YouTube history, one of only three that have at least one billion views to its name. That translates to a lot of streams. Not as many as Psy's "Gangnam Style," but at least Bieber's got downloads (and a guest spot from Ludacris) working for him.