Why the Eagles Passing Michael Jackson Is Worth a Blog


For pretty much my entire adult life, it’s been common knowledge that Michael Jackson’s seminal 1982 album Thriller was the best-selling record (remember those?) of all time.

Well, now it’s not.

According to new sales and streaming tallies by the Recording Industry Association of America, Thriller’s been dethroned by the Eagles. That band’s 1976 album, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, is (at least for now) the biggest-selling album of all time.

The RIAA hadn’t updated its numbers for that Eagles’ LP since 2006, when it was at the 28X platinum mark—or 28 million copies sold. Since then, the organization has begun tallying streams as well as physical sales. And as of 2018, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 now stands at 38 million “sales” (with 1,500 individual track streams, as well as 10 paid song downloads, each counting as an album-equivalent sale.)

Admittedly, paying attention to album-sale tallies of albums that came out more than four decades ago is a bit, as the saying goes, “inside baseball.” Music nerds like me are likely the only ones really paying much attention to stories like this.

But I think there are a couple of takeaways worth our consideration.

First, the Eagles and Jackson’s Thriller both belonged to an era that embraced, as some have called it, the “monoculture,” which is now well in our rearview mirror.  We might not have liked everything that had caught the culture’s collective eye, but we knew of it, at least. In 1976, I’d argue that most people had heard and could probably sing the Eagles smash hit “Take It Easy.” In contrast, Billboard’s critics recently chose Cardi B’s single “I Like It” as the best song of 2018 thus far. (Drake leads with “God’s Plan” when it comes to raw sales.) Have you heard it? Have you heard of it? Have you heard of Cardi B? I’m not trying to be a “hater” here (and my mid-40s bias is probably leaking out a bit too, so I’ll own that), but I have my doubts about whether this Cardi B song is going to be driving album sales for her four decades from now.

The music world today is as fragmented and segmented as the one in 1976 or 1982 was universal. We’re unlikely to ever see or hear anything like the Eagles or Michael Jackson’s utter dominance again.

But here’s another interesting turn in this story: Even as our music world fragments further, there’s still a measurable hunger for all that stuff from the old “monoculture” days. Take iTunes’ album chart, for instance. More than 20 of those 100 albums are what’s known as “catalog” albums, i.e., albums released many years ago. Artists enjoying relatively huge ongoing download sales include ABBA, Queen, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Journey, Pink Floyd, the Eagles (of course), The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, No Doubt, ELO, the Beach Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Def Leppard and Bob Seger.

And that’s not even counting compilation albums such as the four charting Mamma Mia! and Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks. They, too, evince a continued hunger for a lot of stuff that, by pretty much any measure, is now “old.”

Now here’s the final “so what?” turn I want to make in this blog today. Obviously, there’s a sentimental nostalgia for the music of yesteryear. I confess, it’s a nostalgia that I share. Many of the bands above produced music that I unabashedly love, music that formed the soundtrack to my own youth. Songs like, let’s say, “Don’t Stop Believin'” from Journey. Nothing wrong, I don’t think, to enjoying the smile that track still puts on my face.

But as we’re smiling along to the songs of our youth—and maybe repurchasing, downloading or streaming them—let’s not let nostalgia cloud our vision regarding many of these tunes’ subject matter. Some of them had pretty big content issues back in the day, and they still do decades later—even if those issues may seem almost “quaint” in comparison to the racier stuff dominating the charts today.

So when it comes to these so-called “heritage acts,” we still need to exercise discernment—even for songs that might seem to give us that “Peaceful Easy Feeling” that the Eagles chronicled all the way back in 1972.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 7 months ago
I grew up listening to talented bands that not only wrote their own words and music but were also excellent musicians.  Kansas, Genesis, and Supertramp come to mind.  I feel sorry for the youth listening to today's crappy music.  Today's artists can't hold a candle to the artists of the 70s and 80s, even the 90s.  While I listen to both mainstream and Christian contemporary music now, the lyrics of mainstream are quite offensive and shallow. 
Anonymous 7 months ago
There are many talented artists today that write their own stuff and are excellent musicians, you just have to look for them. There were also many trash bands in the 70s-90s. I think instead of looking backwards through nostalgia-laced glasses and bemoaning the "untalented" mainstream artists we should instead look for and support the amazing artists that are alive right now.  
Anonymous 7 months ago
U2 and Elton John are still making amazing music nowadays, and David Bowie's last one was artistically amazing. And for my money artists like Train and Owl City keep on getting better and better.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Not a fan of Train, but I really enjoy Owl City. 
And to that list of great modern musicians, I would add- Needtobreathe, Ruelle, X Ambassadors, Khalid, Rag'n'Bone Man, Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, George Ezra, Jason Mraz, Coldplay, Florence+The Machine, and Iron & Wine

-Davidiswise The Clown
Anonymous 5 months ago
Hipster I see! I wouldn't necessarily say any of those people are talented. Pagans all.
Anonymous 7 months ago
The Eagles are great, who doesn't love Hotel California, but Michael Jackson is far and away better.
Anonymous 7 months ago
very interesting! 
Now, I have to say, I love rap. but I personally believe that Drake, Cardi B, and Travis Scott are all in a vicious competition on who can be the most obnoxious rapper of all time. 
Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert, and Kendrick Lamar are also honorable mentions.
-Davidiswise The Clown  
Anonymous 7 months ago
Who are your favorites?
Anonymous 7 months ago
NF, J.Cole, Machine Gun Kelly, Reconcile, Russ, 1K Phew, Aha Gazelle, Christon Gray, and Logic are just a few that i really enjoy.
-Davidiswise The Clown
Anonymous 7 months ago
Probably NF, KB, and Jon Bellion. Jon Bellion doesn't rap all the time but defiantly has a hip hop influence on his music  
Anonymous 7 months ago
KB is awesome! Today We Rebel is one of my favorite albums.
Didn't Bellion do Rat Race with Andy Mineo?
-Davidiswise The Clown.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Yeah, he's also worked with Logic a bit on songs like Welcome to Forever and When the Lions Come. He's a really dope producer and writer too. KB, Andy Mineo, and NF have all given him shout-outs.
Anonymous 7 months ago
cool! I'll have to check him out. I believe he's also worked with Eminem as well.
Did you like Lecrae's Let The Trap Say Amen?
Anonymous 7 months ago
Yeah, he won a Grammy for writing the hook for Monster.

 I"m not a big trap rap fan, however I decided to check the project out when it dropped and was surprised by how good it was. Favorites where definitely Only God Can Judge Me and By Chance. 
Anonymous 7 months ago
Small correction: "Bad Bunny" isn't the biggest hit of 2018. First of all, there is no song called "Bad Bunny." Bad Bunny is an artist featured on Cardi B's song "I Like It," which is number one on the list you linked. 
Second of all. that list doesn't list the biggest hits of 2018 - it's the critics' picks for their favorite songs of 2018. The biggest hit of the year, according to multiple other sources, is "God's Plan" by Drake. Some corrections needed to this article! But still very interesting :) 
-Posted by Chuck

Anonymous 7 months ago
I think song for song Michael Jackson made stronger albums, but there's no denying that The Eagles' Hotel California is a phenomenal album, and scattered amongst their other albums were some pretty great singles as well, my particular favorites being Love Will Keep Us Alive and Hole in the World.