The Eagles and Michael Jackson have been in a boxing match for years.
While that sounds like the beginning of a joke told by someone’s grandpa, it is actually true — kind of. The band and the pop star have been sparring for the title “best-selling album of all time in the United States” for the past two decades.
The Eagles just reclaimed the title.
Its 1976 compilation record “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” has once again retaken the top spot after being certified 38x platinum — meaning sales and streams of the record have reached 38 million copies — by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The band lost the title in 2009, when Jackson’s death prompted an enormous sales boom that helped his classic “Thriller” reach 33x platinum. Before that, the Eagles had held the position for about a decade, according to Billboard.
“Thriller” is now the second-best-selling record in the United States. Coming in third is “Hotel California,” another 1976 Eagles record.
“Both of these transcendent albums have impressively stood the test of time, only gaining more currency and popularity as the years have passed, much like the Eagles themselves,” RIAA chief executive Cary Sherman said in a statement.
The Eagles’ Don Henley said in a statement to Rolling Stone: “We are grateful for our families, our management, our crew, the people at radio and, most of all, the loyal fans who have stuck with us through the ups and downs of 46 years. It’s been quite a ride.”
It should be noted the metrics for what constitutes an album sale have changed drastically in the streaming age, though it is unclear how this affected either the Eagles or Jackson. Per The Washington Post in July:
Billboard added streaming songs as one of the metrics for its [sales] charts in 2012, leading the Recording Industry Association of America and Nielsen to follow suit. The criteria have changed several times in the interim — just last month, the company made changes to weight paid streams on services like Spotify over unpaid ones on jukebox-esque services like Pandora for the Billboard 100 singles chart. Meanwhile, for the Billboard 200, 1,500 streams of any songs on one record equals one listen to [or sale of] that record.
Not everyone was as happy about the news as Henley and his fans. “SOMEONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. i already own THRILLER in every format but maybe we can start some sort of fund to purchase it en masse for at-risk (of listening to the eagles) youths,” Jack Hamilton, author of “Just Around Midnight,” implored on Twitter.
Rock critic Alex Pappademas tweeted, “oh, great, now the Eagles are going to become insufferable egomaniacs.”
“My fellow Americans, now is the time for us to join together and stop the Eagles once and for all. Even if you have a copy of Thriller, grab another one,” tweeted another Michael Jackson fan.
Some took issue with the criteria. One user tweeted, “The Eagles record is a compilation. Thriller is an all-new record. They shouldn’t be judged together.”
Many were quick to point out that “Thriller” remains the global best-selling record of all time. The Eagles have the best-selling record title in the United States only.