Larry Martino

Larry Martino

Larry Martino

A businessman is listening to music on his smart phone through earphones while he's waiting for his flight in an airport lounge.

It’s official! According to the Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA), Journey now has the best-selling digital single of all time. Not just the 80s, but all time. Additionally, the Journey website also commemorates this extraordinary feat. Of course, that may change soon. But for now, let’s celebrate that fact, as well as some of the other best-selling digital singles from the last century.

Best-Selling Digital Singles From The Last Century

Before we review the top eight best-selling singles from the 80s, let’s check out some other big sellers from last century. Remember, we’re discussing digital single sales. Some know that form of music as digital downloads. It’s also important to note that we are using certified sales figures from the RIAA.

In my online search, I note only one song from the 1970’s with very high digital sales figures. That’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Without a doubt, the movie of the same name certainly helps that song continue to sell into this century.

The RIAA shows 10 million certified digital copies sold for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” In fact, three to four million of those digital sales have come since the film opened in theaters in October of 2018.

Of course, there are more singles from the 1990’s which make the list. The best-selling digital single from that decade is a holiday song. That’s right, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey logs 14 million digital downloads.

However, if you don’t want to count a holiday song, then Whitney Houston has the best-seller from the 90s. It’s movie music from The Bodyguard. “I Will Always Love You” shows 10 million in certified sales on the RIAA website.

Recording Artists From The 80s Who Sell Into The 21st Century

When you scroll down to check out the top eight best-selling digital singles of the 80s, you’ll notice two artists which occupy five positions. As a matter of fact, the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, has three songs on the list. Additionally, Journey has two songs in the top eight.

It’s also interesting to note that Whitney Houston has one of the best-sellers of the 80s as well as the 90s. So, without further ado, here are the top 8 best-selling digital singles of the 1980’s!

  • 8) "Faithfully" - Journey

    This has got to be one of the most enduring power ballads of the MTV Decade. The RIAA website shows that it has 6 million digital downloads at this time. Just like the other Journey song on this list, it’s not one of that band’s most successful chart hits. It only made it to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. Nevertheless, Journey bookends this countdown of best-selling digital singles from the 80s.

  • 7) "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) - Whitney Houston

    Here she is, the only recording artist to ever score seven consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. And this is the fourth chart-topper of those seven. With 7 million certified digital downloads, Whitney has one of the best-sellers of the 80s, as well as the 90s, as we mentioned earlier. She also won her second Grammy Award for this song; Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It was the lead single from her highly anticipated second album, Whitney.

  • 6) "Africa" - Toto

    Believe it or not, this is the only #1 song from one of the great bands of the late 70’s and 80s, Toto. It’s from their best-selling studio album, Toto IV. Hey, any song that includes Kilimanjaro and Serengeti in the lyrics has got to be special. This is one of three songs in our countdown with 8 million in digital single sales. It’s certainly a “yacht-rock” classic, which was famously covered recently by the band Weezer.

  • 5) "Eye Of The Tiger" - Survivor

    “Yo Adrian, I did it!” Not sure if that line uttered by Rocky Balboa is from Rocky 2 or Rocky 3, but Survivor definitely “did it!” The theme song from Rocky 3 was one of the top-selling singles of 1982. We’re talking physical 45rpm copies from back in the day. Yet, this song has legs and still gets folks pumped up for their exercise routine. It’s the second of three songs logging 8 million digital downloads by the RIAA.

  • 4) "Beat It" - Michael Jackson

    In any type of countdown of hit songs from the 1980’s, the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, is sure to be included. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s got three of the top 8 best-selling digital singles of the 21st century. As a matter of fact, they’re all from the world’s best-selling album of all time, Thriller. None of the singles from Off The Wall or Bad make this list of best-selling digital downloads from the 80s. “Beat It” is also one of two chart-toppers from that amazing album.

  • 3) "Thriller" - Michael Jackson

    This was a bit of a surprise for me. I certainly expected the ground-breaking music video for this song to make our countdown of the eight songs from the 80s which have logged over one billion views on YouTube. However, I really didn’t expect the song “Thriller” to have as many digital downloads as the #2 song on our list, at 10 million. Nor did I expect it to outsell “Beat It” digitally. Shows how much I know. Incidentally, any ties on our list show up in alphabetical order on the RIAA website, so “Thriller” may even be outselling “Billie Jean.”

  • 2) "Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson

    This is one of two chart-toppers from Thriller. In fact, it’s the best-selling single from that album when it comes to physical copies (45rpm). It spent 7 weeks at #1 in 1983, ranking as the #2 song on the Billboard year-end chart behind “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. By the way, if you were not alive when this song was new, you should really check out the video for Michael’s live performance of “Billie Jean” on the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. Click here to watch it now on YouTube.

  • 1) "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey

    “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” are a distant second and third in our countdown with 10 million certified digital single sales. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is way ahead with 18 million certified digital copies sold according to the RIAA. Pretty incredible. Congratulations to all the members of that great Bay Area band. The good news is, they’re still going strong today, with frequent performances here in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, lead singer Steve Perry no longer tours with Journey. But the legacy lives on. What song will overtake this one as the best-selling digital single of all time? We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, “Don’t Stop Believin’!”

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