Barbra Streisand No. 1 Beats Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande, and Beyoncé

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Barbra Streisand has made history with her latest chart-topping album of duets, Partners. The singer has become the only artist to gain a No. 1 record in each of the last six decades, according to Billboard, an impressive accomplishment that shows listeners never really get tired of hearing old standards sung by an iconic voice, as well as the advantages older artists have in a struggling music industry still figuring out how to cope with the common practice of illegal downloading.

The record is the singer’s 10th No. 1 album, making her tied in fourth place with Elvis Presley for the most No. 1 albums of all time. In its first week, Streisand’s record outsold those by the younger women who have been named 2014’s hottest artists — including Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Lana del Rey, and every other female pop star — to be the largest sales week by a female artist of 2014. Billboard also noted that Streisand’s first No. 1 album, People, came out almost exactly 50 years ago, hitting No. 1 on Halloween 1964.

According to data from Nielsen SoundScan, the album sold 196,000 copies in its first week on the shelves, boosted by appearances from Streisand on The Tonight Show and other television spots. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon dedicated an entire episode of the show to Streisand, not booking any other guests and hamming it up by singing duets with her while impersonating the famous guests on her record. It was hyped as her first talk show appearance in 50 years.

Partners is full of duets between Streisand and a diverse group of male singers including John Mayer, Babyface, Blake Shelton, Stevie Wonder, and even Elvis Presley, using some studio trickery. Streisand revisits a lot of her old catalog on the record, rerecording songs like “Evergreen” from her 1976 movie A Star Is Born and “People” from the Broadway musical Funny Girl.

Streisand does have some advantages over younger singers when it comes to record sales. Her older audience is much less likely to illegally download her music or listen to it on Spotify, rather than buy or pay to download the album. While younger singers get more attention with headline-grabbing antics and flashy music videos, Streisand’s wide appeal and decision to record songs that everyone already likes helped her grab the biggest demographic possible.

Ariana Grande, the pint-sized pop star whose Iggy Azalea-featuring track “Problem” was dubbed one of the biggest songs of summer 2014, sold 169,000 copies in its first week on sale. Lana Del Rey’s sophomore album, Ultraviolence, sold 166,000 copies when it dropped in the spring. But Barbra has topped them and other younger, higher-trending women, showing that sometimes the classics are the way to go.

As album sales continue to decline and musicians essentially have to figure out other ways to make money, older artists are topping the charts more often, as they typically have fans who are more invested in the album as a format than just streaming a few a songs; they are also less likely to be Internet-savvy, illegal downloaders. That means we can expect upcoming albums from Tony Bennett and Leonard Cohen to chart pretty high even amid competition from younger, flashier artists.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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