Who are the best musicians to ever come out of Dallas-Fort Worth? That's a subjective question. Best-selling artists, however, can be quantified. There's a whole industry that tracks record industry sales, and within it the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is literally the Gold standard.
The RIAA, which has been around for 64 years, is responsible for certifying albums and singles with Gold, Platinum or Diamond status in the United States. (It tracks U.S. sales only, which account for the majority of sales worldwide.) Those designations are based on units sold rather than a dollar amount, which makes a big difference in the modern era of digital music.
Those technology-induced changes in buying habits means even the RIAA's rankings are, in their own way, still imprecise. Still, in terms of measuring an artist's true reach, notoriety and popularity, singles and album sales are as close to the cold, hard truth as you're liable to find. When tabulating the overall sales of DFW musicians — ranked here based on combined singles and album sales — there are more than a few surprises that show up along the way. These 10, though, are the best of the best.
10. Kirk Franklin (10.5 million)
Albums: 10 million, Singles: 0.5 million
Scoff all you want at the inclusion of a gospel singer on this list, but the fact remains: Religion is big business. And in the era of mega churches and televangelists (not that he deserves to be grouped in with them, mind you), Kirk Franklin is the poster child for the Christian music world. In fact, the Fort Worth native is the second-highest seller all-time among artists whose work is exclusively non-secular (if you don't count Creed, that is). With no fewer than seven Grammy awards to his name, Franklin is one of the most successful and decorated musicians to ever come out of DFW, period.
9. Stevie Ray Vaughan (14.5 million)
Albums: 14.5 million
No matter what folks in Austin might have to say, this one is all Dallas — and, literally, all album sales. Between his work released solely under his name and that with Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan is the fifth best-selling DFW artist in album sales. It's a good thing, too, because not a, uh, single one of the Oak Cliff native's singles, even the chart-topping "Crossfire," has been certified by the RIAA (which requires at least 500,000 units sold). That's not too surprising, though: As a blues artist who hit it big in the '80s, album sales were bound to be SRV's bread and butter.
8. Demi Lovato (15.5 million)
Albums: 2.5 million, Singles: 13 million
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Stevie Ray Vaughan is Demi Lovato. The Dallas native and Disney alumna owes her inclusion on this list largely to singles sales (though, as you'll soon find out, she's not the most lopsided on the list in this direction). Lovato has no fewer than nine singles that have reached Gold or Platinum status, but working in her favor are the digital sales that the RIAA first incorporated into their certifications in 2004. The number of sales remains the same, but that doesn't account for, say, an iTunes download only costing $1.29. It's by those standards that Rihanna is the best seller of all-time.
7. Norah Jones (17.5 million)
Albums: 17 million, Singles: 0.5 million
Mega album sales are hard to come by these days, and that's before you add the word "jazz" into the equation. So Norah Jones, who barely registers as a singles artist, is a bit of an anomaly on this list — or at the least, the beneficiary of a perfect storm. Her debut album, 2002's Come Away With Me, came at the tail end of the record industry's CD-era salad days, selling 10 million copies. But her albums have continued to sell well since. That's likely due to the nine-time Grammy winner's appeal among older audiences and contemporary jazz fans, for whom albums remain the definitive way to hear — and purchase — music.
6. Kelly Clarkson (22 million)
Albums: 11.5 million, Singles: 10.5 million
Easily the most balanced artist on this list between album and singles sales is Kelly Clarkson. The American Idol alumna also stakes claim to the highest-selling single to ever be released by a DFW musician — but it's not the one you might expect. That honor goes to "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," which has sold 4 million units since its release in 2011, and not the song that kick started Clarkson's career, "Since U Been Gone." That all makes sense, given that the Burleson native has proven to be the most versatile talent in the decade-plus cavalcade of recording artists spawned by reality TV.