How Barbra Streisand achieved her latest No. 1 album with 'Encore'

'Encore' is Streisand's 11th album to top the Billboard 200 chart, 53 years after her first album debuted on the chart at No. 8. How has the singer sustained her success?

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Barbra Streisand presents the award for best musical at the Tony Awards in New York in 2016.

Barbra Streisand’s newest album, “Encore,” the latest work in a long and acclaimed career, has become her eleventh to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Ms. Streisand made the Billboard chart in 1963, when her debut album, "The Barbra Streisand Album" reached No. 8. And 53 years later, she's still making musical waves with more No. 1 albums than any other female musician.

What has made Streisand such an enduring success? Her voice is, of course, one aspect of her career that is lauded by many. Los Angeles Times writer Mikael Wood noted in reviewing a concert by the singer during this past summer, “Streisand has lost some of the high notes she once had control over … But songs like ‘Being Alive’ and ‘Children Will Listen’ showed how powerful her singing remains, how capable she is of getting inside a tune and feeling its emotional extremes.” 

Meanwhile, PBS credits her versatility with inspiring some of her career success.

“Streisand patented a brash, loquacious, aggressively optimistic screen persona, starring in musicals before moving on to, and proving herself more than capable in, screwball comedies and romances,” PBS staff wrote.

Streisand's first critical acclaim came for her debut role on Broadway in the 1962 show “I Can Get It For You Wholesale.” That role earned her a Tony Award nomination for best featured actress in a musical. The next year, she starred in “Funny Girl” on Broadway, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. She would receive an Oscar for best actress for the film adaptation of “Funny.”

The singer likely has an older fan base, as many of her fans have followed her since her early theater days. In reviewing a concert featuring Streisand this past summer, Philadelphia Magazine writer Julia Lazarus wrote that one concertgoer “accompanied her 70-year-old mother-in-law Claudia … Claudia’s age group was well represented.”

Yet her newest achievement shows that Streisand is continuing to succeed in the current music industry. As noted by New York Times writer Ben Sisario, some wondered when Billboard decided to count streaming music in its rankings whether singers like Streisand, who is sometimes associated with older fans, would see their sales rankings suffer.

“Show business rule No. 1: Never doubt Barbra Streisand,” Mr. Sisario wrote of Streisand’s “Encore” chart performance. “…Its showing on streaming services was extremely low … but by sales alone it was more than enough.  The success of ‘Encore’ extends one of the most remarkable runs in Billboard chart history.”

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