Top 10 Biggest Selling Music Albums Of All Time
|Top 10 Biggest Selling Music Albums Of All Time|
The difference between merely liking a song by a certain artist and being a fan of the artist itself can be best depicted in the popularity of music albums. The greatest music artists all sold millions of albums to their millions of fans worldwide. Even nowadays, where music streaming made it possible for listeners to pick certain songs instead of downloading whole albums, they still remain popular. That being said, the best-selling Top 10 albums in history do not feature any albums from the 21st Century.
List of top 10 best selling music albums of all time
1. Thriller - Michael Jackson: 49.2 million copies
2. Back in Black – AC/DC: 29.5 million copies
3. The Bodyguard - Whitney Houston / various artists: 32.4 million copies
4. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf: 21.7 million copies
5. Their Greatest Hits (1971–19750) – Eagles: 41.2 million copies
6. The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd: 24.4 million copies
7. Hotel California – Eagles: 31.5 million copies
8. Saturday Night Fever - Bee Gees / Various artists: 21.6 million copies
9. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac: 27.9 million copies
10. Come On Over – Shania Twain: 29.6 million copies
What are the biggest selling music albums of all time?
1. Thriller - Michael Jackson
|Photo: Thriller Album Cover|
Thriller is Michael Jackson's 6th studio album, released by Epic Records on November 30, 1982. This song consists of 9 of Jackson's songs (11 for the 2008 special edition). There is also a 2008 25th anniversary edition of the album.
Jackson wanted to create an album where "every song was a killer". With the ongoing backlash against disco, he moved in a new musical direction, resulting in a mix of pop, post-disco, rock, funk, and R&B sounds. Thriller foreshadows the contradictory themes of Jackson's personal life, as he began using a motif of paranoia and darker themes. The album features a single guest appearance, with Paul McCartney becoming the first artist to be featured on one of Jackson's albums. Recording took place from April to November 1982 at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, with a production budget of $750,000.
Thriller became Jackson's first number one album on the US Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart, where it spent a record 37 weeks at number one, from February 26, 1983, to April 14, 1984. Seven singles were released: "The Girl Is Mine", "Billie Jean", "Beat It", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' ", "Human Nature", "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)", and "Thriller". They all reached the top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting the record for the most top 10 singles from an album, with "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" reaching number one. Following Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean" in Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, where he debuted his signature moonwalk dance, the sales of the album significantly increased, selling one million copies worldwide per week. The "Thriller" music video was premiered to great anticipation in December 1983 and played regularly on MTV, which also increased the sales of the album.
With 32 million copies sold worldwide by the end of 1983, Thriller became the best-selling album of all time. It was the best-selling album of 1983 worldwide, and it was the first album to become the best-selling in the United States for two years, in 1983 and 1984. The album broke racial barriers in popular music, enabling Jackson's appearances on MTV and meeting with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. It was among the first to use music videos as promotional tools; the videos for "Billie Jean", "Beat It" and "Thriller" are credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form. The album's success set the standard for the music industry with its songs, music videos, and promotion strategies influencing artists, record labels, producers, marketers, and choreographers.
2. Back in Black – AC/DC
Back in Black is the seventh studio album by Australian rock band AC/DC. It was released on 25 July 1980 by Albert Productions and Atlantic Records. It is the band's first album to feature lead singer Brian Johnson, following the death of previous lead singer Bon Scott.
After the commercial breakthrough of their 1979 album Highway to Hell, AC/DC was planning to record a follow-up, but in February 1980, Scott died from alcohol poisoning after a drinking binge. Instead of disbanding, they decided to continue on and recruited Johnson, who was previously vocalist for Geordie.
The album was composed by Johnson, Angus and Malcolm Young, and recorded over seven weeks in the Bahamas from April to May 1980 with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who had worked on their previous album. Following its completion, the group mixed Back in Black at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The album's all-black cover was designed as a "sign of mourning" for Scott.
As their sixth international studio release, Back in Black was an unprecedented success. It has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide, and is the second best-selling album in music history. The band supported the album with a yearlong world tour, cementing them among the most popular music acts of the early 1980s. The album also received positive critical reception during its initial release, and it has since been included on numerous lists of "greatest" albums. Since its original release, the album has been reissued and remastered multiple times, most recently for digital distribution. On 9 December 2019, it was certified 25x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
3. The Bodyguard - Whitney Houston / various artists
The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album is a soundtrack album from the film of the same name, released on November 17, 1992, by Arista Records. The album's first side (in its original LP and cassette formats) features songs recorded by American singer Whitney Houston, who starred in the film, while side two features the work of various artists. Houston and Clive Davis were co-executive producers of the record.
The Bodyguard was praised by music critics for Houston's vocal performance and its production. The album was a massive global success, hitting number one in eighteen countries and going top ten in dozens of other countries. In the United States, the album gave Houston the distinction of having the most weeks at number one by a female artist on Billboard 200, holding that record for 19 years until being surpassed by Adele's album 21 (2011). The Bodyguard is certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America, which gives Houston three Diamond selling albums. It became the first album verified by the Nielsen SoundScan to sell over one million copies within a single week. At one point, the album was selling over a million copies per week for several weeks in a row. With sales of over 45 million copies worldwide, The Bodyguard is the best-selling soundtrack album of all-time, as well as the best selling album by a woman in music history, and the best selling album of the decade. The soundtrack won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the soundtrack's release, Legacy Recordings and the Whitney Houston Estate released I Wish You Love: More from The Bodyguard, which included a collection of never-before-released live recordings from Houston's historic The Bodyguard Tour (1993–1995), alternate versions of the audio recordings from The Bodyguard film, and an alternate version of a remix of "I’m Every Woman".
4. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf
Bat Out of Hell is the 1977 debut album by American rock singer Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman. It is one of the best-selling albums of all time. The album was developed from a musical, Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, which Steinman wrote for a workshop in 1974. It was recorded during 1975–1976 at various studios, including Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, produced by Todd Rundgren, and released in October 1977 by Cleveland International/Epic Records. Bat Out of Hell spawned two Meat Loaf sequel albums: Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993) and Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose (2006).
Bat Out of Hell has sold over 43 million copies worldwide. It is certified 14x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is the best-selling album in Australia. As of June 2019, it has spent 522 weeks in the UK Albums Chart, the second longest chart run by a studio album. Rolling Stone ranked it at number 343 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
A musical based on Bat Out of Hell, staged by Jay Scheib, opened at the Manchester Opera House on February 17, 2017, before transferring to the London Coliseum and Toronto's Ed Mirvish Theatre in late 2017. From April 2, 2018 till January 5, 2019 the show was performed at the Dominion Theatre in London before a short run the same year in the United States.
5. Their Greatest Hits (1971–19750) – Eagles
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) is the first compilation album by the American rock band the Eagles, released on February 17, 1976, by Asylum Records. The album contains a selection of songs from the Eagles' first four albums released in the period from the Eagles' formation in 1971 up to 1975.
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) reached number one on the US Billboard 200, where it stayed for five weeks. "One of These Nights" and "Best of My Love" both topped the Billboard Hot 100. The album has the distinction of being the first album to receive the RIAA Platinum certification, which was introduced in 1976 to recognize albums that shipped one million copies in the United States. It was ranked number four on the Billboard year-end album chart of 1976 and has spent a total of 239 weeks on the Billboard 200 as of August 2018. Ultimately, the album would go on to be certified 38 times platinum, for 38 million sales in America alone.
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) was the best-selling album of the 20th century in the United States, and it remained so for some years until it was surpassed by Michael Jackson's Thriller after the artist's death in 2009. It regained the title in August 2018. In 2017, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant".
6. The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 1 March 1973 by Harvest Records. Primarily developed during live performances, the band premiered an early version of the suite several months before recording began. The record was conceived as an album that focused on the pressures faced by the band during their arduous lifestyle, and dealing with the apparent mental health problems suffered by former band member Syd Barrett, who departed the group in 1968. New material was recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at Abbey Road Studios in London.
The record builds on ideas explored in Pink Floyd's earlier recordings and performances, while omitting the extended instrumentals that characterised their earlier work. The group employed multitrack recording, tape loops, and analogue synthesisers, including experimentation with the EMS VCS 3 and a Synthi A. Engineer Alan Parsons was responsible for many sonic aspects and the recruitment of singer Clare Torry, who appears on "The Great Gig in the Sky".
A concept album, The Dark Side of the Moon explores themes such as conflict, greed, time, death and mental illness. Snippets from interviews with the band's road crew are featured alongside philosophical quotations. The sleeve, which depicts a prism spectrum, was designed by Storm Thorgerson in response to keyboardist Richard Wright's request for a "simple and bold" design, representing the band's lighting and the album's themes. The album was promoted with two singles: "Money" and "Us and Them".
The Dark Side of the Moon is among the most critically acclaimed records in history, often featured on professional listings of the greatest albums of all time. The record helped propel Pink Floyd to international fame, bringing wealth and plaudits to all four of its members. A blockbuster release of the album era, it also propelled record sales throughout the music industry during the 1970s. It has been certified 14× platinum in the United Kingdom, and topped the US Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart, where it has charted for 962 weeks in total. With estimated sales of over 45 million copies, it is Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album, and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. In 2012, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
7. Hotel California – Eagles
|Photo: Getty Images|
"Hotel California" is the title track from the Eagles' album of the same name and was released as a single in February 1977. Writing credits for the song are shared by Don Felder (music), Don Henley, and Glenn Frey (lyrics). Joe Walsh came up with the dual-guitar descending arpeggio part that ends the song: he did not, however, get writing credits. The Eagles' original recording of the song features Henley singing the lead vocals, and concludes with an electric guitar solo performed by both Walsh and Felder, in which they both take turns of playing lead before harmonising and playing the aforementioned arpeggio towards the fade out at the end.
By the second half the Seventies, the Eagles‘ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” seemed like a distant memory, a pleasantly stoned dream rudely interrupted by the pressures of business and fame. A deep malaise had set in, one which couldn’t be soothed by money, sex or drugs. It tightened its grasp on the band, the music industry and the country at large.
With Hotel California, the Eagles sought to capture the excesses and self-destructive behavior that had become status quo in the rock world. It was a scene they were uniquely qualified to address. Their previous album, 1975’s One of These Nights, had spawned three Top 10 singles, and their greatest-hits album sold in such stratospheric numbers – on its way to becoming the best-selling album of the 20th century in the United States – that the RIAA had to invent to platinum certification. “We were under the microscope,” Glenn Frey said of the time. “Everybody was going to look at the next record we made and pass judgment. Don [Henley] and I were going, ‘Man, this better be good.'”
Their efforts would create a song cycle that succeeded on nearly every level. Hotel California drew heroic sales figures and critical plaudits in equal measure, and affirmed the band’s shift from laid-back country-tinged pop act to major players in the rock & roll fast lane. The rich lyrics – both introspective and allegorical – had fans pondering their true meaning for decades to come. Was Hotel California about a mental institution? Drug addiction? A feud with Steely Dan? Satanism?
“The concept had to do with taking a look at all the band had gone through, personally and professionally, while it was still happening to them,” Henley told author Marc Eliot. “We were getting an extensive education, in life, in love, in business. Beverly Hills was still a mythical place to us. In that sense, it became something of a symbol and the ‘Hotel’ the locus of all that L.A. had come to mean for us. In a sentence, I’d sum it up as the end of the innocence, round one.”
8. Saturday Night Fever - Bee Gees
Saturday Night Fever is the soundtrack album from the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta. The soundtrack was released on November 15, 1977. It is one of the best-selling albums in history, and remains the second-biggest-selling soundtrack of all time, after The Bodyguard, selling over 40 million copies worldwide (with some estimates as high as over 50 million).
In the United States, the album was certified 16× Platinum for shipments of at least 16 million units. The album stayed atop the charts for 24 straight weeks from January to July 1978 and stayed on Billboard's album charts for 120 weeks until March 1980. In the UK, the album spent 18 consecutive weeks at No. 1. The album epitomized the disco phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic and was an international sensation. The album has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress in 2014 for being culturally significant.
Along with the success of the movie, the soundtrack, composed and performed primarily by the Bee Gees, is the second best-selling soundtrack album of all time. Saturday Night Fever had a large cultural impact in the United States. The Bee Gees had originally written and recorded five of the songs used in the film – "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever", "How Deep Is Your Love", "More Than a Woman" (performed in the film in two different versions – one version by Tavares, and another by the Bee Gees) and "If I Can't Have You" (performed in the movie by Yvonne Elliman) as part of a regular album. They had no idea at the time they would be making a soundtrack and said that they basically lost an album in the process. Two previously released Bee Gees songs – "Jive Talkin'" and "You Should Be Dancing" – are also included on the soundtrack. Other previously released songs from the disco era round out the music in the movie.
9. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Forty-five years ago this month, Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, an album that combined gauzy soft pop, manicured folk and stormy rock with a soap-operatic level of intra-band strife. It won album of the year at the Grammys, went 20 times platinum in the US alone, and sits alongside Kind of Blue and The Rite of Spring in the Library of Congress’s registry of historically significant recordings.
What’s truly remarkable, though, is how it continues to sell new physical copies, despite being available to stream and in secondhand form in every high-street charity shop. According to the UK’s Official Charts Company, Rumours sold 34,593 vinyl copies in 2021, third only to new albums by Adele and Abba, and besting new records by Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey. It sold 32,508 copies the previous year. It is currently at No 29 in its 926th week on the UK album chart – up five places from the week before – while in the US, Rumours sold 6,000 vinyl copies in the last week of January, reaching No 1 on the vinyl albums chart. It sold 169,000 vinyl copies in the US in 2021 (according to MRC Data).
For Brittany Spanos, a senior writer at Rolling Stone, its ongoing popularity has a simple explanation. “It’s a fantastic pop album with classically written pop songs: that never goes out of style.”
Those songs emerged from long, meticulous studio sessions punctuated by romantic tension and heavy drug use. Keyboardist-singer Christine McVie was dating Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director in the wake of her marriage to bassist John McVie, while singers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were ending their long-term relationship: the LP feels like every stage of a relationship breakup all at once. “The distinct personalities of the songwriters come through really raw; they’re communicating with each other in heartbreaking, angry ways,” says Zoë Howe, author of the book Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams and Rumours. Adds Spanos: “You’re getting the great theatre of heartbreak from multiple sides.”
Phil Barton, owner of Sister Ray Records in Soho, London, says Rumours is a “must-stock item – we sell hundreds of copies every year. It never seems to tail off”. He also credits the wider vinyl boom – sales have increased every year for 14 years in the UK – as part of Rumours’ endurance: “People seeking out classics will inevitably include Rumours as part of their collection.”
This rings true to Rupert Morrison, owner of Drift, a record shop in Totnes, Devon: “If you had any anxiety of getting back into vinyl, or you wanted to have that implied credibility, it’s a safe bet,” he says. “It’s this implied [idea]: ‘It’s a classic.’”
Rumours’ songs have also become modern standards: Florence + the Machine and country supergroup the Highwomen have tackled The Chain, while Kacey Musgraves covered Dreams on her 2022 US tour. The Los Angeles duo Fleetmac Wood create more elaborate interpretations via inventive remixes. “The original production of Dreams, with the hypnotic looped drums, is essentially a prototype modern dance record,” says co-founder Lisa Jelliffe (AKA Roxanne Roll). Fleetmac Wood’s dance-friendly sets cover all Mac eras, although Jelliffe sees why Rumours continues to fascinate. “A lot of modern pop releases feel like marketing compared to the authenticity of Rumours,” she says. “[The band] knew what they created together was bigger than the personal turmoil. This album is incredibly meaningful for people, and it’s healing to take that to the dancefloor.”
10. Come On Over – Shania Twain
|Photo: FOTP Forums|
Come On Over is the third studio album recorded by Canadian country music singer Shania Twain. It was released on November 4, 1997, and became the best-selling country album, the best selling album by a Canadian and is recognized by Guinness World Records as the biggest-selling studio album by a solo female artist, and the best-selling album in the USA by a solo female artist. It is the ninth all-time best-selling album in the United States, and worldwide. It is also the sixteenth best-selling album in the United Kingdom.
As of 2020, Come On Over has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, shipped over 20 million copies in the United States, with over 15.7 million copies sold according to Nielsen SoundScan, and another 1.99 million through BMG Music Clubs. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and stayed there for 50 non-consecutive weeks and is recognized by Guinness World Records as the album with the most weeks at No.1 on the US Top Country Albums chart. It stayed in the top ten for 151 weeks. Ten of the sixteen tracks hit the top 20 of the Hot Country Songs chart, eight of which hit top 10, including three No. 1s. Seven of the tracks also made the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Twain promoted the album with television performances and interviews. It was further promoted with the successful Come On Over Tour, which visited North America, Oceania and Europe. Out of the album's sixteen tracks, twelve were released as singles, including "Love Gets Me Every Time", "Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)", "You're Still the One", "From This Moment On", "That Don't Impress Me Much" and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!". The album was also promoted with a succession of music videos for the singles. The fifth single, "When", was the only single from the album to not be released in the United States.
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