There’s also situations where double-length albums count as two sales. Older albums with re-releases or resurgences of popularity also have clear advantages. And the biggest benefit goes to compilations and greatest hits records that are full of hit singles. We’ll only be listing certified sales numbers.
With all that said, here are the top 10 best-selling albums and whilsy some of these may surprise you, a number will have you streaming the classic online.
10. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
Certified Sales: 24.8 million
The Dark Side of the Moon is the insanely acclaimed 1973 Progressive Rock album from Pink Floyd. It was a long-time coming, being their 8th studio album. It’s a concept album that used a lot of experimental techniques, creating new sounds people had never heard. The number of remasters and re-releases have helped surge sales.
It received nearly unanimous perfect scores from all of the critics and still does retrospectively. The band members are among the richest musicians in the world and even funded the production of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie with the proceeds. The album still scores around 10,000 sales a week due to covers of the entire album still coming out by various artists.
9. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
Certified Sales: 25.4 million
Jagged Little Pill is good. Alanis Morissette was backed by a super band, including Flea, one of the best bassists of all time from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, on “You Oughta Know.” It came out in 1995 and is purely an Alternative Rock album when that was the most popular genre. It was her first international release and first not in the New Jack Swing and Dance-Pop genres.
It ended up being nominated for nine and winning five Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. She was the youngest to win it at 21 years of age until Taylor Swift took the record at age 20. This is one of my “desert island” albums for sure. Everyone should become familiar with it, in my opinion.
8. Adele – 21
Certified Sales: 27.1 million
The most recent release in the top to and whilst In the USA, Adele seemed to come out of nowhere, but 21 was her second album released in 2011 in the Pop and Soul genres. The record label had low expectations, yet it topped the charts in over 30 countries, was the best-selling album for 2 years straight, and is the top seller of the 21st century.
Each of its five singles, with three of them being international chart toppers. It won Album of the Year from the Grammys, British Album of the Year from the Brit Award, and many more accolades. Even the critics liked it enough to not try to get attention by pretending to hate it.
7. Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard
Certified Sales: 28.7 million
The Bodyguard soundtrack was released in 1992, sung entirely by Whitney Houston in the R&B, Soul, and Pop genres. The movie itself is one of the best movies about music ever, which helped propel the sales of the soundtrack. It had some unbelievable singles that still get radio play today.
This record won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and went 18x Platinum. Over the course of a year it was supported by six singles that all performed very well, but especially “I Will Always Love You,” originally written by Dolly Parton.
6. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Certified Sales: 29.3 million
In 1977, Fleetwood Mac released Rumours to the Soft Rock crowd, but obviously it had great mass appeal. It hit the top of the Billboard 200 and UK Albums charts and each of its four singles reached the US top 10, like “Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams.” The album has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry.
The album was so successful the media was making up stories about the members just to get more attention (some things never change). Before it even came out it had advance orders of 800,000 copies. They supported the sales with a seven-month long tour in the USA. It worked, big time.
5. AC/DC – Back in Black
Certified Sales: 30.1 million
Back in Black came out in 1980 at the height of the reign of Hard Rock, marking AC/DC’s 7th studio album and the first with their new vocalist Brian Johnson. The name and cover were both meant as signs of mourning at the time. The band supported the album with a yearlong world tour, leading to its ultimate 25x Platinum certification.
Once the songs were written, rehearsals lasted one week and recording took seven weeks, and the rest was history. In 2007 the album was certified 22x Multi-Platinum in the USA alone. It’s one of the best arena rock albums ever and a “high watermark” for heavy metal music. It’s ten tracks of high-energy that’s still loved today.
4. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
Certified Sales: 30.4 million
Led Zeppelin IV was their pinnacle achievement from 1971, focused on Hard Rock, Folk Rock, and pre-cursor Heavy Metal sounds. It was actually untitled, with some fans calling it Zoso in response to the four symbols each band member chose, which were included in the LP’s sleeve. That stunt helped create the mystique around the album.
The album only reached #2 on the Billboard 200. It’s been re-printed and re-issued countless times, as recently as 2014, helping boost the sales numbers. This is the best kind of album: it only had 8 tracks and they were all great. Filler tracks make zero sense on a music album.
3. Shania Twain – Come On Over
Certified Sales: 30.6 Million
Shania Twain is a huge Country crossover artist, merging into the Pop genre. She was so huge at the time that her 1997 album Come On Over is now way up this list. There was a time when you couldn’t not hear a Shania single on the radio. This was the all-time best-selling country album ever.
The album contained 16 tracks and 12 of them were promoted as singles over the course of three years. You’d recognize songs like “You’re Still the One,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” It never had insanely large sales weeks. It simply sold consistently, week after week, for years.
2. Eagles – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)
Certified Sales: 41.3 million
Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles contains all of their Country Rock, Folk Rock, and Soft Rock singles between 1971 and 1975. It came out in 1976 and has continued to gain sales as it ultimately became a collection of oldies tracks. The label claimed to have found records of old sales, adding millions to their total sales.
The Michael Jackson Estate resisted this claim, since the auditing window only goes back three years, but The Eagles got to break that rule. Drama in the music industry is fun! None of the band members had any say in this release happening, and felt it was a ploy by the record company to make more money without additional expenses.
1. Michael Jackson – Thriller
Certified Sales: 51.3 million
If we go by certified sales only, Michael Jackson’s Thriller remains the indisputed champion by far. Released in 1982, it was a weird transition time for music when Disco and Funk were on the way out and Rock and Pop were on the way in. Michael took advantage of all four genres to create the best-selling album of all time.
This album’s music videos are said to have transformed videos into an art form. The “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It” videos continued to push sales of the album for a long time, as did the seven singles. This is easily one of
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