Most Popular Album the Year You Were Born

October 12, 2017 by Steven M. Peters

Source: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
The American music industry is not doing very well. While music consumption is at an all-time high because of digital platforms, revenues from music sales are about half of what they were in 1999. Despite this, America’s music’s top acts seem to be immune to the pain.

In 1999 – the top-earning year for the industry – Backstreet Boys’ album “Millennium” was the most popular record of the year, going 11x Multi-Platinum, meaning 11 million copies of the record were distributed by its label. In comparison, the most popular album of 2016 – Adele’s “25” – shipped 10 million copies that year and an additional 1 million units since. Additionally, each of the most popular albums in the 17 years since 1999 shipped at least 2 million copies by the time it hit the top of the Billboard Year-End charts. This only happened 16 times prior to and in 1999.

Some of the most impressive sales figures still belong to the industry’s golden age. For instance, the label of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which was the most popular album in both 1983 and 1984, shipped 33 million copies of the album since its release, leading the RIAA to certify it 33x Multi-Platinum — the highest certification of any album ever.

Click here to see the most popular album the year you were born.

To find the most popular album for each year starting in 1956, 24/7 Wall St. looked at Billboard’s Year-End Top Album charts. These rankings are primarily based on album sales, but we have included streaming as of 2014. “Estimated albums” and “all time albums” refer to Certified Units as reported by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). These figures reflect record label shipments, as opposed to retail sales. Alternatively, Billboard’s album rankings are based on Nielsen SoundScan sales data, which is based on information reported by music sellers.

Source: Courtesy of RCA Victor

1956
> Most popular album: Calypso
> Artist: Harry Belafonte
> Biggest single: “Day-O (Banana Boat Song)”
> Estimated albums through 1956: N/A
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Masterworks Records

1957
> Most popular album: My Fair Lady
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”
> Estimated albums through 1957: N/A
> All time albums: 3 million

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Masterworks Records

1958
> Most popular album: My Fair Lady
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”
> Estimated albums through 1958: N/A
> All time albums: 3 million

Source: Courtesy of RCA Victor

1959
> Most popular album: Music From “Peter Gunn”
> Artist: Henry Mancini
> Biggest single: “Peter Gunn”
> Estimated albums through 1959: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein Records

1960
> Most popular album: The Sound Of Music
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “My Favorite Things”
> Estimated albums through 1960: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Records

1961
> Most popular album: Camelot
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: N/A
> Estimated albums through 1961: N/A
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Masterworks and Sony Classical

1962
> Most popular album: West Side Story
> Artist: Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “America”
> Estimated albums through 1962: N/A
> All time albums: 3 million

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Masterworks and Sony Classical

1963
> Most popular album: West Side Story
> Artist: Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “America”
> Estimated albums through 1963: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 3 million

Source: Courtesy of RCA Victor

1964
> Most popular album: Hello, Dolly!
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “Hello, Dolly!”
> Estimated albums through 1964: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Vista Records

1965
> Most popular album: Mary Poppins
> Artist: Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”
> Estimated albums through 1965: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of A&M

1966
> Most popular album: Whipped Cream And Other Delights
> Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
> Biggest single: “A Taste of Honey”
> Estimated albums through 1966: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Rhino

1967
> Most popular album: More Of The Monkees
> Artist: Monkees
> Biggest single: “I’m a Believer”
> Estimated albums through 1967: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 5 million

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Source: Courtesy of Track Records

1968
> Most popular album: Are You Experienced?
> Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
> Biggest single: “Purple Haze”
> Estimated albums through 1968: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 5 million

Source: Courtesy of Atco

1969
> Most popular album: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
> Artist: Iron Butterfly
> Biggest single: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”
> Estimated albums through 1969: N/A
> All time albums: 4 million

Source: Courtesy of Sony Legacy

1970
> Most popular album: Bridge Over Troubled Water
> Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
> Biggest single: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
> Estimated albums through 1970: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 8 million

Source: Courtesy of Verve

1971
> Most popular album: Jesus Christ Superstar
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “Superstar”
> Estimated albums through 1971: N/A
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Reprise

1972
> Most popular album: Harvest
> Artist: Neil Young
> Biggest single: “Heart of Gold”
> Estimated albums through 1972: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 4 million

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists Records

1973
> Most popular album: The World Is A Ghetto
> Artist: War
> Biggest single: “The Cisco Kid”
> Estimated albums through 1973: N/A
> All time albums: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of MCA

1974
> Most popular album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
> Artist: Elton John
> Biggest single: “Bennie and the Jets”
> Estimated albums through 1974: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 8 million

Source: Courtesy of Universal Music Group

1975
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits
> Artist: Elton John
> Biggest single: “Your Song”
> Estimated albums through 1975: 0.5 million
> All time albums: 17 million

Source: Courtesy of A&M

1976
> Most popular album: Frampton Comes Alive
> Artist: Peter Frampton
> Biggest single: “Show Me the Way”
> Estimated albums through 1976: 1 million
> All time albums: 8 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1977
> Most popular album: Rumours
> Artist: Fleetwood Mac
> Biggest single: “Don’t Stop”
> Estimated albums through 1977: 1 million
> All time albums: 20 million

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Source: Courtesy of BeeGees/Reprise

1978
> Most popular album: Saturday Night Fever
> Artist: Bee Gees/Various Artists/Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “Stayin’ Alive”
> Estimated albums through 1978: 1 million
> All time albums: 15 million

Source: Courtesy of Sony Music Cmg

1979
> Most popular album: 52nd Street
> Artist: Billy Joel
> Biggest single: “My Life”
> Estimated albums through 1979: 1 million
> All time albums: 7 million

Source: Courtesy of Capitol Records

1980
> Most popular album: The Wall
> Artist: Pink Floyd
> Biggest single: “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”
> Estimated albums through 1980: 1 million
> All time albums: 23 million

Source: Courtesy of Epic Records

1981
> Most popular album: Hi Infidelity
> Artist: REO Speedwagon
> Biggest single: “Keep on Loving You”
> Estimated albums through 1981: 1 million
> All time albums: 10 million

Source: Courtesy of Geffen

1982
> Most popular album: Asia
> Artist: Asia
> Biggest single: “Heat of the Moment”
> Estimated albums through 1982: 1 million
> All time albums: 4 million

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Source: Courtesy of Epic/CBS

1983
> Most popular album: Thriller
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Biggest single: “Billie Jean”
> Estimated albums through 1983: 1 million
> All time albums: 33 million

Source: Courtesy of Epic/CBS

1984
> Most popular album: Thriller
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Biggest single: “Billie Jean”
> Estimated albums through 1984: 20 million
> All time albums: 33 million

Source: Courtesy of Sony Legacy

1985
> Most popular album: Born In The U.S.A.
> Artist: Bruce Springsteen
> Biggest single: “Dancing in the Dark”
> Estimated albums through 1985: 10 million
> All time albums: 15 million

Source: Courtesy of SBME SPECIAL MKTS.

1986
> Most popular album: Whitney Houston
> Artist: Whitney Houston
> Biggest single: “Greatest Love of All”
> Estimated albums through 1986: 7 million
> All time albums: 13 million

Source: Courtesy of Mercury

1987
> Most popular album: Slippery When Wet
> Artist: Bon Jovi
> Biggest single: “Livin’ on a Prayer”
> Estimated albums through 1987: 8 million
> All time albums: 12 million

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia/Epic

1988
> Most popular album: Faith
> Artist: George Michael
> Biggest single: “Faith”
> Estimated albums through 1988: 6 million
> All time albums: 10 million

Source: Courtesy of MCA Records

1989
> Most popular album: Don’t Be Cruel
> Artist: Bobby Brown
> Biggest single: “My Prerogative”
> Estimated albums through 1989: 5 million
> All time albums: 7 million

Source: Courtesy of A&M

1990
> Most popular album: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814
> Artist: Janet Jackson
> Biggest single: “Miss You Much”
> Estimated albums through 1990: 5 million
> All time albums: 6 million

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Records

1991
> Most popular album: Mariah Carey
> Artist: Mariah Carey
> Biggest single: “Vision of Love”
> Estimated albums through 1991: 6 million
> All time albums: 9 million

Source: Courtesy of Capitol Nashville

1992
> Most popular album: Ropin’ The Wind
> Artist: Garth Brooks
> Biggest single: “Shameless”
> Estimated albums through 1992: 9 million
> All time albums: 14 million

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment

1993
> Most popular album: The Bodyguard
> Artist: Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “I Will Always Love You”
> Estimated albums through 1993: 10 million
> All time albums: 17 million

Source: Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment

1994
> Most popular album: The Sign
> Artist: Ace Of Base
> Biggest single: “All That She Wants”
> Estimated albums through 1994: 7 million
> All time albums: 9 million

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Records

1995
> Most popular album: Cracked Rear View
> Artist: Hootie & The Blowfish
> Biggest single: “Only Wanna Be With You”
> Estimated albums through 1995: 11 million
> All time albums: 16 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Music Group

1996
> Most popular album: Jagged Little Pill
> Artist: Alanis Morissette
> Biggest single: “Ironic”
> Estimated albums through 1996: 14 million
> All time albums: 16 million

Source: Courtesy of Virgin Records

1997
> Most popular album: Spice
> Artist: Spice Girls
> Biggest single: “Wannabe”
> Estimated albums through 1997: 5 million
> All time albums: 7 million

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Classical

1998
> Most popular album: Titanic
> Artist: Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “My Heart Will Go On”
> Estimated albums through 1998: 10 million
> All time albums: 11 million

Source: Courtesy of RCA Music Group

1999
> Most popular album: Millennium
> Artist: Backstreet Boys
> Biggest single: “I Want It That Way”
> Estimated albums through 1999: 11 million
> All time albums: 13 million

Source: Courtesy of RCA Records

2000
> Most popular album: No Strings Attached
> Artist: ‘N Sync
> Biggest single: “Bye Bye Bye”
> Estimated albums through 2000: 10 million
> All time albums: 11 million

Source: Courtesy of Capitol Records

2001
> Most popular album: 1
> Artist: The Beatles
> Biggest single: “Come Together”
> Estimated albums through 2001: 8 million
> All time albums: 11 million

Source: Courtesy of Interscope Records

2002
> Most popular album: The Eminem Show
> Artist: Eminem
> Biggest single: “‘Till I Collapse”
> Estimated albums through 2002: 7 million
> All time albums: 10 million

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Music Group

2003
> Most popular album: Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
> Artist: 50 Cent
> Biggest single: “In Da Club”
> Estimated albums through 2003: 6 million
> All time albums: 6 million

Source: Courtesy of Arista

2004
> Most popular album: Confessions
> Artist: Usher
> Biggest single: “Yeah!”
> Estimated albums through 2004: 8 million
> All time albums: 10 million

Source: Courtesy of Universal Music Group

2005
> Most popular album: The Massacre
> Artist: 50 Cent
> Biggest single: “Candy Shop”
> Estimated albums through 2005: 5 million
> All time albums: 5 million

Source: Courtesy of Arista Nashville

2006
> Most popular album: Some Hearts
> Artist: Carrie Underwood
> Biggest single: “Before He Cheats”
> Estimated albums through 2006: 4 million
> All time albums: 8 million

Source: Courtesy of RCA Records

2007
> Most popular album: Daughtry
> Artist: Daughtry
> Biggest single: “Over You”
> Estimated albums through 2007: 3 million
> All time albums: 4 million

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Source: Courtesy of J Records

2008
> Most popular album: As I Am
> Artist: Alicia Keys
> Biggest single: “No One”
> Estimated albums through 2008: 3 million
> All time albums: 3 million

Source: Courtesy of Big Machine Records

2009
> Most popular album: Fearless
> Artist: Taylor Swift
> Biggest single: “Love Story”
> Estimated albums through 2009: 5 million
> All time albums: 7 million

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Records

2010
> Most popular album: I Dreamed a Dream
> Artist: Susan Boyle
> Biggest single: “I Dreamed a Dream”
> Estimated albums through 2010: 4 million
> All time albums: 4 million

Source: Courtesy of XL Recordings

2011
> Most popular album: 21
> Artist: Adele
> Biggest single: “Rolling in the Deep”
> Estimated albums through 2011: 5 million
> All time albums: 14 million

Source: Courtesy of XL Recordings

2012
> Most popular album: 21
> Artist: Adele
> Biggest single: “Rolling in the Deep”
> Estimated albums through 2012: 10 million
> All time albums: 14 million

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Source: Courtesy of RCA

2013
> Most popular album: The 20/20 Experience
> Artist: Justin Timberlake
> Biggest single: “Mirrors”
> Estimated albums through 2013: 2 million
> All time albums: 2 million

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Records

2014
> Most popular album: Frozen
> Artist: Soundtrack
> Biggest single: “Let It Go”
> Estimated albums through 2014: 3 million
> All time albums: 4 million

Source: Courtesy of Big Machine Records

2015
> Most popular album: 1989
> Artist: Taylor Swift
> Biggest single: “Shake It Off”
> Estimated albums through 2015: 5 million
> All time albums: 6 million

Source: Courtesy of XL Recordings

2016
> Most popular album: 25
> Artist: Adele
> Biggest single: “Hello”
> Estimated albums through 2016: 10 million
> All time albums: 11 million