Billboard has dozens of bestseller lists by category that range from country to rock to Christian, dance and Latin. Among these categories is pop. One of pop’s subcategories is adult contemporary, so the criteria of the albums and songs are not uniform. According to some sources, pop first became a category in the early 1990s.
Billboard began listing the 200 top-selling albums in 1967, when rock bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin had some of the earliest record-breakers. However, these were part of other categories then. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, soul, disco, R&B and funk began to influence the charts, with multiple hit albums from Michael Jackson, as well as chart-toppers from Prince, the Bee Gees and Lionel Richie. The ‘90s brought both rap and country into the mainstream, including four top albums from pop country star Garth Brooks, who is well-represented among the 40 most popular country music albums of all time.
24/7 Tempo has picked the best-selling pop albums since Billboard started keeping track. Of the top 100 finalists, a quarter are by female musicians (counting bands with a female lead singer). Country crossover stars Shania Twain and Taylor Swift each boast three on the list. The sub-genres of pop represented in the list span the spectrum from country to rock to rap to R&B. An outlier on the list is the 1994 soundtrack to Disney’s “The Lion King,” featuring multiple songs written and performed by Elton John.
To determine the best pop album of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on three metrics: the number of weeks an album spent on the Billboard 200; its positions on the chart (one week at No. 1, for instance, being worth 200 times more than a week spent at No. 200); and total certified U.S. album sales according to the Recording Industry Association of America. All metrics were evenly weighted.
The best-selling pop album of all time was “Thriller,” released in 1982 by Michael Jackson. Its certification was an extraordinary 33X multi-platinum. Its time on the Billboard 200 was 469 weeks.