Hit albums can be measured in several ways. Total sales, for one, but is that sales of physical records or streaming, or both? Platinum awards, given by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), might be an alternative method. This category was created in 1976.
To identify the artist with the most hit albums, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the total number of certified album unit sales for the 2,650 artists with at least one Gold album, as designated by the RIAA. A Gold album is one certified to have sold at least 500,000 units. Higher categories are Platinum (1 million minimum units), multi-Platinum (2 million minimum units) and Diamond (“10,000,000 and counting,” according to the RIAA).
The list of finalists includes the 50 groups and solo artists who have sold the most certified units. The most popular album for each artist and its release date also came from RIAA data. Then the artist with the most hit albums was selected after applying those criteria.
The results span decades and numerous musical styles. Artists from Bob Dylan to the Backstreet Boys, 2Pac to Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift to Barbra Streisand, are included in the analysis to pick the artist with the most album hits. The top performer had the most popular and, in many cases, the most influential albums.
The artist with the most hit albums is not a single artist at all, but a rock group: The Beatles. Total certified units sold is 183 million, and their most popular album is The Beatles (1968).
What is there to say about The Beatles, other than that their musical and cultural influence is incalculable and that they all but defined popular music in the 1960s? Considered by many to be one of the most original (and best) albums of all time, the two-disc set called simply “The Beatles” (known popularly as “the White Album” for its blank white cover), recorded the year before the band broke up, contains songs in many styles and moods. These range from the surf rock parody “Back in the U.S.S.R.” to the lyrical “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to novelty song “Rocky Raccoon” and experimental “Revolution 9.” While widely popular song “Hey Jude” isn’t on the album, it was recorded in the same sessions and released as a single a few months before the album came out.
It seems almost anticlimactic to note that The Beatles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.