Special Report

100 Best Albums of All Time

Methodology & Detailed Findings

To introduce their albums to the general audience, musicians often release singles ahead of time. These songs make their way to listeners via radio, television, or the internet. While not all songs – even in a great album – can be considered great, the best album will have more than one hit. The very best albums provide a cohesive artistic vision that spans all of their songs. They’re something that fans choose to sit down and listen to again and again.

Of the 100 albums on the list of best albums, 40 were released in the 1970s and only five were released after the year 2000. This could be due in part to audience appreciation building over the years, but also the lessening of artists’ focus on making great albums. In the modern age of streaming and downloads, modern artists may choose to concentrate their efforts on singles or EPs. Aside from a handful of devoted fans, few people today listen to a vinyl record from start to finish.

The 1970s were a golden era for albums, and rock and roll was the most popular genre. While there are a number of notable records on the list that fall outside of the genre – such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Carole King’s “Tapestry” – the majority of the albums would be regarded as rock music first and foremost.

While many critics may disagree with some of the choices or the order in which the albums appear, the list is based on popularity among listeners. These are the best albums according to the fans. This method of determining the best albums also results in the exclusion of successful and beloved recording artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole.

To determine the best albums of all time, 24/7 Wall St. generated an index based on rankings on the Billboard 200 chart, lifetime album sales, and user ratings on Ranker.com’s “The Greatest Albums of All Time.” This final metric was weighed twice as heavily as the former two.

A band’s total certified U.S. album sales came from the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA tracks album sales released in the American market with a threshold of 500,000 units sold. To be considered, an album must have at least 1,000,000 certified sales. How well an album performed on the Billboard 200 was determined by awarding points based on the number of weeks it was on the list and its rank for each week.

Compilation and “greatest hits” albums were removed from consideration.

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