Special Report

Most Popular Album the Year You Were Born

Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19 / Getty Images

While the popularity of listening to entire albums straight through has waned in recent years, musicians continue to release music in this format. Certain artists’ albums are exceptionally popular among listeners, selling millions of copies in an age when many fans prefer to stream their music one single at a time.

Listeners’ favorite albums have changed dramatically since the LP (long-playing) format gained popularity in the 1950s. Soundtracks for movies and plays were initially hugely fashionable. The 1960s ushered in the era of what we now consider classic rock, which eventually gave way to pop music by artists such as Michael Jackson. Today’s top albums come from musicians such as Taylor Swift, Adele, and Kendrick Lamar.

24/7 Tempo reviewed Billboard’s Year-End Top Album charts to find the most popular album for each year starting in 1956, when Billboard began tracking the top 200 albums. These rankings are primarily based on physical album sales but include streaming and downloads starting in 2014.

As music tastes have changed, so have the ways that people consume it. Music industry revenue is in the doldrums due to widespread abandonment of physical media — even as music consumption, because of digital platforms, has never been higher.

But there is a bright spot for physical media. Sales of vinyl records are poised to top revenue from CDs for the first time since 1986. Data from the Recording Industry Association of America’s mid-year report shows that sales of vinyl totaled $224.1 million in the first half of 2019, up 12.9% from the same period of a year ago. Sales of CDs totaled $247.9 million, up less than 1%.

A big part of the vinyl comeback is the resurgence in interest in groups such as Queen, which was boosted by the Oscar-winning film “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Other groups enjoying a rebound are Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles, all of whom recorded some of the most popular albums ever. Here are the 100 best albums of all time.

In 1999 – the top-grossing year for the music 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. It has since been certified 13x Platinum.

Artists have reached similar heights since, such as the most popular album of 2016 – Adele’s “25” – which shipped 10 million copies that year and an additional 1 million units since. Speaking of Adele, the British singer has won the Grammy for Song of the Year twice. Here is every Song of the Year since the Grammys started.

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 Tempo reviewed Billboard’s Year-End Top Billboard 200 Albums charts. Billboard’s album rankings are based on Nielsen SoundScan sales data and identify each “year’s most popular albums across all genres, ranked by album sales as well as audio on-demand streaming activity and digital sales of tracks from albums.”

Certified U.S. sales refers to certified units as reported by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). These figures reflect albums distributed to retail stores and consumers in the United States, minus returns, as well as digital downloads and streaming.

Source: Pictorial Parade / Getty Images

1956
> Most popular album: Calypso
> Artist: Harry Belafonte
> Biggest single: “Day-O (Banana Boat Song)”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1957
> Most popular album: My Fair Lady
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1958
> Most popular album: My Fair Lady
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

Source: Evening Standard / Getty Images

1959
> Most popular album: Music From “Peter Gunn”
> Artist: Henry Mancini
> Biggest single: “Peter Gunn”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

1960
> Most popular album: The Sound Of Music
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “My Favorite Things”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: Archive Photos / Getty Images

1961
> Most popular album: Camelot
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “If Ever I Would Leave You”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1962
> Most popular album: West Side Story
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “America”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

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Source: Evening Standard / Getty Images

1963
> Most popular album: West Side Story
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “America”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

Source: Archive Photos / Getty Images

1964
> Most popular album: Hello, Dolly!
> Artist: Original Cast
> Biggest single: “Hello, Dolly!”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

1965
> Most popular album: Mary Poppins
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

1966
> Most popular album: Whipped Cream And Other Delights
> Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
> Biggest single: “A Taste of Honey”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1967
> Most popular album: More Of The Monkees
> Artist: Monkees
> Biggest single: “I’m a Believer”
> Certified U.S. sales: 5 million

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

1968
> Most popular album: Are You Experienced?
> Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
> Biggest single: “Purple Haze”
> Certified U.S. sales: 5 million

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1969
> Most popular album: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
> Artist: Iron Butterfly
> Biggest single: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”
> Certified U.S. sales: 4 million

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1970
> Most popular album: Bridge Over Troubled Water
> Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
> Biggest single: “Bridge over Troubled Water”
> Certified U.S. sales: 8 million

Source: Archive Photos / Getty Images

1971
> Most popular album: Jesus Christ Superstar
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “Superstar”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

1972
> Most popular album: Harvest
> Artist: Neil Young
> Biggest single: “Heart of Gold”
> Certified U.S. sales: 4 million

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Source: Mark Reinstein / Getty Images

1973
> Most popular album: The World Is A Ghetto
> Artist: War
> Biggest single: “The Cisco Kid”
> Certified U.S. sales: 0.5 million

Source: D. Morrison / Getty Images

1974
> Most popular album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
> Artist: Elton John
> Biggest single: “Bennie and the Jets”
> Certified U.S. sales: 8 million

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1975
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits
> Artist: Elton John
> Biggest single: “Your Song”
> Certified U.S. sales: 17 million

Source: Fin Costello / Getty Images

1976
> Most popular album: Frampton Comes Alive
> Artist: Peter Frampton
> Biggest single: “Show Me the Way”
> Certified U.S. sales: 8 million

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1977
> Most popular album: Rumours
> Artist: Fleetwood Mac
> Biggest single: “Don’t Stop”
> Certified U.S. sales: 20 million

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1978
> Most popular album: Saturday Night Fever
> Artist: Bee Gees/Various Artists
> Biggest single: “Stayin’ Alive”
> Certified U.S. sales: 15 million

Source: Brad Barket / Getty Images

1979
> Most popular album: 52nd Street
> Artist: Billy Joel
> Biggest single: “My Life”
> Certified U.S. sales: 7 million

Source: RB / Getty Images

1980
> Most popular album: The Wall
> Artist: Pink Floyd
> Biggest single: “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”
> Certified U.S. sales: 23 million

Source: David Redfern / Getty Images

1981
> Most popular album: Hi Infidelity
> Artist: REO Speedwagon
> Biggest single: “Keep on Loving You”
> Certified U.S. sales: 10 million

Source: Ebet Roberts / Getty Images

1982
> Most popular album: Asia
> Artist: Asia
> Biggest single: “Heat of the Moment”
> Certified U.S. sales: 4 million

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Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

1983
> Most popular album: Thriller
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Biggest single: “Billie Jean”
> Certified U.S. sales: 33 million

Source: Rick Stewart / Getty Images

1984
> Most popular album: Thriller
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Biggest single: “Billie Jean”
> Certified U.S. sales: 33 million

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

1985
> Most popular album: Born In The U.S.A.
> Artist: Bruce Springsteen
> Biggest single: “Dancing in the Dark”
> Certified U.S. sales: 15 million

Source: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

1986
> Most popular album: Whitney Houston
> Artist: Whitney Houston
> Biggest single: “Greatest Love of All”
> Certified U.S. sales: 13 million

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Source: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

1987
> Most popular album: Slippery When Wet
> Artist: Bon Jovi
> Biggest single: “Livin’ on a Prayer”
> Certified U.S. sales: 12 million

Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

1988
> Most popular album: Faith
> Artist: George Michael
> Biggest single: “Faith”
> Certified U.S. sales: 10 million

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty Images

1989
> Most popular album: Don’t Be Cruel
> Artist: Bobby Brown
> Biggest single: “My Prerogative”
> Certified U.S. sales: 7 million

Source: Francois Nel / Getty Images

1990
> Most popular album: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814
> Artist: Janet Jackson
> Biggest single: “Miss You Much”
> Certified U.S. sales: 6 million

Source: Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

1991
> Most popular album: Mariah Carey
> Artist: Mariah Carey
> Biggest single: “Vision of Love”
> Certified U.S. sales: 9 million

Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

1992
> Most popular album: Ropin’ The Wind
> Artist: Garth Brooks
> Biggest single: “Shameless”
> Certified U.S. sales: 14 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1993
> Most popular album: The Bodyguard
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “I Will Always Love You”
> Certified U.S. sales: 17 million

Source: Codorado / Wikimedia Commons

1994
> Most popular album: The Sign
> Artist: Ace Of Base
> Biggest single: “All That She Wants”
> Certified U.S. sales: 9 million

Source: Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

1995
> Most popular album: Cracked Rear View
> Artist: Hootie & the Blowfish
> Biggest single: “Only Wanna Be With You”
> Certified U.S. sales: 16 million

Source: Sonia Recchia / Getty Images

1996
> Most popular album: Jagged Little Pill
> Artist: Alanis Morissette
> Biggest single: “Ironic”
> Certified U.S. sales: 16 million

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Source: Brian Rasic / Getty Images

1997
> Most popular album: Spice
> Artist: Spice Girls
> Biggest single: “Wannabe”
> Certified U.S. sales: 7 million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

1998
> Most popular album: Titanic
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “My Heart Will Go On”
> Certified U.S. sales: 11 million

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

1999
> Most popular album: Millennium
> Artist: Backstreet Boys
> Biggest single: “I Want It That Way”
> Certified U.S. sales: 13 million

Source: Dan Callister / Getty Images

2000
> Most popular album: No Strings Attached
> Artist: NSYNC
> Biggest single: “Bye Bye Bye”
> Certified U.S. sales: 11 million

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

2001
> Most popular album: 1
> Artist: The Beatles
> Biggest single: “Come Together”
> Certified U.S. sales: 11 million

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

2002
> Most popular album: The Eminem Show
> Artist: Eminem
> Biggest single: “‘Till I Collapse”
> Certified U.S. sales: 10 million

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Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

2003
> Most popular album: Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
> Artist: 50 Cent
> Biggest single: “In Da Club”
> Certified U.S. sales: 6 million

Source: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

2004
> Most popular album: Confessions
> Artist: Usher
> Biggest single: “Yeah!”
> Certified U.S. sales: 10 million

Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

2005
> Most popular album: The Massacre
> Artist: 50 Cent
> Biggest single: “Candy Shop”
> Certified U.S. sales: 5 million

Source: Erika Goldring / Getty Images

2006
> Most popular album: Some Hearts
> Artist: Carrie Underwood
> Biggest single: “Before He Cheats”
> Certified U.S. sales: 8 million

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Source: Evan Agostini / Getty Images

2007
> Most popular album: Daughtry
> Artist: Daughtry
> Biggest single: “Over You”
> Certified U.S. sales: 6 million

Source: Gary Gershoff / Getty Images

2008
> Most popular album: AS I AM
> Artist: Alicia Keys
> Biggest single: “No One”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

Source: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

2009
> Most popular album: Fearless
> Artist: Taylor Swift
> Biggest single: “Love Story”
> Certified U.S. sales: 10 million

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images

2010
> Most popular album: I Dreamed A Dream
> Artist: Susan Boyle
> Biggest single: “I Dreamed a Dream”
> Certified U.S. sales: 4 million

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

2011
> Most popular album: 21
> Artist: Adele
> Biggest single: “Rolling in the Deep”
> Certified U.S. sales: 14 million

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

2012
> Most popular album: 21
> Artist: Adele
> Biggest single: “Rolling in the Deep”
> Certified U.S. sales: 14 million

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Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

2013
> Most popular album: The 20/20 Experience
> Artist: Justin Timberlake
> Biggest single: “Mirrors”
> Certified U.S. sales: 2 million

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

2014
> Most popular album: Frozen
> Artist: Various Artists
> Biggest single: “Let It Go”
> Certified U.S. sales: 4 million

Source: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

2015
> Most popular album: 1989
> Artist: Taylor Swift
> Biggest single: “Shake It Off”
> Certified U.S. sales: 9 million

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

2016
> Most popular album: 25
> Artist: Adele
> Biggest single: “Hello”
> Certified U.S. sales: 11 million

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Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

2017
> Most popular album: DAMN.
> Artist: Kendrick Lamar
> Biggest single: “Humble.”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

Source: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images

2018
> Most popular album: reputation
> Artist: Taylor Swift
> Biggest single: “Look What You Made Me Do”
> Certified U.S. sales: 3 million

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