Special Report

The Best-Selling Pop Albums of All Time

From the 1950s through the late ‘60s, pop music was synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll. After Billboard began listing the 200 top-selling albums in 1967, rock bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin had some of the earliest record-breakers. (Here’s a list of the most popular album every year since 1960.)

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 — well-represented among the 40 most popular country music albums of all time.

24/7 Tempo has compiled the 100 best-selling pop albums since Billboard started keeping track. Of the top 100, 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.

Click here to see the best-selling pop albums of all time

To determine the 100 best pop albums 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.