Special Report

David Bowie's Best Albums According to Billboard

David Bowie was one of the most vital cultural forces of the last century – an artist whose career can hardly be measured in terms of mere chart performance. In fact, 2016’s “Blackstar” remains his only album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 and that’s partly due to his sudden passing around the time of its release. Along similar lines, he scored just two Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping singles – “Fame” and “Let’s Dance” – over the course of five-plus decades of recording and performing. 

Nevertheless, Bowie’s influence has loomed large over both the music industry and Western culture in general since the early 1970s. Not only did albums such as “Ziggy Stardust” and “Aladdin Sane” combine brilliant songwriting with a hard-hitting classic rock sensibility, but they helped forge his signature glam persona. As his sound and style evolved, so too did his identity, casting a wide net over the many fashion statements and musical movements that followed. (He also had an impressive acting career, and is on our list of 25 pop music stars who played dramatic roles in movies.)

In spite of his enduring legacy, however, Bowie wasn’t the perennial chart dominator that one might expect. His 1967 self-titled debut didn’t even crack the Billboard 200 and now-iconic releases such as 1977’s “Heroes” and 1972’s “Hunky Dory” are among his worst overall sellers. Then there’s his stretch of albums from 1993 to 2003, which represent a career nadir in terms of chart performance – though he went on to enjoy one of he biggest comebacks in music history

One ultimately gets the sense that Bowie pursued artistic expression above all else, even as he culled from contemporary trends or took big commercial swings. And we can forgive him for the 1987 stinker “Never Let Me Down,” can’t we? That one sold better than you might think, by the way. 

To determine David Bowie’s top charting albums over his long career, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data on the Billboard 200 album charts. Albums were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 200 points, a week at No. 2 worth 199 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 200 worth one point. Only studio albums were considered. Billboard data is current through the week of August 20, 2022.

Click here to see David Bowie’s top charting albums on the Billboard 200

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