Some musicians were seemingly born to be stars. While many bands and solo artists release a few albums before they hit their stride, others – like the Cars, whose 1978 multi-platinum self-titled album is considered a rock masterpiece – nail it on their first try with a chart-topping debut that exemplifies their unique sound and solidifies their position in the music world. (wee where it falls on this list of the 50 greatest pop albums of all time.)
To determine the most popular debut albums of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on Billboard 200 chart performance. Debut studio albums released before 2010 were ranked based on an inverse point system wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 200 points, a week at No. 2 is worth 199 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 200 worth one point. Debut albums by solo artists who had previously released popular albums as a member of a band were not considered. Billboard 200 chart data is current through April 22, 2023.
Click here to see the most popular debut albums of all time
The albums range from the mid ‘60s, with artists including Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, to the 2000s, when pop stars like Taylor Swift and Adele came on the scene with a bang. Nearly half are from the ‘90s, which was an explosive decade for music in terms of the variety of genres that went mainstream. It was also the beginning of the end of the importance of albums, as music sales dropped dramatically with the advent of streaming.
Many of the popular debut albums that spent the longest at No. 1 are from ‘90s divas including Whitney Houston, whose self-titled album spent 14 weeks in the top slot; Mariah Carey, who spent 11 weeks at the summit with her self-titled album; and Paula Abdul, whose first album, “Forever Your Girl,” topped the charts for 10 weeks. In terms of total time on the Billboard charts, Lady Gaga’s debut “The Fame” takes the cake with 310 weeks. (These are the 50 greatest albums by women.)
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