We download songs from official online shops whenever we hear something we like from music videos or over the radio. A generation ago, people bought vinyl singles that featured a song on each side of the record. And if they like the artist well enough, then they buy the whole album so that they will hear the other songs that the singer or band has to offer.
There have also been concept albums that are better off heard in its entirety. While the individual songs may be good, listening to them as part of the entire record will bring about a higher level of appreciation. Examples of this are the albums of Led Zeppelin, the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club album, and Tears for Fears’ The Seeds of Love.
The music industry has also witnessed albums that just took off immediately after release (The Bodyguard soundtrack). There have also been albums that did not fly high when it became available, but sold consistently enough over a number of years that allowed its inclusion in this list.
Here are the top ten best selling albums of all time.
1. Thriller, Michael Jackson, 1982 – 65-110 million
It was Michael Jackson’s follow up to his acclaimed 1979 release Off the Wall, and it proved to be an immense success. Produced by Quincy Jones, the album featured nine songs, seven of which reached the top ten. The videos that accompanied three of the songs, namely Billie Jean, Beat It, and Thriller, became instant classics. These helped the MTV channel attain mainstream acceptance. The album went on to win Album of the Year honor in that year Grammy Awards.
2. Back in Black, AC/DC, 1980 – 50 million
When Bon Scott, the lead singer of the Australian rock group AC/DC, the band members thought of just disbanding and going their own ways. Some of the songs had already been composed, however, so the group decided to carry on. The result was an album that included songs that became their biggest hits, including You Shook Me All Night Long, Hells Bells, Shoot to Thrill and Back in Black. Surprisingly, the album only reached number four in the U.S. music chart. It stood the test of time, however, and kept selling enough to land it on the number two spot in this list.
3. The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd, 1973 – 50 million
The heavy themes of the songs in this album were partly inspired by the mental deterioration of one of its former members, Syd Barrett. The dark undertones did not deter critics and fans, as the album lit up the charts. It stayed in the album charts for an amazing 741 weeks. That’s a period of around 15 years, from 1973 to 1988. It has been consistently included as one of the best albums of all time.
4. The Bodyguard (Soundtrack), Whitney Houston/Various Artists, 1992 – 45 million
Half of the songs were by Whitney Houston, who at that time was one of the most sought-after music stars. The album was released as the soundtrack to the movie of the same title, which starred Houston and Kevin Costner. It included, upon the suggestion of Costner, the singer’s haunting version of the Dolly Parton original I Will Always Love You. The result was simply amazing, with a million copies being sold in a single week. It went on to win Album of the Year in the Grammy Awards.
5. Bad, Michael Jackson, 1987 – 45 million
Five years after Thriller, Jackson released Bad, which he hoped would surpass or at least equal the success of the previous album. It did not, but then again, nobody has come close to achieving the sales figure of Thriller. Bad did not do that bad either, as it has sold 45 million copies. It cemented Jackson’s reputation as one of the most successful recording stars of all time.
6. Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf, 1977 – 43 million
Sales and review were lukewarm when the album was initially released in 1977. Eventually, both fans and critics were turned around with this heavy metal offering. Sales picked up slowly but consistently, and critics began to rave about the songs in the album. It has been included as one of the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
7. Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975), Eagles, 1976 – 42 million
The band took their best selling singles of the previous four years and released it as a compilation album in 1976. Fans need not change records just to hear their favorite songs, as all their best songs were in the new album already. it was a wise decision, as the album has gone on to become a best seller, with sales numbers tying it with Thriller as the greatest selling album in the U.S. market.
8. Dirty Dancing (Soundtrack), Various Artists, 1987 – 42 million
In 1987, a movie called Dirty Dancing proved to be a sleeper hit. The movie attracted a lot of repeat viewers, as female fans swooned over the looks and dance steps of the lead character, Patrick Swayze. The movie’s success translated to hot sales for its soundtrack album. It featured the uplifting song of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes entitled I’ve Had the Time of My Life. And for the ardent Swayze fans, he also had a song called She’s Like the Wind.
9. Saturday Night Fever (Soundtrack), Bee Gees/Various Artists, 1977 – 40 million
Back when flare pants, huge collars and disco were king, Saturday Night Fever ruled the music charts, with the album staying at number one for six months. It featured several classic disco songs by the Bee Gees. It won Album of the Year, becoming the only disco album to garner such honor.
10. Rumours, Fleetwood Mac, 1977 – 40 million
The strife, breakups and misunderstanding between the members of the band proved to be vital ingredients in the creation of this great album. Featuring songs like Don’t Stop and Dreams, it became the talented group’s most successful album ever, earning Album of the Year honor from the Grammy’s.