List of best-selling albums by year in the United States

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A photo of a bald smiling Jamaican man. He is in his 80s and wearing a dark grey suit over a black collared shirt.
Harry Belafonte's Calypso was labeled the US's top-selling record of 1956.

This is a list of the best-selling albums by year in the United States. Billboard magazine began publishing year-end lists for album sales in 1956. Until 1991, the Billboard album chart was based on a survey of representative retail outlets that determined a ranking, not a tally of actual sales. Weekly surveys and year-end charts by Billboard and other publications such as Cash Box magazine sometimes differed. For instance, during the 1960s and 1970s, the number-one album as determined by these two publications differed in 10 out of 20 years. From 1991 onwards, the Billboard year-end and weekly charts were calculated by Nielsen SoundScan. Note that this slightly differs from the Billboard year-end album number one chart, which is a measure of chart performance over the twelve months from December to November (cutoff determined by Billboard´s publication schedule) rather than actual total sales per calendar year.

Harry Belafonte's 1956 record entitled Calypso was the first product to be recognized as a top-selling album for a year once Billboard magazine started tracking sales figures. Eminem's 2010 rap record Recovery currently holds the title for the US's top-selling digital album. American Pop/R&B singer-songwriter Mariah Carey, singer Whitney Houston, British glam rock performer Elton John and rapper Eminem each have had two of their albums be top sellers in two separate years in the US. Pop singer Michael Jackson's 1982 Thriller became the best-selling record in the country for two consecutive years in the 1980s (and later became the best-selling album of all time). Other albums to achieve the same accomplishment included the My Fair Lady Original Cast Recording from the hit 1950s Broadway production between 1957–1958, the original soudtrack of West Side Story between 1962-1963, and the album 21 by Adele between 2011-2012.

1950s[edit]

Cast recording of the musical My Fair Lady is a two-year bestseller
Year[I] Artist(s) Nationality Album Ref.
1956 Harry Belafonte United States Calypso [1]
1957 Original Broadway Cast My Fair Lady [2]
1958 Original Broadway Cast My Fair Lady [3]
1959 Henry Mancini United States Music from Peter Gunn [4]

1960s[edit]

West Side Story's soudtrack became the best-seller for 2 years.
Year[I] Performing artist(s) Nationality Album Ref.
1960 Original Broadway Cast The Sound of Music [5]
1961 Original Broadway Cast Camelot [6]
1962 Soundtrack West Side Story [7]
1963 Soundtrack West Side Story [8]
1964 Original Broadway Cast Hello, Dolly! [9]
1965 Soundtrack Mary Poppins [10]
1966 Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass United States Whipped Cream & Other Delights [11]
1967 The Monkees United States More of The Monkees [12]
1968 The Jimi Hendrix Experience United Kingdom Are You Experienced? [13]
1969 Iron Butterfly United States In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida [14]

1970s[edit]

A Caucasian man with light brown hair. He is wearing black framed glasses with orange lenses and a black suit over a white shirt. Behind him is a whit wall with a blue square.
Two of Elton John's albums each became the best-selling record in the 1970s.
Year[I] Performing artist(s) Nationality Album Ref.
1970 Simon and Garfunkel United States Bridge over Troubled Water [15]
1971 Various Artists Jesus Christ Superstar [16]
1972 Neil Young Canada Harvest [17]
1973 War United States The World Is a Ghetto [18]
1974 Elton John United Kingdom Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [19]
1975 Elton John United Kingdom Elton John's Greatest Hits [20]
1976 Peter Frampton United Kingdom Frampton Comes Alive [21]
1977 Fleetwood Mac UK/USA Rumours [22]
1978 Bee Gees/soundtrack Saturday Night Fever [23]
1979 Billy Joel United States 52nd Street [24]

1980s[edit]

A mid-twenties African American man wearing a sequined military jacket and dark sunglasses. He is walking while waving his right hand, which is adorned with a white glove. His left hand is bare.
Michael Jackson's Thriller was the best-selling album for two years in a row.
Year[I] Performing artist(s) Nationality Album Ref.
1980 AC/DC Australia Back in Black [25]
1981 REO Speedwagon United States Hi Infidelity [26]
1982 Asia United Kingdom Asia [27]
1983 Michael Jackson United States Thriller [28]
1984 Michael Jackson United States Thriller [29]
1985 Bruce Springsteen United States Born in the U.S.A. [30]
1986 Whitney Houston United States Whitney Houston [31]
1987 Bon Jovi United States Slippery When Wet [32]
1988 George Michael United Kingdom Faith [33]
1989 Bobby Brown United States Don't Be Cruel [34]

1990s[edit]

Four Caucasian women stand next to each other on a floor with a reflective surface. Behind them is a black background.
British pop girl group Spice Girls had the best-selling album of 1997.
Year[I] Performing artist(s) Nationality Album Sales Ref.
1990 Janet Jackson United States Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 [35]
1991 Mariah Carey United States Mariah Carey [36]
1992 Billy Ray Cyrus United States Some Gave All 4,832,000 [37]
1993 Whitney Houston/soundtrack The Bodyguard 5,460,000 [38]
1994 Elton John/soundtrack The Lion King 4,934,000 [39]
1995 Hootie and the Blowfish United States Cracked Rear View 7,020,000 [40]
1996 Alanis Morissette Canada Jagged Little Pill 7,380,000 [41]
1997 Spice Girls United Kingdom Spice 5,302,000 [40]
1998 James Horner/soundtrack Titanic 9,338,000 [41]
1999 Backstreet Boys United States Millennium 9,446,000 [41]

2000s[edit]

Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory album was the best seller in 2001
Year[I] Performing artist(s) Nationality Album Sales Ref.
2000 *NSYNC United States No Strings Attached 9,936,000 [41]
2001 Linkin Park United States Hybrid Theory 4,813,000 [41]
2002 Eminem United States The Eminem Show 7,608,000 [42]
2003 50 Cent United States Get Rich or Die Tryin' 6,536,000 [43]
2004 Usher United States Confessions 7,979,000 [44]
2005 Mariah Carey United States The Emancipation of Mimi 4,969,000 [39]
2006 Soundtrack High School Musical 3,719,000 [45]
2007 Josh Groban United States Noël 3,699,000 [46]
2008 Lil Wayne United States Tha Carter III 2,874,000 [47]
2009 Taylor Swift United States Fearless 3,217,000 [48]

2010s[edit]

Adele's 21 album was the best seller in 2011 and 2012
Year[I] Performing artist(s) Nationality Album Sales Ref.
2010 Eminem United States Recovery 3,415,000 [49]
2011 Adele United Kingdom 21 5,824,000 [50]
2012 Adele United Kingdom 21 4,410,000 [51]
2013 Justin Timberlake United States The 20/20 Experience 2,430,000 [52]

Notes[edit]

^[I] Each year is linked to the article about music that year.

  • After Billboard began obtaining sales and airplay information from Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, the year-end charts are now calculated by a very straightforward cumulative total of yearlong sales points. This gives a more accurate picture of any given year’s most popular titles, as an entry that hypothetically spent nine weeks at number one in March could possibly have earned fewer cumulative points than one spending six weeks at number three in January. Interestingly, albums at the peak of their popularity at the time of the November/December chart-year cutoff many times end up ranked lower than one would expect on a year-end tally, yet are ranked on the following year's chart as well, as their cumulative points are split between the two chart years. Sometimes, the best-selling album of the year by Billboard is different than best-selling album of the year of Nielsen SoundScan, because Billboard calculates the year from December to November and Nielsen calculates the year from January to December.
  • In this list, from 1956 to 1991, the Billboard year-end tracking was used. From 1992 to date, Nielsen SoundScan's year-end tracking was used.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]