The Best-Selling Albums Of All Time


The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that, among other things, tracks the sales of recordings. Those that reach certain sales marks are certified accordingly — Gold (500,000 copies sold), Platinum (1 million), Multi-Platinum (1 million plus), Diamond (10 million). A select few albums have gone way beyond Diamond.

The RIAA documents sales in the United States only. Other countries have similar organizations.

But, of course, the RIAA’s work is much more complicated today since that advent of downloaded music (legal and otherwise), which has resulted in a drastic drop in the sales of CDs. Then too, younger people usually download individual songs rather than whole albums.

This, in turn, signaled the end of the road for retail music retailers, not only the small stores but also giants like Tower Records, Sam Goody and Harmony House. For the most part, the ones that survive are those that appeal to specialty markets.

Another cause of the virtual demise of record stores was giant discount department stores such as Wal-Mart, Meijer, Kmart and Target. They sold CDs (primarily current titles) at lower prices than record stores could compete with.

The mega discount stores typically made little or no profit on the CDs, or purposely took a loss. The low prices were offered to lure people into the stores, with the (usually accurate) assumption that while there, they would make other purchases.

We said all that to say this: There are far fewer certifications today, and that has been the case now for several years.

SO EVEN if an album is certified Double Platinum today, it is still highly unlikely to ever reach the Diamond status of albums such as, for example, Lionel Richie’s Diamond “Can’t Slow Down” or Led Zeppelin’s “Double Diamond” “Led Zeppelin IV,” or to use the preferred terminology, 23 x Platinum. (Richie’s would be 10 x Platinum.)

This week we are presenting the top-selling albums (in the United States) of all time, with the inclusion of soundtrack albums with predominantly Black artists (example: “Saturday Night Fever”) and, in addition, White artists whose music is essentially Black (example: Eminem).

Not surprisingly, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” retains its championship title (29 million copies sold), although the Eagles are hot on his heels with “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).” But, of course, Jackson’s untimely passing sparked a significant boost in the sales of virtually all of his albums.

The Eagles — and other rock and pop acts — are not on the following list since the it is specialized for a specific market. Although some African-Americans — with broader tastes in music — also routinely purchase recordings by non-Black artists. And, of course, Whites buy very large amounts of Black music.

HERE ARE the Top 71:

1) “Thriller…..Michael Jackson
2) “The Bodyguard”…..Soundtrack, featuring Whitney Houston and others
3) “Saturday Night Fever”…..Soundtrack, featuring the Bee Gees, Kool & the Gang, the Trammps, Tavares and others
4) “Purple Rain”…..Prince and the Revolution, Soundtrack
5) “Whitney Houston” …..Whitney Houston
6) “Boyz II Men II”…..Boyz II Men
7) “Crazysexycool”…..TLC
8) “Legend”…..Bob Marley and the Wailers
9) “Can’t Slow Down”….. Lionel Richie
10) “The Lion King”…..Soundtrack
11) “Songs in the Key of Life”…..Stevie Wonder
12) “Life After Death”…..The Notorious B.I.G.
13) “Faith”…..George Michael
14) “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’Em”…..M.C. Hammer
15) “Daydream”…..Mariah Carey
16) “Music Box”…..Mariah Carey
17) “Confessions”…..Usher
18) “Country Grammar”….. Nelly
19) “The Marshal Mathers LP”…..Eminem
20) “Whitney”…..Whitney Houston
21) “Cooleyhighharmony” …..Boyz II Men
22) “All Eyez on Me”…..2Pac
23) “Mariah Carey”…..Mariah Carey
24) “The Eminem Show”…..Eminem
25) “Christina Aguilera”…..Christina Aguilera
26) “Bad”…..Michael Jackson
27) “Off the Wall”…..Michael Jackson
28) “Secrets”…..Toni Braxton
29) “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”…..Lauryn Hill
30) “Toni Braxton”…..Toni Braxton
31) “R.”…..R. Kelly
32) “The Writing’s on the Wall”…..Destiny’s Child
33) “History: Past, Present and Future, Book 1”…..Michael Jackson
34) “Dangerous”…..Michael Jackson
35) “To the Extreme”…..Vanilla Ice
36) “Unforgettable With Love”…..Natalie Cole
37) “Waiting to Exhale”…..Soundtrack, featuring Mary J. Blige, Chanté Moore, Brandy and others
38) “No Way Out”…..P. Diddy and the Family
39) “Don’t Be Cruel”….. Bobby Brown
40) “My Way”…..Usher
41) “Make It Big”…..Wham!
42) “Hot Shot”…..Shaggy
43) “Nellyville”…..Nelly
44) “The Big Chill”….. Soundtrack, featuring Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Temptations and others
45) “Girl, You Know It’s True”……Milli Vanilli
46) “Fanmail”…..TLC
47) “Rhythm Nation”….. Janet Jackson
48) “Janet”…..Janet Jackson
49) “The Score”……The Fugees
50) “The Christmas Song” …..Nat “King” Cole
51) “Dr. Dre 2001”…..Dr. Dre
52) “Tracy Chapman”…..Tracy Chapman
53) “The Emancipation of Mimi”…..Mariah Carey
54) “12 Play”…..R. Kelly
55) “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”…..50 Cent
56) “Gonna Make You Sweat”…..C & C Music Factory
57) “Merry Christmas”….. Mariah Carey
58) “#1’s”……Mariah Carey
59) “Butterfly”……Mariah Carey
60) “New Beginning”…… Tracy Chapman
61) “Greatest Hits”……Sly & the Family Stone
62) “The Massacre”…….50 Cent
63) “Private Dancer”…..Tina Turner
64) “Never Say Never”……. Brandy
65) “Rapture”…..Anita Baker
66) “Hard Knock Life, Volume 2”…..Jay-Z
67) “Control”…..Janet Jackson
68) “Merry Christmas”…..Johnny Mathis
69) “Very Necessary”,,,,,Salt-N-Pepa
70) “…And Then There Was X”…..DMX
71) “Unleash the Dragon”…..Sisqo

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