Arising in the 1950s, pop (short for “popular”) music originally meant mostly rock-and-roll. Its definition evolved over the years, however, to encompass numerous other genres, including not just rock but also electronica, R&B, middle-of-the-road, funk, rap, country, and countless hybrids of the above.
24/7 Tempo generated a weighted index using data from the Billboard 200 chart and record sales numbers from the Recording Industry Association of America to compile a list of the 100 best pop albums of all time (well, the best since 1967, since that’s the year Billboard began tracking the top 200 albums)..
Iconic rock bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin had some of the earliest record-breaking album sales. To date, Led Zeppelin has put out five of the 100 best pop albums ever – more than any other band or recording artist – making them undoubtedly one of the most popular rock bands of all time.
While six of the best pop albums on this list are from the 1960s, the three subsequent decades feature an increasing number of bests, with 33 of them released in the 1990s. Mariah Carey dominated the ‘90s, releasing four of the best albums ever in a span of five years. Artists who have three bests include Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, and The Beatles.
Album sales plummeted in the 2000s as the recording industry struggled to keep up with the increasing popularity of digital music, and the list reflects what some in the industry refer to as “music’s lost decade.” Only five of the best pop albums came out of the 2000s. Numbers increased in the 2010s, however, when many new, younger artists including Cardi B, Post Malone, and Billie Eilish released top-selling albums that earned spots on this list. (Here is the most famous musician born the year you were born.)