Which recording artists have had the most successful albums since 2000? To make that determination, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on album sales from the Recording Industry Association of America. Albums released in 2000 or later were ranked based on certified U.S. unit sales as of March 2023. Supplemental data on Billboard 200 performance is current through March 4, 2023. (Compilation and greatest hits albums were not considered.)
Based on lifetime album sales since 2000, the ladies dominate the charts. No. 50 on this list is Beyoncé’s “I Am…Sasha Fierce,” which sold 6 million units. No. 1 is Adele’s “21” at 14 million units. In all, 20 of the albums here are by solo female performers, and several others are by bands featuring female lead singers.
Adele’s “21” drew from a painful breakup, which inspired the hits “Rolling in the Deep” and “Set Fire to the Rain.” Released in 2011, the album stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for an astounding 24 weeks, the longest reign of any female solo artist in the chart’s history.
The album’s tenure at the top ranks it as the “Greatest Billboard 200 Album of All Time,” and the RIAA certified the album Diamond, a rating given to albums selling more than 10 million units. (A critical as well as a commercial success, it won the 2012 Grammy for Album of the Year.) The singer’s follow-up album, Adele’s “25,” released in 2015, did almost as well, selling 11 million units and earning the No. 5 position on this list.
Those two albums combined may have sold 25 million units, but another female artist shows even better here overall: The four Taylor Swift albums on this list have sold a combined 29 million units. The most successful of these albums was 2008’s “Fearless,” at 10 million units. The album contains the hit, “Love Story,” which sold 8.1 million copies worldwide. (These are Taylor Swift’s Most Popular Albums.)
Men show pretty well here too, though. Six of the top ten best-sellers are by men or all-male groups. The highest example, at 12 million units sold, is rapper Eminem’s 2002 “The Eminem Show,” ranked No. 2. His 2010 album, “Recovery” also had a strong showing, with sales of 8 million units. He remains one of the rappers with the most hits.
To determine the best selling albums of the 21st century, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on album sales from the RIAA. Albums released in 2000 or later were ranked based on certified U.S. unit sales as of March 2023. Supplemental data on Billboard 200 performance is current through March 4, 2023. Compilation and greatest hits albums were not considered.
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