From the 1950s through the late ‘60s, pop music was synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll. After Billboard began listing the 200 top-selling albums in 1967, rock bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin had some of the earliest record-breakers. (Here’s a list of the most popular album every year since 1960.)
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, soul, disco, R&B, and funk began to influence the charts, with multiple hit albums from Michael Jackson, as well as chart-toppers from Prince, the Bee Gees, and Lionel Richie. The ‘90s brought both rap and country into the mainstream, including four top albums from pop country star Garth Brooks — well-represented among the 40 most popular country music albums of all time.
24/7 Tempo has compiled the 50 best-selling pop albums since Billboard started keeping track. Of the top 100, a quarter are by female musicians (counting bands with a female lead singer). Country crossover stars Shania Twain and Taylor Swift each boast three on the list. The sub-genres of pop represented in the list span the spectrum from country to rock to rap to R&B. An outlier on the list is the 1994 soundtrack to Disney’s “The Lion King,” featuring multiple songs written and performed by Elton John.
To determine the 50 best pop albums of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on three metrics: the number of weeks an album spent on the Billboard 200; its positions on the chart (one week at No. 1, for instance, being worth 200 times more than a week spent at No. 200); and total certified U.S. album sales according to the Recording Industry Association of America. All metrics were evenly weighted.