Music helps define us, helps describe us, and helps deliver us. For many people, music serves as a rallying call: a way to unite diverse groups of people under a common interest. The albums featured on this list have inspired generations and given birth to some of the most prolific movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. They are also the most popular albums of all-time, selling millions of copies across the world and often staying at the top of the charts for weeks at a time (years, in some non-consecutive cases). While you might expect to see some artists such as The Beatles and Michael Jackson, can you guess who makes the top 10 or even the top spot?
Focused mostly in the genres of pop, rock, and rhythm & blues, the albums on this list show how music really can transcend boundaries and borders, touching people from Canada to Japan to Finland to Brazil. One of the albums has been called “the most important and influential rock & roll album ever recorded” while another helped break down the color barrier in pop music. See if you can guess who will make this list of the 25 Best Selling Albums in History.
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Madonna - The Immaculate Collection
Just beating out Michael Jackson’s album “Bad” for a spot on this list, Madonna’s “The Immaculate Collection” was released in 1990. Her first greatest hits album, it remixed 15 of her hit singles from the 1980’s and sold 30 million copies. One new song, “Justify My Love”, caused waves in the industry and in society due to its sexually suggestive music video.
James Horner - Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture
“Titanic” is one of the most highly regarded films in history. The most expensive film up to that point, “Titanic” easily made back its investment and was the highest grossing film for over a decade, bringing in $1.84 billion. (It cost a whopping $200 million to make.) Selling 30 million copies, “Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture” piggybacked on the film’s success. The composer, James Horner, was chosen after Enya declined.
Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
“Brothers in Arms” by British rockers Dire Straits came out in 1985, the year CDs were coming onto the market. One of the first records aimed towards a more CD-market, “Brothers in Arms” was the first album where its CD sales beat out its vinyl sales. Selling over 30 million copies, the album also won Best British Album at the 1987 Brit Awards.
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.
The best-selling album of 1984, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” is also the 22nd highest selling album of all time with at least 30 million copies sold. Springsteen embraced a livelier sound with electronic and pop elements, including the album’s most famous song of the same name. “Born in the U.S.A.” is notable for being the first CD produced in the United States. (Previous CDs were made in Japan.)
Bee Gees - Spirits Having Flown
With “Spirits Having Flown”, the Bee Gees tied the Beatles’ record of six songs making it to the top of the U.S. charts. Released in 1979 while the band was at its peak, the album sold 30 million copies and reached the number one spot on the album charts in many countries, including France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and West Germany.