The biggest hit album of the year you were born

A list of the best-selling albums dating back to 1956, so you can see, and hear, which album was the soundtrack to your birth year

John Lynch
Thursday 19 April 2018 12:29
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

Each year, one album taps into the hearts and ears of the public on its way to topping the Billboard year-end album chart.

Times have changed, though. In the 2010s, pop stars like Adele and Taylor Swift have dominated the charts, while in the 1950s and early 1960s, musical soundtracks and Broadway cast recordings tended to top the list.

Billboard has been tracking the top album of the year since 1956. From 1992 onward, total album sales were recorded by Nielsen SoundScan. Before 1992, the top album chart was “based on a survey of representative retail outlets that determined a ranking” and was “not a tally of actual sales.”

Business Insider compiled all the best-selling albums and their respective notable singles, dating back to 1956, so you can see, and hear, which album was the soundtrack to your birth year (so long as you're between the ages of 1 and 61).

Check out which album made it to the top each year:

2016: Drake — “Views”

Young Money

Copies sold: 4,140,000

Notable singles: “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance”


2015: Adele — “25”


Copies sold: 8,008,000

Notable singles: “Hello,” “When We Were Young”

2014: Taylor Swift — “1989”

Big Machine Records

Copies sold: 3,661,000

Notable singles: “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” “Bad Blood”

2013: Justin Timberlake — “The 20/20 Experience”

RCA Records

Copies sold: 2,430,000

Notable singles: “Suit & Tie,” “Mirrors”

2012: Adele — “21”

Columbia Records

Copies sold: 4,410,000

Notable singles: “Someone Like You,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Rumour Has It”

2011: Adele — “21”

Columbia Records

Copies sold: 5,824,000

Notable singles: “Rolling In The Deep”

2010: Eminem — “Recovery”

Aftermath Entertainment

Copies sold: 3,415,000

Notable singles: “Not Afraid,” “Love The Way You Lie”

2009: Taylor Swift — “Fearless”

Big Machine Records

Copies sold: 3,217,000

Notable singles: “Love Story,” “You Belong With Me”

2008: Lil Wayne — “Tha Carter III”

Cash Money/Universal Motown

Copies sold: 2,874,000

Notable singles: “Lollipop,” “A Milli”

2007: Josh Groban — “Noël”

Reprise Records

Copies sold: 3,699,000

Notable single: “The First Noel (feat. Faith Hill)”

2006: “High School Musical” (Soundtrack)

Walt Disney Records

Copies sold: 3,719,000

Notable single: “Breaking Free”

Mariah Carey

2005: Mariah Carey — “The Emancipation of Mimi”

Island Def Jam

Copies sold: 4,969,000

Notable singles: “We Belong Together,” “Shake It Off”

2004: Usher — “Confessions”

Arista Records

Copies sold: 7,979,000

Notable singles: “Burn,” “Confessions Pt. II,” “Yeah!”

2003: 50 Cent — “Get Rich or Die Tryin'”

Shady Records/Aftermath Entertainment

Copies sold: 6,536,000

Notable singles: “In da Club,” “21 Questions”

2002: Eminem — “The Eminem Show”

Aftermath Entertainment

Copies sold: 7,608,000

Notable singles: “Without Me,” “Sing For The Moment”

2001: Linkin Park — “Hybrid Theory”

Warner Bros. Records

Copies sold: 4,813,000

Notable single: “In The End”

2000: NSYNC — “No Strings Attached”

Jive Records

Copies sold: 9,936,000

Notable singles: “Bye Bye Bye,” “It's Gonna Be Me”

1999: Backstreet Boys — “Millennium”


Copies sold: 9,446,000

Notable singles: “I Want It That Way,” “Larger Than Life”


1998: James Horner and Celine Dion — “Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture”

Sony Classical

Copies sold: 9,338,000

Notable single: “My Heart Will Go On”

1997: Spice Girls — “Spice”

Virgin Records

Copies sold: 5,302,000

Notable singles: “Wannabe,” “Say You'll Be There”

1996: Alanis Morissette — “Jagged Little Pill”


Copies sold: 7,380,000

Notable singles: “You Oughta Know,” “Hand In My Pocket”

1995: Hootie and the Blowfish — “Cracked Rear View”

Atlantic Records

Copies sold: 7,020,000

Notable singles: “Hold My Hand,” “Only Wanna Be With You”

1994: Elton John/Hans Zimmer — “The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

Walt Disney Records

Copies sold: 4,934,000

Notable singles: “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” “Circle of Life”

1993: Whitney Houston/Various Artists — “The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album”


Copies sold: 5,460,000

Notable single: “I Will Always Love You”

1992: Billy Ray Cyrus — “Some Gave All”

Mercury Records

Copies sold: 4,832,000

Notable singles: “Achy Breaky Heart”

1991: Mariah Carey — “Mariah Carey”

Columbia Records

Notable singles: “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time”

1990: Janet Jackson — “Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814”

A&M Records

Notable singles: “Miss You Much,” “Rhythm Nation”

1989: Bobby Brown — “Don't Be Cruel”

MCA Records

Notable single: “My Prerogative”

George Michael 

1988: George Michael — “Faith”


Notable singles: “One More Try,” “Father Figure”

1987: Bon Jovi — “Slippery When Wet”


Notable singles: “You Give Love A Bad Name,” “Livin' On A Prayer”

1986: Whitney Houston — “Whitney Houston”


Notable singles: “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love Of All”

1985: Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the U.S.A.”


Notable singles: “Dancing In The Dark,” “Born In The U.S.A.”

Michael Jackson as a werecat in the 1983 'Thriller' music video

1984: Michael Jackson — “Thriller”


Notable singles: “Billie Jean,” “Beat It”

1983: Michael Jackson — “Thriller”


Notable singles: “Thriller,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”

1982: Asia — “Asia”

Geffen Records

Notable single: “Heat of the Moment”

1981: REO Speedwagon — “Hi Infidelity”

Epic Records

Notable singles: “Keep on Loving You,” “Take It on the Run”

1980: Pink Floyd — “The Wall”


Notable singles: “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)”

1979: Billy Joel — “52nd Street”

CBS Records

Notable single: “My Life”

1978: “Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track”

RSO Records

Notable singles: “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin' Alive”

1977: Fleetwood Mac — “Rumours”

Warner Bros.

Notable singles: “Go Your Own Way,” “Don't Stop”

1976: Peter Frampton — “Frampton Comes Alive!”

A&M Records

Notable single: “Show Me The Way”

Elton John

1975: Elton John — “Elton John's Greatest Hits”


Notable singles: “Your Song,” “Daniel”

1974: Elton John — “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

MCA Records

Notable single: “Bennie and the Jets”

1973: War — “The World Is a Ghetto”

United Artists

Notable single: “The Cisco Kid”

1972: Neil Young — “Harvest”

Reprise Records

Notable single: “Heart of Gold”

1971: “Jesus Christ Superstar”

MCA Records

Notable single: “Superstar”

1970: Simon and Garfunkel — “Bridge over Troubled Water”


Notable singles: “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “The Boxer”

1969: Iron Butterfly — “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”


Notable single: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”

Jimi Hendrix, 'Are You Experienced?'

1968: The Jimi Hendrix Experience — “Are You Experienced”

Track Records

Notable singles: “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady”

1967: The Monkees — “More of The Monkees”

Colgems Records

Notable single: “I'm A Believer”

1966: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass — “Whipped Cream & Other Delights”

A&M Records

Notable single: “A Taste of Honey”

1965: “Mary Poppins (Original Soundtrack)”

Walt Disney Records

Notable singles: “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

1964: “Hello, Dolly! (Original Broadway Cast)”

RCA Victor Records

Notable single: “Hello, Dolly!”

1963: “West Side Story (Soundtrack)”

United Artists Records

Notable single: “I Feel Pretty”

1962: “West Side Story (Soundtrack)”

United Artists Records

Notable single: “Maria”

1961: “Camelot (Original Broadway Cast)”

Columbia Records

Notable single: “If Ever I Would Leave You”

1960: “The Sound of Music (Original Broadway Cast)”

Columbia Records

Notable single: “Do-Re-Mi,” “The Sound of Music”

1959: Henry Mancini — “Music from Peter Gunn”

RCA Victor Records

Notable single: “Peter Gunn”

1958: “My Fair Lady (Original Broadway Cast)”

Columbia Records

Notable single: “With A Little Bit of Luck”

1957: “My Fair Lady (Original Broadway Cast)”

Columbia Records

Notable single: “The Rain in Spain”

1956: Harry Belafonte — “Calypso”

RCA Victor Records

Notable singles: “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” “Jamaica Farewell”

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