With a little help from the Official Charts Company we’ve put together the 30 best-selling albums of the past 30 years, starting with George Michael’s greatest hits album, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, which sold 2.2 million copies and features all the quite good songs he recorded before becoming a boring stoner who keeps crashing his car.
29. Snow Patrol, ‘Eyes Open’ (2006). Sold: 2.2 million. Quite Interesting Fact: in an attempt to top the success of their third album keyboardist Tom Simpson, and drummer Jonny Quinn, took classical piano and drum lessons while making ‘Eyes Open’. NME’s reviewer wasn’t blown away, though. The verdict: “It is quite simply a fine album. But therein lies the problem. It’s. Just. Fine.”
28. Eminem, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ (2000). Sold: 2.2 million. The third studio album by American rapper Eminem, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ has been ranked as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time by Rolling Stone, Time, and XXL. It reached the top of our ranking list as well gaining a 9/10 rating in its first NME review.
27. Robbie Williams, ‘Swing When You’re Winning’ (2001). Sold: 2.2 million. Robbie Williams took two weeks off his tour to record ‘Swing When You’re Winning’, which he describes as the “big band album he had always dreamed of making”, but we weren’t the album’s biggest fans, giving it a 5/10 rating.
26. Robbie Williams, ‘Greatest Hits’ (2004). Sold: 2.3 million. This greatest hits compilation album actually contained two new songs, ‘Radio’ and ‘Misunderstood’, both of which were released as singles. ‘Radio’ became Robbie Williams’ sixth number 1, while ‘Misunderstood’ featured on the soundtrack to Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
25. Robbie Williams, ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’ (1998). Sold: 2.4 million. This was Robbie Williams’ second solo album after leaving Take That and includes one of his most famous songs, ‘Millennium’. The album debuted at Number One on the UK Albums Chart, and went on to become the UK’s best selling album for that year, shifting approximately 2 million times as many copies as ‘Rudebox’.
24. Kings Of Leon, ‘Only By The Night’ (2008). Sold: 2.4 million. Writing for ‘Only By The Night’, which features the hugely successful single ‘Sex On Fire’, started only days after the release of Kings Of Leon’s third album. The album when on to win Best Album at the 2009 NME Awards.
23. Norah Jones, ‘Come Away With Me’ (2002). Sold: 2.5 million. ‘Come Away With Me’ won eight Grammy Awards in total and is noted for its acoustic pop style and incorporation of folk, soul, country and jazzzzzzzz.
22. Lady Gaga, ‘The Fame’ (2008). Sold: 2.5 million. The debut album from American artist Lady Gaga, ‘The Fame’ deals with subjects such as love, sex, money, drugs and sexual identity, and features the hugely successful singles ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Poker Face’, which have gone on to soundtrack millions of miserable nights out in nightclubs around the world.
21. Coldplay, ‘Parachutes’ (2000). Sold: 2.5 million. ‘Parachutes’ was Coldplay’s very first album and according to trade paper Music Week, was one of the most impressive debut albums ever, spawning the hit singles ‘Shiver’, ‘Yellow’, and ‘Trouble’. We gave it a 9/10 and said, “All told, it’s incredible this is a debut album.”
20. Travis, ‘The Man Who’ (1999). Sold: 2.6 million. ‘The Man Who’ gained Travis international recogniition and took Best Album at the 2000 Brit Awards. The album is dedicated to filmmaker Stanley Kubrick who’d died the year of release.
19. Coldplay, ‘X&Y’ (2005). Sold: 2.6 million. ‘X&Y’ contains a hidden track called ‘Til Kingdom Come’ that was originally supposed to be sung by Johnny Cash and lead singer Chris Martin but unfortunately Cash died before this could be done. So confident were we that the album would do well that the first sentence of our review was: “This album cannot fail.”
18. The Corrs, ‘Talk On Corners’ (1997). Sold: 2.7 million. The name of The Corrs’ second studio album comes from a line in one of the album’s songs, ‘Queen Of Hollywood’, which says And her friends they talk on corners, they could never comprehend. So now you know. Guitarist Jim Corr went on to become a proper tin-hat conspiracy nutter.
17. Scissor Sisters, ‘Scissor Sisters’ (2004). Sold: 2.7 million. We thought that this self-titled album was “a debut that’s unique yet uniting, deep yet designed for the dance-floor” and although it won Best International Album at the 2005 Brit Awards, it was less popular in its native America, peaking at number 102 on the Billboard 200.
16. Michael Bublé, ‘Crazy Love’ (2009). Sold: 2.7 million. ‘Crazy Love’ is the second number one album from Canadian jazz singer, Michael Bublé, and won the award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. It’s quite fitting that the artwork resembles the police tape you see at crime scenes, warning the public to keep away at all costs.
15. Keane, ‘Hopes And Fears’ (2004). Sold: 2.7 million. ‘Hopes And Fears’ is the debut album from Keane and became the second best-selling British album of 2004. It then returned to the top of the charts after winning a Brit Award for Best Album in February 2005.
14. Take That, ‘Beautiful World’ (2006). Sold: 2.7 million. ‘Beautiful World’ was Take That’s first new studio album in 11 years and in December 2006, they became the only act to secure a number 1 position in the download chart, UK albums chart, singles chart, airplay chart and the video chart.
13. Coldplay, ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’ (2002). Sold: 2.8 million. Coldplay won the 2003 Grammy for Best Alternative Album, for the second time in a row, with this album, and in 2012 it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In our review we praised the band for doing what many fail to and producing a second album that’s better than the first.
12. The Beatles, ‘1’ (2009). Sold: 2.9 million. ‘1’ is a compilation album by The Beatles, which features almost every number one single the band released in the UK and the United States between 1962 and 1970.
11. Dido, ‘Life For Rent’ (2003). Sold: 2.9 million. ‘White Flag’ was released as the lead single to Dido’s second studio album, which became the fastest selling album by a female artist, passing five million sales mark in just two weeks.
10. David Gray, ‘White Ladder’ (1998). Sold: 2.9 million. ‘White Ladder’ is a self-financed album from singer-songwriter David Gray, which he recorded in his London apartment and originally released on his own label, IHT Records. Although the album spent six weeks at the top of the Irish album charts, we didn’t think much of it, and only gave it a 6/10 review.
9. The Verve, ‘Urban Hymns’ (1997). Sold: 2.9 million. The third album from rock band The Verve, ‘Urban Hymns’ was recorded after the band reformed following a break up after their second album (although that reunion only lasted 12 months). It won Best British Album at the Brit Awards in 1998.
8. Leona Lewis, ‘Spirit’ (2007). Sold: 3 million. ‘Spirit’ is the debut album from X-Factor winner Leona Lewis and is the fastest selling debut album in the UK after entering the UK Albums Chart at number one and selling 375,872 copies in its first week. Like so many of the albums in this list, it’s horrendously bland, though admittedly well sung.
7. Shania Twain, ‘Come On Over’ (1997). Sold: 3 million. ‘Come On Over’ is the best-selling country music album, and the best-selling studio album by a female act, surpassing Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’.
6. Dido, ‘No Angel’ (2000). Sold: 3 million. Dido’s debut album ‘No Angel’ has become the second best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK, behind James Blunt’s ‘Back to Bedlam’. But we were pretty scathing in our album review saying, “she’s music for people who buy one CD a year”.
5. James Blunt, ‘Back To Bedlam’ (2004). Sold: 3.2 million. The debut album from James Blunt, ‘Back To Bedlam’ was a major commercial success, topping the albums charts of over ten countries, as well as reaching number two in the United States and three other countries. Its title track, ‘You’re Beautiful’, eventually overtook Robbie William’s ‘Angels’ as the most requested wedding song.
4. Amy Winehouse, ‘Back To Black’ (2006). Sold: 3.2 million. ‘Back To Black’ was the last Amy Winehouse album to be released before her death and blends 1960s soul with modern R&B production. If only she’d stuck around to record a proper follow-up.
3. Oasis, ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ (1995). Sold: 3.4 million. The follow up to Oasis’ debut album, ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ helped turn the band from a crossover indie act to a worldwide rock phenomenon, and is about as close to a perfect indie rock record as you’re ever likely to hear.
2. Adele, ’21’ (2011). Sold: 3.6 million. The hugely successful second studio album from Adele was composed after the singer separated from her partner and explores themes of anger, revenge, heartbreak, self-examination, and forgiveness. Its phenomenal popularity is a little puzzling, though, since beyond the (admittedly fabulous) singles it’s really quite dull.
1. ABBA, ‘Gold’ (1992). Sold: 4 million. Top of the 30 best-selling albums of the past 30 years is ABBA’s greatest hits album, which has climbed back up to the number 1 spot on four separate occasions after the first time in 1992. Thanks go to the Official Charts Company for helping put this list together.