most popular albums 1950-2020

The Most Popular Album Released Every Year from 1950 to 2020

Some said it couldn’t be done, but Discogs has managed to compile information about 70 years of popular music in a single list. After doing a deep dive in the Database, we discovered the most popular albums from every year between 1950 and 2020. The 70-album roundup reflects the most collected album across all formats. We defined popularity by how many Discogs users have added the Master Release to their Collections.

Some of these albums were incredibly popular upon their release. Others have stood the test of time as reissues across new and resurrected formats have been discovered by the Discogs community. Whether you would prefer a Supertramp 8-track, Nirvana CD, or Taylor Swift LP, you are sure to find a few favorites and surprises as you explore this breakdown of most popular albums from the last 70 years.

Published in partnership with Amazon Music.

1950s

As we travel back in time to the 1950s, crooners and jazz classics define the decade. Artists like Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis continue to reach new audiences as these groundbreaking albums are reissued or repressed every few years.

Elvis Presley’s debut album is the first rock and roll album to top these charts. The hip-shaking hysteria of his television appearances paved the way for the rock revolution of the 1960s.

Most Popular Album of the 1950s: Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue (1959)

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1950
Benny Goodman – The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert

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1951
Thelonious Monk ‎– Genius Of Modern Music

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1952
Nat “King” Cole ‎– Unforgettable

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1953
Duke Ellington And His Orchestra ‎– Ellington Uptown

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1954
Chet Baker ‎– Chet Baker Sings

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1955
Bing Crosby ‎– Merry Christmas

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1956
Elvis Presley ‎– Elvis Presley

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1957
John Coltrane ‎– Blue Train

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1958
Cannonball Adderley ‎– Somethin’ Else

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1959
Miles Davis ‎– Kind Of Blue

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1960s

Just like the ‘50s end, the Swinging ‘60s begin with an essential release from Miles Davis. Unsurprisingly, the decade is dominated by The Beatles because the fanaticism for the band grew to a fever pitch and Beatlemania spread across the globe.

However, one movie soundtrack bucks the trend. After winning 10 Academy Awards, the immense success of West Side Story led to an equally successful soundtrack with 227 versions and counting.

Most Popular Album of the 1960s: The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

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1960
Miles Davis ‎– Sketches Of Spain

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1961
Leonard Bernstein ‎– West Side Story (The Original Sound Track Recording)

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1962
Bob Dylan ‎– Bob Dylan

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1963
The Beatles ‎– Please Please Me

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1964
The Beatles ‎– A Hard Day’s Night

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1965
The Beatles ‎– Rubber Soul

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1966
The Beatles ‎– Revolver

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1967
The Beatles ‎– Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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1968
The Beatles ‎– The Beatles

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1969
The Beatles ‎– Abbey Road

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1970s

Classic rock tops the 1970s with multiple releases from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Not only is The Dark Side of the Moon the most collected album of the 1970s, it’s also the most collected album of all time.

The glam odyssey of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the raw, riveting Rumours of Fleetwood Mac have also proven to be timeless as the Discogs community continues to regularly add these albums to their Collection.

Most Popular Album of the 1970s: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

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1970
Led Zeppelin ‎– Led Zeppelin III

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1971
Led Zeppelin ‎– Untitled

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1972
David Bowie ‎– The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

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1973
Pink Floyd ‎– The Dark Side Of The Moon

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1974
Supertramp ‎– Crime Of The Century

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1975
Pink Floyd ‎– Wish You Were Here

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1976
Eagles ‎– Hotel California

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1977
Fleetwood Mac ‎– Rumours

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1978
Dire Straits ‎– Dire Straits

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1979
Pink Floyd ‎– The Wall

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1980s

The unprecedented success of AC/DC’s Back in Black kicks off the ‘80s when Angus Young and company forged ahead after the passing of the late, great Bon Scott. David Bowie and Dire Straits appear for the second decade in a row, demonstrating how they evolved and embraced the sounds of the era.

The list also features the pop masterpiece that is Purple Rain and artists like Metallica and Nirvana, the latter whose seminal 1991 album inspired legions of fans to collect their essential ‘80s material.

Most Popular Album of the 1980s: Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

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1980
AC/DC ‎– Back In Black

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1981
Queen ‎– Greatest Hits

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1982
Michael Jackson ‎– Thriller

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1983
David Bowie ‎– Let’s Dance

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1984
Prince And The Revolution ‎– Purple Rain

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1985
Dire Straits ‎– Brothers In Arms

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1986
Metallica ‎– Master Of Puppets

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1987
Guns N’ Roses ‎– Appetite For Destruction

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1988
Metallica ‎– …And Justice For All

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1989
Nirvana ‎– Bleach

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1990s

The ‘90s are dominated by Nirvana with three of their releases landing on the list. Second only to The Beatles in terms of popularity throughout the decades, Nirvana became a household name when they were active and their albums continue to be celebrated by fans everywhere.

As Nirvana guided listeners through the uncharted waters of the mainstream, bands like Rage Against the Machine, Oasis, and Massive Attack found new audiences when indie bands rose to prominence with major label support and distribution.

Most Popular Album of the 1990s: Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

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1990
Depeche Mode ‎– Violator

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1991
Nirvana ‎– Nevermind

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1992
Rage Against The Machine ‎– Rage Against The Machine

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1993
Nirvana ‎– In Utero

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1994
Nirvana ‎– MTV Unplugged In New York

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1995
Oasis ‎– (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

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1996
Fugees ‎– The Score

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1997
Radiohead ‎– OK Computer

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1998
Massive Attack ‎– Mezzanine

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1999
Red Hot Chili Peppers ‎– Californication

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2000s

Radiohead leads the pack with a few entries, Metallica makes their triumphant return, and some of the 21st century’s most influential artists rank for the first time, thanks in part to the 2000s vinyl renaissance.

The White Stripes, Arcade Fire, and The XX are proof that indie rock was not just a fad as these albums have been steadily collected on both CD and vinyl since their initial release.

Most Popular Album of the 2000s: Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2006)

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2000
Radiohead ‎– Kid A

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2001
Daft Punk ‎– Discovery

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2002
Queens Of The Stone Age ‎– Songs For The Deaf

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2003
The White Stripes ‎– Elephant

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2004
Arcade Fire ‎– Funeral

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2005
Gorillaz ‎– Demon Days

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2006
Amy Winehouse ‎– Back To Black

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2007
Radiohead ‎– In Rainbows

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2008
Metallica ‎– Death Magnetic

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2009
The XX ‎– XX

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2010s

Daft Punk, multiple Kendrick Lamar albums, and some of the biggest names in contemporary indie pop round out the 2010s. Currently, the original vinyl pressing of Random Access Memories is the most collected release in the Discogs database, while the first pressing of Good Kid, M.A.A.d City comes in at third.

The 2010s also include David Bowie’s ★ (Blackstar), an album that served as his swan song and parting gift to the world. Released on his 69th birthday, the record came out two days before he lost his private battle with liver cancer.

Most Popular Album of the 2010s: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)

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2010
Arcade Fire ‎– The Suburbs

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2011
Adele ‎– 21

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2012
Kendrick Lamar ‎– Good Kid, M.A.A.d City

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2013
Daft Punk ‎– Random Access Memories

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2014
Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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2015
Tame Impala ‎– Currents

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2016
David Bowie ‎– (Blackstar)

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2017
Kendrick Lamar ‎– Damn.

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2018
Ghost ‎– Prequelle

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2019
Billie Eilish ‎– When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

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2020s

With eight vinyl variants available during pre-order alone, Folklore has quickly become a modern staple for record collectors. Taylor Swift elevated her songcraft as she worked with a new collaborator through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Billie Eilish is topping the charts again in 2021 with Happier Than Ever and Taylor Swift is reaching more listeners with vinyl represses, we may be already experiencing some of the trends to come in the 2020s!

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2020
Taylor Swift – Folklore

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