The music industry hit an apex in the 1990s with massive sales in multiple genres. Listeners flocked to music stores to purchase their favorite artists' works. It was a time before illegal downloading became an issue within the industry.
They raked in billions during the prosperous era while fans feasted on the huge selections of grunge, pop, country, rap, rock, metal, and musicals. CD technology provided a superior alternative to the previous 8-tracks and cassettes, known to foul in players. Which albums sold the most copies?
Check out our list of the 10 best-selling albums of the 90s to see if your favorites made it to the list.
10. Backstreet Boys - "Backstreet Boys"
Copies sold: 10.8 million
Rate Your Music confirms that the Backstreet Boys' self-titled album released in 1996 sold a whopping 10.8 million copies. The sensational American boy band hails from Orlando, Florida, where the group came together for the first time in 1993.
Members are Nick Carter, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell. The latter two bandmates are cousins. Lou Pearlman discovered the band and helped them launch a career that took them to the posturing of the best boy band in the world during the 1990s.
The group achieved international fame with their best-selling debut album titled "Backstreet Boys." The album dropped on May 6, 1996, after three years of work on the production. After selling nearly 11 million copies, a second international album, titled "Backstreet's Back," in 1997.
A third album titled "Millennium" came out in 1999, with several more released during the first decade of the 2000s. Their most recent album, DNA, dropped in 2019. As of 2022, they've sold over 100 million albums. Backstreet Boys are known for their warm and sentimental love songs, sweet melodic sounds, and outstanding harmony.
9. Garth Brooks - "Double Live"
Copies sold: 10.8 million
Garth Brooks tied the Backstreet Boys' massive album sales with his 1990s release of "Double Live." Brooks was at the height of his career in the 90s. He hit the music scene in 1989 as a unique artist in the country music genre. He easily crossed over into the pop scene and integrated both genres into a signature style that catapulted his career to dizzying heights. The Oklahoma State University alums is a singer who plays piano and guitar.
"Double Life" came out on November 17, 1998, after Brooks released a two-track cut under his alternate recording name Chris Gaines, alluding to the "Double Life" mystery he created.
The contemporary Country artist helped to change the landscape of Country music. He was active in performing from 1985 through 2003. He took a brief hiatus for two years, then re-emerged in 2005, and continues to churn out music at present. All told, he's released 23 albums with 13 studio albums, numerous Christmas compilations, and others.
8. Hootie & The Blowfish - "Cracked Rear View"
Copies sold: 15 million
Southern rock band Hootie & The Blowfish became a musical sensation during the 1990s. The band released their "Cracked Rear View" album on July 5, 1994. Sales reached 10.8 million for the album, which crossed over through multiple genres. The melodic love songs ranged from mellow and romantic to energetic with introspective tunes. Most of the tracks were uplifting, but some bittersweet and sentimental.
The group hit the charts as alternative rock, with Pop, Roots, Heartland, and Southern Rock flavors. The band originated at the University of South Carolina as a college band.
They made Hootie & The Blowfish official in 1986 with Darius Rucker as the lead singer and rhythm guitar player and Mark Bryan as the Lead guitarist. Jim Sonefeld played the drums, and Dean Felber was the bassist.
Atlantic Records picked them up and produced "Cracked Rear View" in 1994, and by 1995, sales became massive when the radio started playing "Only Want to Be with You," "Let Her Cry," and "Hold My Hand." These three songs put the group on the charts and helped the group to continue sales which skyrocketed to over 15 million copies by 2002, according to South Carolina Encyclopedia.
7. Celine Dion - "Let's Talk About Love"
Copies sold: 31 million
Celine Dion is the reticent singer who balked at the notion of singing the iconic song scoring the blockbuster hit film "Titanic" in the 1990s. It's widely known that she wasn't particularly drawn to the song, nor did she want to perform it. After deciding to try it, Dion soon discovered that it would become one of the greatest hits of her career.
The "Titanic" theme song skyrocketed to number one and remained on the charts for weeks. She included the track in her "Let's Talk" About Love" album, with sales breaking through the ceiling and exploding to some 31 million copies. "My Heart Will Go On" became a sensation in the music world, topping charts for weeks.
6. Madonna - "The Immaculate Collection"
Copies sold: 31 million.
Entertainment Buzz reports that Madonna's "The Immaculate Collection" is among the ten best-selling albums from the 1990s era, selling approximately 31 million copies since its release date of November 13, 1990. The collection featured two of her newest songs at the time, titled "Rescue Me" and "Justify My Love." Fifteen of her most popular single releases from the '80s era appeared on the album, making it one of her most popular.
Songs on the album ranged from some of Madonna's best from 1983 through 1990. The album was a compilation of Madonna's greatest hits up to the release date. Lenny Kravitz and Madonna produced the album under the Sire, Warner Bros. label. Ten years of her best works propelled the album sales into the tens of millions, and it's still a popular Madonna Collection.
5. Celine Dion - "Falling Into You"
Copies sold: 32 million.
With two best-selling albums from the 1990s to her credit, Celine Dion takes yet another spot on our best 10 lists. "Falling Into You" came out in 1996. The Canadian Singer sold over 32 million copies of the album. She also won numerous prestigious awards for her performances. The album is Dion's fourth, featuring songs sung in the English language.
Most of her fourteen studio albums are sung in French, her native tongue. Celine became a music phenomenon in the 1990s. The Columbia/Epic Records label released the "Falling Into You" album with songs in both languages. They included her French hit "D'eux," from 1995, and in English, "The Colour of My Love," from 1993.
One of the biggest hits on the album is the iconic "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," which charted in the United States. "Falling Into You" is the result of the work of fourteen music producers, including the famous David Foster. It's easily one of her most popular releases. It won Best Pop Album and Album of the Year at the 39th Grammy Awards ceremony.
International sales surpassed 32 million with Gold, Platinum, Multi-Platinum, and Diamond certification for sales in the US, France, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. A heyday for album sales lingered from 1996 through 1997. It made it to the Definitive 200 list on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Celine Dion emerged as one of the most popular singers in the world during the 1990s.
4. Michael Jackson - "Dangerous"
Copies sold: 32 million.
In 1991 Michael Jackson's career took off like wildfire with the release of his album "Dangerous." Song Facts confirms that it was a tie for the fourth highest-selling albums of the 90s decade. It's one of Jackson's best sellers of all time. The title track of his album is a song composed and written by Jackson with his co-writers Teddy Riley and Bill Bottrell. It was about a girl Michael considered "beyond the best girl he's ever been with."
The song was performed live by Jackson at the 1993 American Music Awards, then again at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1995. The video took a leaf from a film scene in the musical film "Summer Stock" from 1950, starting with Judy Garland. That's why Jackson appeared wearing a fedora and suit from the era. The song is about a dangerous woman because she's a seductress who can "lead you down the wrong path."
3. Shania Twain - "Come On Over"
Copies sold: 40 million.
Best Selling Albums reports that Shania Twain's "Come On Over" album was the third biggest seller in the 1990s. With more than 40 million in sales, it achieved a rank of number three in the 1990s and one in 1997. The Country Music singer became one of the hottest commodities in the music industry during the 1990s. "Come On Over" debuted on November 4, 1997, and achieved immediate success.
It was a crossover album that combined country, pop, and rock elements. The song hit the number one spot on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. It broke records by remaining in the number one position for 50 weeks, although they were not consecutive. Twain makes the iconic Guinness World Records book. Another impressive statistic is the fact that it remained a top ten album for "151 weeks."
2. Backstreet Boys - "Millennium"
Copies sold: 40 million.
The Backstreet Boys tied Shania Twain for the second spot on our list with their "Millennium: album, released on May 18, 1999. The boy band worked on recording from October of 1998 through March to get it ready for final production. They were one of the most famous boy bands of the 90s.
They made it to the last year of the decade with this album that sold 11 million shipments in the US alone, not counting the rest of the world. Internationally, 24 million copies were sold, bringing the total number of copies sold to over 40 million.
Backstreet Boys received five nominations for Grammy Awards for the album after its release. It became one of the best-selling albums of the 1990s era, and Backstreet Boys achieved an apex in their careers during the last year of the era.
It was ranked as the number 2 album for the 1990s, with a ranking of number one in 1999. "Millennium is the second top-ten album for the group on our list.
1. Whitney Houston - "The Bodyguard" Soundtrack
Copies sold: 45 million
The late Whitney Houston's "The Bodyguard" soundtrack is the number one-selling album of the 1990s. The album dropped in 1992 with the songs written for the blockbuster film "The Bodyguard." Whitney starred in the film alongside Kevin Costner.
Some of the most impactful tracks on the album, first released in cassette and LP, included "I Have Nothing," "The Preacher's Wife," and "Run to You." The most popular song on the album was "I Wish You Love." Houston performed and recorded the tracks used in the powerful compilation from the film.
The film and the music are still popular in the United States. "The Bodyguard" soundtrack achieved an overall ranking of number 4 of best-selling albums of all time. It is number one in rank for the 1990s era and a solid number one for 1992, the year that it came out.
The album's producers were Whitney Houston, David Foster, David Cole, Charlie Midnight, BeBe Winans, Daryl Simmons, Babyface, and a host of others involved in its production under the Arista/BMG Entertainment record label.
"The Bodyguard was the winner of the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It set records securing its place in history as "the best-selling album by a woman in music history" and "the best-selling soundtrack album of all time," according to Wikipedia.
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Written by Dana Hanson
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