Top 10 Billboard Record Setting Albums

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Owen Maxwell
Which of these Billboard record-setting albums will climb to the top of our list? For this list we're looking at the records that dominated the Billboard 200 charts and reached highs that were unprecedented. Our countdown includes "West Side Story," "Vitalogy," "21," and more!

Top 10 Billboard Record-Setting Albums

Sometimes an album creates the perfect storm to become both a cultural and financial phenomenon. Welcome to and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Billboard Record-Setting Albums.

For this list we're looking at the records that dominated the Billboard 200 charts and reached highs that were unprecedented. We're basing our choices on a mix of time on the charts, monumental firsts and shifts within the charts that seemed impossible. We're also excluding achievements by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and BTS that are based on multiple albums as opposed to the success of one.

#10: “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” (1975)
Elton John

Even with classic number one albums like 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,' Elton John didn't debut at number one on the Billboard 200 until 1975. In fact, his record 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy' was the first album to ever debut at number one, instead of climbing the charts to get there. The autobiographical record's feat is all the more impressive, considering its only big single was 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight.' With the momentum of a greatest hits record behind him, John even managed to debut at number one again with 'Rock Of The Westies' later that same year.

#9: “West Side Story” (1961)
Various Artists

Almost a year after 'West Side Story' came out in 1961, its soundtrack went all the way to number one on Billboard's album charts. Over the course of the next year the album held its spot to have the longest run at number one on the chart. 'West Side Story' even won a Grammy, which definitely didn't hurt its extended reign. This 54 week hold is a combined total from the Mono and Stereo album charts, which at the time were charted separately. In fact it was only dethroned in August of 1963 when the two charts were combined.

#8: “Licensed to Ill” (1987)
Beastie Boys

While artists like Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. helped drive hip-hop, it was the Beastie Boys who first hit number one with a rap album. 'Licensed To Ill' had plenty of help from massive singles like 'Fight For Your Right' and 'Brass Monkey', which both put it on the map. And it wasn't too long after that the political voices behind N.W.A. had the first hardcore album to go number one. 'Licensed To Ill' even stayed on top for seven weeks and spent a whopping 73 weeks on the charts, plus they would later hit number 18 in 2012 after MCA's death.

#7: “Beyoncé” (2013)

Beyoncé Knowles' self-titled fifth album was a landmark release for her, and broke handfuls of records within a few days of its release. The album debuted at number one, making Knowles the first woman to have her first five albums debut at the top of the charts. The album landed at number one after selling over 600 thousand copies in a few days, making it one of the biggest sales weeks of 2013. iTunes even reported 'Beyoncé' as its fastest-selling album ever internationally. Knowles' fifth record was also the second digital-only album to ever top the Billboard 200.

#6: “Tapestry” (1971)
Carole King

Carole King's 'Tapestry' debuted on the Billboard 200 at 79 in 1971, and didn't leave the charts until 1977. This incredible longevity gave King the longest consecutive run on the charts by a female artist, with a whopping 302 weeks on the Billboard 200. Carole's album also spent 15 consecutive weeks at number one, which earned her the longest consecutive female reign until Whitney Houston dethroned her in 1993. Though Adele's '21' would break many of these records, ‘Tapestry’ has returned to the chart as recently as 2016 thanks to its strong songwriting and “Gilmore Girls” using ‘Where You Lead’ as a theme song.

#5: “Vitalogy” (1994)
Pearl Jam

While CDs had taken over the music industry by the '90s, Pearl Jam decided to first release 'Vitalogy' on vinyl. 'Vitalogy' ended up debuting on the Billboard 200 at 55, making it the first vinyl album to enter the charts since CDs took over the market. Though it slipped to 173, it made the massive leap to number one the week the CD version finally came out. 'Vitalogy' held the largest chart position climb until Biggie's 'Life After Death' went from 176 to number one. The album also had the most vinyl sales for one week, until Jack White’s ‘Lazaretto’ broke the record two decades later.

#4: “Rumours” (1977)
Fleetwood Mac

After ten increasingly successful albums, Fleetwood Mac made their most successful release ever with 'Rumours.' The album quickly hit number one and stayed there for an impressive 31 non-consecutive weeks. Its second single, 'Dreams', also became the band's only song to ever top the US Billboard 100. Thanks to hit singles like 'Go Your Own Way' and 'Don't Stop' the album topped charts world wide. It even hit number 11 on the Billboard 200 in 2011 thanks to songs from it being used on “Glee”. With enough sales to go diamond, 'Rumours' has become an essential part of any record collection.

#3: “Dark Side of the Moon” (1973)
Pink Floyd

Since it landed on the Billboard charts in 1973, Pink Floyd's classic 'Dark Side Of The Moon' has made Billboard chart history. In fact the album stayed on the Billboard 200 for a whopping 14 years or 741 weeks until it finally stepped off in 1988. After older – or “catalog” - albums were allowed back onto the charts in 2009, the album has continued well above 900 weeks on the charts. 'Dark Side' has the longest stay on the Billboard 200, while runner-up Bob Marley's 'Legend' only has 600 weeks. The album even gained a minor boost in sales during 2017's total solar eclipse.

#2: “21” (2011)

Though it was a massive hit when it came out, Adele's '21' has continued to rule Billboard charts as the years go by. '21' spent its first 78 weeks on the Billboard 200 in the top 10, and went on to spend a total of 24 non-consecutive weeks at number one. Adele beat out Whitney Houston for the longest female number one reign on the 200, and Houston beat out Carole King. '21' spent 353 consecutive weeks on the chart from its debut in 2011 until late 2017. Additionally, '21' is actually the first album by a woman to earn 450 weeks on the chart overall.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Coloring Book” (2016)
Chance the Rapper

“Future” & “HNDRXX” (2017)

#1: “Thriller” (1982)
Michael Jackson

With singles like 'Billie Jean,' 'Beat it' and its own title-track, Michael Jackson had an easy hit with 'Thriller.' The album easily topped the charts and has spent 37 weeks at number one. Michael Jackson still holds the longest number one reign for any artist on the Billboard 200, given that 'West Side Story' is a compilation. The album has remained the best selling album of all time, with an estimated 66 million albums sold worldwide. US sales account for 33 million, which makes 'Thriller' 33 times platinum. The endless sales have also earned 'Thriller' over 400 weeks and counting on the Billboard 200.