Yearly Most Successful Female Album: The beginning (1960-1982)

Hot Rides Workshop: girl power!

Who runs the world? Girls! We continue our celebration of International Women’s Day with a run of 3 articles which list the most successful female album per year from 1960 to 2017! Are you  ready?

What does most successful mean?

If you are an avid reader of Chartmasters you know that we do not consider pure album sales as the be-all and end-all of popularity. Singles sales in all formats as well as compilations and live records also matter. Consequently, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept in order to establish the #1 album of each year. This is even more relevant when going back to years as early as from the 60s when albums were still a minor factor of the music industry. Basically, most successful means albums which generated the highest number of weighted sales in all formats, in other words albums with the most valuable content. Logically, compilations won’t appear by themselves since their value has been created through preceding releases.

How is female defined?

By female albums I mean really female albums – no female groups or whatever. It is always tempting to add the likes of the Supremes, Spice Girls or Destiny’s Child, but it is also quite messy. If we start to add groups with female voices then we need to add ABBA, Sade and Blondie. If we are to add them then there is no reason to exclude the Carpenters, the Cranberries and Fleetwood Mac, and possibly even some Prince albums. You get the picture. This doesn’t work well, especially with articles aiming to pay tribute to women. For this reason we will stick with solo females only!!

Can figures be used as receipts?

Well, no. Unless otherwise stated the leading album of each year will be granted. Still, it is impossible to dig into entire discographies of all female singers from the last 6 decades just like that to publish precise sales figures in all formats. For albums which haven’t been covered by CSPC articles rough estimates will be listed, but keep in mind deep researches would conclude on some adjustments. I’ll try as much as possible to use a transparent vocabulary to let you know which figures are fully accurate, which ones could be studied a bit more, and which are rough estimates.

Why is the period covered from 1960?

When I first thought about creating these articles I checked a key date to start working on. I had two years in mind: 1971 and 1983. The former year saw the first female blockbuster release in the sape of Carole King‘s Tapestry. The second year saw the most successful female artist of all-time debut, of course I’m talking about Madonna. I thought that 1983 was too late. I felt that missing albums like the aforementioned Tapestry or Barbra Streisand‘s Guilty were too bigger omissions. The problem with 1971 is that if we go that far back, then why ignore the 60s too? Also, dominant female singers from years before and after 1971 were the same, so it would have been bizarre to start in the middle of their career.

Thus, I started to collect data for all years, checking contenders for every year, without fixing a limit. I had a pair of female singers with cult songs from 1960 which resulted into millions of compilation sales through the years. They are the oldest female standards I could find, so I started from then only.

Is there a winner for every year?

No. For some years there are close to none that stood the test of time among catalogs of female artists. I believe it is still interesting to go through those years to do some comments about them however, along with a few statistics too. From 1983 though there is at least one album from every year which sold over 5 million equivalent album sales.


Doris Day

Setting up the context

If divas seem to be everywhere nowadays, it hasn’t always been the case. Unbelievably, from 1956 to 1970 only one female studio album reached #1 on the US Billboard Chart, Barbra Streisand‘s People in 1964.

Going back to the 30s the female music scene was dominated by legendary Soul singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Their catalog remains highly valuable to this day with respectively 1,5 million and 2,4 million monthly listeners on Spotify. After them Doris Day and Patti Page were the leading female stars. The first broke the main audience with her 1945 9 weeks #1 smash Sentimental Journey. She became a solid hit maker both on music charts and on box office, amassing multiple #1 singles and albums in the US. In 1950 she was joined by Patti Page who also recorded several million selling singles, although she never managed to break over to the album segment. Their popularity decreased in 1956/1957. During the next couple of years nobody took over the torch. Then the 60s along with a new generation of singers arrived…

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I am pretty sure that once the Barbra Streisand analysis is finish. She would’ve at least have a higher total than Whitney Houston. She was just smashing all these other female singers, decades after decades.

PS : I think Olivia Newton John is one of the most forgotten big star ever. She was huge at her peak.


I’ve tried anything even inflating but Barbra’s total EAS won’t even be close to Whitney’s.


MJD credited Barbra’s album sales in 146 million in 2009, now must be over 150 million, and she sold at least, may even be more than whitney’s SPSC figure, and she sold some 35-45 million singles, though her stream and other isn’t massive as her record sales, 170 million EAS will be likely!


Well I hope you’re right but what I know is Barbra has a bigger total pure album sales in the US than the rest of the world.

Id say between 120m – 135m.


BARBR sold over 90-95 million album in us .


SkkyWill, that’s impossible. Barbra sold less than 70 million albums only in the usa.

I dont have any idea how much she has sold outside the US, buy im lowering my EAS estimates for her between 100m-120m eas.


Let’t find out whose post is impossible when the article came~( ̄▽ ̄~)~ Barbra always did much more amazing than people experted for decades, would this time again? week will see


SkkyWill and and koerenas_albelia, yeah, let’s see who is right as a friendly competition of guessing whose right. I know we are all excited for Barbra’s analysis and it’s a win-win situation for me if im wrong because eventhiugh i love Whitney but I think Barbra deserves to be part of the big four and not her since Barbra can boast her awards and had a longevity in music. Just to let you know though, i dont think any Barbra songs have charted in the Philippines except for I Finally Found Someone and Tell Him. And thanks to this site,… Read more »


Yes!What a pity that Tell him only released outside US, it’s a big hit across the europe, and the deut between the queen of US and the queen of 90s.


You own estimate will be proving wrong, Barbra is alwayss underrated by you type other divas fans, and beat their idols every time.


Prepare to be proven wrong then. 🙂


Haha, I want to know the rate of progress for Barbra’s article, hope to read it before april


RLAAMJR. You have been proven wrong over and over again. Barbra did have higher CSPC than Whitney and she has sold 88 million albums in the US. And the Philippines is such a small market it really is not relevant to take that market seriously.


Barbra (while I’m not a fan AT ALL) is probably the most impressive album sales artist (female) of all time. #1, Top 5-10, year-after-year, decade-after-decade. Despite that, none of her albums hit “monster sales” status with over 10+ million individually. Carole King (with TAPESTRY), Houston, Carey, Madonna, Celine (cringe!), Shania, and now Adele are the only ones I’m aware of. Also, don’t know if it’s just me, but I have noticed that Barbra is NEVER played on radio. Ever. I’m 38 and I’d heard “Woman In Love” before, but other than that, not one of her songs do I remember… Read more »


“”Despite that, none of her albums hit “monster sales” status with over 10+ million individually.” It’s not ture
She have 10+million studio album Guilty and 10+ million compla.. and the biggest pop female album her soundtrack A Star is Born sold near 9 million in 70s expect Tapesry, and her sale was monster comparing to her peer Diana Ross,Cher,Arethe and so on then


Amazing work, we need articles about Carly Simon, Barbra, Kate Bush!!
Congrats for your fantastic work.


I though Patti Labelle made an impact.


More so in the 80s


Poor ole Pattie. No doubt (in her mind) it’s all due to racism.


It’s pretty obvious were getting babs soon. lol


Cant wait for part 2! 🙂


This is a great idea! Thank you for posting! Can’t wait to see the rest. It’s always so interesting reading about sales from the 60-70s.


I remenber you ever quoted in Ukmix than Woman in Love is the biggest non-soundtrack/holiday song. I really love to find out how big the single and the album in coming Barbra ‘s article


One more wonderful article, really interesting work! thank you!


MJD thank you so mucho for this creative list!


Glad to see Donna Summer at #1 with Bad Girls.

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