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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Thomas Christiansen

“King hasn’t sold that many live and compilation albums, but nearly all of them were thanks to songs from Tapestry. In fact, on Spotify her Top 12 tracks are precisely all 12 tracks from this album! They combine for over 120 million streams while her top song from other releases is just over 1 million.” Actually by now, another song has squeezed itself in there (#7 Bitter With the Sweet – 23.7M). Still 12 out of the top 13 tracks after 17 albums in a 40+ recording career is insane! I don’t think 1 album ever difined an artist as much as… Read more »

1 It’s Too Late – 91.7M 2 You’ve Got a Friend – 69.7M 3 I Feel the Earth Move – 59.6M 4 Where You Lead – 43.4M 5 (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – 40.1M 6 So Far Away – 34.3M 7 Bitter With Sweet – 23.7M (NOT Tapestry) 8 Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – 19.7M 9 Beautiful – 14.2M 10 Home Again – 12.9M 11 Smackwater Jack – 6.4M 12 Way Over Yonder – 6.3M 13 Tapestry – 5.0M 6 songs from Tapestry are 34M+. Pretty impressive for a 1971 album! Still, I’m a bit… Read more »

Some of the Tapestry songs are more popular by other artists:

Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – 105.1M
James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend – 99.3M
The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – 50.6M

Last edited 2 years ago by Thomas Christiansen

I found 1982’s best selling female albums ! Of course, sales were low. I think they were Pat Benatar’s “Get nervous” (about 1,5M) and Linda Ronstadt’s “Get closer” (about 1.3M). If we take into account the whole CSPC analysis I think they would be the Pointer Sisters’ “So excited” and Laura Branigan’s “Branigan”. Their lead singles were big and “I’m so excited” still registers 277M streams to this day.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rell

Y’all did Diana dirty …..


dirty diana, nah


Is That True from wiki
Donna Summer Bad Girl Album
Commercial performance
The RIAA site has the album certified as 1,000,000 sales as of May 3, 1979 (certification on December 1, 1993 is a format change and not due to sales).[14][circular reference] The RIAA did not introduce multi-plantinum awards until 1984, thus there are no artist with multi-plantinum certifications on the RIAA web site before 1984. Bad Girls the album was designated Triple Platinum in 1979.[15] It has sold over 4 million copies in the US.[16]


From Newyorktimes
”Whitney Houston” (Arista 8212, LP, cassette and compact disk) is now the best-selling album by a black female vocalist in pop music history, having surpassed Tina Turner’s ”Private Dancer” (1984) and Donna Summer’s ”Bad Girls” (1979), each of which sold over four million. The record has also sold more than twice as much as any album by Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick or Diana Ross.


Hi MJD, love the site and your work uncovering these artists’ amazing legacies in all their glory!!! Wondering if you have considered doing an analysis of Linda Ronstadt….she was a real powerhouse in her day and time!!! Cheers!


Hi guys! Here are my estimated solo female winners for the five missing years: 1962 – Little Eva – Llllloco-Motion (The Loco-Motion has 22 million streams on Spotify) 1963 – Skeeter Davis – Skeeter Davis Sings The End of the World (The End of the World has 20 million streams) 1965 – Petula Clark – Downtown (Downtown has 18 million streams) 1966 – Nancy Sinatra – Boots (These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ has 67 million streams) 1982 – Laura Branigan – Branigan (Gloria has 48 million streams) Challengers: 1962 – Mary Wells – The One Who Really Loves You… Read more »


Thank you, MJD! 🙂
However I have to correct 1965 after digging a little deeper.

1965 – Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Feeling Good has 165 million streams on Spotify, I Put A Spell On You has 50 million streams and Ne Me Quitte Pas has 8 million streams)

1965 – Nina Simone – Pastel Blues (Sinnerman has 50 million streams on Spotify)
1965 – Petula Clark – Downtown (Downtown has 18 million streams)
1965 – Jackie DeShannon – This Is Jackie DeShannon (What the World Needs Now Is Love has 8 million streams)


I think You Forgot About Pat Benatar .Her 1980 Album Crimes of Passion Sold At Least 5 million Copies.It Certificated 4x Platinum RIAA in 1984. And Got 223,000 Soundscan sales since 1991.
Outside US
CAN: 500,000
FRA: 100,000




Seriously, NO SECRETS sold 7 million? I know sales tracking was lousy until SoundScan in 1991, but I would have thought that NO SECRETS would have sold maybe 4 million, and that BEST OF would be well over 7 million (it sold 1.5 million between 1991-2007 according to SoundScan). Very curious too if her debut and PLAYING POSSUM ever passed ‘gold’ because they’ve never been officially certified….


Hey MJD! Sorry to come back to an old thread but on page 20 you mention that Diana Ross’s 1980 self-titled LP was 2nd place. Do you happen to know the album equivalents of this album?


I need to ask You didnt include compilation albums? Carpenters sold over 20 mill,its a duo group female lead singer only, in 73. Madonna’s best selling album was immaculate collection 1990..there is no way Mariah debut sold more. There are few more..


He only included original material as compilation sales to towards all albums by the artist. And only solo females, no all- women bands or women leading bands etc.