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Author: Subject: The Top 20 Albums of All Time (For Real) using Math

Zen Peach





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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 09:55 AM

Posted Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:21pm PDT by Robert of the Radish in The Y! Music Playlist Blog

I completely understand the frustration of "best of lists", and I can assure you that I read hundreds of comments here on the Yahoo Music blogs whenever we post one. Many times our "best album" lists generate thousands of comments. And although many of the remarks are ridiculous, many are valid in a subjective sort of way.

For this playlist I wanted to find the true top 20 albums once and for all, but to do this I needed to clear my mind of all opinion and approach it as a science. My own personal taste did not influence this list in any way. In fact, I would have made many different choices, but the time I put into collecting the data and crunching the numbers leaves no doubt in my mind that this is the most accurate top 20 album list in existence.

To begin with I had to set the parameters, and I have set them as follows:

1. The list is based on the American market - I did this only because I had mounds of detailed data on the American music market at hand- to include the whole world or even Europe would increase the complexity of the analysis greatly - So this is really the "Top 20 Albums of All Time (To Americans)"

2. "Greatest Hits" albums and live albums were not eligible. The idea here was to identify the very best true albums, not compilations that cherry pick the best songs from an artist's career.

3. The following mathematical formula was used:

"Album Staying Power Value + Sales Value + Critical Rating Value + Grammy Award Value"

Now if you wish to argue, I welcome intelligent comment on how to hone the formula further, but please try to control the passionate fan-speak that drives so many of the comments. Remember, the idea is to completely remove your personal opinion from the process.

To offer a bit more detail on the components of the formula:

The initial group of albums selected was based solely on sales. Please know that I believe sales alone are probably the worst measure we have of an album's quality and I will speak to how I addressed this problem in a few. But as a starting point sales made the most sense. Sales are by no means the only measure of a "great album", but without big sales an album doesn't have much footing on which to claim the moniker "greatest". A vote with a dollar is a much stronger indicator than any other.

I looked at the biggest selling albums of all time in America based on actual RIAA data - this produced 71 non-Greatest Hits/Live albums that have all sold over 10 million units. Any of these that sold more than 10 million units received a 1% Sales Multiplier for every 1 million units sold over 10 million.

Sales Value = Sales Multiplier X Staying Power Value

Next, I determined what the Staying Power Value (SPV) was of all 71 albums. To determine Staying Power Value I looked at used CD sales data to determine how well each album's value has held up over time. For example, in the secondary market you can expect to pay around $9.50 for a copy of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, but you would only pay $1.38 for a copy of Cracked Rear View by Hootie and The Blowfish. The Staying Power Value is important because it shows what the current value of the album is in the marketplace. So it's a good reflection of supply and demand. Rumours sold 19 million copies and Cracked Rear View sold 16 million. Rumours gets more points for selling more units, but even more important than the higher overall sales figures is that people want to hold onto their Fleetwood Mac CD, but don't mind parting with their Hootie CD. SPV captures this. In simple terms, Staying Power Value reflects current supply and demand for each album. *Please note that for double albums we reduced the SPV to align with a standard-length album.

So if we take the previously mentioned SPV of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album and multiply it by that album's Sales Multiplier of 9% (1% for each million sold over 10 million) we get $10.38. But this only shows us how much people still desire the album + how many have sold at retail.

The next part of the formula takes into account critical acclaim.

I would agree with anyone who says a critical review means nothing, but when you start to see a pattern among the critics the data becomes much more reliable. If ten out of ten reviewers give an album 5 stars chances are good that the album is a winner. Basically the more reviews you average the more reliable the rating.

For the Critical Rating Value I looked at multiple reviews for each album from a diverse cross section of music magazines, newspapers and music review websites to come up with the average review number for each based on a 5 star scale. From these ratings I assigned a Critical Rating Multiplier to each album ranging from 0% to 10%.

So now our formula has factored in critical acclaim making the end result more reliable.

Ratings Value = Sales Value X Rating Multiplier

The final portion of the formula is the Grammy Award Value and it simply looks at how many Grammy Awards each album has won. Our formula already has the voice of the people (Sales Value) and the voice of the critics (Critical Rating Value) so the only missing component is the acclaim each album holds among it's peers. The Grammys are an industry specific award and are the best reflection we have of how the music business itself feels about an album. I would agree that this is the least important of the components in our formula, and as such each Grammy award adds only a .5% bonus. So an album that wins 4 Grammys would receive an extra 2% to it's value. This in my estimation is a fair weighting to give for a Grammy award.

So now I give you The Top 20 Albums of All Time based purely on the analysis provided above and devoid of any personal opinion. If you would like to see the complete analysis you can download the Microsoft Excel version here: (Top Album Analysis.xls).

#20. Faith - George Michael
Play Album
Year: 1987 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $9.19 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 1
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.79

.
#19. Appetite For Destruction - Guns N' Roses
Play Album
Year: 1987 Units Sold: 15 Million
SPV: $8.81 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.81

.
#18. Purple Rain - Prince
Play Album
Year: 1984 Units Sold: 13 Million
SPV: $8.74 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 2
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.82

.
#17. Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin
Play Album
Year: 1973 Units Sold: 11 Million
SPV: $9.10 Rating (Stars): 4.5 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.93

.
#16. Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
Play Album
Year: 1984 Units Sold: 15 Million
SPV: $8.91 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $10.29

.
#15. Nevermind - Nirvana
Play Album
Year: 1991 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $10.07 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $10.67

.
#14. Van Halen - Van Halen
Play Album
Year: 1978 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $10.23 Rating (Stars): 4.25 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $10.84

.
#13. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Play Album
Year: 1977 Units Sold: 19 Million
SPV: $9.52 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 1
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $11.47

.
#12. The Wall - Pink Floyd
Play Album
Year: 1979 Units Sold: 23 Million
SPV: $10.20 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 1
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $12.51
.
#11. The Joshua Tree - U2
Play Album
Year: 1987 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $11.50 Rating (Stars): 4.5 Grammys Won: 2
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $12.54
.
#10. Metallica - Metallica
Play Album
Year: 1991 Units Sold: 14 Million
SPV: $12.08 Rating (Stars): 4.25 Grammys Won: 1
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $13.38
.
#9. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Play Album
Year: 1969 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $12.83 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $13.60
.
#8. Hotel California - Eagles
Play Album
Year: 1976 Units Sold: 16 Million
SPV: $12.00 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $13.81
.
#7. The White Album - The Beatles
Play Album
Year: 1968 Units Sold: 19 Million
SPV: $12.00 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $14.39
.
#6. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
Play Album
Year: 1971 Units Sold: 23 Million
SPV: $12.42 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $15.44
.
#5. Abbey Road - The Beatles
Play Album
Year: 1968 Units Sold: 12 Million
SPV: $14.94 Rating (Stars): 4.25 Grammys Won: 1
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $16.23
.
#4. Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin
Play Album
Year: 1975 Units Sold: 16 Million
SPV: $14.31 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $16.38
.
#3. Thriller - Michael Jackson
Play Album
Year: 1982 Units Sold: 27 Million
SPV: $13.49 Rating (Stars): 4.5 Grammys Won: 4
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $17.39
.
#2. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
Play Album
Year: 1973 Units Sold: 15 Million
SPV: $16.08 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $18.57
.
#1. Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder
Play Album
Year: 1976 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $16.84 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 2
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $18.71

 

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World Class Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 10:19 AM
Since they include the critical reviews and the Grammy aspect in there, I'm suprised to see so much Zepp. Critics HATED Zepp in the 70s. There has been a re-evaluation since, I guess.
George Michael?

 

Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 10:21 AM
The guy who wrote this article must be an accountant. Granted there are some great albums mentioned in this list, but he misses the point of what make a great album and that's great music. Artists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and yes, the Allman Brothers Band, among many others have all made great, critically acclaimed, and much more importantly, albums than have had a far reaching musical impact on other artists in the development of their music. To me that's the true measure of greatness, not long-term sales and popularity.


 

Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 10:28 AM
I think this is a very interesting list. However, to call it mathmatical is incorrect. To equally compare anything, you must always use what is measureable. Yes, you can measure sales, but those sales area based on the taste of the buyers. As is critical acclaim and the Grammy quotient. Although it seems to be a quantitative analysis - it's still qualitative. Even using this formula I'm surprised to not see Dark Side of the Moon on the list.

I've often wondered, and challenged this Forum, to develop a purely measureable way to determine the best guitarist of all time....seems like an impossible feat.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 10:40 AM
quote:
The Top 20 Albums of All Time (For Real) using Math
??? This math sucks.

 

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Universal Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 10:49 AM
Yeah, yeah, yeah.......

Yada, yada, yada.......

Mostly pop

Welcome to the next level.


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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 11:41 AM
quote:
quote:
The Top 20 Albums of All Time (For Real) using Math
??? This math sucks.


Maybe it should read meth instead of math.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 11:42 AM
Figues lie, liars figure

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 12:02 PM
Album staying power - Faith, George Michael???? Purple F**KING Rain???

No live albums?

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 12:08 PM
[quote Even using this formula I'm surprised to not see Dark Side of the Moon on the list.




Its #2

I like the #1 album according to this but I dont think its the greatest of all time heck not even I know the greatest album of all time. For all I know it could be recorded right now.

 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 12:42 PM
quote:
quote:
quote:
The Top 20 Albums of All Time (For Real) using Math
??? This math sucks.


Maybe it should read meth instead of math.
LMAO!!!

 

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Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 12:48 PM
No NRBQ? Must be bullsh---------t.

 

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True Peach



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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 01:37 PM
Wow!!! The only ones I don't have in my collection from that list are 'Thriller', 'Faith', and 'Born in the USA'. My list would be a bit different, but I can see that these were all very popular albums in their time.

 

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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 04:13 PM
Being in the music industry for many years, I can say this is an extremely accurate best selling list of all time. And it probably should just say "the most POPULAR albums of all time using math & formulas". In fact there was NOTHING that surprised me on there. There is no way to rate "greatest", since everyone has their own opinion. - I know, we all already stated that...
 

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  posted on 7/30/2008 at 04:23 PM
Led Zep - 4
Beatles - 3
Darn hard choice there.

 

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