Top 20 Best-Selling Solo Music Artists of All Time
In the grand amphitheater of music history, there are those select few solo performers whose harmonious prowess has transcended time and space, etching their names in the annals of record-breaking achievements. These virtuosos haven’t just sung; they’ve orchestrated symphonies of success.
Let’s embark on a tuneful journey through the best of the best of solo artists who have conquered the charts and our hearts.
- 1. Elvis Presley
- 2. Michael Jackson
- 3. Madonna
- 4. Elton John
- 5. Taylor Swift
- 6. Mariah Carey
- 7. Celine Dion
- 8. Whitney Houston
- 9. Ed Sheeran
- 10. Garth Brooks
- 11. Billy Joel
- 12. Bruce Springsteen
- 13. Phil Collins
- 14. Barbra Streisand
- 15. Rihanna
- 16. Katy Perry
- 17. Eminem
- 18. Drake
- 19. Justin Bieber
- 20. Kanye West
1. Elvis Presley
Picture this: gyrating hips, slicked-back hair, and a voice that oozed both charm and rebellion. Elvis Presley’s magnetic presence on and off stage made him an unparalleled icon. His fusion of country, gospel, and rhythm and blues laid the foundation for rock ‘n’ roll, creating a seismic shift in the musical landscape.
The “King of Rock and Roll” was responsible for some of the catchiest and most successful tunes in history, having sold 500 million records worldwide. “Love Me Tender”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and “Suspicious Minds” are just a few testaments to his greatness.
2. Michael Jackson
He wasn’t just the King of Pop; he was the architect of an entire pop culture universe. Michael Jackson’s innate ability to fuse groundbreaking dance moves with infectious melodies made him an unmatched performer. Albums like “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” redefined the music industry’s limits and set records that still stand today.
With over 400 million records sold worldwide, Jackson stands as one of the best-selling music artists of all time. With songs like “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, including countless awards to his name, it’s hard to argue his place at the top.
A pop chameleon with an unapologetic spirit, Madonna shattered stereotypes and molded herself anew with each era. From the ’80s “Like a Virgin” era to the ’90s “Vogue” era, her chart-topping hits and provocative performances ignited conversations about gender, sexuality, and empowerment.
Madonna has sold over 300 million records worldwide, making her THE best-selling female recording artist of all time as well as being the highest-grossing female touring artist worldwide with a substantial revenue from concert tickets.
4. Elton John
Dressed in flamboyant attire, with fingers dancing across the piano keys, Elton John’s extravagant stage persona matched his extraordinary musical talent. His partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin produced a plethora of timeless classics, like “Your Song” and “Rocket Man,” that still resonate across generations.
With a career spanning just over 60 years, Elton John remains relevant. He has sold over 300 million records worldwide and has multiple Grammy, Brit, Academy, and Golden Globe awards to his name, a feat not achieved by many.
5. Taylor Swift
Swift’s journey from country ingenue to pop sensation is a testament to her songwriting prowess. With deeply personal lyrics, she weaves tales of love, heartbreak, and self-discovery that resonate with legions of fans. Her ability to reinvent herself while staying true to her voice has solidified her as a modern music icon.
Being the face behind hits like “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space”, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, Swift has managed to sell over 200 million records worldwide, solidifying her place as one of the best-selling musicians to date at a relatively young age.
6. Mariah Carey
Known for her five-octave vocal range and impressive melismatic style, Mariah Carey’s vocal acrobatics set her apart. Her holiday hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and ballads like “Hero” have become anthems that showcase her diva-worthy talent.
As an inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Carey has sold over 220 million records to date. Apart from a few Grammy Awards, she also has double-digit American and Billboard Awards, further cementing her legacy as one of the best female performers of all time!
7. Celine Dion
Celine Dion’s emotive delivery and powerful voice have made her a global sensation. With the iconic “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic soundtrack and other hits, she has the ability to evoke raw emotions with every note.
She is, to this date, one of the most flawless female singers to ever touch a microphone. Having sold around 200 million records worldwide and winning the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, Celine Dion is a force in the music industry.
8. Whitney Houston
Possessing a voice that was both robust and angelic, Whitney Houston ruled the charts with hits like “I Will Always Love You”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, and “How Will I Know”. Her influence on contemporary R&B and pop vocalists is immeasurable, and her tragic passing only amplified her legendary status.
Having sold over 220 million records across the world, she was inducted into so many Halls Of Fame that it’s hard to count. Houston remains one of the most soulful voices to ever stand on stage and her songs will surely stand the test of time.
9. Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran‘s down-to-earth persona and heartfelt songwriting have struck a chord with audiences worldwide. Armed with just a guitar and loop pedal, he has produced chart-topping hits that range from heart-wrenching ballads to infectious pop tunes.
At a relatively young age, Sheeran has already sold over 150 million records worldwide and is the face behind hits like “Perfect”, “Shape Of You”, “Give Me Love”, and “Castle On The Hill”. Dominating the charts year after year, it’s clear that Ed is here to stay and will only rise even more.
10. Garth Brooks
In the realm of country music, Garth Brooks shines as a superstar who has crossed genre boundaries. His energetic performances and relatable lyrics made him a country icon, with a fanbase as diverse as his musical range.
Brooks has sold over 170 million records across the world. With 15 studio albums to his name, multiple awards for his music, and being THE best-selling solo albums artist in the United States (even passing Elvis), Garth Brooks deserves his spot among the greats.
11. Billy Joel
With his storytelling songwriting style and piano-driven melodies, Billy Joel is a true American music treasure. Songs like “Piano Man” and “Uptown Girl” have solidified his place in the rock and pop pantheon.
With a career spanning just about 60 years, Billy Joel has sold over 160 million records worldwide and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
12. Bruce Springsteen
Known as “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen’s anthemic rock sound captures the spirit of blue-collar America. His poetic lyrics and electrifying live performances have earned him a fiercely loyal fanbase.
With hits like “Born To Run”, “Born In The USA”, and “Thunder Road”, Springsteen has sold over 140 million records worldwide and remains a relevant music artist even today. With a career nearing 60 years, he shows no signs of stopping.
13. Phil Collins
From his days with Genesis to his solo career, Phil Collins has delivered hits that span pop, rock, and balladry. His emotional voice and knack for creating catchy tunes have resonated across generations.
Being the face behind so many hits such as “In the Air Tonight”, “Against All Odds”, “One More Night”, “Sussudio”, “Another Day in Paradise” and “I Wish It Would Rain Down”, it’s hard to argue his estimated 150 million records sold worldwide!
14. Barbra Streisand
A multi-talented performer, Barbra Streisand’s impeccable vocals have made her a force in both music and film. Her ability to convey deep emotions through her singing has led to enduring classics like “The Way We Were.”
Having sold over 150 million records worldwide, her 60+ year career has also earned her numerous awards. Other hits like “Evergreen”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, and “Woman in Love” only cement her place even more.
From her Caribbean-infused debut to her evolution as a pop and R&B superstar, Rihanna’s unique voice and fearless style have garnered her a massive global following. Her hits like “Umbrella” and “Diamonds” are modern pop staples.
With just over 250 million record sales worldwide, Rihanna reached superstar status at a relatively young age compared to some entries on this list. Having collaborated with countless music icons of today, she shows no signs of stopping now.
16. Katy Perry
Katy Perry burst onto the scene with her candy-coated pop anthems and vibrant personality. Her songs, like “Firework” and “Roar,” inspire empowerment and self-confidence, making her a role model for many.
At a relatively young age, Perry has sold over 143 million records worldwide and has produced countless hits. With a career of just over 20 years, that is an astounding achievement, to say the least.
With his rapid-fire delivery and brutally honest lyrics, Eminem brought hip-hop to the mainstream like never before. His albums, including “The Marshall Mathers LP,” delved into his personal struggles and societal commentary.
With 11 albums in total, over 220 million records sold worldwide, and so many awards that it’s pointless to even delve into, Eminem is, without a doubt, deserving of his “King Of Rap” title. With hits like “My Name Is”, “The Real Slim Shady”, “The Way I Am”, “Stan”, “Without Me”, “Mockingbird”, “Not Afraid”, and “Rap God”, his legacy is set in stone.
Drake seamlessly blends rap and R&B, creating a signature sound that’s propelled him to the top of the charts. His introspective lyrics and catchy melodies have made him a dominant force in contemporary music.
Still relatively young, with a career of just over 20 years, he has managed to sell over 170 million records across the globe. He is responsible for hits like “God’s Plan”, “Hotline Bling”, and “One Dance”, which propelled him to superstardom and solidified his place among the best.
19. Justin Bieber
From YouTube sensation to international pop phenomenon, Justin Bieber’s journey has been nothing short of meteoric. His transition from teenage heartthrob to mature artist is mirrored in hits like “Baby” and “Sorry.”
With just around 15 years in the music industry, Bieber has sold over 150 million records and has earned himself so many awards that it’s almost ridiculous. It’s an astounding achievement to be among the best-selling music artists of all time at such a young age.
20. Kanye West
A boundary-pushing artist and producer, Kanye West is known for his innovative approach to hip-hop and genre-bending albums. His candid lyrics and bold artistic vision have earned him both acclaim and controversy.
Despite his public persona, Kanye is the face behind hits like “Good Morning”, “Stronger”, and “Gold Digger”, which contribute to his 160 million record sales across the world. Love him or hate him, he is a dominant force in the industry.
And there you have it – the crème de la crème of solo music artists who have not only dominated the charts but have also left an indelible mark on the musical landscape. From the pioneers who shaped genres to the modern icons who continue to redefine them, these artists have given us a symphony of emotions, melodies, and memories that will resonate for generations to come.
Michael Jackson Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Zoran Veselinovic, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Madonna Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: chrisweger, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Elton John Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons