From the ’50s to the ’00s: Which Decade Rocked the Most?

It seems like “the best music era” really depends on when you were born. Those born in the ’50s are likely to wax poetic about The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors. Those born in the late ’60s are likely to praise the genius of Michael Jackson and Queen. And of course, millennials born in the ’90s will probably tell you that Britney Spears and Rihanna are the greatest artists to ever grace the stage.

The Beatles / John Lennon’s fans / Michael Jackson / Britney Spears.
Source: Getty Images

This is where we come in. We’ve covered the rankings of every decade from the 1950s until today, using data from different “Best of” lists, including Best Albums of All Time and other forum rankings. Scroll down to see which decade came out on top.

70. 1951

1951 gave us Johnnie Ray’s “Cry” which was crowned as one of the biggest, if not the biggest song of the year. However, the top-ranked album was “Genius of Modern Music: Volume 1” by American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk.

A studio portrait of Johnnie Ray.
Photo by Maurice Seymour/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Other than that, we had Tony Bennet, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, and Eddy Howard as the year’s top artists. As great and romantic as this year’s music was, it still came out at the bottom. In general, music from the ’50s is ranked lower, but that’s also because there was less music produced back then, and part of the ranking on this list has to do with the number of great albums in a year.

69. 1950

The turn of the decade was a bit better, with Benny Goodman’s album, “The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall azz Concert” taking the lead in the race for Best Album. Other than this jazzy wonder, the biggest record of 1950 belonged to Nat King Cole.

Sam Cooke performs on stage.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

His record Mona Lisa won an Oscar for Best Original Song and spent five weeks at No. 1 in the Billboard’s Singles Chart. In 1992, his version was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Other great songs of the year include “Goodnight, Irene” by Gordon Jenkins & The Weavers and “Sam’s Song” by Gary & Bing Crosby.

68. 1953

In 1953, Dean Martin came out with his hit record, “That’s Amore,” which has since then become a staple in the playlist of pizzerias all across the nation. Apart from that, Hank Williams gave us “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” which has been playing on repeat in bars across the country ever since.

Dean Martin poses, leaning on the piano.
Photo by Harry Hammond/V&A Images/Getty Images

The top-ranked album of the year belonged to Peggy Lee. “Black Coffee” is considered one of the top ten jazz albums of all time. This masterpiece has everything, from a delightful swooping of trumpet lines to a fast, swing style.

67. 1952

Sun Records, in Memphis, Tennessee, is responsible for releasing the best music of the year. The record label released albums by Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. However, at the top of the “top-ranked album” list stands one that belongs to various artists from previous years – and it’s the “Anthology of American Folk Music.”

A studio portrait of Elvis Presley.
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It’s comprised of 84 American folk, blues, and country recordings that were originally produced between the years 1926 to 1933. Music critic John Bush was quoted saying that the album “could well be the most influential document of the ’50s folk revival.”

66. 1954

This is the year Elvis Presley’s rock revolution kicked off. Although he wasn’t on top just yet, he still gave the world records such as “That’s All Right (Mama) and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” However, this year’s top-ranked album belonged to none other than jazz musician Chet Baker.

Elvis Presley is singing on stage with Bill Block.
Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

His debut album, “Chet Baker Sings” received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award and showed the world that the man was not only an impeccable trumpeter, but he was also a great vocalist. Jazz critic Will MacFarland once said that Chet’s “singing, like his playing, stands apart from the run of the mill.”

65. 1955

1955’s top-ranked album belongs to Frank Sinatra, titled, “In the Wee Small Hours.” Sinatra’s 9th album was a commercial success, and it touched the hearts of many of his fans, with songs covering relatable themes such as heartbreak, loneliness, and depression.

Elvis Presley signs autographs for fans backstage.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Elvis also had his fair share of success this year. The first-ever “Elvis Riot” happened during the spring in Jacksonville, Florida. As for the year’s ultimate rock anthem, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” triumphs over them all!

64. 1962

In the spring of 1962, Bob Dylan released his self-titled debut album. While it didn’t receive much attention at first, it did come to grow on his fans in later years as he became more famous. The year’s top-ranked album was “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” by Ray Charles.

Bob Dylan performs on a club.
Photo by Sigmund Goode/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Charles’ album was considered revolutionary, as it challenged the racial barriers of the time. He became one of the first African American artists to have complete creative control over his own recording career.

63. 1961

The Beach Boys gave us their first-ever single, “Surfin’,” and Ben E. King provided a memorable and moving tune, “Stand by Me.” But the year’s most beloved and cherished album belongs to John Coltrane, titled “My Favorite Things.”

A photo of Ben E. King.
Photo by Gems/Redferns/Getty Images

This beautiful jazz album received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. And, in 2018, it finally received the gold record status, after having sold a whopping 500,000 copies. Another great song that should be noted from this year is Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again.

62. 1960

Before “Twisting Again,” the year 1960 had Chubby Checker teaching dance-crazed youngsters how to do “The Twist” in the first place. Other notable records of the year include Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never” and The Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

A posed studio portrait of Chubby Checker doing The Twist.
Photo by RB/Redferns/Getty Images

The year’s top-ranked album belongs to Miles Davis, titled “Sketches of Spain.” This musical fusion of jazz and world music is considered one of the most influential pieces of the 20th century. Music critic Bill Mathieu praised the album, saying, “if there is to be a new jazz, a shape of things to come, then this is the beginning.”

61. 1956

This was officially Elvis Presley’s year. His self-titled album out beat all the others. He had his first number one hit, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and to top it all off, he closed the year with “Love Me Tender” and “Hound Dog” reaching the top of the charts.

Elvis Presley performs on stage.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Apart from Elvis’ winning streak, Europe held its very first Eurovision Song Contest! It was hosted in Italian (not English) by host Lohengrin Filipello. And the winning song? “Refrain” by Switzerland’s Lys Assia.

60. 1958

1958 was the year Billboard launched its official Top 100 Singles Chart: exciting news for the musicians out there who were dying to crack it. The year’s top-ranked album was Billie Holiday’s incredible masterpiece, “Lady in Satin.”

A studio portrait of Kenny Rogers.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Billie’s sultry voice captivated listeners in the ’50s, but her album initially received mixed reviews. But over time, it became a gem in music history. In 2020, Rolling Stone magazine rated it at number 317 in their Top 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list.

59. 1957

In 1957, Jerry Lewis heated things up with “Great Balls of Fire” and Elvis Presley released another outstanding hit, “Jailhouse Rock.” The year’s top-ranked album belongs to jazz composer John Coltrane and is titled “Blue Train.”

A portrait of Jerry Lee Lewis leaning on the piano.
Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Getty Images

The album was said to have a “haunting feel” to it and an enchanting and brilliant air. Jazz player Michael Cuscuna said that the record “to me is one of the most beautiful pieces on one of the most beautiful records that Coltrane recorded in the fifties.”

58. 1964

1964 was the year Beatlemania kicked off in America. They landed in New York City and took the place by storm. Their album, “A Hard Day’s Night” is the top-ranked one of the year, and nearly every single on it cracked all the singles charts.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr wave to screaming Beatles fans.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Other than the Beatles’ craze, the Rolling Stones completed their self-titled debut album which was later crowned as one of the top 1000 albums of all time. Lastly, Bob Dylan released his moving ode, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

57. 1963

In 1963, Bob Dylan gave us the lovely “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and jazz artist Charles Mingus released the year’s top-ranked album, “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,” which is considered by nearly everyone to be one of the most acclaimed jazz albums of the 20th century.

Bob Dylan performs on stage.
Photo by Rowland Scherman/Getty Images

Another musical achievement was “Bye Bye Birdie,” a musical comedy film that was ranked as one of the top 50 Best High School Movies of all time. The musical smash is considered “silly, light, and very, very pink,” according to a quote in Rotten Tomatoes.

56. 1959

At the start of 1959, on a cold February morning, the music died. It was the year that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and their pilot Roger Peterson crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. Rock fans all over the world were stunned by the tragic turn of events.

Buddy Holly & The Crickets perform on stage.
Photo by Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

So, the year didn’t kick off too well, but it still saw some happy events take place, like the first-ever Grammy Awards that were held in Los Angeles. Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” dominated the charts, bug the top-ranked album was Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.”

55. 2019

Fast forward to 2019, which is ranked pretty low on this list compared to all the years in between the ’50s and today. 2019 gave us one central thing in the field of music – it introduced us to the power of K-pop (Korean pop).

BTS attend Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Dick Clark Productions

K-pop legends BTS took (and are still taking) the world by storm with their fast-paced, bubble gum pop hits. Time magazine placed them on their list of the top 100 Most Influential People. Other notable musical achievements were Janet Jackson and Radiohead’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

54. 1981

1981 was a revolutionary year in music. It was the year MTV launched, and the first exciting music video they aired was, very fittingly, The Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star.” In addition, Phil Collins gave us his very first solo album, “Face Value.”

U2 perform on stage.
Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty Images

As for the year’s top-ranked album, Rush gave us the wonderful “Moving Pictures,” which became the Canadian group’s highest-selling album in the U.S., with over 5 million copies sold. Among their most beloved singles are “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight.”

53. 2018

2018’s top-ranked album belongs to the indie rock band Car Seat Headrest and their record titled “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).” The review site Metacritic gave it a score of 87 out of 100, which, according to them, meant that the American band had gained “universal acclaim.”

Lady Gaga walks the red carpet.
Photo by Stefania D’Alessandro/WireImage/Getty Images

Other notable musical achievements include Lady Gaga’s performance in a remake of the song “A Star Is Born.” BTS also became the first K-pop group to top America’s Billboard album list with “Love Yourself: Tear.” Oh, and Drake ruled the charts with three awesome singles.

52. 1990

The start of the ’90s was exciting. Madonna revolutionized pop concerts by breaking box office records with her songs. Her Blonde Ambition tour was a massive success. Depeche Mode also gave us some great material.

Madonna performs on stage.
Photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Their album, “Violator” is the year’s top-ranked album. It propelled the group into international stardom and gave us the singles “Policy of Truth” and “World in My Eyes.” It cracked the top ten of the Billboard 200, peaking at number seven.

51. 1983

1983 was a truly rewarding year in music. Metallica and Madonna launched their debut albums. Both the group and Madonna went on to become absolute icons in the industry, landing a place in Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Hall of Fame.

Metallica is performing on stage.
Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance/Getty Images

R.E.M. gave us the year’s top-ranked album, their debut album, “Murmur,” and Michael Jackson gave us one of his greatest hits of all time and one of the greatest dance hits to ever cross our ears, “Billie Jean.”

50. 1985

This was Kate Bush’s year. She gave us “Hounds of Love,” 1985’s top-ranked album. In a five-star review, UK music newspaper Sounds called Hounds of Love “dramatic, moving and wildly, unashamedly, beautifully romantic.”

A general view at Live Aid Concert.
Photo by Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS/Getty Images

Other than that, media outlets like Spin magazine and VH1 were born. In addition, the world’s biggest artists came together to sing “We Are the World” and raise funds for charitable purposes in Africa. The concert Live Aid raised more money for famine in Ethiopia.

49. 1974

The top-ranking album for this year belonged to King Crimson, who gave us their seventh and brilliant studio album titled, “Red.” According to Pitchfork (an online music magazine), the album “achieved a remarkable balance between bone-crushing brutality and cerebral complexity.”

A picture of Sonny Bono and Cher with their daughter.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Other than that, the first-ever ceremony of the American Music Awards was held. And another groundbreaking (and heartbreaking) moment in the industry that year was Cher and Sonny Bono’s divorce.

48. 1982

This year was the year Michael Jackson gifted the world his incredibly thrilling album “Thriller.” It’s the top-ranked album of 1982, and I believe it really needs no justification. It remains one of the best-selling records of all time.

An image of the first CD player released by Sony.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

His music video was so revolutionary when it first came out. In addition, Sony launched the CDP-101, which became the first CD player. And “Pink Floyd: The Wall” hit cinemas all over the nation. It’s safe to say, 1982 truly was a thriller year.

47. 1978

The top-ranking album this year was Bruce Springsteen’s fourth studio album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” According to music critics, Springsteen “perfected the heartland rock genre” and gave a voice to America’s working-class citizens.

Jeff Conaway, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, and Stockard Channing walk arm in arm in a still from
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In addition, the unforgettable, iconic, wonderful musical film “Grease,” starring a young and handsome John Travolta and a spicy, young, blonde Olivia Newton-John, was released to theaters and became a box office smash.

46. 1976

This year’s top-ranking album belongs to Stevie Wonder and his eighteenth album, “Songs in the Key of Life.” To this day, it’s considered his “wonder album,” and is often cited as being one of the greatest things to have happened in music history.

Peter Frampton is playing the guitar on stage.
Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

Prince was even quoted saying this was his favorite album of all time! Other than Stevie Wonder’s wondrous record, the band Boston released its debut album, and the Sex Pistols rattled things up with their hit debut single, “Anarchy in the U.K.”

45. 2017

2017’s album of the year belongs to Kendrick Lamar and his groovy album, “Damn.” Music critic Andy Kellman praised the rapper, saying that “it contains some of Lamar’s best writing and performances, revealing his evolving complexity and versatility as a soul-baring lyricist and dynamic rapper.”

Harry Styles performs on stage.
Photo by James D. Morgan/WireImage/Getty Images

Another noteworthy event this year was Harry Styles’ departure from One Direction, and the release of his self-titled debut album which did spectacularly well. Some sad moments this year include the death of Chuck Berry, Chris Cornell, and Tom Petty.

44. 2008

Fleet Foxes released their self-titled album, which went on to become 2008’s album of the year! The indie-folk band really proved their worth in the industry with a string of hit songs. Billboard rated it album of the year.

Lil' Wayne and T-Pain perform on stage.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

More memorable moments in the music industry include Beyonce’s smash hit “Single Ladies,” and Lil Wayne’s punching album, “The Carter III.” In addition, Spotify officially entered our lives as another way to stream music.

43. 1988

This year’s top-ranking album goes to Sonic Youth! Kudos to them for giving us a great piece of work, their fifth studio album, “Daydream Nation.” Billboard called the record “the supreme fulfillment” of their “full-bore technique”.

A photo of Bobby McFerrin.
Photo by Leon Morris/Redferns/Getty Images

Another memorable moment was the release of Bobby McFerrin’s unexpected hit single, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” In addition, a hip-hop publication named The Source magazine was released. And of course, George Michael’s incredible album, “Faith” reached our shelves.

42. 1965

Back to the ’60s. Bob Dylan’s sixth studio album, “Highway 61 Revisited,” is 1965’s top-ranking album. It’s considered the 11th most celebrated album in music history, so no one was surprised when it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

The Beatles perform at Shea Stadium in New York.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In addition, Petula Clark released her beautiful hit, “Downtown.” And over in New York Queens, the Beatles got the crowd screaming in the Shea Stadium. However, the Rolling Stones landed the year’s biggest hit with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

41. 2009

2009’s top-ranking album belongs to Animal Collective and their eighth studio album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” It was met with universal acclaim and was given a whopping 9.6 out of 10 by Pitchfork (a music publication).

Fans of Michael Jackson sit vigil on Michael Jackson's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Another huge (but sad) moment was Michael Jackson’s untimely death. In addition, Jay Z, Sting, and Maria Carey performed at Barack Obama’s inaugural ball, and Susan Boyle became a worldwide phenomenon after appearing on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

40. 1987

U2 released “The Joshua Tree,” their fifth album, which became the year’s ultimate album, beating out all the rest in the race for the top-ranking record. It was given great reviews, the best reviews U2 has ever received in their career.

A picture of Slash and Axl Rose on stage.
Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images

Other than that, Guns N’ Roses released their album, “Appetite for Destruction,” and Michael Jackson released “Bad.” What a year! In addition, the hip-hop group, N.W.A. formed in Los Angeles and performed as the opening act for Salt-N-Pepa.

39. 1984

1984 was a fantastic year. It was the year Prince and the Revolution gave us “Purple Rain,” which obviously became the top-ranking album of the year. Some would say that this was Prince’s turning point, after which he became a true musical genius.

Prince performs on stage.
Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

Other notable smash hits from this year are Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and the groundbreaking music video that accompanied it. Also Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” garnered great reviews.

38. 2014

2014’s top-ranking album of the year was “Lost in the Dream” by The War on Drugs. The indie rock band released hit after hit with this album, with songs like “Under the Pressure,” “Red Eyes,” and “Burning.”

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers perform during a festival.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Another great moment was BTS’s release of their debut album. Who knew that the group would go on to become one of the most influential music groups in history? Also, Tom Pretty and the Heartbreakers, as well as Pink Floyd, both released their final albums.

37. 1986

This year’s top-ranking album goes to The Smiths, and their fantastic work of art, “The Queen Is Dead.” In 2020, more than three decades later, Rolling Stone ranked it number 113 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

A portrait of the Beastie Boys.
Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images

Other than that, The Beastie Boys marched onto the hip-hop scene with their debut album, “Licensed to Ill.” And Run-DMC gave us the hit “Walk This Way,” a single in collaboration with Aerosmith. And finally, The Smiths played their final concert in London.

36. 1992

R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People” is 1992’s top-ranking album. It peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 and introduced us to six unforgettable singles. Overall, it has sold more than 18 million copies worldwide.

Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre pose for a photo backstage.
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More influential albums hit the shelves, including Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic,” which revolutionized hip-hop, and on the other side of the spectrum, Rage Against the Machine brought political awareness to the rock scene with their self-titled debut album.

35. 2016

2016’s album of the year award goes to Radiohead for giving us “A Moon Shaped Pool.” Their ninth studio album incorporated everything from light folk to dark, ambient music. It topped the charts and is certified gold in many places across the globe.

A picture of David Bowie’s shrine in Brixton.
Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images

Some sad moments this year include the deaths of two huge music icons, David Bowie and Prince. But on the flip side, Guns N’ Roses experienced a sort of rebirth, with Axl Rose rejoining the band.

34. 2006

This was definitely Arctic Monkeys’ year. Their album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” became the year’s top-ranked album. The English band was even declared to be the “current generation’s most important band.”

Amy Winehouse performs on stage.
Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images

Dr. Dre launched his Beats by Dre Brand, turning him into an iconic headphone influencer. In addition, Three 6 Mafia became the first hip-hop group to earn an Academy Award with its single, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”

33. 1993

This year’s top-ranking album belongs to The Smashing Pumpkins and their second studio album, “Siamese Dream.” Music critic John Harris of NME was quoted saying that the album was a “startling, deeply satisfying record.” Another music critic, David Browne, called the band “the next Nirvana.”

The Wu-Tang Clan pose for a portrait.
Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Other than that, The Wu-Tang Clan revolutionized the hip-hop scene with its unique creation, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” In addition, Meatloaf’s ballad “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That),” became a huge hit.

32. 1999

This year’s top-ranking album goes to Sigur Rós, and their album, “Ágætis byrjun.” This Icelandic group took over with their unique, ethereal sound and became Radiohead’s warmup act on many of their tours.

A studio portrait of Britney Spears.
Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance/Getty Images

Another huge moment was the arrival of Britney Spears, who became a pop culture phenomenon with the release of her hit single, “… Baby One More Time.” Other than that, The Backstreet Boys had a smash summer hit with “I Want It That Way.”

31. 2003

The White Stripes’ fourth studio album, “Elephant,” is 2003’s top-ranking record. With hits like “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” they climbed their way up to superstardom back in 2003.

The Dixie Chicks perform on stage.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Some controversies this year centered around The Dixie Chicks, who were criticized for bashing President George W. Bush. Another big moment included 50 Cent’s release “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” Also, Apple launched iTunes.

30. 1980

The album of the year was Talking Head’s “Remain in Light,” the band’s fourth studio album. Years later, in 2017, the Library of Congress stated that the album was “culturally, historically, and artistically significant,” selecting to preserve it in the National Recordings Registry.

A photo of John Lennon’s fans holding a vigil after his death.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One horrible event this year was the shooting of John Lennon, who was gunned down outside his apartment in New York City. On a brighter note, Blondie got everyone grooving with their hit, “Call Me.”

29. 1996

Weezer gave us this year’s top-ranking album, with their second studio album, “Pinkerton.” Even though initial reviews were mixed, the record went on to gain universal acclaim, eventually landing a spot in Rolling Stone’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

A photo of Snoop Dogg during the trial.
Photo by Steve Starr/CORBIS/Getty Images

On a different note, Snoop Dogg was acquitted of murder in a hideous case that rattled the music industry. Tupac Shakur was gunned down and killed in Las Vegas. And even though “Macarena” was recorded several years before, it somehow became that year’s summer hit and swept everyone off their feet.

28. 2005

“Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens was 2005’s album of the year. Due to its clever lyrics and captivating orchestrations, it was named the best-reviewed album of the year, according to music review aggregator Metacritic.

An exterior shot of The August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.
Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images

2005 was also the year Mariah Carey scored another smash hit record with her album, “The Emancipation of Mimi.” On a sad note (or not, depending on how you look at it), Destiny’s Child broke up. It was pretty tragic, as some of its members were only nine when they first formed!

27. 1998

1998’s top-ranking album belongs to the American rock band Neutral Milk Hotel and their second album, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” This psychedelic folk band stood out from other rock bands at the time, and many felt like they provided something completely new and refreshing.

DMX performs on stage.
Photo by Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

Other memorable moments happened in the hip-hop scene. DMX burst into the public eye, and Lauryn Hill released her unforgettable record, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Also, the Goo Goo Dolls released one of the greatest songs of the year, “Iris.”

26. 1989

1989’s top-ranking album belongs to the Pixies and their fantastic record, “Doolittle.” It was the band’s second album and their first international release. Two of their songs, “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, cracked Billboard’s list of Modern Rock Tracks.

Don Henley performs on MTV's Unplugged.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

“MTV Unplugged” launched and went on to become a staple of acoustic performances over the ensuing decades. Also, Madonna’s music video for “Like a Prayer” drew A LOT of criticism for its religious undertone and imagery.

25. 2011

2011 was Bon Iver’s year. His self-titled album became the year’s top-ranking album, selling 104,000 copies in the U.S. on its very first week on the shelves! Bon Iver won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and the song “Holocene” was nominated twice, once for Song of the Year and again for Record of the Year.

Lana Del Rey performs on stage.
Photo by Kevin Yatarola/Getty Images

Lana Del Rey arrived with her silky, smooth sound, while Rebecca Black released her autotuned (and slightly ridiculous) hit “Friday.” In addition, Jay Z and Kanye West collaborated on the “Watch the Throne” record.

24. 2015

2015’s album of the year belongs to Kendrick Lamar and his record, “To Pimp a Butterfly” which sold 324,000 copies in the U.S. during its first week on the shelves. It earned a chart debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Carly Rae Jepsen performs at an awards show.
Cole Burston/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Other than that, Apple Music launched, and Carly Rae Jepsen gave us one of the most critically acclaimed pop hits of the year, “Emotion.” Also, Adele’s hit, “Hello” became the biggest YouTube debut of any video to date.

23. 1966

The Beatles released “Revolver,” which went on to become 1966’s most memorable record. With its diverse sound, unique range of musical styles, and witty lyrics, “Revolver” is regarded as one of the most innovative albums in the history of music.

A photo of The Beatles at the airport.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Despite having the best album of the year, John Lennon was bashed after proudly saying that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. However, his little remark didn’t prevent songs like “Yellow Submarine” from climbing high on all the charts.

22. 2013

This year’s top-ranking album belongs to Vampire Weekend and their album, “Modern Vampires of the City.” According to many music critics, it’s one of the best records to be produced in the 2010s. It was ranked number 328 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake perform on stage.
Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for M2M Construction

Other memorable moments include Jay Z and Justin Timberlake’s tour together, as well as numerous hit songs produced by pop icons like Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and Bruno Mars. The hip-hop scene delivered as well, with Kanye West and Eminem dropping some of the hottest albums of the year.

21. 1995

1995’s top-ranking album belongs to Radiohead (second time on this list!) and their great record, “The Bends.” It gave us some of the band’s best songs, including “My Iron Lung,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Just” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out).”

Eazy-E poses for a portrait in Union Square in New York.
Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Other great moments include the launching of Pitchfork (the music publication). In addition, Pearl Jam’s long legal battle against the company Ticketmaster finally ended. And sadly, Eazy-E, of the group N.W.A., passed away from AIDS-related complications.

20. 2004

This year’s top-ranking album belongs to Arcade Fire. Their debut album sold unbelievably well, producing five great singles and earning a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. It’s Rolling Stone’s number 500 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform at Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Other than that, Kanye West released his album, “The College Dropout.” And at the Super Bowl, Janet Jackson suffered a “wardrobe malfunction” with Justin Timberlake. In addition, Usher’s album, “Confessions” was a huge hit, selling 1.1 million albums in just one week.

19. 2002

2002’s top-ranking album is “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” by the alternative rock group Wilco. It did so well that it was nominated for a Grammy for Best Americana Album. According to Jeff Tweedy, the album’s main theme is the acceptance of life’s uncertainties.

Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images

Sadly, the hip-hop scene lost two icons, Left Eye of TLC and Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC. On a lighter note, the show “American Idol” debuted and became a huge deal across the nation. In addition, Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” became one of the top-selling albums that year.

18. 2001

2001’s top-ranking album went to rock band The Strokes and their record “Is This It,” which, to the world, was IT. Their debut album cracked the charts and has been listed in several publications as one of the greatest albums of all time.

Apple's portable music player.
Photo by Apple Corp./Getty Images

Other than that, Nas and Jay Z found themselves in what many consider to be one of the harshest rap beefs in the history of rap beefs. Another unfortunate event was the death of rising R&B star Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash after filming a music video.

17. 1979

The Clash released the year’s top-ranking album and their third studio album, “London Calling.” It sold over five million copies worldwide and has been named one of the most influential records of all time. It ranked sixteenth in Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

A posed studio portrait of Michael Jackson.
Photo by Jim McCrary/Redferns/Getty Images

In addition, a baseball promotion event advertised as “Disco Demolition Night” mutated into a riot at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Also, Michael Jackson released his memorable record, “Off the Wall,” and Charles Mingus died from a heart attack.

16. 2012

Kendrick Lamar strikes again! His album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” became the year’s top-ranking album and earned him four Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year. Rolling Stone ranked it number 115 on their recent 500 Albums of All Time list.

Rapper PSY performs at Rockefeller Plaza.
Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/WireImage/Getty Images

In addition, Korean rapper PSY gave us one of the catchiest hits, and one of YouTube’s most-played videos, “Gangnam Style.” Taylor Swift released “Red,” which was a great success. And on a sad note, Whitney Houston and Adam Yauch (a member of the Beastie Boys) died.

15. 1968

The Beatles dominated the ’60s, there’s no arguing there. And in 1968, their album, “The Beatles (The White Album)” became the album of the year. Its songs topped the charts in both Britain and America and the album itself has been certified 24X platinum.

The Album cover for Johnny Cash's record
Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

In addition, Johnny Cash gave an unforgettable performance at Folsom State Prison and James Brown went on national television in order to calm everyone down after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. And finally, even though it was recorded a year before, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” dominated the charts.

14. 1975

Pink Floyd gave us “Wish You Were Here,” which eventually became the year’s top-ranking album. But things didn’t hit right off the bat with this record. It received mixed reviews at first, but over the years, became known as one of Pink Floyd’s greatest works.

Stephanie Mills and Hinton Battle in the Broadway play
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More exciting music-related events include the performance of Billy Preston and Janis Ian on “Saturday Night Live’s” debut. In addition, the musical “The Wiz” opened on Broadway, and, most importantly (!!!) Queen released their masterpiece, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

13. 2000

Radiohead is really killing it on this list. In 2000, their album “Kid A” became the year’s top-ranking album. It became the group’s first number one album in the States, selling over 207,000 copies in its first week on the shelves!

Lars Ulrich, Roger McGuinn, and Hank Barry speak at the Senate on music and the internet.
Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Other than Radiohead’s success, Pandora Radio launched and became one of the first huge streaming music apps. In addition, Carlos Santana won a whopping eight Grammy awards and Tim Comerford (of Rage Against the Machine) interrupted Limp Bizkit’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards.

12. 2010

In 2010, Kanye West gave us the album of the year, his fifth studio album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Right off the bat, it garnered immediate and widespread critical success and was crowned the best record of 2010 by many important music publications.

Ke$ha performs onstage at the Grammys.
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS

Other than that, Kesha stormed into our lives with her debut single “Tik Tok,” and Jim Morrison was posthumously forgiven for indecency charges. Also, Lady Gaga broke a record of MTV Video Music Award nominations.

11. 1977

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” took the world by storm in 1977. It sold over 10 million copies worldwide within just one month after its release. It rightfully won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards and is crowned one the best-selling albums of all time.

John Travolta dancing with Karen Gorney in
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

On a tragic note, Elvis Presley died this year at his Graceland home on August 16, breaking many, many hearts. And in addition, “Saturday Night Fever” became a hit, and The Eagles scored a smash hit, with “Hotel California.”

10. 1970

Time for some heavy metal to appear on this list! Black Sabbath gave 1970 the album of the year, with their second studio album, “Paranoid.” It includes some of the band’s most memorable hits including “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.

Jimi Hendrix is performing at Madison Square Garden.
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images

Another groundbreaking moment in music history was, of course, Paul McCartney’s startling announcement that he was leaving The Beatles (gasp). Other than that, Jimi Hendrix died at the young age of 27 and Simon & Garfunkel went their separate ways. What a year…

9. 2007

Radiohead, yes, once again, Radiohead. Their album, “In Rainbows,” was crowned album of the year. It garnered critical acclaim and won two Grammy Awards – Best Alternative Music Album and Best Boxed for Special Limited-Edition Package.

A picture of Live Earth's concert.
Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images

A happy event that year was the concert Live Earth, which was launched in the hopes of raising money to slow down global warming. In addition, The Spice Girls reunited, and “High School Musical 2,” the sequel to one of the most popular teen musicals of all time, aired.

8. 1972

In 1972, David Bowie gifted the world with his bizarre album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” It’s considered one of his best works, and one of glam rock’s most innovative albums of the genre.

A picture of Jimmy McCulloch, Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney, and Wings on stage.
Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

Apart from David Bowie’s outrageous creation, Paul McCartney debuted his new band called “Wings.” Unfortunately, 1972 was the year Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up, but Don McLean’s “American Pie,” despite being released a year earlier, reached No. 1 on the charts.

7. 1991

This was Nirvana’s time to shine. Their album, “Nevermind,” with the unforgettable floating baby on its cover, became so famous that it sold 300,000 copies a week at its peak. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was played everywhere at the time, on radio stations and in restaurants, bars, you name it.

Kurt Cobain performs on stage.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

In addition, Whitney Houston performed a moving rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl and The Scorpions released their memorable hit, “Wind of Change” that became the anthem to the end of the Cold War.

6. 1997

“OK Computer” by Radiohead (again!) was this year’s top-ranking album. Their third album was truly ahead of its time, covering things like consumerism, social alienation and political malaise. Basically, the world we’re living in now.

A backstage photo of The Spice Girls.
Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images

In addition, the Spice Girls released their hit “Wannabe,” turning them into worldwide superstars. And The Notorious B.I.G. was sadly shot and killed in the streets of Los Angeles. Finally, pop trio and siblings, Hanson, flooded radio airwaves with their song “MMMBop.”

5. 1973

“The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd was 1973’s top-ranking album, selling an estimated 45 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling records in music history. Many argue it’s the band’s absolute best album.

A photo of Gene Simmons during KISS' performance.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Another memorable moment was KISS’ first concert which they played on January 30, at the Popcorn Club in Queens, New York. Later in the year, DJ Kool Herc came out with hit singles and was credited with officially giving birth to hip-hop. And finally, Bruce Springsteen debuted with his album, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”

4. 1994

Jeff Buckley’s debut album, “Grace” became the year’s number one record. While initially receiving mixed reviews, it has gained a lot of hype over the years. Over a decade after its original release, it cracked the charts in Australia and became certified 7x platinum.

A picture of Kurt Cobain on stage.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Sadly, Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain died in the spring of this year, causing stormy waves across the music community. More news from the grunge scene: Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral” and The Offspring’s “Smash” were released and are considered two of the most notable rock albums of that year.

3. 1967

If the year is sometime in the ’60s, you know the top-selling album has got to belong to The Beatles. In 1967, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” took the world by storm. Incredibly, it spent 15 weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard chart.

A photo of The Doors performing on the street.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

1967 also introduced us to The Doors, which practically smashed through the door with their self-titled debut album. This year was also the year that Aretha Franklin recorded “Respect” and The Beatles’ song, “All You Need is Love” became the year’s biggest hit.

2. 1971

“Untitled (Led Zeppelin IV)” by Led Zeppelin was 1971’s best album. The English rock band’s fourth studio album gained worldwide success, shipping over 38 million copies overseas. One music critic went so far as to say that the album “[defined] not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”

Led Zeppelin performs in Japan.
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Arguably Led Zeppelin’s biggest hit from the album, “Stairway to Heaven” dominated the charts. And contrary to popular belief (by many conspiracists), it doesn’t contain hidden messages when played backward.

1. 1969

Finally, in number one, the absolute best year in music history to date, is 1969. Why? Well, partly because of Woodstock, the colorful, groundbreaking festival which saw around 400,000 wide-eyed people crowd together on a patch of land in upstate New York, just to watch some of the greatest artists of the time perform.

A general view of the crowd and stage during the Woodstock Rock Festival.
Photo by Howard Arnold Collection/Getty Images

The year’s top-ranking album is “Abbey Road,” by The Beatles. Tragically, though, that same year, the band announced their final public performance on a rooftop show in London (sigh…). Other than that, Led Zeppelin released their debut album.

There you have it! 1969 was – according to several sources and databases – the best year in music history. Let us know what you think in the comments!