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All-time Best-selling Albums by Female Artists: Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey & More

No matter the industry, it’s a sadly recurring fact that women have to work seemingly twice as hard to receive half of what their male counterparts get. In music, women have put their blood, sweat, and tears into their craft to create a legacy that lives beyond them for the next generation to savor, weathering the storm to achieve legendary status.

From the melodies of Whitney Houston to the pop tunes of Madonna, women continue to make the music industry go, proving to the naysayers that a great sound simply speaks for itself.

Below, check out the pantheon of LPs from music’s most popular women that have gained legendary status across the realms of pop, R&B, and beyond. Think of it like a timeless playlist for future generations — without further ado, here are the all-time best-selling albums by female artists.

Click here for Boardroom’s full rundown of the best-selling albums of all time overall.

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Top 20 Best-selling Albums by Female Arists

NOTE: Ranking is based on total claimed sales derived by industry analysts and reportage rather than purely those sales certified by organizations like the RIAA.

1. Whitney Houston (and Various Artists)The Bodyguard (1992): Over 45 Million

Top Streamed Song: “I Will Always Love You” (582,867,561 streams)

Whitney Houston‘s stardom became global after she debuted on The Bodyguard alongside Kevin Costner, but the music stole the show. Houston sang the entire soundtrack and it became a staple album that artists still cover, whether it’s “I Have Nothing,” “Run To You,” and, of course, the classic hit “I Will Always Love You.” It should be no surprise that she tops the list of best-selling albums by a female artist.

2. Shania TwainCome On Over (1997): Over 39 million

Top Streamed Song: “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” (464,143,877 streams)

Shania Twain broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman in music to have three Diamond-selling albums certified by RIAA. Through her music and artistry, she was able to curate her own sound of country pop that many artists will emulate in the future. Twain created a new formula for artists to follow that allows them to dive into whatever sound they like and not feel limited by genre.

3. Alanis MorissetteJagged Little Pill (1995): Over 33 Million

Top Streamed Song: “Ironic” (368,823,401 streams)

With songs like “You Oughta Know,” “Hand In My Pocket,” and “Ironic” reaching fans worldwide, Alanis Morissette has a legacy in songwriting and creativity that is still known and duplicated. She met critical acclaim and mainstream success in the Pop Rock genre, making her a notable artist and songwriter for decades to come.

4. Celine Dion Falling Into You (1996): Over 32 Million

Top Streamed Song: “Because You Loved Me” (344,875,596 streams)

Celine Dion’s 1996 award-winning album Falling Into You is a project that shows that artists who don’t always have the No. 1 hits can still have an impact through a full body of work. Dion’s album has become a best-seller across the spectrum and curated timeless hits like “Because You Love Me” and “All By Myself.”

5. Adele – 21: Over 31 Million

Top Streamed Song: “Set Fire To The Rain” 1,107,185,344 streams

Adele is known for her classic heartbreak anthems that can get listeners through any tough times, and her album 21 has become a playlist for heartbreak and heartache anthems with songs like “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You.” It’s part of what made her a bonafide star in the music industry.

6. Celine Dion Let’s Talk About Love (1997): Over 31 million
7. MadonnaThe Immaculate Collection (1990): Over 30 million
8. Norah JonesCome Away With Me (2002): Over 28 million
9. Mariah Carey Music Box (1993): Over 28 million
10. Britney SpearsBaby One More Time (1999): Over 26 million

11. Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston (1985): Over 25 million
12. Carole KingTapestry (1971): Over 25 million
13. MadonnaTrue Blue (1986): Over 25 million
14. Adele25 (2015): Over 23 million
15. Spice GirlsSpice (1996): Over 23 million

16. Celine DionAll the Way… A Decade of Song (1999): Over 22 million
17. MadonnaLike a Virgin (1984): Over 21 million
18. Mariah CareyDaydream (1995): Over 20 million
19. Shania TwainThe Woman in Me (1995): Over 20 million
20. Britney SpearsOops!… I Did it Again (2000): 20 million

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