A greatest hits album or best-of album is a type of compilation album that collects popular and commercially successful songs by a particular artist or band. While greatest hits albums are typically supported by the artist, they can also be created by record companies without express approval from the original artist as a means to generate sales. They are typically regarded as a good starting point for new fans of an artist, but are sometimes criticized by longtime fans as not inclusive enough or necessary at all.
It is also common for greatest hits albums to include new recordings, remixes or unreleased alternate takes of the hit songs, plus other new material as bonus tracks to increase appeal for longtime fans (who might otherwise already own the recordings included). At times, a greatest hits compilation marks the first album appearance of a successful single that was never attached to a previous studio album.
The first greatest hits album was Johnny Mathis's Johnny's Greatest Hits, released in 1958. The album collected eight of Mathis's charting singles, as well as three non-charting B-sides and an altogether new track. The album spent three weeks at the number one spot on Billboard's Best Selling Pop LP's chart. The greatest hits album format then gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s among American and British rock and pop artists. One notable example was the Beach Boys 1974 album Endless Summer, which upon release was certified 3× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It propelled them from an opening act for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to headlining their own tour in just a matter of weeks. Some artists were even popular enough to release multiple greatest hits albums during and after their career.
By the 1990s, greatest hits albums were common for popular artists, with some artists even releasing the greatest hits album as a music video collection concurrently with the album. It also became a commercially viable option to boost popularity for artists with dwindling careers. Some bands refuse to release a greatest hits album, such as rock groups AC/DC, Tool, and Metallica. Garth Brooks had initially refused releasing one, but he eventually agreed to it in 1994 for a limited release (the resulting record, The Hits, sold over ten million copies).
In 2000, Sony Music Entertainment launched their The Essential series, which collects singles and other career-defining tracks of artists licensed to Sony. The Essential Bob Dylan was the first in the series, and the company has since released dozens of albums in the series with other artists under their label. In addition to artist-specific collections, the series has also released genre-specific and themed albums, such as The Essential Christmas (collecting pop and rock covers of Christmas songs) or The Essential Australian Rock (collecting a specific regional output). In 2005, Universal Music Group launched a similar line, Gold, which collects artists' greatest hits onto two discs.
In the late 2000s and 2010s, digital downloads and music streaming services increased in popularity, which allow users to listen to their favorite tracks without the need of a greatest hits package. In 2016, Pitchfork said that "in the digital era, once a catalog enters a streaming service or an MP3 store, there's no need for a reissue and, therefore, there's no reason for a label to mine the vaults, searching for old music to make new again. Users can assemble their own personalized greatest hits playlists or just scan through an act's most accessed songs", which has led to greatest hits collections becoming redundant.
Despite the popularity of streaming in the 2010s and early 2020s, some artists continued to issue physical greatest hits albums, including the White Stripes, Spoon, and the Weeknd. Spoon lead singer Britt Daniel said he chose to compile 2019's Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon out of an affinity for compilations such as Standing on a Beach by the Cure and Substance 1987 by New Order, which had introduced him to those artists in his youth, and to provide an official introduction to Spoon's catalog for new listeners. Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand echoed those sentiments when describing the decision to release the band's 2022 Hits to the Head compilation, stating that "I have friends who believe you're somehow not a 'real' fan if you own a best of rather than a discography. I disagree. I think of my parents' record collection as a kid. I loved their compilation LPs. I am so grateful that they had Changes or Rolled Gold. Those LPs were my entrance point. My introduction."
Various compilation albums became amongst the best-selling albums worldwide with sales of over 20 million copies. For example, Eagles' Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) is the best-selling album in the United States, according to Billboard, selling over 38 million copies. Worldwide, The Immaculate Collection by Madonna is the best-selling compilation by a solo artist, with 30 million copies, and is the best-selling compilation by a female artist in major music markets such as Australia, United Kingdom and United States. In the UK, Queen's Greatest Hits is the biggest selling album of all time. In second place is ABBA Gold, another greatest hits compilation which has gone on to become the longest-charting album in the UK. Queen's Greatest Hits II is also one of the UK's top ten biggest sellers.
One example of a greatest hits compilation released against the artists' intentions is British rock group the Rolling Stones' 1971 compilation Hot Rocks 1964–1971. The music magazine Rolling Stone remarked that the album served as a "beautifully packaged... purely mercenary item put together by the Stones' former record company to cash in on the Christmas season and wring some more bucks out in the name of the Mod Princes they once owned." After their manager tricked the band into signing over the copyrights to their 1963–1970 song catalog, the band did succeed in changing management and record labels. However, they could neither prevent the release of Hot Rocks nor its successor, More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies). Hot Rocks remains the best-selling album of the Rolling Stones' career. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards continue to collect significant songwriting royalties from the Hot Rocks sales, but not the ownership royalties.
In other mediaEdit
The concept of greatest hits compilations has been adapted to other media as well. In television, some shows have released compilations of their critically successful and highest-rated episodes to drive new viewers to watch a program, such as Family Guy's Freakin' Sweet Collection and South Park: The Hits. Several video game companies have re-released popular games for continued sales, sometimes with discounted prices: Sony's PlayStation has released games under their Greatest Hits series; Nintendo has re-released games under the Nintendo Selects label (formerly called "Player's Choice"); and Microsoft has re-released games under the Platinum Hits label. Some video game franchises have released greatest hits collections of their own content, such as Super Mario All-Stars, Sonic Mega Collection, and Guitar Hero Smash Hits.
- Hit record
- Grandes Éxitos (disambiguation) – the Spanish language equivalent of the concept
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- ^ a b c Perpetua, Matthew (24 July 2019). "Everything Hits: Spoon Releases An Old School Greatest Hits Album into A Digital Age". NPR. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
- ^ Pfleegor, Dan (13 November 2013). "The 10 Essential Greatest Hits Albums". Consequence. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- ^ "Johnny's Greatest Hits - Johnny Mathis". AllMusic. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- ^ Patterson, Jim (17 February 1995). "Garth Brooks knows how to take 'The Hits'". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 12 August 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
I hate the idea of the greatest hits being out there," Brooks says. EMI won him over with a solution that made sense to his adman side. EMI agreed to sell "The Hits" for only four to six months, meaning that fans better pick it up by this summer or they're out of luck.
- ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2 May 2016). "Why the Death of Greatest Hits Albums and Reissues Is Worth Mourning". Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
- ^ Kaufman, Gil (5 February 2021). "The Weeknd Rolls Out 'The Highlights' Album Ahead of Super Bowl Performance: Stream it Now". Billboard. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- ^ Danton, Eric R. (1 December 2020). "The White Stripes Document Their Singular Career on Greatest Hits". Paste. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- ^ Blistein, Jon (2 November 2021). "Franz Ferdinand Tease Greatest-Hits Collection With New Song 'Billy Goodbye'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
- ^ Petrusich, Amanda (4 December 2020). "Long Live the Greatest-Hits Album". The New Yorker. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
- ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- ^ Vorano, Neil (1 June 2012). "30 years in the spotlight: Madonna's highs and lows". The National. Abu Dhabi. Archived from the original on 2 August 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
- ^ "What was the top song the year you were born?". Herald Sun. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
- ^ White, Jack (16 August 2021). "Madonna to release deluxe editions of her albums to mark her 40th anniversary in music". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 28 November 2021. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
- ^ Pesselnick, Jill (22 April 2000). "Twaid Breaks Records, Santana Soars In March Certifications" (PDF). Billboard. p. 89. Retrieved 30 March 2021 – via World Radio History.
- ^ The Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks, 1964–1971 (1972) album review at Rolling Stone by Lester Bangs