Top 10 Highest-Selling Albums Of 1990

Top 10 Highest-Selling Albums Of 1990

alannah myles
Alannah Myles (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

What was Australia listening to 30 years ago? As the ARIA year-end top 10 albums chart indicates, a bit of everything. Pop, dance, Aussie rock, easy listening… and even a bit of opera were in the mix among the year’s biggest sellers.

10. Soul Provider by Michael Bolton

Peak: number 1 (Three weeks)

Biggest hit: “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” (number 2)

He’d been releasing albums since the mid-’70s, but things started to come together for adult contemporary star Michael Bolton in the late ’80s when he scored his first hit with a remake of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”. But it was his cover of a song he’d written years earlier (and Laura Branigan recorded) that pushed him into the A-list. That track, “How Am I Supposed To Live With You”, was followed by another hit power ballad query, “How Can We Be Lovers?”, while Michael’s version of “Georgia On My Mind” also appeared on Soul Provider.

9. Alannah Myles by Alannah Myles

Peak: number 2

Biggest hit: “Black Velvet” (number 3)

The Canadian singer’s self-titled debut album had been released in early 1989, but it wasn’t until second single “Black Velvet” took off in 1990 that Alannah Myles started to shift copies. As a result, earlier single “Love Is” also received a boost, and Alannah had two simultaneous hits on the ARIA chart. Although the album never reached number 1, it spent five straight months in the top 10 – chart stats that Alannah’s subsequent albums didn’t come anywhere near matching.

8. Sleeping With The Past by Elton John

Peak: number 2

Biggest hit: “Sacrifice” (number 7)

Elton John’s 22nd studio album was his highest-charting since 1984’s Breaking Hearts reached number 1 and contained his best run of singles since the four top 25 hits lifted from 1983’s Too Low For Zero. Whichever way you looked at it, Sleeping With The Past was a return to form, which probably had something to do with it consisting entirely of songs written by Elton and Bernie Taupin – something that hadn’t happened since 1975.

7. All Or Nothing – The U.S. Remix Album by Milli Vanilli

Peak: number 1 (Five weeks)

Biggest hit: “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” (number 3)

Before disillusioned fans tried to return their copies in the wake of the duo’s lip-syncing scandal, the only album released “by” Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus ruled the ARIA chart in April 1990. Thanks to a complicated series of releases around the world, All Or Nothing – The U.S. Remix Album was actually one of four different versions of Milli Vanilli’s debut offering, with each containing different tracks and remixes depending on the territory. As the title suggests, the Australian release featuring extended mixes of the five singles put out before the proverbial hit the fan.

6. Pretty Woman by Soundtrack

Peak: number 1 (Four weeks)

Biggest hit: “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette (number 1)

The film, which turned Julia Roberts into one of the world’s most popular actresses, was a box office smash, and its soundtrack was just as successful. Besides Roxette’s chart-topping ballad, the album also included singles by Go West (“King Of Wishful Thinking”), Natalie Cole (“Wild Women Do”) and David Bowie (a 1990 remix of “Fame”), as well as Roy Orbison’s classic, “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

5. The Immaculate Collection by Madonna

Peak: number 1 (Five weeks)

Biggest hit: “Like A Prayer” (number 1)

Having dominated the charts since 1984, it was little surprise that Madonna's first best of collection was the biggest album for Christmas 1990, and made the year’s top 5 sellers after only a month in record stores. The Queen of Pop had already racked up so many hits that not all of them fit on The Immaculate Collection, with the likes of “Who’s That Girl”, “True Blue” and “Causing A Commotion” all missing.

4. Two Fires by Jimmy Barnes

Peak: number 1 (Four weeks)

Biggest hit: “Lay Down Your Guns” (number 4)

With songwriting input from heavyweights Diane Warren, Rick Nowels, Holly Knight and Desmond Child, there was a clearly a renewed push to break Jimmy Barnes outside of Australia through his new international deal with Atlantic Records. While that didn’t come to pass, Two Fires, which also contained “Let’s Make It Last All Night”, “Little Darling” and “When Your Love Is Gone” (featuring his kids on guest vocals), did give Jimmy his fourth consecutive solo chart-topper locally.

3. Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil

Peak: number 1 (Two weeks)

Biggest hit: “Blue Sky Mine” (number 8)

Achieving their third consecutive number 1 were Midnight Oil, who returned with their first album since 1987’s Diesel And Dust. Even more politically charged and topical than ever, Blue Sky Mining contained songs about subjects as diverse as asbestos mining (“Blue Sky Mine”), Australia’s effort in World War II (“Forgotten Years”) and an annual footrace (“King Of The Mountain”).

2. The Three Tenors In Concert by José Carreras, Plácido Domingo & Luciano Pavarotti

Peak: number 1 (Four weeks)

Possibly the most unexpected hit album of the year, the live recording of the opera singers’ performance the night before the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final became a global phenomenon, popularising the genre and making Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti even bigger stars than they already were. The multimillion-selling album also turned “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot into the opera equivalent of a smash hit, performed both by Pavarotti solo and all three singers on the album.

1. Chain Reaction by John Farnham

Peak: number 1 (Five weeks)

Biggest hit: “Burn For You” (number 5)

At this point in his career, John Farnham could do no wrong, with his third album since his 1986 comeback (and 14th overall) holding down the number 1 spot for five non-consecutive weeks in October and November 1990. Chain Reaction also produced three rapid-fire top 6 hits in the title track (written by Eurythmics David Stewart and then-wife Siobhan Fahey), “That’s Freedom” and “Burn For You” (co-written, like much of the album, by Southern Sons’ Phil Buckle). Such a hit single strike rate was something John hadn't even managed with the tracks lifted from Whispering Jack and Age Of Reason

For more hits from the 90s, check out our playlists here.


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