A greatest hits
album (sometimes referred to as a "best of
" album) is a compilation album
of successful, previously released songs
by a particular music artist or band. To increase the appeal of the album – especially to people who already own the previously released material – it is common to include remixes
or alternate takes of popular songs or new material, with new songs often being released as singles
(and themselves sometimes becoming successful).
Greatest hits albums are typically produced after an artist has had enough successful songs to fill out an album release. Some artists, have released multiple greatest hits albums through their career. Other greatest hits albums are released only at the end of the artist or group's career. They are aimed at fans who liked a few of their songs or singles, but not enough to buy an artist's entire catalog as well as potential new fans who want to sample the most famous work of an artist or group with just one purchase.
Some bands refuse to release a greatest hits album, notably AC/DC and Metallica. Manic Street Preachers initially refused to do a greatest hits, but in the end Forever Delayed was released. Radiohead also refused to do such a compilation, but upon their departure from Parlophone Records, Radiohead: The Best of was released without their cooperation. Also, the country music star Garth Brooks long opposed the release of a greatest hits collection, but agreed to it in 1994 but only for a limited time (his release, The Hits was quickly deleted, but not until selling well over ten million copies).
Greatest hits collections can also boost a falling music career. The Beautiful South's first Greatest Hits album, Carry on up the Charts, was originally strongly opposed by the band. However, upon release it became one of the fastest selling albums in chart history.
The difference between a Greatest Hits album and a Best Of album is in the title. An artist who has had multiple hit singles can take the biggest of their hits and release them under the 'Greatest Hits' banner, whereas an artist who has had few or no hits can release a 'Best Of' album - the title suggesting that this is the best of their work. Regardless, even a band with few hits will still title their compilation "Greatest Hits".
During the 1980s however, the title started to become unfashionable and artists began releasing compilations under completely new titles, such as Bryan Adams' So Far So Good.
In 2005, some greatest hits albums became ridiculed because many young "pre-mature" artists were releasing them. The likes of Hilary Duff
, 'N Sync
and Mandy Moore
released greatest hits albums though they might have had only a handful of hit singles in their short careers. This is not, however, a new phenomenon: Kenny Rogers
and The First Edition
, for example, issued Greatest Hits
in 1971, three years after their first top 40 pop hit. Ringo Starr
issued his greatest hits album, Blast From Your Past
, after a mere four solo albums in the 1970s, while Jason Donovan
had a hits album out in 1991, only two years after he debuted, Ayumi Hamasaki
, a Japanese pop star, released her first best album, A Best
only 3 years after her debut, and despite only having 3 albums and 7 singles, Ol' Dirty Bastard
released The Dirty Story: The Best of ODB
after two albums and three singles. Cockney Rejects
, Mrs. Miller
, Alien Ant Farm
, and Graveyard BBQ
have had Greatest Hits
as the title of their respective debut albums. Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin' Chain
also did this, however this was only a half-joke as they had already released a number of albums locally, the songs of their first album on general release being taken from these previous albums.
A few artists also feel that their individual songs should ideally be listened to in context of the other songs in their original albums, and taking out simply the greatest hits of that context would diminish all the work put into the album as a whole.
Another criticism has been including one or two new songs with a package of hits. This trend started in the early 1980s, and made it necessary for collectors to purchase the "greatest hits" album if they wished to have the complete catalog of an artist's songs, even if those collectors owned all the albums containing the pre-existing hits. Often these new songs were commercial failures and thus the moniker "greatest hits" was devalued. This isn't nearly as big of an issue in the current day and age, since once can use digital music downloading services to purchase the one or two tracks unique to the compilation without having to buy the entire compilation.
Gaming and television
A recent trend is for television shows to release greatest hits DVDs as a way to get new viewers interested in the show. Two examples of this are the Family Guy
's Freakin' Sweet Collection
and South Park: The Hits
. Games for Sony
that have sold over a certain number are re-released under its "Greatest Hits