A specific type of compilation album (also known as a "Best Of" Album), containing successful, previously released songs by a particular music artist or band. It's generally a great way for a band to make a bunch of money without doing any actual new work. It is also a great way for a record label to get a new album from a band who is trying to escape the label ASAP.
To increase the possible appeal of the album, especially to people who already own
the bulk of the artist's work (and thus likely to both be the biggest fans and already own all the hits), it is common to include remixes, alternate takes, live versions of popular songs, stand-alone singles that had previously not appeared on an album before, and/or even a completely new song or two (which will, inevitably, be released as a single in order to promote the collection). Of course, this is likely to piss off the completists as they might be forced to pay full album price for a single song. The rise of digital music distribution has mollified this problem to a certain extent. Greatest Hits are good purchases for casual fans of artists that they otherwise have no urge to buy complete albums of.
The very concept of the "greatest hits album" is a double-edged sword, as while the album is likely to contain the most financially successful
of the artist's songs, each individual fan has a greater love of certain B-Sides and Album Filler
that won't appear on the disc (and greater bias against the Black Sheep Hit
inevitably be included). In hoping to appeal to the greatest number of fans, the album will end up completely pleasing no one. Also, there's the simple fact that most bands and artists suffering from Second Album Syndrome
don't have enough hits in the can to truly justify an entire album thereof, and it may seem like they're scraping the bottom of the barrel as to what may qualify as a "hit".
Artists are of mixed feelings about these albums as well. Many artists resist releasing one for fear that once they do, their regular albums will begin to be ignored. (Joni Mitchell
refused to release compilation albums for many years for this very reason.) Yet they are viewed as a necessary evil, as these provide an easy starting point for fans who are curious about a particular artist's work. Musicians and bands don't always get to decide when to release a greatest-hits album. If an artist is leaving the label and does not own his own back catalog, and if he is successful at all, the label will
release a greatest-hits album - sometimes explicitly against the artist's wishes.
Sometimes the "Best of" title is used instead. This often reflects a less concentrated focus on chart hits - sometimes for legitimate reasons (e.g., album-oriented artists, influential artists with less commercial success or simply those whose career may not be best reflected solely by singles). Or it could be a poor excuse to cover up a lack of genuine hits
. Sometimes neither title is used (e.g., Dire Straits
' compilation, "Money for Nothing"). To add perceived weight a more scholarly phrase such as "Anthology" is often used. This can be justified where the artist has had a long career but is equally often just a pretentious affectation.
If the artiste's output has been released on more than one record label, any "Best Of..." LP will invariably only
contain the best of whatever the artiste has recorded on that particular label
. Therefore any truly definitive "Best Of..." LP is unlikely to appear, for copyright and royalties reasons.
As suggested by The Brunching Shuttlecocks, an easy way to determine the actual neccesity of a Greatest Hits Album is to divide the number of songs on the album that actually charted, by the number of songs included on the album. Artists like The Beatles
, Billy Joel
and The Beach Boys
will bat nearly 1.000, whereas groups who have released Greatest Hits albums unneccesarily (i.e., One Hit Wonders
) will score far lower (e.g,: Kajagoogoo has hit ratio on its greatest hits album of 0.059, Timbuk 3 has 0.071, The Best of Tiffany
scores 0.083, The Best of Martika
0.067 and so on.) The most egregious example may be The Best of Shaquille O'Neal
, which has 12 songs, none of which could legitimately be considered a hit, for a ratio of zero.
The trend has gotten worse over time. It used to be a general rule that an artist would have around four albums and/or ten years worth of material before they would release a compilation but this is no longer the case. Now best of albums can be released after two or even a single
album. There is also a trend towards releasing multiple best of albums, often with only a single original album in between releases. Some artists or record companies will even release a repackaged best of album as the follow up to the previous best of album without any original material being released in the interim.
The ordering of songs can be either random or chronological (though for double-disk compilations, it can get experimental
- Sony Music's The Essential series, which usually uses 2 disks (some have had limited editions with three) to make the moniker worthy. There are those that still fall short, though (Iron Maiden's had only two songs from each of their 13 albums; comprehensive, but still has many absences).
- Universal had the 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection series around the beginning of the 2000's, which were budget greatest hits albums of the artist's big hits packaged in with an essay-style biography by a music critic. Later, they launched the more career-spanning 2-disc Gold series, to compete with The Essential. They've also launched a second Greatest Hits line, Icon, which is a one disc budget compilation like the 20th Century Masters, which they're still producing anyway.
- Some musicians focus on creating singles, mixtapes, or collaborative tracks to the extent that they can (and have) legitimately put out a Best Of compilation as their debut album. These include:
- Japanese technopop band Perfume
- And some musicians name their debut album Greatest Hits purely as a joke:
- The Cockney Rejects, who went a step further and titled their next two albums Greatest Hits Volume 2 and Greatest Hits Volume 3.
- Mrs. Miller
- Alien Ant Farm
- Graveyard BBQ
- Jaga Jazzist. For extra irony points, the band now considers the album, Jævla Jazzist Grete Stitz, to be Old Shame.
- Goldie Lookin’ Chain
- Several Hello! Project artists. Most of these include at least one new song.
- Morning Musume had two, as well as a singles collection (even though they're still releasing).
- Goto Maki.
- Matsuura Aya.
- Viyuden, shortly before they broke up.
- C-ute are about to release one.
- Berryz Koubou had a best of album and a mini-best.
- Maeda Yuki is releasing one in September.
- The Pucchi Best albums are compliations of songs put out each year by the groups.
- The Mega Bests.
- Country Musume released two of them.
- Abe Natsumi.
- Tsukishima Kirari Starring Kusumi Koharu (Morning Musume).
- Melon Kinenbi.
- The Eagles' Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is the best-selling album in U.S. history (tied with Michael Jackson's Thriller), and third world-wide selling more than 42 million copies.
- Queen's Greatest Hits is the best-selling album of all time in Britain, with their Greatest Hits II being number 8. Since then, Queen has released four more albums, including the double-platinum Absolute Greatest in 2009.
- ABBA Gold is the third best selling album of all time in Britain.
- Anecdotal evidence in British Pop Music suggests when a band releases a greatest hits album, in most cases after three or four studio albums, it is to be taken taken as a sign that the band are about to split up. Examples include greatest hits albums by Atomic Kitten, Steps, S Club 7, Blue and Take That.
- Some bands refuse to release a greatest hits album, notably AC/DC and Metallica. Radiohead also has refused to do such a compilation, but upon their departure from Parlophone Records, Radiohead: The Best of was released without their cooperation.
- On the other hand, Metallica has S&M, which as live albums go, doubles as a greatest hits collection complete with brand new songs
- And AC/DC has two soundtrack albums that double as compilations, Who Made Who and Iron Man 2.
- Until 2012, AC/DC took this trope up to eleven by refusing to licence their music to iTunes as iTunes allows individual song purchases and the band wish their music to only be available as complete albums (aside from the two soundtracks previously mentioned), so you can't (legally) even compile your own greatest hits collection without purchasing the actual albums.
- Make that Up to Twelve for AC/DC, who wouldn't even release individual songs for Rock Band because it would compromise the integrity of the album and forced Harmonix to release it as its own disc for the game. The album in question is a live album that, incidentally, features most of their big hits.
- The Best of Young MC is notable for basically being his first album, with a different title, and three fewer songs. In other words, whoever organized this compilation thought that Young MC ran out of creativity 10/13 of the way through his first album, but deemed a greatest hits album necessary anyway.
- Men at Work has three studio albums and nine "Greatest Hits" albums.
- Creedence Clearwater Revival released two compilation albums in the late 70's after the band broke up, Chronicle (which was re-released in the early 90's) that contained all their big hits like Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Down on the Corner, etc., and Chronicle II, which contained a lot of lesser known hits from the end of their career, as well as Album Filler.
- Joni Mitchell resisted releasing a greatest hits album for many years, reportedly fearing that the availability of a greatest hits compilation would lead her record label to take her actual studio albums out of print, but she agreed to release Hits in 1996 along with a second album titled Misses, which compiled non-hit songs that Mitchell personally selected as being representative of her work.
- Ayumi Hamasaki released her first best album, A Best, only three years after her debut, despite only having 3 albums and 7 singles. There are rumors about she refusing to do it because she saw that it was the subtle way of her record company to say that this was the end of her Idol Singer career; when the thing seemed inevitable she acceded, but only if they let her re-record her first couple of singles because her voice had maturated since she recorded them. Since all the photos on that album depicts her with a tear, it raised Epileptic Trees about what she really thought of the whole thing. Ironically, A Best fired her career further.
- Shakira got her own Greatest Hits in Spanish after four albums... but only songs from the latter two made it, because the two first were commercial failures full of Executive Meddling...
- J-pop group Glay, after two Best Of albums (one of them double!), released a two-volume, two-disc-each compilation titled rare collectives compiling all the B-sides of their singles to date (most of which hadn't made into any album), plus some live recordings and a couple of version and cooperations with other artists.
- The Beatles had several: first the Red (1962-1966) and Blue (1967-1970) albums (recently re-released), then 20 Greatest Hits (which never made CD, although the more recent 1 is basically an expanded version of it), the quasi-best-of singles-only Past Masters (re-released with the 2009 remastered albums) as it compiles everything that wasn't released on an album including important stuff like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Hey Jude" — although not truly a "best of", as, being collected singles, it also features non-hit B-sides; and finally 2000's 1, the best selling album of The Naughties, which batted 1.000 because every song on it had hit #1 on either the British or the American charts (like 20 Greatest Hits before it).
- As early as 1966, their British label (Parlophone) released one of these: A Collection of Beatles Oldies. In addition, companies in various countries around the world issued their own "best of" collections around the same period.
- There was also, late in 1980, The Beatles Box, issued in the UK, a box-set of eight newly-compiled LPs, giving it twice the scope of the Red and Blue sets combined, expanding on the "best of" concept to include all the "better" songs from their albums, as well as bona-fide hits — along the way the set included some "odd versions" of songs, like the US-stereo version of "I'm Looking Through You" with extra opening notes, plus "Penny Lane" featuring the 7-note trumpet coda in a stereo version, and a composite version of "I Am the Walrus", both of which Capitol in the US had created earlier that year for their US version of Rarities.
- John Lennon released one greatest hits album while he was alive, Shaved Fish. That one was infamous for having short versions of singles that never charted. A fair percentage of his post-mortem releases are also greatest hits albums. "The John Lennon Collection" was a bit strange because half the songs on it were from Double Fantasy, and most of John's half of Double Fantasy was on that album.
- It may have had something to do with Capitol releasing the compilation, but Geffen having released Double Fantasy itself.
- Paul McCartney has several. There is "Wings Greatest Hits," released 1978. There is All The Best! released 1988; there are significant differences between the British and American versions of that album, as Paul has different hits in each country. (The British version also had a few new songs; the American version didn't, but the hit ratio was high.) In 2001, Paul released Wingspan, which was half a greatest-hits album from 1970 to 1985 and half "history" (some of which also charted decently). It cost no more than a normal single CD, but Capitol Records had flooded the market with All The Best! CDs immediately prior), so it wasn't fully appreciated.
- Capitol Records released a greatest hits CD for George Harrison when he left for his own Dark Horse label, which interestingly, contained songs from his days with The Beatles. This annoyed Harrison, since all the other Beatles, Ringo included, had gotten a compilation devoted entirely to their output as solo artists.
- Years later George released his all-solo Best of Dark Horse.
- Ringo Starr has released a couple of these. His first, Blast from the Past, is highly valued because it has a much higher hit ratio than the albums it collected from, as well as a few songs that up to then had been singles-only. He released another one called Photograph in 2007, but it didn't get much publicity.
- A weird subversion: The 1965 album Best of the Beatles does not contain any of the Beatles' hit songs, or any songs by the Beatles at all. It's an album of original songs by Pete Best, (formerly) of the Beatles.
- A cursory look at Amazon.com reveals that Bruce Willis has released four greatest hits albums for his less than stellar recording career. One of which uses the same cover art as his actual album.
- Famed J-rock duo B'z is a interesting case: They had released several "compilations" albums that, in practice, are like Greatest Hits albums since they compiled all their singles... but still hadn't released any official Greatest Hits Albums yet. To muddle the waters more, some of those compilations feature re-recordings of two of their signature songs, actualized for the year of release.
- Despite the fact they never actually had a hit song, Velvet Underground have two of these. One is considered generally inferior due to picking almost all of their most conventional songs; the second was more well-received.
- Progressive metal band Dream Theater released a compilation to satisfy a contract with their now former label. Since the band only had one radio hit (the rock radio favorite "Pull Me Under") and have built their career without 'hit singles', the album is jokingly titled Dream Theater's Greatest Hit (and 21 other pretty cool songs).
- An interesting case: the biggest hits of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' EMI years (which were not noted for being much of a success) were collected on an album after the success of Blood Sugar Sex Magik; the result was entitled What Hits?
- Jefferson Airplane called their first best-of release The Worst of Jefferson Airplane.
- Peter Schickele has The Wurst of P. D. Q. Bach.
- A collection of Culture Club and Boy George hits was titled At Worst... The Best of Boy George and Culture Club.
- Comedian/singers Rodney Carrington and Tim Wilson both have a "Greatest Hits" album. Both men have only two chart singles to their credit each, with nothing higher than #60.
- A particularly egregious example: When Garth Brooks assumed the alter ego of Chris Gaines, his first and only album under the Chris Gaines pseudonym was entitled "Greatest Hits". The whole album acted as if Gaines was already an established singer with several pop hits under his belt, even listing a fake backstory and chart positions in the liner notes.
- As an indication of how insanely popular Elton John was in the 70s, he put out a greatest hits set a mere four years after his first successful single, and a second greatest hits set just two years after that. And unbelievably, neither set contained any filler.
- Bruce Springsteen's first greatest hits album, although a huge seller, was widely criticized by hardcore fans for containing too many new songs (four of them), causing some huge hits like "I'm on Fire" and "Cover Me" to be excluded.
- Michael Jackson had several of these.
- Motown has released several compilations Michael Jackson's pre-Off The Wall solo tunes. As they often bear generic titles like The Michael Jackson Anthology and more, many have probably been confused and/or disappointed to see songs like "Got To Be There" and "Ben" instead of "Beat It" and "Billie Jean."
- HIStory - Past, Present and Future Book I (1995) drew criticism for the way it was compiled. It was a Distinct Double Album, disc one consisting of greatest hits and disc two consisting of new material. This irked many people who wanted one but not both; casual fans didn't care about the new material, while hardcore fans already owned all the hits. The hits disc was reissued as a separate album in 2001, but people who want the other tracks (especially the singles from the second disc like "You Are Not Alone" and "Stranger in Moscow") still have to buy the full two-disc set. It's worth noting that Sony and Jackson's original plan was just to bring out a greatest hits set, but after the first round of child molestation allegations against him he came up with a ton of new material.
- Number Ones (2003) was his answer to The Beatles and Elvis Presley all-#1-hits compilations, though the American version had to stretch beyond the U.S. and British charts to include songs from Invincible. It also included a new song in "One More Chance" that flopped in the U.S. as Jackson was formally charged with child molestation just as the album hit shelves; it did make #1 in a few countries, though. The album didn't make waves until the week after Jackson's death, when it outsold the album topping the Billboard 200 (at the time, albums over 18 months old only entered the Catalog Charts; MJ's post-death popularity and the success of the Beatles remasterings caused that rule to be dropped).
- The Ultimate Collection (2004) was a four-disc hits-and-rarities box set, plus a DVD of a 1992 concert.
- The Essential Michael Jackson (2005) was a two-disc set that spanned his entire career: the U.S. version featured ten songs from his Jackson 5/Jacksons days (including early solo work), four Off the Wall songs, seven Thriller songs (the album has nine songs total), eight Bad songs (out of eleven), seven Dangerous songs, and one each from HIStory and Invincible (which shows how badly his career eroded). A limited edition had a third disk with seven extra songs, four being from the not-so-shiny phase.
- Tim McGraw has gone through wonkery with two of his greatest-hits albums:
- Volume 1 had no new songs to release to radio, almost unheard of for a country greatest-hits album.
- Curb Records released his third greatest-hits album only one year after his second. To pad it out, they included a couple duets from other albums, as well as most of the singles off his then-current album Let It Go. Tim has even said that he does not acknowledge this album's existence. Fans of the genre have said that this album, combined with a re-package of all three greatest-hits albums, and seven singles off Let It Go (even after singles four and five both tanked), are just a form of stalling, since Tim only has one more album left in his contract and there are no other big country acts on the label.
- Doc Cox, as Ivor Biggun, has released two 2-CD compilation albums which together contained every song he's ever released on CD as well as live performances of his favorite. The first album was entitled The Fruity Bits of Ivor Biggun but included three alternate covers with cover art that represented the name: The Breast of Ivor Biggun, The Beast of Ivor Biggun, and The Wurst of Ivor Biggun. The second compilation was simply titled More Fruity Bits! The Rest of Ivor Biggun.
- Pink Floyd have five: Relics (a 1971 collection of early (and mostly non-album) material and the only one that fans actually like), A Collection of Great Dance Songs (a 1981 collection which only included six songs, two of them re-recorded; even the band hates it), Works (a now-obscure 1982 collection featuring Pink Floyd songs from no later than 1973), Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (a 2001 2-disc collection which did very well, even though die hard fans were upset about the editing of some songs for time constraint) and Foot in the Door (a 2011 single-disc release, which intends to be the one-disc introductory hits package that A Collection of Great Dance Songs attempted and failed to be).
- The Grateful Dead have four: 1974's contract satisfying Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of the Grateful Dead (which remains their best selling album), the hard-to-find 1977 2-disc What A Long Strange Trip It's Been, 1996's The Arista Years (which includes music they made after the material included on Skeletons from the Closet) and the career spanning 2003 release The Very Best of the Grateful Dead.
- Counting Crows' Films About Ghosts, which spanned the large gap between the release of Hard Candy and Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.
- Jeff Foxworthy played with the title a bit, releasing a compilation called Greatest Bits, which included snippets from some of his comedy sketches.
- Similarly, phone prankster Roy D. Mercer released a compilation called Greatest Fits.
- Subverted with Disgaea 2's OST, which had "Best of" as part of the album's name, as well as it being the only one released.
- While all the songs on Björk's 2002 "Greatest Hits" compilation were singles, the track listing was voted for by fans and omitted (amongst others) what was possibly her best-selling - and probably best-known - single in several countries, "It's Oh So Quiet".
- She omitted "It's Oh So Quiet" because she didn't feel that a cover song should be on her greatest hits compilation.
- Tori Amos didn't want to release a greatest hits compilation, so she instead released a "sonic autobiography" Tales of a Librarian. In other words, she chose songs she felt told her life story. The majority of the songs on it were singles, but non-single tracks, two new songs, and two re-recorded B-sides were also added.
- The Best of Electribe 101 featuring Billie Ray Martin is a straight reissue of their debut (and only) album, Electribal Memories, with the new title covering up the old one on the sleeve. Similarly The Best of Flowered Up is just their sole album, A Life With Brian, plus one bonus track (albeit a 13-minute one that bumps up the playing time by nearly a third). And The Best of Betty Boo is her debut, Boomania, in a different order with a couple of 12" mixes thrown in, because the record company didn't own, and couldn't be bothered to license, the rights to her second (and superior) album, Grrr... It's Betty Boo.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic didn't include much previously unavailable material on his "The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic" two-disc set, only including a couple mixes of songs not on the original CDs (i.e. the extra-gory version of "The Night Santa Went Crazy" and the single release of UHF), but he did manage to nearly jam-pack each completely full.
- Al also had The Food Album and The TV Album, with his songs into those themes. Also, his Greatest Hits Volume 2 featured his Crash Test Dummies parody "Headline News", which had only been previously released as a single and the long-out-of-print "Al in the Box" compilation.
- Type O Negative had two "best of" albums, one compiled by the band themselves, and another put together by their by-then former record label, both largely covering the same material. In line with the band's occasional use of Self-Deprecation, the former was called The Least Worst of Type O Negative, and started with a completely silent filler track from one of their albums (the implication being that they considered 39 seconds of silence to be among their best work).
- Cirque du Soleil has released four such albums so far.
- Cirque du Soleil Collection (1996) covered Le Cirque Réinventé through Alegria.
- Le Best of... (2004), a tie-in to the company's 20th anniversary, was an update of the previous album that dropped all the songs from shows that had closed and added ones from those that had since opened, up through Varekai.
- 25 (2009) tied into the company's 25th anniversary and featured a fresh tracklist over two CDs. With the exceptions of Pomp Duck and Circumstance (which Cirque only co-produced, rather than created in-house) and the unique case of LOVE, every live show through OVO was represented, even those that didn't yet have soundtrack albums (Criss Angel Believe, ZED, and OVO). The earliest shows' songs hadn't appeared on CD until this album.
- Le Best of...2 (2012) followed on from the 2004 collection by catching up with most of the shows from Zumanity onwards.
- Jean Michel Jarre had a whole number of these: The Essential (7" versions from 1976 to 1985), Musik aus Zeit und Raum (pretty much ditto), Images - The Best Of Jean Michel Jarre (partly edited, partly re-recorded, partly remixed live versions from 1976 to 1990 + a few unreleased tracks), The Essential Jean Michel Jarre (1976 to 2000 including some not really Greatest Hits, not released by Jarre himself but by Francis Dreyfus), Aero (mostly re-recorded material from 1976 to 1997 + a few new tracks).
- The Specials released seven albums, but they had more than twice as many greatest hits compilations, all of which seem to consist of songs from the first two albums, the Special AKA Live EP and the tracks included on the Ghost Town single (although all of these singles were top ten hits).
- Devo released two compilations at the same tine: Devo's Greatest Hits (a compilation of their better-known works) and Devo's Greatest Misses (a compilation of their weirder stuff).
- Jethro Tull have plenty. The most notable are: Living In The Past, a double-album selection of singles, B-sides, outtakes, live tracks from a Carnegie Hall concert, and assorted album tracks. The more conventional M.U.: The Best Of Jethro Tull and Repeat: The Best Of Jethro Tull followed in 1974 and 1977 respectively. Original Masters was released in 1985, filling in for a break in action between 1985 and 1987. The band released The Best Of Jethro Tull-The Anniversary Collection, a two-CD collection with remastered hits across their career up to that point, in 1993. 1998 saw a short compilation, Through The Years, an odd assortment of album tracks and live recordings. The Very Best Of Jethro Tull, a single-disc, career-length selection hand-picked by bandleader Ian Anderson, was released in 2001. Finally, the self-explanatory The Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull was released in 2007.
- Another limitation of the genre was demonstrated when Living In The Past, originally a double LP, was re-issued as a single CD. Fans were not best impressed when a double LP containing around 100 minutes of music was unsympathetically edited to fit the constraints of a single CD - which was limited to 87 minutes. Whole tracks were omitted and others severely edited.
- Starting with 1995's Best of the Beast, Iron Maiden releases one every three years. They include Somewhere Back in Time, focusing on the 1980's "golden years" - and in the order the songs would be in a live concert's setlist - and From Fear to Eternity, encompassing the albums between 1990 and 2010 (though the Blaze Bayley albums are represented by live versions with Bruce Dickinson).
- A particularly Scrappy example is the Edward The Great compilation. Despite the commendable cover artwork it adds to the Maiden library, the album is severely unbalanced: a full half of the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album is included, yet not a single cut with original singer Di'Anno's voice made it onto the compilation.
- Aerosmith has released nine so far. Two were released by the recording companies after the band was out (Columbia Records's Gems and Geffen Records's Young Lust).
- Reba McEntire, one of the greatest stars in Country Music history, has released three conventional "Greatest Hits" albums and a three-disc showstopper entitled Reba: 50 Greatest Hits. And that's just for starters. She's also released CDs containing only her #1 singles, and then there was the mandatory "Millennium Collection." This is fully justified, as she has had no less than eighty Top 40 singles during her career, thirty of which peaked at #1.
- The Residents subverted this with Our Finest Flowers. Rather than releasing a standard greatest hits album, they took a long-standing tradition of messing around with existing music, and applied it to their own. The result was an album full of brand new songs that consisted of mashed-up songs from previous albums. Word of God tells us that this happened because a Resident vomited on a track listing for a greatest hits album that was being planned.
- Played relatively straight with their later compilation Petting Zoo: The only things approaching "hits" the band has to begin with are their covers of "Kaw-Liga" and "Satisfaction", neither of which were included, but the album did attempt to showcase the band's more accessible moments in reverse chronological order. They even pulled a variation on the practice of including new songs as fan bait - the first two tracks served as a preview of Demons Dance Alone, which came out later that same year.
- Van Halen released one before reuniting with David Lee Roth (Best Of Volume I) and another reuniting with Sammy Hagar (Best of Both Worlds, which was double to be more comprehensive... but had a random tracklisting that frequently alternates Sammy and Dave).
- Oasis had two, one with an active band and songs picked by Noel Gallagher (which explains why all but four tracks are from the first two albums or B-sides of those songs, and the third album has no tracks), and another after disbanding, with the singles per se.
- Yes have 7 "official" greatest hits albums, many of them dedicated to a specific stint on a label. Three or four of them are double-disc comilations, some of which are repackagings. Many of them were released after their last studio album, 2000's Magnification, by Rhino Records, who owns their Atlantic Records recordings. That's not to count the boxed sets and "friends of Yes" best -ofs, or the unofficial collections.
- The 1974 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album So Far consists of songs from the two studio LP's they'd recorded to that point (1969's Crosby, Stills & Nash and 1970's Déjà Vu), plus the breakout single Ohio and its B-side Find the Cost of Freedom. Sounds like a totally unnecessary endeavor, right? But it bats a respectable .454 on the Brunching Shuttlecocks metric (5 of the 11 songs on it hit the top 40), and fans were so eager for CSNY that So Far reached #1 on the charts and sold its way into Gold Record status.
- Cracker had the two-disc Garage D'or - the first disc had most of their singles, while the second was b-sides, compilation tracks, and unreleased material, rounded out with live versions of a few fan favorites. Later on there would also be an unusual case of dueling Greatest Hits albums: The band had recorded Greatest Hits Redux, an album of studio re-recordings of their hits that they planned to release on an independent label, then they found out about Virgin, their old label, planning to release Get On With It: The Best Of Cracker without their involvement. They brazenly put the re-recorded versions out earlier than planned to compete with the regular greatest hits album.
- The Corrs have three and a complete collection Boxed Set of all 5 albums which released in 2011. Although once you start adding the high quality live albums and unplugged albums which have their own specific songs it looks far more reasonable. A buyer also gets more value for money from each subsequent release. The first was made after their 3rd album was released and has 18 songs. The second Dreams contained 21 songs and was released after their 4th and 5th albums were released as well as several unplugged and live albums. The Works was released as a three CD set with 56 tracks.
- Faith No More had a few after the band split, with the most recent, done to promote their reunion, mixing all names used for such compilations for parody's sake: The Very Best Definitive Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection.
- Elvis Costello has The Best Of Elvis Costello And The Attractions from 1985, the double Girls Girls Girls in 1987, Rykodisc's The Very Best Of Elvis Costello And The Attractions double-disc from 1994, Extreme Honey in 1997 (which compiles his Warner Bros. Records years (1989-94)), The Very Best Of Elvis Costello (double-disc, 2001), Rock & Roll Music (2007), The Best Of Elvis Costello: The First Ten Years (2007), and Pomp And Pout (chronicling his stint on Universal Records ((1998-2008))). Not to mention the rarities compilations Taking Liberties (aka 10 Bloody Marys And Ten How's Yer Fathers in the UK) and Out Of Our Idiot, the boxed set 2 1/2 Years, featuring his first three studio albums and a rare live 1979 recording, and three recent boxed sets of his singles.
- Starflyer 59's greatest-hits album Easy Come, Easy Go almost seemed lazy in its track choices. It featured exactly three songs from each of the band's five prior albums—specifically, the first two tracks plus either track 3 or track 4. Fortunately, it also came with a second disc, filled with b-sides and live tracks, and the liner notes had an impressively thorough history of the band.
- Jars of Clay's Furthermore was practically a greatest-hits collection, but it was completely new recordings. Disc one featured stripped-down acoustic versions of the songs, and disc two featured live versions. Five years later, they ended up releasing a more conventional Greatest Hits.
- David Bowie has had many compilations assembled over the course of his career.
- For years, the best-known compilations were Changesonebowie (1976) and Changestwobowie (1981). When a rerelease program of Bowie's 1969-80 catalog was initiated in 1990, Changesbowie — the cover of which incorporated the Changesonebowie cover photo — arrived; it also included songs from 1983's Let's Dance and 1984's Tonight and instead of "Fame" (his first U.S. Number One) included the then-new rearrangement "Fame '90".
- 1989's Sound + Vision box set covered his career from 1969-1980 and originally included a Video CD (later CD-Rom) of three live numbers and the "Ashes to Ashes" video on top of its three audio CDs. A 2003 reissue turned it into a four-CD set with material from 1982-93 and a 1997 live B-side added.
- 1993's The Singles Collection wasn't exactly truth in advertising — a bunch of the included songs weren't singles or, if they were, the actual single edits.
- Three best-ofs available separately or as The Platinum Collection specifically focus on 1969-74 (mostly his Glam Rock period), 1975-79 (blue-eyed Soul and Krautrock periods), and 1980-87 (New Wave Music and pop rock periods plus soundtrack work). The last one is notable for bringing together single versions of his movie theme songs from this period, which at five manage to total more than the number of tracks from his studio albums Tonight and Never Let Me Down (four) that are included.
- 2002's Best of Bowie had 20 different versions prepared for 21 different countries, plus a two-disc DVD set released alongside it.
- Brad Paisley fought against the release of one for several years, because he thought that it was unfair to make an album composed of something that the fans already have. The label finally compromised and let him release a two-disc set which features his greatest hits on one disc and an assortment of live tracks on the other.
- Country music artist Phil Vassar did an interesting variation. Since he had several hits as a songwriter before he had any as a singer (and some for at least a year after his singing career began), his Greatest Hits includes both his own songs and his versions of some of his pre-fame songs (namely "I'm Alright" by Jo Dee Messina, "My Next Thirty Years" and "For a Little While" by Tim McGraw and "Little Red Rodeo" by Collin Raye).
- Mary Chapin Carpenter mixed hers up; Party Doll is a mix of live hits, studio versions, and a few of her personal favorites.
- Ladytron released "Best of 00-10" which has two exclusive tracks, Ace of Hz and Little Black Angel (a cover of Death in June).
- Led Zeppelin avoided releasing one for a number of years, until the 1990 4-CD box set of their greatest hits. They also have the two-volume set Early Days and Later Days, which are superseded by Mothership, which contains a DVD of live performances in the deluxe edition. The tracklists on both these compilations are almost identical, but neither compilation includes songs from Coda, the band's last studio album. Presumably, this is because Coda "didn't count" as an album due to it being made up of outtakes and songs rejected from inclusion on studio albums due to time constraints. The comprehensive Complete Led Zeppelin also exists, which includes several songs not released on the studio albums at all.
- KISS is a big believer in this. Eleven Greatest Hits (inc. 2 Japanese-only releases), nine live albums, and 5 box sets. Not bad for a band who's only had 6 top-20 songs.
- Mötley Crüe loves this as well. They have released five greatest hits albums as well as three box sets.
- R.E.M. have several greatest hits or best of albums, but the three that had actual input from the band were Eponymous, In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003 and And I Feel Fine... The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987. And I Feel Fine was apparently meant to supplant Eponymous, since it's a more exhaustive compilation of the same period, though Eponymous is still the only place the song "Romance" is available on CD. In Time included the new recordings "Bad Day" (actually a revamped version of an old outtake) and "Animal", and a limited edition had an extra disc of b-sides from the same period. What In Time conspicuously didn't have was "Shiny Happy People", one of their best-known singles: They've still got a lot of Creator Backlash for that song, apparently.
- A fourth official greatest hits album Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage, was announced a week after the band's 2011 disbanding. This one is their first career-spanning disc and features some new songs and a couple album tracks thrown in here and there. Also, "Shiny Happy People" is on it for some unexplained reason. (For those who like the song, one could argue its reason for being present was that it did well as a radio single. For those who dislike the song, well, the album title does say Part Garbage.)
- KodaKumi is infamous for these. Right after her first best-of compilation (which massively boosted her popularity), she released twelve singles in twelve weeks, all of which were put together (with an intro and one new track) and marketed as a second best-of album, only half a year later. A year after THAT, only a few months after releasing a studio album, her third best-of compilation was released as a CD + DVD collection, featuring ballads on the CD, and all-dance reshoots of her more uptempo songs on the DVD. Two studio albums later, she released a collaboration best-of, a remix album, and her third best-of album, coupled with her eighth studio album, followed by another remix album. She released yet another remix album in early 2011. In short, she has almost as many compilations as she does studio albums.
- J-pop singer Nana Tanimura released her debut album four years after her first single, having released ''seven' more singles following, two of which were double a-sides. Her debut album wound up being a best-of with a number of b-sides tossed in for good measure.
- Camper Van Beethoven have Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty, which covers their career up until their initial breakup in 1990 (meaning nothing was included from New Roman Times, which was their newest album at the time, or their Cover Album of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk). The band couldn't license anything from Key Lime Pie and Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, the two albums they released while on Virgin, so the album uses brand new re-recordings of four of it's songs.
- Marilyn Manson's Lest We Forget: The Best Of, which covers the first ten years of their career. Songs were generally mixed louder than on the albums (although not to the point of the Loudness War), and Fading into the Next Song was occasionally used where it wasn't originally. There were a couple of non-album singles ("The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell" and "Tainted Love") and a newly recorded cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus", but charting single "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)" was absent. At the time they called it a "farewell album", but after a gap of a few years they kept releasing music.
- The Police's first greatest hits album, Every Breath You Take: The Classics, got a little bit of a mixed reception for having a few of their hits absent and including a new, drastically different version of "Don't Stand So Close To Me" instead of the original. It got deleted and replaced with the similarly titled Every Breath You Take: The Singles, which was almost identical but included the original "Don't Stand So Close To Me", relegating "Don't Stand So Close To Me 86" to the end of the album alongside The Not Remix of "Message In A Bottle". There's been a few more greatest hits albums since, including a two cd collection called The Police, and The Very Best Of Sting And The Police, which of course mixed Sting solo hits in with his Police material. The original version of that last one featured a remix of "Roxanne" by Puff Daddy (probably to capitalize on Puff Daddy sampling up "Every Breath You Take" the previous year), while a later reissue ditched the remix and added more previously released songs - three by Sting and one by The Police.
- The Cult have two official best of albums, Pure Cult and High Octane Cult, but both are pretty much identical in terms of song selection. The only difference is that High Octane Cult adds two new songs and "Star", the only single they'd released in the three years between the two compilations. "Star" would later show up on a re-release of Pure Cult, but those two new tracks wouldn't.
- Ministry's Greatest Fits and Rantology: One includes the original or single versions of most of it's songs and also features "What About Us?" (originally from A.I.: Artificial Intelligence) and a slightly extended version of the "Supernaut" cover originally credited to 1,000 Homo DJs. About half of the other is new remixes or "updates" of old songs, and at the time "The Great Satan" was an exclusive track, but a version later appeared on Rio Grande Blood. Neither, of course, include anything from their Old Shame Synth Pop period.
- Duck Sauce subverts this by naming their first (and only) EP, Greatest Hits.
- Similarly, Reggie And The Full Effect called their debut Greatest Hits 1984-1987. Part of the joke is also that the album was released in 1999 - the band didn't even exist in 1984.
- Silverchair's The Best Of, Volume 1, which was put out without the band's approval once they left Sony, and thus only covers the first three albums. It came in a couple of different editions - one included a separate disc of b-sides and rarities, while the other crammed the hits and most of those same non-album tracks onto the same cd.
- Green Day's International Superhits, which covered their singles from 1994 to 2000 - presumably their two pre-major label albums weren't counted because of licensing issues, but those didn't have any proper singles anyway. The album has every song they released as a single during this period in chronological order, and also starts off with a pair of token new songs.
- As a band with many popular non-album singles (as well as hits that do appear on their albums, but not in the version that became popular), it's no surprise New Order has a small clutch of greatest hits collections. The first, Substance 1987 - the band's best selling album - contains all of the A and B sides to the group's 12" singles up to 1987 (including the new songs "True Faith" and "1963"). 1994's (the best of) New Order adds in songs from their two-post Substance albums and their UK #1 single "World in Motion", but also contained remixes and new re-recordings of some of their songs in place of the popular versions (in fact only "Thieves Like Us" appears in the same version as on Substance). 2002's International adds in songs from the one album the band made post-Best Of, but it was only released in a few countries. 2005's Singles contains all of the band's 7" single A-sides (which were either more or less popular than the 12" versions, depending on the single). Lastly, 2011's Total contains the most popular songs from both New Order and its predecessor Joy Division, but the record was only begrudgingly put together by the then-newly reunited band because their record label wanted to cash in on the aforementioned reunion and as such, it isn't well liked by the band's fans.
- Steve Taylor released two such albums. As is generally the case, the latter of the two (titled Now The Truth Can Be Told) is preferred, since it contains his hits from later in his career.
- Saint Etienne have put out about half a dozen, with so many mixed up and crossed over tracklists it can be difficult to work out which is which, and which isn't an actual new album, and which ones were only released in certain areas, and... The main ones are probably Too Young To Die, Smash The System and London Conversations, but there's also You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone, Fairy Tales (Japan only), Travel Edition (US only), Boxette (a box set, natch), and several remix albums.
- Black Sabbath have had several, many of them with nearly-identical tracklists. Most compilations cover the Ozzy era, from 1970-78, with The Dio Years covering the Dio era, with three new songs recorded specifically for the compilation. The super-obscure Sabbath Stones covers the Ian Gillan, and Tony Martin era, but it wasn't released in North America. No tracks from The Seventh Star are on any Sabbath compilations, because it was a de facto Tony Iommi solo project and was only labeled a Black Sabbath album because the record label insisted upon it.
- After Ozzy became a TV star and the band's profile was raised the Greatest Hits starting coming out every other year before switching to an annual schedule. In 2002 they released Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath 1970–1978, a two-disc set that was the first band sanctioned release of the Ozzy era. It was notable for having brand new remasters, which came from the sessions that resulted in The Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath (1970–1978), a box set of all eight albums released two years later. And two years after that came Greatest Hits 1970–1978, which is essentially the two-disc set condensed down into one disc. Then three years later they released Greatest Hits, which was almost identical to the previous collection. And finally, in 2012 they released Iron Man: The Best of Black Sabbath which is identical to the previous collection. And thats just the Ozzy era. In 2007 there was a one-disc Greatest Hits collecting Dio era tunes and in 2008 there was a boxset containing all four albums. Between 2002 and 2009 there was a compilation released every year save for 2003 and 2005.
- Even doujinshi musicians can get into this too, if they are successful enough. Alstroemeria Records, well known for its remixes of Touhou soundtrack, released EXSERENS (sic) which contains some of their most iconic remixes. This includes Bad Apple.
- Parodied in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series when a partying monster puts on "Best of Little Kids Screaming".
- Surprisingly for a long-running No Hit Wonder, The Melvins sort of have two "best of" albums. The first was Melvinmania, which was only released in the UK, focused entirely on their three Atlantic Records albums, and was compiled without the band's involvement - the timing of it's release was most likely an attempt by their former label to cash in on a then-recent UK tour. The second was a band-picked best-of that was basically an extra to their 229 page retrospective book Neither Here Nor There, and wasn't officially available on it's own. The latter is out of print.
- After their breakup, Soundgarden released the compilation A-Sides: Despite the title, it didn't quite have every song they released as a single, and also featured a few songs that weren't originally a-sides - "Nothing to Say" and "Bleed Together" were both B Sides note , while "Get On The Snake" was on Louder Than Love but was never released as a single. A second best of, called Telephantasm, came thirteen years later, in tandem with the band's reunion: It was notable for coming in Vanilla Edition and Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition flavors, and for the fact that copies of the Vanilla Edition note were included with purchase of Guitar Hero: Warriors Of Rock.
- Cascada have released three best of albums over the course of three years. Due to their lack of singles, the same ten tracks have been included on all three. Although this is somewhat justified as the second disc of Original Me was exclusive to the UK. However, both Back On The Dancefloor and The Best Of Cascada were exclusive to Germany, despite having near identical tracklisting (even the order of tracks is suspiciously similar).
- For a rare non-musical example, there was the Strong Bad Email compilation "Sbemails' 50 Greatest Hits", which contained both well-known emails like "dragon" and "fan club", and other assorted hidden gems, including 5 bonus emails (not new ones, but already existing emails added as bonuses). It was made to resemble an infomercial mocking less popular sbemails; among other things, it claimed to cut through "caked on tape-leg". The DVD is no longer purchasable, which is unfortunate, as it was the only way to get creators' commentary for certain emails.
- Ozzy Osbourne has had a few. The first two, Best of Ozz and Ten Commandments, were released at the initiative of the record company in 1989 and 1990. In 1997 Ozzy released his first proper compilation, The Ozzman Cometh, which is a career retrospective with a few live cuts, unreleased songs and demos mixed in. After he became a reality TV star Sony released The Essential Ozzy Osbourne as part of their The Essential line, which covered the hits Cometh missed. After this a boxset was released and Ozzy, sick of having so many compilations pushed out in such a short time, mostly filled it with live tracks and rarities.
- Johnny Cash had a career spanning several decades and numerous greatest-hits compilations. These include the themed collection (with songs chosen by Johnny himself) Love, Murder, and God. Johnny also had a 1963 album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash, which wasn't a proper greatest hits album. It was a collection of singles and EP tracks which hadn't appeared on any albums before.
- Pearl Jam has rearviewmirror, a Distinct Double Album which closed their contract with Epic\Sony.note It has two albums (one with rockers, other with calmer songs), each chronological except the very last song, which reflecting the band's concerts is the usual closer, "Yellow Ledbetter".
- Reel Big Fish have two: Greatest Hit (And More) was released without their permission and has its title be a reference to Sell Out. The band themselves later released their own, A Best of Us From the Rest of Us, that even comes complete with acoustic versions of every song that appears on it.
- Barenaked Ladies parodied this concept on their first album with the song "Box Set", which is about a band explaining that they're releasing a six-disc box set, only one of which contains any music worth listening to, and if you're a fan of the band you already have everything on it.
- Then in 2001, a lyric from this song provided the title for All Their Greatest Hits, their first such compilation. Confusingly, "Box Set" was not actually included on this disc. (To be fair, the song itself was never a hit, or even a single.)
- Peter Schilling's The Different Story (World Of Lust And Crime) was more a compilation album with material from both Error In The System and Things To Come with only the title track as its new song at the time of its release, since only "Major Tom (Coming Home)" was considered to be a hit.
- Madness have released no less than nine different compilation albums, only one less than their ten studio albums of new material. Some of them have virtually the same track listing, though.