This next 50 gets a little better as I hoped, Nearly every ’00s and ’90s album that is listed here is a classic (though many are underrated here). Over half of the albums through 450-401 would make my list or would at least be strongly considered.
Greatest Hits Compilations
50. Various Artists – Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968) — While the compilation is a great look at lesser-known psychedelic rock of the ’60s, it all comes from previously-released music of an earlier era and therefore should be disqualified from being included.
49. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness (2015) — Despite the decade now having nine albums, the 2010s has not been properly represented in this list. This album did kick off one of the most impressive commercial runs in my lifetime, but The Weeknd’s not rewriting the wheel or anything. Many of the tracks just go through the motion.
48. Los Lobos – How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984) — The Tex-Mex rock & roll band are just too indebted to the early days of rock & roll to make anything special.
47. Yes – Close to the Edge (1972) — If Close to the Edge — supposedly Yes’ best work — then I know this band’s not for me. It just puts me to sleep.
46. Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms (1985) — At least we’re at the point where the bad picks make sense for inclusion. This is one of the best-selling UK albums of all time, but outside of the two big singles, I don’t get the love for this album.
45. Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising (1985) — This band had a big dropoff in quality after 1984’s Zen Arcade, and even that album would be tough to argue for inclusion.
44. Eric Church – Chief (2011) — Eric Church has arguably been the best mainstream country act of the last 10 years, and this album ends up in the same boat as Miranda Lambert’s — not on my list, but I get it.
43. Britney Spears – Blackout (2007) — Spears proved she was capable of great pop music even after the media left her behind. Blackout ends up too ostentatious for my taste; I kinda just want a break from the production after a few songs.
42. Blondie – Blondie (1976) — Blondie deserves to be on this list, but their first album is nowhere near their best work.
41. Pet Shop Boys – Actually (1987) — Pet Shop Boys are good-not-great, and Actually is their definitive release. Too many albums would have to be left off to get this on my 500.
40. The Beach Boys – Wild Honey (1967) — At 24 minutes, there is just not enough great Beach Boys material here to be strongly considered. It did signal that the band could have a steady career beyond the failed Smile project.
39. Usher – Confessions (2004) — Even with four #1 singles — only an elite group of albums have done so — Confessions hasn’t gotten much critical love. Its reevaluation as a classic deserving of top 500 all time is not surprising, though the album suffers from having too many typical r&b songs that go in one ear and out the other.
38. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (1970) — I was shocked to learn that this album had not been on Rolling Stone’s previous greatest album lists; I figured every peak-CCR album would have made it. My take on CCR is that if you took the best songs from this, Willy and the Poor Boys, and Green River, then you’d have one album to point to for inclusion on a list like this. I don’t know if each one is strong enough on their own, but collectively CCR is great.
37. Bad Bunny – X 100PRE (2018) — I’m all in on the Bad Bunny bandwagon now, especially after this year’ great YHLQMDLG. It’s still too early though to have him on this list; we need to sit with this album a little longer to know if it’s a true classic.
36. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – Going to a Go-Go (1965) — Smokey Robinson’s albums are never the focus of his legacy with all his classic singles being praised instead. The great ’60s pop albums run a lot like this one: classic singles, a few undiscovered greats, a few throwaway tracks.
35. Loretta Lynn – Coal Miner’s Daughter (1971) — Lynn has released 49 studio albums; going through classic country acts’ discographies is an absolute chore. This album has managed to stand out for being the name of her autobiography and Oscar-nominated biography. It’s a good representation of Lynn’s talents.
34. Paul Simon – Paul Simon (1972) — For his long career, Paul Simon has not released that many albums — only seven in his career peak (1972-1990). This is a solid album, but I would find it hard to include anything from Simon that wasn’t Graceland.
33. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead (1970) — Am I biased against early-’70s rock? My relatively-low opinion of CCR, Paul Simon, and now Grateful Dead might suggest so, but I had Big Star pretty high on the last 50. Grateful Dead’s prowess as a live act and ability to fuse so many subgenres into one place is not lost on me, but the songs found on this album aren’t always the most riveting.
32. Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams (1988) — Williams might have the signature alt-country voice leading to two classics that might both appear on this list. This album’s easy to love, hard to do so without wanting a little more out of each song.
31. Otis Redding – Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966) — It’s hard not to include everything from Otis Redding’s short career on this list. His great voice and signature style just carries much of this album into being a classic.
30. Anita Baker – Rapture (1986) — The term “Quiet Storm” as a genre comes from the Smokey Robinson song of the same name, and it refers to a brand of r&b/soul that finds a lot of emotional resonance within a smooth, jazzy production style. Anita Baker’s Rapture is one of the premier albums of this sound, and the young Black community will attest to how formative this album is based on how much their parents played it.
29. The Four Tops – Reach Out (1967) — Nearly half of the Four Tops’ top 20 hits came from this album, so it makes it pretty easy to pick one album to best represent this act. This one would be strongly considered for the top 500.
28. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977) — In the 2012 list, Costello had four albums with three in top 200, including this one. Fast-forward to 2020, and My Aim Is True almost didn’t make it. Even though I love Costello, I don’t necessarily disagree with him being devalued; This Year’s Model is the only one of his albums I would undoubtedly include.
27. Bob Dylan – Love and Theft (2001) — It’s a good debate for what post-Desire Dylan album is his best, and Love and Theft has as a good of an argument as any other. It ends up being one of his easiest albums to love, and it still doesn’t make it one of his top 5 all time.
26. The Roots – Things Fall Apart (1999) — Electric Lady Studios became a hotbed of experimental, soulful Black music at the turn of the century, and Things Fall Apart was the best rap album to come out of the scene. Even if the production and album flow far exceeds the rapping, Things Fall Apart is a good inclusion to represent alternative hip-hop.
25. The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py (1970) — Representing the peak era of the Meters might be a necessity on a greatest albums list like this, and their 1970 classic certainly fits the bill.
24. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980) — This is certainly not in the first tier of Bowie classics for me, so it barely making the top 500 is alright with me. This one was not on Rolling Stone’s previous lists, which suggests Bowie could do very well on this list (as he should).
23. Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram (1971) — This is McCartney’s best solo album and possibly the best solo Beatles record of all. It best displays McCartney’s frivolous pop spirit.
22. Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s the Way of the World (1975) — Earth, Wind & Fire are thankfully being appreciated for more than their major singles, and their best album is certainly a classic worthy of inclusion.
21. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003) — Rolling Stone had Elephant in the 2012 list as one of the few 2000s albums represented, so I figured it might be much higher than this. White Blood Cells might also be on the list as the best White Stripes album as many have argued.
20. James Brown – Sex Machine (1970) — The best James Brown is always live James Brown; Sex Machine meets half that requirement. The first LP is recorded in studio with live sound effects added in, and the second LP is truly live. It’s one of the best displays of Brown’s greatness on tape.
19. Blur – Parklife (1994) — Parklife might be my favorite Britpop album, but I’m glad it just made the list considering it had never appeared on Rolling Stone’s lists.
18. M.I.A. – Arular (2005) — Most people are in agreement that this album is M.I.A.’s second best behind Kala, so 450-401 is a good spot for it to be. Kala should be high.
17. Motörhead – Ace of Spades (1980) — This is simply one of the best hard rock albums ever released. It gets to the point without ever feeling dumbed-down.
16. Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (2005) — I’m a bit surprised to see this album make it, and it opens up the possibility for many Fiona Apple albums to make it. All five is not a crazy possibility.
15. Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One (1997) — This section featured many ’90s classics that we’re just now reaching. This might close the door on their next album And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out making it, which is a bummer.
14. Fela Kuti – Expensive Shit (1975) — Fela Kuti is an obvious inclusion, though that hasn’t been the case for Rolling Stone in the past. These two songs might be Kuti’s best work.
13. 2Pac – All Eyez on Me (1996) — There is a critical agreement on All Eyez on Me being 2Pac’s definitive release now, so this is a necessary inclusion. This rap classic could be higher.
12. Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991) — This album perfectly captured the early-’90s UK rock and club scene taking inspiration from Stone Roses, George Michael, and The Orb all at once. This should be higher.
11. Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973) — That’s two Gaye albums already, and this one ended up dropping from 165th in 2012. The possibilities are that Marvin Gaye has become less popular (nah), other Gaye albums could be higher (unlikely but I Want You should be here), or everyone just picked What’s Going On first.
10. Al Green – Call Me (1973) — So Al Green did end up with an album higher than his greatest hits collection but not by much. Call Me is one of the best classic soul albums of all time, so Green gets doubly insulted already.
9. CHIC – Risqué (1979) — This is quite possibly the quintessential disco album and should be much higher. Saturday Night Fever will probably receive that honor in this list and end up ranked where Risqué should be.
8. Beck – Odelay (1996) — This is surprisingly low considering it’s always been treated as one of the greatest albums of the ’90s. This one should be top 200 easily.
7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) — Neil Young’s first classic is an easy inclusion alongside at least four Neil Young albums from the ’70s. It has dropped about 200 spots since 2012 making Young’s status on this list hard to guage. On the Beach better make it.
6. The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs (1999) — Though Stephen Merritt sings pretty dry and his songs don’t often reach the three-minute mark, 69 Love Songs is too big to ignore and filled to the brim with great lullaby-like indie pop. This should undeniably be higher and would be if more indie music lovers voted on this.
5. Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994) — Pavement seems to perpetually be amidst a critical backlash, as they are naturally off-putting but have received unquestioned critical praise for decades. This album’s about on par with Slanted & Enchanted for their best work and should be much higher. I’m not sure if S&E will even make it, but let’s hope so.
4. Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda (1971) — Everyone pray for jazz music on this list. If this album and the one coming up are this low, there’s not much hope for artists like Pharoah Sanders (who played on this album) or Albert Ayler who should be obvious inclusions but have never been on a Rolling Stone list. You take what you can get I suppose.
3. Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959) — What an important album to be so low. The improvisational jazz of Coleman is always something to behold and should never fall by the wayside due to the passing of time or change in musical tastes. This was in the top 250 back in 2012.
2. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007) — LCD Soundsystem in front of Coleman and Coltrane?? When it comes to this album, yes. This is one of the best albums of the 2000s with a couple all-time great songs and an always-lively atmosphere.
1. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000) — I had no idea where this album would end up or if it would even make it onto this list. It’s an album beloved by few and unknown to many. Outside the top 400 makes sense then, but a better list would have this in the top 100 without debate. The entire Wu-Tang discography should be better considered for this list, but we’ll see.