If a list like this is properly ranked, then the albums should slowly get better the higher you go. With this list, the frequency of great picks is increasing, but an album here or there has no place being in the top 100. This group had the most albums in my personal top 50 and possibly the most albums overall that would make my top 500, but there’s also 10-15 albums that should not come close to the top 100. Overall, this list is just decent and with only 50 to go, it’s becoming all too clear what classics have been left off in favor of, say, Harry Styles. Any greatest albums list without Fugazi, Aphex Twin, and Sufjan Stevens should be admonished and not taken as a fully credible list.
What will be #1? Here are my best guesses:
- Michael Jackson – Thriller — There has been better representation for Black artists in this list, and the most popular albums are consistently ranking higher than 2012. Why not the most popular album of all time?
- The Beatles – Abbey Road — Probably the Beatles’ classics will get vote-splitting to prevent a #1, but the highest-ranking Beatle album still has a good shot. Abbey Road is their most popular with their two highest streamed songs on Spotify.
- The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds — This will always be in the top five; it may end up on top.
- Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain — Prince will get two in the top 50 after having none in 2012. His recent death has brought upon new critical attention.
- Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On — Long shot but it’s the only album in the top 10 of 2012 that benefits from the trends of this list.
- Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight
- Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions
- James Brown – Star Time
47. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (1995) — This is simply not a great album. It’s only here because it sold a lot of copies.
46. Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998) — If a country album has to make the top 100, then I would look towards the ’60s & ’70s. This album’s pretty good, but it doesn’t scream top 100 all time at all.
45. The Doors – The Doors (1967) — The Doors are great at their best and an absolute bore at their worst; their classic oscillates between these two extremes.
44. AC/DC – Back in Black (1980) — Dumb rock either peaked with either this album or Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet. I think I prefer the latter.
43. Taylor Swift – Red (2012) — This is Swift at her best, but a few throwaway tracks makes it clear that it would struggle to make my top 500.
42. R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (1992) — The ’90s is treated way more favorably than in 2012, so it makes sense that this ends up the highest R.E.M. album. It’s probably third for me.
41. The Band – Music from Big Pink (1968) — I’m a little shocked that The Band still got two albums in the top 100. They don’t feel as essential as most of the ’60s/’70s albums this high.
40. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970) — This is a critical album chronicling the headspace of one of the most famous people to ever live. The music doesn’t hold up as well.
39. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977) — The Sex Pistols had a classic M.O. that didn’t always translate into great music.
38. The Band – The Band (1969) — It’s a little better than their debut, and not an album I would consider for the top 100.
37. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987) — This album stayed in the exact position it was in 2012. It’s a massively popular album that is often reduced to its biggest songs (not totally unfair).
36. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love (1967) — I love Jimi Hendrix, but three of his albums in the top 100 is a bit much, especially this one.
35. Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986) — Metal on this list is spotty; if this is top 100, why aren’t Slayer, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest also on the list?
34. Neil Young – Harvest (1972) — This ended up the highest-ranked Neil Young album, which goes against what many of his fans would choose. Even as a classic worthy of inclusion on this list, it might be sixth for me.
33. Missy Elliott – Supa Dupa Fly (1997) — If this Missy Elliott album can make the list, why not Miss E…So Addictive as well? It’s this type of awkward artist representation that puts me off.
32. Erykah Badu – Baduizm (1997) — I figured Badu would get one album on the list, but two is even better. I would go with three and add New Amerykah Part One.
31. Stevie Wonder – Talking Book (1972) — Stevie Wonder’s first classic is definitely third behind Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life and maybe in the top 200 for me. Wonder has definitely improved his critical standing since 2012 with two in the top 50.
30. The Stooges – Fun House (1970) — Iggy Pop seems to not be on the list with Lust for Life but is with two Stooges albums. Raw Power is also a surprising exclusion.
29. The Who – Who’s Next (1971) — This is clearly the Who’s best album but also still a bit overrated in the top 100.
28. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus (1977) — This is the version of Bob Marley that people most gravitate towards. It’s probably on par with Catch a Fire for his best work.
27. Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004) — Kanye is doing as well on this list as I figured he would. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will make the top 50 — how high is the question.
26. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968) — This album was top 20 in 2012, and it’s understandable that Morrison’s fussy folk sound has a smaller audience.
25. Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (1968) — In 2012, Lady Soul was exactly one spot behind I Never Loved a Man…, but the latter is now in the top 50.
24. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996) — This is surprisingly high in my opinion, but Jay-Z is possibly the most popular rapper of all time — two in the top 100 is a good indicator of that.
23. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993) — I continue to be impressed with the ’90s representation on this list (excluding Morissette). I don’t know if it’s top 100 for me, but it’s more interesting than the Band having two once again.
22. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971) — You can try and be interesting by saying this isn’t Zep’s best album, but this album almost works like a greatest hits collection.
21. Drake – Take Care (2011) — I knew this was making the top 100 because I saw some tweets from people who were shocked and irritated at its inclusion. As you can see from my ranking, this is a classic album that could totally make my top 100.
20. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) — It’s probably a little better than Nebraska as Springsteen’s second-best.
19. David Bowie – Station to Station (1976) — For a minute there, I thought this wasn’t going to make it at all, but it ends up actually higher than I would put it. It’s hard to rank Bowie’s albums, but this one is fourth for me.
18. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (1969) — Like a lot of classic ’60s soul and pop albums, this one is simply easy to love.
17. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) — I’ve tried to have a more interesting favorite Pink Floyd album, but this is the one.
16. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (1972) — This is the signature soundtrack album — Mayfield goes all out with his best and most creative work.
15. Steely Dan – Aja (1977) — Peg, Deacon Blues, Black Cow — ’nuff said.
14. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968) — I’m a little surprised that this ends up still Hendrix’ second-highest album; if you want the most fulfilling Hendrix experience, this is the one.
13. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1970) — On the Beach is my favorite Neil Young album, but this is a close second. This is Young at his most flawless.
12. Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full (1987) — This album along with Criminal Minded in ’87 moved hip-hop to a new artistic peak. No rapper is cultishly idolized quite like Rakim.
11. Beyoncé – Beyoncé (2013) — Lemonade seems to be in the top 50, but this is the better collection of songs. It made Beyoncé a critically-beloved artist we’re now accustomed to.
10. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (1970) — Miles Davis has not been treated well on this list; he had three albums in 2012, but now it’s only two. He deserves at least six albums in the top 500.
9. OutKast – Stankonia (2000) — Somehow, ATLiens won’t make the list, but OutKast has two albums in the top 100. Aquemini is possibly top 25 for me.
8. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991) — Considering how indie and alt-rock has been diminished even more on this list, I’m surprised to see Loveless in the top 100. I would have it even higher.
7. David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971) — I thought this would be top 50 for sure, but Rolling Stone and I don’t see eye to eye on how to treat Bowie.
6. Frank Ocean – Blonde (2016) — This is the most recent album in the top 100, and it’s already an all-time great. Top 50 for me.
5. James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963) — I’m annoyed that this fell behind a compilation as James Brown’s highest-ranked album. This is the best distillation of Brown’s greatness.
4. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love (1985) — Bush had never been on Rolling Stone’s list before; Hounds of Love is her best work and one of the greatest albums ever made.
3. Sly and the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971) — As soul and r&b albums increased in scope and grew more vital in messaging in the ’70s, Sly Stone steered his music weird, off-putting, and highly innovative.
2. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (1988) — Compton may had naturally become a hip-hop mecca, but N.W.A. made it inevitable with quite possibly the most important rap album of all time.
1. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965) — Jazz needs a lot more representation on a list like this, but at the same time, Rolling Stone picked the two best jazz albums right: this and Kind of Blue. You can say either one is the GOAT.