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Rolling Stone Updated Its Top 500 Albums of All Time List So It’s No Longer Just White Dudes

Rolling Stone's original list had just 12 artists of color and three women in its Top 50

Rolling Stone Top 500
Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Kendrick Lamar (photo by Amy Price)
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    Rolling Stone has published a new version of its Top 500 Albums of All-Time, and the biggest takeaway is that it’s no longer dominated by white dudes who played rock music.

    Compare the top 50 selections of today vs. the one published two decades ago. The 2003 list (which was slightly updated in 2012) had just three albums by female musicians among its top 50, and the first entry — Joni Mitchell’s Blue — didn’t appear until No. 30. Meanwhile, five Beatles albums appeared in the top 14.

    The 2003 list counted just 12 albums by people of color and zero from women of color. There was also only one hip-hop album among the entire top 50 — Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back — which ranked at No. 48.

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    The updated 2020 is much more diverse. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin On, which was No. 6 on the 2003 list, now reigns supreme as No. 1. Joni Mitchell’s Blue has moved all the way up from No. 30 to No. 3, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life sits at No. 4, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill closes out the Top 10. Michael Jackson’s Thriller slots in at No. 12, followed next by Aretha Frankin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. Closing out the top 20 are a trio of hip-hop albums: Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

    All told, Rolling Stone’s updated Top 50 touts seven albums by women (nine if you count Fleetwood Mac and The Velvet Underground & Nico), and 24 albums by people of color (though only three by women of color).

    Across the entirety of the Top 500, Rolling Stone says there are 154 new entries, 86 of which are albums from the 21st century, and three times as many hip-hop albums as there was present on the 2003 list.

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    The new list was put together based on the ballots of 300 musicians, producers, journalists, and music executives. Voters included Beyoncé (whose own Lemonade placed at No. 32), Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, Morrissey (!), and The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, among others.

    Check out the Top 50 as they appear today and in 2003 below. You can find the new Rolling Stone Top 500 here, and compare it to the Top 500 from 2003 here.

    Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums of All Time (2020):

    01. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
    02. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
    03. Joni Mitchell – Blue
    04. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
    05. The Beatles – Abbey Road
    06. Nirvana – Nevermind
    07. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    08. Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain
    09. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
    10. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
    11. The Beatles – Revolver
    12. Michael Jackson – Thriller
    13. Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
    14. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
    15. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    16. The Clash – London Calling
    17. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    18. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
    19. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
    20. Radiohead – Kid A
    21. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
    22. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
    23. The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground
    24. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
    25. Carole King – Tapestry
    26. Patti Smith – Horses
    27. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
    28. D’Angelo – Voodoo
    29. The Beatles – The White Album
    30. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
    31. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
    32. Beyoncé – Lemonade
    33. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
    34. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
    35. The Beatles – Rubber Soul
    36. Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
    37. Dr. Dre – The Chronic
    38. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
    39. Talking Heads – Remain in Light
    40. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders From Mars
    41. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
    42. Radiohead – OK Computer
    43. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
    44. Nas – Illmatic
    45. Prince – Sign O’ the Times
    46. Paul Simon – Graceland
    47. Ramones – Ramones
    48. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Legend
    49. OutKast – Aquemini
    50. Jay-Z – The Blueprint

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    Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums of All Time (2003):

    01. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
    02. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
    03. The Beatles – Revolver
    04. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
    05. The Beatles – Rubber Soul
    06. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
    07. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
    08. The Clash – London Calling
    09. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
    10. The Beatles – The White Album
    11. Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions
    12. Miles Davis – Some Kind of Blue
    13. The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground
    14. The Beatles – Abbey Road
    15. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
    16. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
    17. Nirvana – Nevermind
    18. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
    19. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
    20. Michael Jackson – Thriller
    21. Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight
    22. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings
    23. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
    24. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
    25. James Brown – Live at the Apollo
    26. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    27. U2 – The Joshua Tree
    28. The Who – Who’s Next
    29. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
    30. Joni Mitchell – Blue
    31. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home
    32. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
    33. Ramones – Ramones
    34. The Band – Music From Big Pink
    35. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders From Mars
    36. Carole King – Tapestry
    37. The Eagles – Hotel California
    38. Muddy Waters – The Antology
    39. The Beatles – Please Please Me
    40. Love – Forever Changes
    41. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
    42. The Doors – The Doors
    43. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
    44. Patti Smith – Horses
    45. The Band – The Band
    46. Bob Marley and the Wailers – Legend
    47. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
    48. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    49. The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East
    50. Little Richard – Little Richard

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