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MUSIC - Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums 2020 edition

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MUSIC - Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums 2020 edition

A couple of weeks ago, Rolling Stone magazine released the latest edition of their 500 Greatest Albums list.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/musi ... e-1062063/
Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time was originally published in 2003, with a slight update in 2012. Over the years, it’s been the most widely read — and argued over — feature in the history of the magazine (last year, the RS 500 got over 63 million views on the site). But no list is definitive — tastes change, new genres emerge, the history of music keeps being rewritten. So we decided to remake our greatest albums list from scratch. To do so, we received and tabulated Top 50 Albums lists from more than 300 artists, producers, critics, and music-industry figures (from radio programmers to label heads, like Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman). The electorate includes Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish; rising artists like H.E.R., Tierra Whack, and Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail; as well as veteran musicians, such as Adam Clayton and the Edge of U2, Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, Gene Simmons, and Stevie Nicks.
How We Made the List and Who Voted

When we first did the RS 500 in 2003, people were talking about the “death of the album.” The album —and especially the album release — is more relevant than ever. (As in 2003, we allowed votes for compilations and greatest-hits albums, mainly because a well-made compilation can be just as coherent and significant as an LP, because compilations helped shaped music history, and because many hugely important artists recorded their best work before the album had arrived as a prominent format.)

Of course, it could still be argued that embarking on a project like this is increasingly difficult in an era of streaming and fragmented taste. But that was part of what made rebooting the RS 500 fascinating and fun; 86 of the albums on the list are from this century, and 154 are new additions that weren’t on the 2003 or 2012 versions. The classics are still the classics, but the canon keeps getting bigger and better.
It's fascinating to finally see an attempt to move beyond the stranglehold of the Boomers, which you very much notice if you compare this list to the original 2003 list.
I definitely have a fondness for Rock (the music I grew up with), but my taste has also evolved significantly over the last couple of decades.
Worth noting - for the most part, this list still heavily favours Boomer Rock, and pretty much ignores the music that is most relevant to younger listeners (Indie, EDM, etc...).

Thoughts?
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Obviously it's not possible to have a such a list without a lot of disagreement.
With that said, there's a couple things I just want to mention, without specifically saying where they should be on the list.

Appetite for destruction is in the top 100, I admit, but when it came out there was no bigger band in the world. GnR was the biggest rock band ever at the moment when that album dropped. There was GnR, then there was every other rock band.

The black album. Everything I wrote above applies to the black album. Metallica was literally on top of the world when that album came out. On top of that, I would say that album transcended rock. Metallica was a thrash metal band, but the black album stepped outside that box and provided possibilities for all future rock/metal bands.

Back in black. I mention this one for a slightly different reason, although there are similarities. It was a huge album for sure, but ACDC was already a big deal. What I think makes it so influential is that such a popular band lost their lead singer, and this album was obviously the first one post-Bon Scott. It's very influential and important, because without it, we could potentially live in a world without ACDC. Obviously songs from all 3 albums are played regularly and likely will still be around 50 years from now. They have lasting power that a lot of bands could only dream of, including bands much higher on the list.

Led Zeppelin. Arguably the biggest and most influential rock band of all time and nothing in the top 50?
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Shaner wrote: Obviously it's not possible to have a such a list without a lot of disagreement.
With that said, there's a couple things I just want to mention, without specifically saying where they should be on the list.

Appetite for destruction is in the top 100, I admit, but when it came out there was no bigger band in the world. GnR was the biggest rock band ever at the moment when that album dropped. There was GnR, then there was every other rock band.

The black album. Everything I wrote above applies to the black album. Metallica was literally on top of the world when that album came out. On top of that, I would say that album transcended rock. Metallica was a thrash metal band, but the black album stepped outside that box and provided possibilities for all future rock/metal bands.

Back in black. I mention this one for a slightly different reason, although there are similarities. It was a huge album for sure, but ACDC was already a big deal. What I think makes it so influential is that such a popular band lost their lead singer, and this album was obviously the first one post-Bon Scott. It's very influential and important, because without it, we could potentially live in a world without ACDC. Obviously songs from all 3 albums are played regularly and likely will still be around 50 years from now. They have lasting power that a lot of bands could only dream of, including bands much higher on the list.

Led Zeppelin. Arguably the biggest and most influential rock band of all time and nothing in the top 50?
Full disclosure - I'm presently 45, and basically grew up listening to Q107.
Furthermore - my parents were eastern European immigrants whose music appreciation forever stayed with music from the old country.
In short - classic rock was very much not the music of my parents.
Growing up in the 80's, I very much loathed the pop music of that era, outside the scope of rock.

My childhood fandom consisted of a heavy phase where Iron Maiden posters and t-shirts were what I liked.
I believe I first started high school when "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" came out in 1988.

GnR was most definitely not the biggest band when Appetite, their first album, dropped in 87.
From my memories, their mainstream popularity really exploded in 88, around when "Lies" dropped.
I think a ballad song like "Patience" was what really brought people in who were not traditionally metal/hard rock fans.
GnR was massive during their time, which wasn't really all that long.
Use Your Illusion I+II dropped in 91.
It all went downhill with Spaghetti Incident in 93.
Considering how much music there is - 87-93 isn't really a long time.
We obviously see it differently because we experienced it in our youth.

The Black album followed a similar tangent. Metallica had existed for about a decade when that album dropped, but really only had a heavy metal fan following.
Unforgiven was the song that allowed them to draw from a much wider mainstream fanbase.
Metallica was not on top of the world when the album dropped - it was this album that propelled them to the top.
So much for my many years of insisting that Iron Maiden was the ultimate...
With this said, ever since Napster, I have zero interest in both their music and their views.

AC/DC is remarkable, for the reasons you mentioned, and so many more.
Other than the 10's, they managed to drop remarkable albums every decade since they started in 75.
Obviously loved the classics, but can't forget how powerful The Razors Edge was when it dropped in 1990.
I was genuinely shocked by how much I liked Black Ice in 08.
Very curious what the new album will sound like.

Which brings me to Led Zeppelin.
Frankly, it almost feels like a cliche to consider them the greatest rock band, and I suspect this is why they are not in the top 50.
They produced amazing albums and music - but they also produced an unwavering loyalty from many classic rock fans.
Upon reflection, I think it's kinda nuts that in my high-school years (88-93), Stairway was still the final song played at school dances.
I wonder when this finally changed?
I think by virtue of so many people clinging to Zeppelin for so long, that it is now cooler to say they are overhyped.

If you look at earlier versions of the list (2003 or 2012), it was ridiculous how much love and attention was given to the Beatles and Bob Dylon, especially in the top 20.
I hated how previously, the only Tom Petty album was Damn The Torpedoes. Great to see Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers make the cut.
Heartbreaking that Travelling Willburys Vol1 is not on the list, but not surprising.

Very happy to see J. Dilla "Donuts" on the list, which is a remarkable album, especially if you are familiar with the context of how it was created.
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Shaner wrote: Obviously it's not possible to have a such a list without a lot of disagreement.
With that said, there's a couple things I just want to mention, without specifically saying where they should be on the list.

Appetite for destruction is in the top 100, I admit, but when it came out there was no bigger band in the world. GnR was the biggest rock band ever at the moment when that album dropped. There was GnR, then there was every other rock band.

The black album. Everything I wrote above applies to the black album. Metallica was literally on top of the world when that album came out. On top of that, I would say that album transcended rock. Metallica was a thrash metal band, but the black album stepped outside that box and provided possibilities for all future rock/metal bands.

Back in black. I mention this one for a slightly different reason, although there are similarities. It was a huge album for sure, but ACDC was already a big deal. What I think makes it so influential is that such a popular band lost their lead singer, and this album was obviously the first one post-Bon Scott. It's very influential and important, because without it, we could potentially live in a world without ACDC. Obviously songs from all 3 albums are played regularly and likely will still be around 50 years from now. They have lasting power that a lot of bands could only dream of, including bands much higher on the list.

Led Zeppelin. Arguably the biggest and most influential rock band of all time and nothing in the top 50?
Exactly what I was thinking. No Zeppelin or Floyd in the top 50. Hmmm....
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@shikotee - Didn't want to quote your long post.

I thought about mentioning Maiden, but I also felt like they had a larger following outside of North America than in it. I love them and think they haven't gotten the recognition they deserve in North America, so I'm not surprised I didn't see them mentioned.

As for Appetite and the Black album, neither band was on top of the world before those albums, but I very clearly recall those two albums launching those bands into the stratosphere. It didn't occur right away for GnR, because it was a debut album. That's what makes that album so damn special though. For a debut album to be that popular, it has to be special. I remember it took about a year or so because no one knew who GnR was. But after a tour promoting that album and radio play, there wasn't a bigger band in the world at that time. It had nothing to do with Lies, it just took time for the world to figure out who the hell GnR was, but once people figured it out, they were absolutely massive. You're right, it didn't last long, but this discussion is only about one album, not the band. There's a lot of people out there who would say that Appetite is the greatest album ever.

The Black Album was gigantic and it happened right away. There is literally a show called "When Metallica ruled the world" and it's all about the Black album. Metallica wasn't huge before the album, but they sure were after. It was such a massive album, that despite all the hatred Load got, it was a massive album too. Everyone bought Load due to the Black Album, and Metallica will go down in history as one of the biggest bands ever due to that album.

As for Zeppelin, I get your reasoning, but I hope the people who made this list don't think that way. To say they're overhyped ignores the fact that to be overhyped, you have to be huge, and they are huge even to this day. Like you said, Stairway was played at every dance ever and maybe still is, I don't know. Zeppelin is still regularly played on the radio today. To be largely considered the greatest rock band ever and not have any of your albums really recognized, it seems hypocritical to me.

I don't care much for the Beatles personally, but I also recognize how big they were. Agree about Tom Petty, he is one of the best ever. I could never pick just one song to be my favourite, it's not possible. If I had to make a long list of my favourite songs of all time, American Girl by Tom Petty would be on it.
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I also felt Pearl Jam was a bit underrated on the list. Nirvana's Nevermind cracked #5 (which is pretty crazy) but Pearl Jam's debut Ten didn't even cut the top 100. They were both neck and neck for biggest albums of the last big gasp of rock n' roll.

Aside from that, what I'm noticing is a lot genre's I don't really appreciate, which means I have no idea how you fit it all together. I'm not really able to give an unbiased opinion if it's not a genre of music I like.

List is also subjected. I would of expected Springsteen's Born in the USA to be his biggest/best album, but they put Born To Run which is a legendary album, but I think Born in the USA (or Darkness on the Edge of Town) are so much better :)
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To help give some scope, here is the top 10 list of most albums by a group/artist in 2020:
The Beatles (9)
Bob Dylan (8)
Kanye West (6)
Neil Young (6)
The Rolling Stones (6)
David Bowie (5)
Bruce Springsteen (5)
Led Zeppelin (5)
Prince (4)
The Who (4)

Here is the top ten results from 2012:
Bob Dylan (11)
The Beatles (10)
The Rolling Stones (10)
Bruce Springsteen (8)
The Who (7)
Radiohead (5)
Neil Young (5)
Bob Marley & The Wailers (5)
Elton John (5)
David Bowie (5)

#3 on the 2020 list tends to be what drives classic rock fans really nuts.
Worth noting that many, I suspect, have never ever listened to a single album by Kanye.
The idea that he would be ahead of so many rock legends seems to be reason enough.

As such, might be worth mentioning the methodology used for these results.
As mentioned - this is not a fan vote - it is the (past and present) music industry (artists, producers, critics, radio programmers, label heads).
Very important to note - they do not vote on a list of 500 - each person only selects 50 albums.

Kanye ranking so high would make sense in 2020. HIs influence and scope is very strong within the current industry, especially new + young artists.
Reality is - rock has massively declined over the last couple of decades, with very little substantial output (compared to the decades before).
Classic rock isn't just "the music of your parents" - it has also become the "music of your grandparents!"
Let's not forget that generational swings are massive factors - the desire to have something that is yours and yours alone.
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@shikotee I've liked a lot of Kanye songs over the years. I appreciate all music.

With that said, I think Tupac did more for rap than Kanye, and had several albums that were better than anything Kanye put out. Of course that's subjective though.

Will Kanye still be relevant in 30 years? Because Metallica, GnR, ACDC and led Zeppelin will be.
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shikotee wrote: To help give some scope, here is the top 10 list of most albums by a group/artist in 2020:
The Beatles (9)
Bob Dylan (8)
Kanye West (6)
Neil Young (6)
The Rolling Stones (6)
David Bowie (5)
Bruce Springsteen (5)
Led Zeppelin (5)
Prince (4)
The Who (4)

Here is the top ten results from 2012:
Bob Dylan (11)
The Beatles (10)
The Rolling Stones (10)
Bruce Springsteen (8)
The Who (7)
Radiohead (5)
Neil Young (5)
Bob Marley & The Wailers (5)
Elton John (5)
David Bowie (5)

#3 on the 2020 list tends to be what drives classic rock fans really nuts.
Worth noting that many, I suspect, have never ever listened to a single album by Kanye.
The idea that he would be ahead of so many rock legends seems to be reason enough.

As such, might be worth mentioning the methodology used for these results.
As mentioned - this is not a fan vote - it is the (past and present) music industry (artists, producers, critics, radio programmers, label heads).
Very important to note - they do not vote on a list of 500 - each person only selects 50 albums.

Kanye ranking so high would make sense in 2020. HIs influence and scope is very strong within the current industry, especially new + young artists.
Reality is - rock has massively declined over the last couple of decades, with very little substantial output (compared to the decades before).
Classic rock isn't just "the music of your parents" - it has also become the "music of your grandparents!"
Let's not forget that generational swings are massive factors - the desire to have something that is yours and yours alone.
wait a second...Pink floyd isn't on the list? they hold the record.

The Dark Side of the Moon was on "billboarbs top 200" selling albums longer than any other album sold. Its been on the list for decades.
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lead wrote: wait a second...Pink floyd isn't on the list? they hold the record.

The Dark Side of the Moon was on "billboarbs top 200" selling albums longer than any other album sold. Its been on the list for decades.
Floyd is very much on the list.
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457, 453, 435, 418, 404
383, 379, 336, 319, 309
297, 262, 249, 245, 238, 222, 211, 200,
198, 184, 167, 163, 159, 151, 142, 141, 138, 135, 130, 116, 113
80, 68, 55, 45, 24, 12, 8, 7

These are all the ones I have, give or take a couple that I may have and haven't gotten around to listening to (been buying used CDs faster than I can listen to them :D ).

Funny to see a couple of Nine Inch Nails in there.
Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" their only entry? Wow, I think "The Man-Machine" or "Computerworld" was so much better.
New Order's "Power, Corruption, and Lies"? I would have taken "Low-Life", or even the popular "Technique".
Depeche Mode, I would take "Black Celebration". I listen to "Violator" now, and the songs are weak, except for "Enjoy the Silence" and "Halo". I honestly don't get why "Violator" was their great breakout album. "Music for the Masses" had better songs on it.

I don't think compilations or live albums should have been included.
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rabbit wrote: These are all the ones I have, give or take a couple that I may have and haven't gotten around to listening to (been buying used CDs faster than I can listen to them :D ).
From the 2020 list, I was missing 49 albums, which I have since digitally obtained via torrenting.
Insane how much one would have to pay through standard channels, considering vast majority of content would be listened to once (at best).
rabbit wrote: I don't think compilations or live albums should have been included.
Compilation albums have dropped significantly since 2003 and 2012.
For many pre album sale artists, this was the only way to get their music.
For other artists, especially back in 2003, compilations were the only way to access highest quality releases of songs, as many albums had not yet been remastered.
This is the massive difference with 2020, where once impossible to find albums are easily available in digital remastered format.
They are several instances on this list where comps were dropped in lieu of an actual album by the artist.
Bob Marley's Legend is likely the album the vast majority of people have owned, so it would be strange to disallow it.

I strongly disagree with omitting live albums. The ones on this list are considered legendary live recordings for good reason.
I think the first on the list clocks in at 65 (previously 25), which is James Brown legendary Live at the Apollo 1962.
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Legendary live albums I have no issue with, such as Kiss Alive, but it's unfair to compare them to studio albums, since studio albums don't take a bunch of good tracks from different eras.

If it were a live album of tracks from a single album, then that would be fair, such as Depeche's Songs of Faith and Devotion Live.
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Somewhat relevant IIRC RS founder Jann Wenner has had a big influence on who gets into the "Hall of Fame"

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One thing I very much agreed with was how the 2020 list included two more Tom Petty albums - Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers. Always baffled my mind that previous lists included Damn The Torpedoes, but skipped these two legendary albums. For those unawares, Full Moon Fever came into being around the same time supergroup Travelling Wilbury's Vol 1 (travesty that it did not make the list) came to be. With Wildflowers, it turns out that it was originally meant to be a much bigger album, which has now been fully released as "Wildflowers and All The Rest".

Tom Petty
Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition)

Imagine the scene: It’s 1994 and Tom Petty is presenting his new solo album Wildflowers to the suits at Warner Bros. He’s been working on this music for two years with a new collaborator, producer Rick Rubin, and he is excited. He presses play. The first thing you hear is the title track, which sounds like a folk standard. Next, you hear “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” with its booming drums and wrecking ball of a chorus; it sounds like a hit single. Then you hear 23 more songs.

It’s amazing, the label says, but it’s too long.

Somehow, the artist sitting across the table—43 years old; a friend and collaborator of Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Johnny Cash; an artist who has spent his decades-long career demanding control over everything with his name on it, right down to the price of his albums—agrees. Wildflowers is released that fall; 15 tracks, 63 minutes. It goes triple platinum and many considered it his masterpiece.

The further that Tom Petty got from Wildflowers, the more admiration he felt for it, and the less he understood it. In later conversations with Rubin, he admitted to feeling slightly intimidated: not sure he could ever top it, uncertain where it came from. In the last years of Petty’s life, he spoke optimistically about revisiting the material for a box set and maybe a tour. It was the next thing on his list.

Three years after his death, we have Wildflowers & All the Rest, the immersive collection Petty had in mind, curated by his family and bandmates. It includes, along with the album itself, finally back on vinyl, All the Rest: a 10-song set of outtakes, forming a solid studio album that Petty considered releasing under the name Wildflowers 2. Then there’s Home Recordings, which compiles Petty’s intimate solo demos from the era. Next is Live Wildflowers, a thrilling collection that shows how audiences around the world received this material on stage over the span of two decades. And finally, there’s Alternative Versions (Finding Wallflowers), where you hear Petty and his bandmates experiment with the songs in the studio: a set of performances notable for their minor variations in lyrics and arrangement (and, in one instance, because Ringo Starr is playing drums).
Anyways - very much looking forward to checking this out.

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