5 interesting things we noticed about Rolling Stone's new '500 Greatest Albums of All Time'

Do your faves still make the cut?
September 23, 2020 2:54 p.m. EST
September 25, 2020 8:34 a.m. EST
On Tuesday, Rolling Stone updated their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list that they originally published in 2003. There was a slight update to the list in 2012, but all in all, the list remained untouched for 17 years as the definitive compendium of albums you should have in your collection lest you be shamed and shunned in perpetuity by your rock snob buddies. RS says they updated the list because, of course, new music is released all the time, tastes and contemporary mores evolve, and paramount to all that, the achievements of women and BIPOC musicians historically have been diminished or overlooked in favour of white male counterparts. So here are 5 interesting things we noticed as we compared and contrasted the 2003 list with the revamped 2020 list.
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1. Canadians have a strong presence in the Top 100.

It’s hard to ignore that Canada’s most beloved folk singer-songwriter of all time, Joni Mitchell, has scored the coveted number 3 spot on the list for her album “Blue” (she’s higher on the list than The Beatles!), but the Top 100 albums are lush with Canadian home-grown talent.Alanis Morissette sits at number 69 for “Jagged Little Pill,” Neil Young is at number 72, Drake’s “Take Care” is at 95, and Robbie Robertson’s The Band is at a whopping 57 (which ranks higher than albums by Taylor Swift [99], Kanye West [74], Beyoncé [81], Madonna [138], and even Elvis Presley [78].) Outside of the Top 100, Canadians have a healthy presence with Leonard Cohen at number 295, The Weeknd at number 442, and Arcade Fire juuuuuuust making the cut at big ol’ number 500.[video_embed id='2041624']RELATED: The Weeknd is one of many celebrities named to Time's 100 'Most Influential' list[/video_embed]

2. Black women crack the Top 50

The 2003 list had a Top 50 that was almost entirely made up of white dudes who played rock. Back then, only 12 albums that cracked the Top 50 weren't by white artists, and as you can probably guess, zero of them were women of colour. Now the 2020 list makes some slight gains for Black women.The highest ranking Black woman is Lauryn Hill, who actually cracks the Top 10 in the number 10 spot for “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Aretha Franklin follows just behind her at number 13, and Beyoncé peaks at number 32. Only three Black women in the Top 50 isn’t incredibly overwhelming, but the remainder of the Top 500 list is heavily populated with Black women and women of colour, like Erykah Badu (89), Missy Elliot (93), Janet Jackson (111) and Mary J. Blige (126). Mariah Carey comes in at number 389, Rihanna is at 230, and both Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé make another appearance on the list at 75 and 81, respectively.

3. BIPOC artists do make the list, but there's still a long way to go.

While the 2003 list did contain albums by Black men like Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and Mile Davis, only one album in the Top 50 was by a hip hop act – Public Enemy nabbed the number 48 spot back then. 2020 clearly had other things in mind, as a major upset has occurred for the coveted number one spot. The hallowed and revered late, great Marvin Gaye is now proudly sitting on the number 1 album of all time throne for his album “What’s Goin On?” Back in 2003, he sat at the number 6 spot, but Gaye has bumped The Beatles' infamous concept album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from the top spot (it now sits at number 24!).Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” ranks at 4, and Lauryn Hill takes the number 10 spot after making a seemingly-impossible jump from number 312 in 2003! Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” ranks at 12, Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” sits at number 17, and Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” nabs the number 19 spot. Prince has two albums in the Top 50. Rolling Stone has said that the occurrence of hip hop albums on the list has tripled in 2020 compared to the 2003 list.Latinx artists unfortunately only make up 1.8 per cent of the list, with Shakira's "¿Dónde Están los Ladrones?" at  number 496 and Selena's "Amor Prohibido" at 497. Albums by Daddy Yankee, Manu Chao, Bad Bunny, Los Lobos, Santana and Rosalia also appear.British Sri-Lankan artist M.I.A's "Kala" sits at 421.

4. Women rise in the ranks

When you compare and contrast the 2003 to the 2020 list, it’s obvious that women’s music, stories, voices, and talent were increasingly taken with greater consideration this time around. In fact, we’d be so bold as to say that women have rightfully knocked men out of the high ranking positions. Blondie (fronted by Debbie Harry) now sits at number 146 in a spot that was once held by Sly and The Family Stone.Madonna peaked at number 138 for “The Immaculate Collection,” a rank previously held by The Beatles. Adele sits at 137, knocking Elton John out of that spot, and Janet Jackson took the number 111 spot from Otis Redding. Women also feature heavily in the Top 50 in 2020, compared to 2003. Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” is 33, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” is 32, Patti Smith’s “Horses” is 26 (a spot once held by Otis Redding), and Carole King’s “Tapestry” is 25 (knocking The Beach Boys out of that spot).Aretha Franklin knocked The Beatles out of the number 13 spot, Lauryn Hill sits at number 10, and Fleetwood Mac (fronted by Stevie Nicks) grabbed the number 7 spot. Of course, with our beloved Joni Mitchell in 3rd, that makes three women in the Top 10, and nine women in the Top 50 (if you include The Velvet Underground & Nico at number 23). Compare that with 2003, when only three women musicians were allowed to crack the Top 50 (Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” was the first female appearance back then, ranked at 30). That’s kind of a kick in the teeth when you realize that The Beatles had a whopping 5 albums in the Top 14 in 2003! Like, we love the fab four as much as anyone, but COME. ON.

5. Many classic albums fell off the list

It stands to reason that to make room for the new and improved, some classic albums just wouldn’t make the cut anymore. This doesn’t mean these albums don’t still slaaaaap, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for continuing to enjoy them. Some notable absences on the 2020 list include “Music” by Madonna, which held number 452 (really, 2003? That was a great album, but of all time?), “Rock Steady” by No Doubt (316), “Mezzanine” by Massive Attack, which held number 412 (we will never forgive them for this!), “Tragic Kingdom” by No Doubt (441), and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” by  The Smashing Pumpkins (487).[video_embed id='2041403']BEFORE YOU GO: Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton join 'The West Wing' reunion[/video_embed]

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