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

on September 22, 2020, 1:35pm

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.

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.

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

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