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Apple Music’s Top 100 Albums Of All Time: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Apple Music recently finished listing their Top 100 Albums of All Time, and as is to be expected, everybody has their thoughts about it (myself included). Now, with any ranking of albums, it is impossible to please anyone, and whilst I believe that, on the whole, Apple Music has created a compelling list that encompasses a wide range of artists and genres, in my opinion, it could be improved. This article looks at what Apple Music got right and wrong about their ranking, attempting to take a fair, and balanced view of the list. Of course, though, a disclaimer must be made that my personal biases (unconscious or otherwise) are likely to have a big impact as I seek to balance the critical acclaim, influence, and legacies of the albums involved with my own rather eclectic music taste.

Perfect Placements:

There is certainly a lot to criticise within this list, but that’s not to say there aren’t some album placements that are exactly where they should be. In descending order, I’ve selected some of the albums that I believe Apple Music truly placed perfectly.

Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine (Placed 97th)

Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut certainly deserved its place on this list, and 97th is the ideal place to include it. The album introduced Rage to the world, setting a majorly influential precedent regarding the combination of heavy rock with rap, as well as, of course, their role in popularising punk attitudes for a new generation.

The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga (Placed 89th)

At the forefront of the 2000s age of pop was Lady Gaga, who released this album in 2009 to instant acclaim, cementing her as a titan of the music industry during this time. From ‘Bad Romance’ to ‘Telephone’, The Fame Monster is a timeless vanguard of electropop that deserves 89th place on this list but fails to hold the influence to deserve a substantially higher ranking than this.

Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey (Placed 79th)

If Lana was going to feature on this list, it just had to be NFR. The songwriting is poetic, with Lana pouring her heart and soul out into emotional ballads such as the titular track, ‘Venice Bitch’, and ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’. Whilst it falls short of a higher placement (which I place down to its relatively recent release), it nonetheless is one of the finest written and performed albums of the last twenty years.

The Queen is Dead – The Smiths (Placed 66th)

Indisputably The Smiths’ greatest and most influential record, The Queen is Dead is well-deserving of 66th on this list. Morrissey and Marr at their finest were able to craft what would eventually become an enduring cornerstone of indie rock, particularly in the UK, setting the benchmark for which many albums would aspire to, and even break (as many above this album have done).

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – Oasis (Placed 58th)

One of my personal favourite albums to listen to growing up, without (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, the Britpop movement, and its subsequent influences on rock across the world may not have been as far-reaching as it was. Everything about this album is special, from the controversial personalities of the Gallaghers to Liam’s iconically nasal vocals, and of course, Noel’s songwriting. 14-year-old me would have undoubtedly placed this at first.

Illmatic – Nas (Placed 39th)

One of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, Illmatic had to make this list, and 39th is an ideal placement for it. Its legacy is one of the most enduring of the rap albums of the mid-90s, capturing a raw appeal and depiction of aspiration that was unlike anything seen up until that point. Its placement on this list is interchangeable with Enter The Wu-Tang by the Wu-Tang Clan (which stands two places above at 37th), but, to me, Nas’ landmark achievement in hip-hop will always be the better of the two.

OK Computer – Radiohead (Placed 12th)

Around this point is where the albums truly become incredible, and OK Computer is no exception. A visionary masterpiece of songwriting, production, and genre-fusion, this record immediately stood out to me as the most perfectly placed on this list. Not quite as good as the 11 above it, but nonetheless acting as THE definitive alternative album, Radiohead were able to create one of the most important albums of all time whilst retaining their core, rock-fuelled elements.

Lemonade – Beyoncé (Placed 10th)

There is a reason why, when she received the GRAMMY for Album of the Year for 25, Adele stated that Beyoncé deserved the award more. Lemonade is more than just an album; it is a necessary experience. With a heartbreaking backstory of being written and produced amid the fallout of JAY-Z’s infidelity, Beyoncé was able to do what she does best whilst baring her soul to the world. Lemonade tells a story of anger, regret, depression, and reconciliation that is unparalleled in its evocation of emotional responses.

Abbey Road – The Beatles (Placed 3rd)

Expected, deserved, legendary. There’s not much more I can really say here, besides the fact that this is arguably the greatest album from the greatest band of all time.

Honourable ‘Perfectly Placed’ Mentions:

Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder (Placed 6th)

Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (Placed 11th)

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (Placed 22nd)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West (Placed 26th)

Hounds of Love – Kate Bush (Placed 50th)

Should Be Placed Lower:

Apple Music certainly overstated the brilliance of many of the albums on their Top 100 list, with this section seeking to discuss those that are placed higher than they deserve. This is not to understate the musical importance or acclaim of any of these albums, and I still firmly believe that they all deserve their place on the Top 100, only that their placements be lowered with respect to albums more worthy of these.

SOS – SZA (Placed 72nd, should be around 95th-100th)

One of the most recent additions to the list, SOS’s recency (being released in 2022) may be the primary factor that holds it back. An album by one of the most exciting artists of the modern era, the record certainly is a bold exploration of resilience and self-discovery, yet simply lacks the power held by some of the older albums on this list. Nevertheless, in the next ten or twenty years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see SOS, or another SZA album, hit the Top 100 in a spot higher than 72nd.

AM – Arctic Monkeys (Placed 59th, should be in the high 70s/low 80s)

As iconic as it may be, Apple Music’s placement of AM at 59th (a placement higher than The Velvet Underground’s self-titled album and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John) is a major miscalculation on their part. It is, of course, an extremely popular album, and deservedly so, yet in my opinion marks too big a departure from what made Arctic Monkeys so uniquely special and influential in the first place to truly earn a placement this prestigious on this list.

1989 (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift (Placed 18th, should be 50th-60th)

This is the placement that has attracted the most controversy online. After all, placing an album that was (technically) only released in October last year as the 18th best of all time is a bold statement, one that completely misunderstands Taylor Swift’s discography. Whether it is the original 1989, or the 2023 re-recording, there is no denying that this record deserves a place on this list, having played a major role in reshaping pop and showcasing Swift’s ability to effortlessly evolve from one genre to another. However, it is frankly insulting to Swift to ONLY include 1989 (and an incredible mistake to place it this high) on the list without mentioning other major records in her discography.

good kid, M.A.A.D city – Kendrick Lamar (Placed 7th, should be 25th-30th)

The second highest-rated hip-hop album on this list, by the most acclaimed rapper of the past 10 years, good kid, M.A.A.D city was instrumental in cementing Kendrick Lamar’s status in the modern music industry. Despite the intricate complexities, profound commentary, and masterful production on the album, I simply can’t shake the feeling that (in a vein similar to 1989 (TV)) it is an incredible misstep by Apple Music to include this record (and indeed, place it this high up), and not include at least one of Kendrick’s other, and in my view, superior, albums.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill (Placed 1st, should be 11th-12th)

Apple Music just about failed to stick the landing with their pick for the greatest album of all time. Whilst The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an undeniable masterpiece of a concept album that effortlessly blends soul with R&B whilst providing intense lyrics of spiritualism and identity, it should not be 1st on this list. It was a difficult decision to include this album in this section, simply due to what it represents with regards to its perpetual relatability and female success in a male-dominated industry, yet, nevertheless, I simply believe there are several better picks for Apple Music’s number one spot.

Honourable ‘Placed Too High’ Mentions:

Blue Lines – Massive Attack (Placed 89th, should be 100th).

Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘N Roses (Placed 52nd, should be 70th-75th).

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish (Placed 30th, should be 60th-70th).

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse (Placed 8th, should be 15th-20th).

Blonde – Frank Ocean (Placed 5th, should be 45th-50th).

Should Be Placed Higher:

The mistakes continue, but in the opposite direction, with Apple Music selecting a number of albums and placing them at spots that are, in some cases, insulting to the music and influence of these records and artists.

Hotel California – Eagles (Placed 99th, should be in the Top 30)

This is an insane placement for Apple Music to make considering both Hotel California’s immense popularity and its role as a watershed moment for classic rock in the industry. From the iconic titular track to ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ and ‘Victim of Love’, placing this album as the second worst on this list is an insult to Eagles and the influence that they had on rock in the 1970s and beyond.

I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone (Placed 88th, should be 40th-35th)

Another ridiculous take from Apple Music comes in the form of placing Nina Simone’s legendary fusion of jazz, soul, and blues, I Put A Spell On You at 88th on a list where it should be comfortably breaking into the Top 50 at least. Simone’s voice alone makes this record worthy of a higher placement, and, when combined with its emotive lyrics, rich instrumentation and unparalleled captivation, truly makes one wonder what Apple Music were thinking here.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (Placed 78th, should be 15th-10th)

I have no words at this point. Yes, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road may be a long album, but for good reason. It was a landmark, not only in Elton John’s career but in the music industry in general. Undoubtedly his best work, GYBR highlights John’s incredible vocal range, combined with Bernie Taupin’s evocative, retrospective songwriting, and is more than deserving of a much higher placement than 78th.

Remain in Light – Talking Heads (Placed 43rd, should be in the Top 25)

Groundbreaking, imaginative, and utterly unique, we may never see an album like Remain in Light again. The idiosyncrasy of David Byrne’s lyrics and vocals combine to make this album more than just a musical experience, but a deep exploration of the workings of the human experience. Apple Music has no true reason to not put this cornerstone of music, the definitive New Wave album, in the Top 25 at least. It may not be the most accessible of albums for casual listeners, but I’m certain this list was compiled by more than just a casual listener.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie (Placed 24th, should be 1st)

This is it. We’ve reached my selection for the greatest album of all time. I am of course glad to see it break into the top 25, but this does not do David Bowie’s magnum opus any justice at all. Combining an exciting concept of an extraterrestrial rockstar with Bowie’s awesome vocals and magnetic persona, along with what this album represented for androgyny and the breaking of gender norms at the time, easily puts this in the driving seat for the number one spot. The opening song, ‘Five Years’ is up there with the best songs of the 70s, and from there, the album sets out to take the listener on an unforgettable journey. This just is the best album.

Blue – Joni Mitchell (Currently 16th, should be in the Top 5)

In their Top 500 Albums of all-time list, Rolling Stone magazine had the right idea by placing this at number 3. Joni Mitchell, the greatest singer-songwriter of all time, pours her heart and soul into this ten-song masterpiece. Groundbreaking in its authenticity and timeless in its relevance to the complexities of romance, Blue showcases Mitchell (who had just gone through a breakup when she wrote the record) at her very best – singing her own heartfelt lyrics over backing tracks of acoustic guitar and piano. Before Adele’s 21, before Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence, before Taylor Swift’s folklore, and before Beyoncé’s Lemonade, there was Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Honourable ‘Placed too Low’ Mentions:

Doggystyle – Snoop Dogg (Placed 84th, should be at least 60th)

The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground and Nico (Placed 78th, should be 30th-25th)

Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A (Placed 70th, should be in the 50th-40th).

Are You Experienced? – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Placed 63rd, should be in the top 15)

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin (Placed 40th, should be in the top 20)

Tapestry – Carole King (Placed 38th, should be in the top 10)

London Calling – The Clash (Placed 35th, should be in the top 20) ‘Kind of Blue’ – Miles Davis (Placed 25th, should be in the top 10)

Notable Omissions:

For this final section, I will go over some of the most significant albums neglected by Apple Music in their Top 100 selection. Of course, on any list, you’re restricted by how many albums you can include, but in an ideal scenario, I would have liked to see at least some of these acknowledged by Apple Music due to their quality, influence, and relatability.

To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

If any artist was deserving of two albums on the Top 100 (besides those already with two: The Beatles, Radiohead, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Prince, and Dr Dré), it would be Kendrick Lamar, and to see what has been called the greatest hip-hop album of all time not even break into this list was a shock, especially when one considers the placement of good kid, M.A.A.D city as high as it is. To Pimp a Butterfly is not just a masterpiece in hip-hop production but has been credited with influencing how modern race relations are perceived, tearing apart the perpetuation of white supremacy one bar at a time. One of the most culturally relevant and necessary records of all time, TPAB’s exclusion from this list is the one I take the most issue with.

Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

Including 1989 at 18th but not including its iconic predecessor in revolutionising 21st-century pop is a criminal act by Apple Music. Just take a quick look at the first four songs on Teenage Dream – from the titular track to ‘Last Friday Night’, ‘California Gurls’, and ‘Firework’, this record is full of songs that make it no small wonder that Katy Perry became the first female artist in history (and the first artist since Michael Jackson’s Bad) to have five number one singles from the same album. This is the definition of everything a pop album should be and excluding it from the Top 100 is an incredible miscarriage of justice.

Ants From Up There – Black Country, New Road

Despite only being released in 2022, Ants From Up There is a worthy contender for this list, particularly when the music industry looks back in years to come. At a time when traditional rock albums appear to be fading from memory, Black Country, New Road released an album that challenges our orthodox expectations of the genre and throws them on the bonfire. From the ashes came this album, an unanimously acclaimed triumph from one of the most exciting new acts of the current era. Ants From Up There has the potential to be a historically revered classic in the years to come, and its release symbolises a growing experimentation in rock not seen since the 1970s.

Grace – Jeff Buckley

Despite this being Jeff Buckley’s only studio LP before his tragic death, Grace stands the test of time as a hauntingly beautiful ode to romance and passion. Buckley’s vocals on this record are some of the best I’ve ever heard, showcasing his impressive range and ability to transmit raw emotion so effortlessly. It may not be the most influential album of all time, and indeed only enjoyed modest success upon release, but deserves its place on this list due to its role as a beacon of emotive intensity that combines rock, soul, and folk with Buckley’s explicit, almost ethereal vulnerability as a songwriter. Grace is a testament to Buckley’s heartbreakingly unrealised potential and is likely to endure as a distinctively resonant piece of the 90s music industry.

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys

I was very surprised to see AM on this list with no mention of the album that propelled Arctic Monkeys to fame in the first place. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, besides being the greatest debut album of all time, has been massively influential on rock music since it was first released in 2006. It ripped away the polished veil of its Britpop predecessors, presenting listeners with a scathingly energetic kind of sound and lyricism unlike anything before or since. The essence of British nightlife and youth culture forms the crux of this record’s commercial and critical success, and that is what makes it so special – taking the mundane of the everyday and transforming it into something timeless and extraordinary.

Honourable ‘Ommitted’ Mentions:

In Rainbows – Radiohead

Either/Or – Elliott Smith

Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

folklore – Taylor Swift

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

Arrival – ABBA

Headhunters – Herbie Hancock

Hozier – Hozier

Make it Big – Wham!

The Lexicon of Love – ABC

Off The Wall – Michael Jackson

Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division

The Stranger – Billy Joel

Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

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