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Apple Music Reveals Top 10 Albums Of All Time on 100 Best List

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Apple Music Reveals Top 10 Albums Of All Time on 100 Best List

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Apple Music’s 100 Best Albums list culminates today with the much-anticipated reveal of the top 10 albums of all time and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is crowned as number one.

Upon receiving the news, Lauryn Hill told Apple Music, “This is my award, but it’s a rich, deep narrative, and involves so many people, and so much sacrifice, and so much time, and so much collective love.”

To celebrate, Apple Music’s Zane Lowe and Ebro Darden sat down with legendary record producer, writer, and performer Nile Rodgers and Grammy-nominated artist and producer Maggie Rogers to reflect on the list during a special roundtable broadcasting globally today on Apple Music.

Apple Music’s 100 Best Albums is a modern 21st-century ranking of the greatest records ever made, crafted by Apple Music’s team of experts alongside a select group of artists, songwriters, producers, and industry professionals. The list is an editorial statement, fully independent of any streaming numbers on Apple Music — a love letter to the records that have shaped the world music lovers live and listen in.

Explore the top 10 albums below.

10. Lemonade (2016), Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s genre-obliterating blockbuster sixth album is furious, defiant, anguished, vulnerable, experimental, muscular, triumphant, humorous, and brave — a vivid personal statement, released without warning in a time of public scrutiny and private suffering. Every second of Lemonade deserves to be studied and celebrated.

Nile Rodgers (NR): This album was so monumental. And I say this with a huge amount of respect because I know what it takes to achieve what she did here.

Zane Lowe (ZL): It was massive. Groundbreaking. It was the first time I feel that an artist of that magnitude, with that much attention on them, decided to take the narrative and really try to control it and share what they wanted to share.

Maggie Rogers (MR): I was in college when this record came out, and I remember hitting play on my laptop in my apartment, like my fifth-floor walkup in the East Village, and it was the first time I skipped class because I was halfway through and I was like, I’m not leaving. I have to be here today… What I hear more than anything is her power and the way it’s coupled with her vulnerability. There is such an exposition of female power on this record.

9. Nevermind (1991), Nirvana 

Nevermind and its opening salvo “Smells Like Teen Spirit” didn’t just mark an unlikely breakthrough for the Seattle trio, it upended popular culture in ways never before and never since. Punk became pop, grunge became global vernacular, industry walls broke into rubble, and lead vocalist Kurt Cobain was anointed the reluctant voice of a generation in need of catharsis — all seemingly overnight.

ZL: When this album came out, it made everyone who heard it and connected to it feel like we finally had a band, a real band that was ours. And all the things we liked that seemed disconnected and seemed out of place and were not being taken seriously — it was like oh, you’re taking us seriously now.

MR: The vulnerability of this record, coupled with the intensity of the way it sounded and the cultural moment that it bled into, touched something.

Ebro Darden (ED): They wanted to be great. They wanted to write great songs. They wanted to give us all of the feels, right? It felt real.

8. Back to Black (2006), Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s presentation and otherworldly, timeless vocals make her music feel different — not so much an attempt to re-create the past as to honor the music she loved while still being true to the trash-talking, self-effacing millennial she was. The sound of Back to Black might appeal to retro-soul fans and jazz classicists, but the attitude is closer to rap. Yes, she was funny. But she wasn’t kidding.

ZL: This is just heartbreak for 35 minutes. Unrequited, painful heartbreak made at times for the dance floor, at times to sing along to, at times to sway to — don’t let the joy of the music get it twisted. The songwriting is coming from a very painful place.

ED: Right from the beginning, I felt like her voice was delivered to us from another time. Like her vocal styling and what she was doing was timeless in a way.

MR: So many times when I hear an artist try and reference something in the past, I’m always like, I would kind of just rather have the original thing… But Amy Winehouse did it in a way that actually took all that tradition and then added something to it and moved it forward.

7. good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012), Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album good kid, m.A.A.d city is one of the defining hip-hop records of the 21st century. West Coast hip-hop elders like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre anointed Lamar to carry on the legacy of gangsta rap, and the legacy of this album is a crucial example of American storytelling that established the future Pulitzer Prize winner as perhaps his generation’s most accomplished writer.

ZL: This is one of the most beautifully curated, created, structured, and track-listed albums of the modern era.

ED: Compton just had delivered so much hip-hop that there was a lot of pressure on this kid. The ability to deliver stories, bars, energy, performance on recorded material… He delivered on a Black consciousness that you don’t always get in hip-hop. And that’s why I’m really proud of the fact that it ranks where it does on this list.

6. Songs in the Key of Life (1976), Stevie Wonder

In 1974, Stevie Wonder was the most critically revered pop star in the world; he was also considering leaving the music industry altogether. So when Songs in the Key of Life was released two years later, demand was so high that it became, at the time, the fastest-selling album in history. The album, which runs nearly 90 minutes, is effortlessly melodic, broad in scope, and deeply personal. Sonically, culturally, and emotionally, Songs in the Key of Life is much more than a gigantic collection of songs — it forms an entire worldview.

NR: For me, no matter what instrument he’s playing, he sort of speaks with the same voice. It’s a real unique gift. His singing, his harmonica playing, his keyboard playing all sounds like Stevie Wonder.

ZL: It’s iconic. He still continues to have such an enormous presence and influence on artists today, young and established.

MR: Songs in the Key of Life just exists as this unbelievable piece of art. I can’t imagine a world that doesn’t have this record in it.

5. Blonde (2016), Frank Ocean

Though Blonde packs 17 tracks into one quick hour, it’s a sprawling palette of ideas, a testament to the intelligence of flying one’s own artistic freak flag and trusting that audiences will meet them where they’re at. They did. And Ocean established himself as a generational artist uniquely suited to the complexities and convulsive changes of the second decade of the 21st century.

ZL: It is music put on canvas. I look at the canvas through different light at different times of the day, depending on how I feel. And I see strokes of color I never saw before or even knew existed. There’s so many layers and thoughts and emotions and hooks and ideas that all somehow make sense differently every single time.

MR: This record feels like smoke rising, it is so delicate and so unpredictable and so precise.

4. Purple Rain (1984), Prince & The Revolution

With half its track list comprising top 10 singles, this soundtrack is what truly turned Prince Rogers Nelson into one of the most instantly recognizable and distinctive pop artists ever. Prince often drew comparisons to Jimi Hendrix for the way he mixed music that felt Black and white, sacred and profane. The reality is that he had no precedent then and no comparison now.

ED: Prince is my favorite artist of all time. Without a doubt. You could point to everything that he does. He actually plays the instruments. He actually writes the song. He’s actually singing on stage. He’s actually doing his own art direction. He did his own fashion design. That was all him.

NR: When you think about artists who’ve had such a major impact on your life — my relationship with Prince was a very peculiar one because we were so regular, which is hard to say because he’s so irregular; he’s so abnormal. But the music, the film, just everything around this record was just so amazing. And it just put me in such a place of respect and happiness. And just like, man, not only you’re keeping the tradition alive, but you’re taking us to another level. I was just so proud to be in the world the same time he was in the world.

3. Abbey Road (1969), The Beatles

The BeatlesAbbey Road is an ageless, unmatched collection of songs by a world-changing band at their creative peak. The band’s 11th and penultimate album sounds like nothing more or less than four extremely gifted humans playing one indelible song after another in the same room together.

MR: There is something so special about making music where you have a song that is describing some of the greatest human pain or sorrow next to a song that you would happily play for your 3-year-old, next to one of the greatest love songs… It’s timeless, but not just in the way that it will last forever, but in the way that there’s something for every moment of humanity and every human feeling on this record. It’s for people of every age.

NR: There’s something about the Beatles that’s always really magical to me. Believe it or not, the first song I ever actually learned to play on guitar was a Beatles song. I knew at that moment that I was going to be a guitar player. Prior to that, I played the clarinet.

ZL: The amount of songs that have stayed with people as they’ve lived their lives to a point… played at anniversaries, weddings, funerals, fall in love to, broken up to. There are lots of songbooks that speak to many times in life. I think The Beatles have the songbook of life.

2. Thriller (1982), Michael Jackson

There are few pop albums, or even works of art, that denote a wholesale shift in time and space the way Michael Jackson’s Thriller did in 1982. It did nothing less than define the modern pop blockbuster and redefine the scope and reach of music. Seven of its nine original cuts were top 10 singles, and it became one of the bestselling albums ever made.

ZL: Not only did it outsell everything in its opening year, it outsold everything in its second year. It changed the way people approached making music, releasing music, distributing, marketing music, and no one ever caught up to it. It set the bar so high.

NR: When Michael dropped this record, to me, the world changed. It was a seismic shift. Having a Black artist do a music video on the level of “Thriller” just changed the world.

1. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill’s debut — and only — solo studio album was a seismic event in 1998: a stunningly raw, profound look into the spiritual landscape not just of one of the era’s biggest stars, but of the era itself. She was, and remains, a once-in-a-generation talent whose inspiration and innovation can be heard through the decades. Artists exhaust long discographies hoping for a cohesive piece of work resonant enough to reshape culture and inscribe its creator into the pantheon; Lauryn Hill did it in one.

ZL: This album doesn’t just resonate with the people who were around when it came out and who hold it dear. It has not dated, not even a fraction. In fact, it feels more fresh and more relevant the more you listen to it… There are a lot of young artists hearing it, and it’s becoming part of their artistic DNA. It’s inspiring and influencing them… It’s timeless.

MR: Lauryn brought everybody with her on this record. She brought her community. She brought her friends and her family. You’re in the kitchen; you’re in the living room with her. You hear people; you hear the voices talking… It’s so open and so expansive and so direct… To have an artist like Lauryn Hill be the number one, that means a lot.

ED: It’s very personal. This album delivers on so many levels. It exemplifies and captures popular music of the last 25 years, holistically. It’s R&B, it’s hip-hop, it’s independent women, strong women, it’s topical, it’s sampling… I think that’s why it got voted number one.

NR: She’s amazing. This record is amazing.

Watch the full roundtable conversation with Nile Rodgers, Maggie Rogers, Zane Lowe, and Ebro Darden at music.apple.com.

As an additional gift to music fans, Apple Music created 100 audio vignettes telling the story of each album and contextualizing its significance and position on the list. Written by a team of music experts and edited by award-winning audio editors, these vignettes are sonic companions to Apple Music’s 100 Best Albums. Listen to the stories behind each of the albums and more on Apple Podcasts.

Music lovers can also access 100 Best Albums special content across the Apple ecosystem on the App Store, Apple News, Apple Retail, apple.com, and more. Additionally, they can explore a 100 Best Albums dedicated space on Apple Books, which celebrates titles by and about artists from the list.

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