Call For Comments: The Greatest of the Greatest of Music

From Mav: So last week, Apple Music released their list of the Best 100 albums of all time. As these things do it sparked a fair bit of media attention from music reporter types either praising it or complaining about it, and then… basically everyone moved on and forgot about it. To be fair, these sort of things basically happen all the time. And honestly, I think the main reason for them to exist at this point is click bait to give people something to complain about for a news cycle or two. We keep saying that we’re going to do a show on the phenomenon of listicles in general, but we never got around to it. So I guess now we’re going to.

For me one of my pet peeves with listicles is that they’re sort of… generally pointless. A lot of times when I see a “100 best albums of all time” it’s really “one dudes favorite 90 pop albums since 2005, plus one to two hits each from every decade from the 50s-90s and that includes Michael Jackson’s Thriller and two Beatles albums”. That’s about the level of thought that gets put into them. There’s strong recency bias, and strong Top 40 bias and they’re usually very white. Hell, just last year, Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner came under fire for basically saying that the greatest music acts of all time contained no black people or women. We almost did a show about this then, but then never got to it.

Of course, this is always subjective. It’s hard to come up with a universal ideal of what “great” is. I’m not even sure I can come up with a universal definition of what an “album” is. So deciding on the greatest albums of all time is necessarily hard. And for me, it’s impossible. I’ve often said, if you ask me to name my 5 favorite anything, but the time I’get to number 1, I will have already changed my mind on what 5 and 4 were. I’m just… bad at that. I like too many things!

On the other hand, Apple’s list did even with saying the number one album of all time is The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill… and I have a hard time disagreeing with that; it is is a perfect album. And they clearly went out of their way to be diverse and avoid the Wenner issue.

So, I suppose it’s time. We want to talk about best music listicles… both in general and the recent apple list in specific. Take a look down it. Do you agree? What do you love? What would you change? What makes an album a best album anyway? What are the criteria? Is it different from being the best group? Is it different from being the most enjoyable album? Do the songs have to just all be good? Do they have to tell a story? Is there something else? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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