Lauryn Hill, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Prince and more top Apple Music's list of best albums

Publish Date
Thursday, 23 May 2024, 2:10PM
Photos / AP with edits by Coast

Photos / AP with edits by Coast

Let the debate begin. Who has the best music albums ever?

Apple Music certainly has an idea. The music streaming giant has announced its 10 greatest albums of all time with Lauryn Hill’s 1998 iconic The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill claiming the top spot. Lauryn's debut album outpaced other classic records from The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar, Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Nirvana.

“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,” Lauryn said after receiving the news.

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While Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill takes out the top spot, Abbey Road came in at number three, just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Other notable placements include Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours at 11, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited at 14, Joni Mitchell’s Blue at 16 and Beach Boys‘ Pet Sounds at 20.

The Beatles also placed at 21 with Revolver, Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run at 22, and David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (2012 Remaster) at 24.

There are only five artists with two albums on the full list - The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Radiohead and Beyoncé.

Apple Music started curating this list months ago, with a team of editors and music experts – including Zane Lowe (global creative director and lead anchor for Apple Music 1) and Ebro Darden (global editorial head of hip-hop and R&B) – generating a list of candidates from the past 65 years.

“This list isn’t a popularity contest,” Ebro said. “We challenged everyone to not vote based on your favorites. You’re invited into the panel because you have music knowledge beyond what you listen to when you’re on the elliptical machine.”

And now, we’re here. With commentary from Zane and Ebro, here is Apple Music’s list of the top 10 best albums:

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

Ebro: We’re really leaning on what she did on this album. The songwriting, what she shared, what was happening in her life that she effectively put in the music. The fact that she just became a mother. All the R&B vibes. The Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, along with D’Angelo’s Nothing Even Matters. The social commentary in Doo Wop (That Thing). It’s hip-hop. It’s R&B. It’s got a dancehall element. It’s a powerful woman being independent and being like, “Yo, I got something to say.” And oh, by the way, the son she’s singing about on the album is Bob Marley’s grandson... It checks so many boxes.

2. Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)

Michael Jackson performs during the 1993 halftime show at the Super Bowl. Photo / AP

Zane: It’s the greatest blockbuster album ever. I think everyone I’ve spoken to about this list automatically assumes that it’s going to be No 1. That’s because we’ve spent decade after decade seeing it basically No 1. It came out during a time period when music was the top entertainment in the world. People were desperate for this Michael Jackson record even more than going to see a movie. Thriller is an incredible record. The whole thing is dialed in. But it didn’t bug me that Lauryn came in at No 1 and Thriller landed at No 2.

3. The Beatles, Abbey Road (1969)

Ebro: Abbey Road has taken on a more modern life of its own in the social media space with TikTok. Maybe that’s why it landed so high. When you go song for song on Abbey Road, I think it musically represents a happy time for the Beatles. It’s very much like more raw Beatles than pop Beatles.

The Beatles in Liverpool on July 10, 1964. Photo / AP

4. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (1984)

Ebro: I love that it was a black artist making soulful rock and pop records. I loved the movie. It’s phenomenal memories. It’s not my favourite Prince album. I’m more into Sign O’ The Times. Dance, music, sex romance. I’m a big Prince fan, so I’m happy this got the votes. I think Purple Rain lives on in [iconic fashion].

Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Feb. 18, 1985.. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File)

5. Frank Ocean, blond (2016)

Zane: I had this higher than five. I simply adore this album. I feel like Frank is like Prince. He is like Michael. He is like Lauryn. He is like Marvin [Gaye]. He is like Radiohead. He is the great outliers who found a way into our hearts on a massive scale. They do not make music to appeal to a large audience, and yet somehow the music they make reaches us. Blond didn’t hit the certain sales targets that some of the biggest albums on this list did... But every time I put it on, it moves me different every single time.

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

Stevie Wonder performs at the 2022 American Music Awards. Photo / AP

Zane: It starts with a message, and it ends with a time to process everything that’s happened in between. In the end, he finally gives you a moment to just take everything you’ve listened to and just absorb it. He channelled something major.

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

Ebro: I’m happy this went so high. It was his debut album. He wrote an audio movie about his neighborhood and basically being a reluctant kid who is surrounded by all this toxicity, mayhem and chaos. He’s trying to see his way through it. He created opportunities for him and his friends to survive.

8. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black (2006)

Zane: It talks about heartbreak, rejection, unrequited love and the pain you go through when you have feelings for someone who doesn’t have the same feelings back. You don’t know what to do with that emotion. It’s very human. If we all live long enough, we’re going to go through real heartbreak in our life. This album took that experience and made us sing and dance and move. It’s one of the most tasteful albums about heartache ever recorded. It’s an incredible magic act.

Amy Winehouse performs in London on June 27, 2008. Photo / AP

9. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)

Zane: This was a combination of real skill, beautiful instinct, total courage and vulnerability. It showed the ability to dial into what [Kurt Cobain] was feeling and dress it up in a way that made people want to dance, jump, sing and scream. But if you really listen, which tens of millions of people did, it was deeper than that. And we understood it. This album was the start of me being able to sit down and have a conversation about anxiety and depression with my mom, my brother and friends. If he could write about it, why can’t I talk about it?

10. Beyoncé, Lemonade (2016)

Ebro: This was the first time we got to see Beyoncé's personal life. Her sister just beat up her husband on an elevator, and everybody’s in their business now... I like Lemonade but it’s not my favorite Beyoncé album. Renaissance is one my favorite Beyoncé albums ever. But if you lived in that Lemonade moment, it was a big deal.

Read the full list below:

100. Body Talk - Robyn
99. Hotel California - The Eagles
98. ASTROWORLD - Travis Scott
97. Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine
96. Pure Heroine - Lorde
95. Confessions - USHER
94. Untrue - Burial
93. A Seat at the Table - Solange
92. Flower Boy - Tyler, The Creator
91. Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 - George Michael
90. Back in Black - AC/DC
89. The Fame Monster (Deluxe Edition) - Lady Gaga
88. I Put a Spell on You - Nina Simone
87. Blue Lines - Massive Attack
86. My Life - Mary J Blige
85. Golden Hour - Kacey Musgraves
84. Doggystyle - Snoop Dogg
83. Horses - Patti Smith
82. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ - 50 Cent
81. After the Gold Rush - Neil Young
80. The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem
79. Norman F****** Rockwell! - Lana Del Rey
78. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
77. Like A Prayer - Madonna
76. Un Verano Sin Ti - Bad Bunny
75. Supa Dupa Fly - Missy Eliott
74. Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
73. Aja - Steely Dan
72. SOS - SZA
71. Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk
70. Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A
69. Master of Puppets (Remastered) - Metallica
68. Is this It - The Strokes
67. Dummy - Portishead
66: The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths
65: 3 Feet High and Rising - De La Soul
64. Baduizm - Erykah Badu
63. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
62. All Eyez on Me - 2Pac
61. Love Deluxe - Sade
60. The Velvet Underground and Nico (45th Anniversary Edition) - Velvet Underground & Nico
59. AM - Arctic Monkeys
58. (What’s The Story) Morning Glory - Oasis
57. Voodoo - D’Angelo
56. Disintegration (Remastered) - The Cure
55. ANTI - Rihanna
54. A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
53. Exile on Main Street (2010 Remaster) - The Rolling Stones
52. Appetite for Destruction - Guns ‘N Roses
51. Sign O’The Times - Prince
50. Hounds of Love (2018 Remaster) - Kate Bush
49. The Joshua Tree - U2
48. Paul’s Boutique - Beastie Boys
47. Take Care (Deluxe Version) - Drake
46. Exodus (2013 Remaster) - Bob Marley & The Wailers
45. Homogenic - Björk
44. Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
43. Remain in Light - Talking Heads
42. Control - Janet Jackson
41. Aquemini - OutKast
40. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You - Aretha Franklin
39. Illmatic - Nas
38. Tapestry - Carole King
37. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (Expanded Edition) - Wu-Tang Clan
36. BEYONCÉ - Beyoncé
35. London Calling - The Clash
34. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy
33. Kid A - Radiohead
32. Ready to Die (The Remaster) - Notorious B.I.G.
31. Jagged Little Pill (Remastered) - Alanis Morissette
29. The Low End Theory - A Tribe Called Quest
28. The Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
27. Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin
26. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West
25. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
24. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (2012 Remaster) - David Bowie
23. Discovery - Daft Punk
22. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
21. Revolver - The Beatles
20. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
19. The Chronic - Dr. Dre
18. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) - Taylor Swift
17. What’s Going On - Marvin Gaye
16. Blue - Joni Mitchell
15. 21 - Adele
14. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
13. The Blueprint - Jay-Z
12. OK Computer - Radiohead
11. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
10. Lemonade - Beyoncé
9. Nevermind - Nirvana
8. Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
7. good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe Version) - Kendrick Lamar
6. Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder
5. Blonde - Frank Ocean
4. Purple Rain - Prince
3. Abbey Road - The Beatles
2. Thriller - Michael Jackson
1. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Lauryn Hill

- Written by AP and republished here with edits and permission

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