rolling stone best albums marvin gaye

Breaking Down Rolling Stone’s Best Albums With Discogs Data

Arguing over the best albums is a popular pastime of any fan. Countless lists have been created, shared, discussed, and revisited over the years. One of the most-talked-about is Rolling Stone’s ranking of the best albums of all time, which was first introduced in 2003 (with a minor update in 2012) and recently updated for 2020. The media mainstay of the music industry has dissected decades of history and boldly declared which records transcend time.

Now, we’re not here to argue with Rolling Stone. Rather, we’d like to view the magazine’s picks through the lens of Discogs. We have the data showing which albums can be found in the most collections of Discogs users, so we’re going to break down the list by the numbers. Strap in.

But before we dive in, here’s a quick explanation of the different terms: “have” means that the album is in a Discogs user’s Collection, “want” means that it’s on a user’s Wantlist, and the “average rating” speaks to the overall quality of vinyl pressings (or CD and cassette copies), not the music.

If you are missing any of these in your collection, check out this convenient list that Discogs user Mike Wheeler made.

Rolling Stone’s Top 10 With Discogs Stats

lauryn hill miseducation

10. Lauryn Hill ‎– The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)

Have: 24,902
Want: 19,636
Avg. rating: 4.45/5

bob dylan blood on the tracks

9. Bob Dylan ‎– Blood on the Tracks (1974)

Have: 52,975
Want: 39,333
Avg. rating: 4.53/5

prince purple rain

8. Prince and the Revolution ‎– Purple Rain (1984)

Have: 106,229
Want: 87,107
Avg. rating: 4.47/5

fleetwood mac rumours

7. Fleetwood Mac ‎– Rumours (1977)

Have: 171,717
Want: 212,616
Avg. rating: 4.54/5

nirvana nevermind

6. Nirvana ‎– Nevermind (1991)

Have: 137,466
Want: 233,657
Avg. rating: 4.63/5

beatles abbey road

5. The Beatles ‎– Abbey Road (1969)

Have: 193,410
Want: 291,236
Avg. rating: 4.63/5

stevie wonder songs in the key of life

4. Stevie Wonder ‎– Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Have: 70,939
Want: 63,287
Avg. rating: 4.44/5

joni mithell blue

3. Joni Mitchell ‎– Blue (1971)

Have: 32,881
Want: 38,715
Avg. rating: 4.46/5

beach boys pet sounds

2. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

Have: 71,871
Want: 118,688
Avg. rating: 4.62/5

marvine gay what's going on

1. Marvin Gaye ‎– What’s Going On (1971)

Have: 51,997
Want: 116,489
Avg. rating: 4.65/5

Most Collected Albums on Discogs

There are a lot of parallels between Stone’s favorites and the most-collected albums on Discogs. Notably, The Beatles are well-loved and well-collected. However, just because something is well-loved doesn’t mean that it’s also well-worn. There are a lot of popular records that can be found in collections across the world that don’t break the top 100 with Rolling Stone. The following ranks the top 10 most-collected albums on Discogs that also made an appearance within the first 100 on Rolling Stone‘s roundup of the best albums.

nirvana nevermind

  1. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (No. 55 on Rolling Stone)
  2. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (No. 24)
  3. The Beatles – Abbey Road (No. 5)
  4. Michael Jackson – Thriller (No. 12)
  5. Led Zeppelin – Untitled (No. 58)
  6. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (No. 7)
  7. The Beatles – The Beatles (No. 29)
  8. Nirvana – Nevermind (No. 6)
  9. The Beatles – Revolver (No. 11)
  10. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (No. 40)

Popularity Contest Among the Classics

By now, you’ve sensed a theme. When we cross-reference the artists on Rolling Stone‘s list with the artists that are the most-collected or -coveted among Discogs users, there is an obvious overlap: The Fab Four, The Purple One, The Boss, The Thin White Duke. However, what the magazine has declared the best album from some popular musicians is different than the album that can be found in most people’s collections. We narrowed the scope by starting with the 250 most-collected release on Discogs and leading with the records that are more popular than the highest-ranked with Rolling Stone by that artist.

beatles abbey road

Looking Forward to the New Classics

Keep in mind that the albums that are the most-collected on Discogs often have thousands more pressings than albums we could consider among our favorites; for example, Dark Side of the Moon (1973) has been in print, so to speak, a lot longer than The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998). Eighty-six albums from the 2000s were new to the 2020 edition of Rolling Stone’s list, but we’re highlighting the highest-ranking ones that came out in the past 10 years.

outkast stankonia

  1. Kanye West ‎– My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010 (No. 17)
  2. Kendrick Lamar ‎– To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015 (No. 19)
  3. D’Angelo ‎– Voodoo in 2000 (No. 28)
  4. Beyoncé ‎– Lemonade in 2016 (No. 32)
  5. Amy Winehouse ‎– Back to Black in 2006 (No. 33)
  6. Jay-Z ‎– The Blueprint in 2001 (No. 50)
  7. OutKast ‎– Stankonia in 2000 (No. 64)
  8. Kanye West ‎– The College Dropout in 2004 (No. 74)
  9. Frank Ocean ‎– Blond in 2016 (No. 79)
  10. Beyoncé ‎– Beyoncé in 2013 (No. 81)

Albums That Need Vinyl Reissues

As we mentioned before, sometimes the number of copies of a record can influence its perceived popularity. For example, there are enough VHS copies of Jerry Maguire in the world that some folks are building a pyramid out of them, but not many people will say that it’s their favorite movie. On the flipside, Tracy Chapman’s self-titled LP won’t be found on Discogs’ most-collected lists, but the vinyl version consistently ranks on our monthly best-selling roundups due to its limited nature.

Below, we’ve listed some of the albums among Rolling Stone‘s Top 500 that could desperately use a repressing or reissue on vinyl (dare we say a remastering?) for fans, collectors, and audiophiles alike. Shout out to Jasper Bernbaum for doing the research and curating this list.

selena amor prohibido

The Winners and Losers

The Winners

Everybody that isn’t a white guy playing classic rock. No offense to the white guys that gave us classic rock — we love the stuff. However, as Consequence of Sound so succinctly pointed out, the original 2003 list had just 12 artists of color, three women, and one hip-hop record ranking in the top 50. The 2020 edition is much more reflective of people and genres.

lauryn hill miseducation

“The new 500 is less rock-centric. Hip-hop’s legacy and continued vitality stands out (with three times as many rap albums represented on the new list as on the original), as does the interwoven lineages of soul music: Prince has two albums in the top 50; The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill jumped from 312 to 10; and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (an album for these times if there ever was one) beat out the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to take over the number one spot,” said the magazine of the growth since 2003.

“The world’s never been as depressing as it is right now. We’re killing the planet, killing our young men in the streets, and going to war around the world. Human rights … that’s the theme,” Gaye told the Detroit Free Press around the time that album was released in 1971. Does that sound too familiar in 2020?

All reflections on how not much has changed in 50 years aside, we’re extremely proud to see the changes that lead to more female and BIPOC inclusion.

The Losers

Pink Floyd fans. We get it, they’re great, and regular Discogs users have a lot of opinions on the band, but Rolling Stone doesn’t share those opinions. The Wall, Animals, Meddle, and several other Floyd albums didn’t break into the top 500 list curated by Rolling Stone staff and friends.

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