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The Hilltopper

The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

Debating Rolling Stone’s Top 20 Albums Of All Time (Part 2 of 4)

This is a continuation of Part 1, so of course please read that before reading this one, as there are some vital details for Rolling Stone Magazine, as well as the albums previously listed before. I’ll keep it short, so with all that being said, the magazine still sucks and the order of this list does too. 

#15: Public Enemy- “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (1988)

Album cover for “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”.

Similar to The Clash’s “London Calling,” “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” was a major reason hip hop as a whole caught steam in the late 80s and early 90s. But with that being said, this project has just not aged well. 

This Public Enemy album has been called the hip-hop equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” another super influential album that changed music. However, while I get the comparison, I don’t agree. 

I hate claiming albums as overrated, but while listening to this project, I just couldn’t stay invested apart from a few songs. Also, it’s not like I dislike classic hip hop, as I love albums like “Paid In Full” by Eric. B and Rakim, as well as another Public Enemy album like “Fear of a Black Planet.” 

Songs like ‘Bring The Noise’ and ‘Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic’ both have obnoxious beats that are honestly hard to listen to. The sampling is also a problem in 2024, even though it was revolutionary for its time, I can’t help but get second-hand embarrassment when I hear some of the sampling on tracks like ‘Night Of The Living Baseheads.’ Honestly, 50% of this album sounds like a Family Guy skit. 

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t good tracks. I actually love ‘Louder Than A Bomb,’ and I like other songs like ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos’ and ‘Caught, Can We Get A Witness?.’ Overall, I don’t hate this album, but I tried way too hard to like it, to no avail. 

As for Rolling Stone’s #15 placement in the top 20, I don’t agree. Once again, similar to “London Calling,” I can see why it’s placed here, but over time, it has just aged poorly. I really hope this one grows on me, but for now, I don’t get the hype. 

My personal rating for “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back:” 6/10

#14: The Rolling Stones- “Exile On Main Street” (1972)

Album cover for “Exile On Main Street”

The Rolling Stones’ second album of the 70’s decade was one to remember. “Exile On Main Street” is constantly brought up among the band’s best albums, as well as the best albums of said decade. 

The Rolling Stones are obviously one of the most influential rock bands of their time, as they were a very established group when it came to charting success, critical acclaim, and their live shows. Although they were known as hit makers for nearly the entirety of the 60s, at some point in 1968, they put far more effort into their albums, and it began one of the most consistently great album runs ever. 

“Exile On Main Street” acts as the finale on their run of 4 straight great albums, the others being “Beggars Banquet” in 1968, “Let It Bleed” in 1969, “Sticky Fingers” in 1971, and of course this project. 

Although they didn’t experiment too much, nor did they stray away from their established formula, “Exile,” possibly the best sounding Stones album. Songs like ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Sweet Virginia,’ and ‘Rocks Off’ all serve as great songs and are remembered as some of the Stones’ best. There are noticeably more jazz elements found throughout the album, and while I’m not the biggest fan of jazz, it does work on this occasion. 

The band famously stayed in an old World War 2 headquarters building in France because of the debt that lead singer, Mick Jagger, had in England. Before the English Government could seize their assets, the Stones fled and recorded “Exile.”

Now, to be fair, there is a fair share of mediocre songs on this project, such as ‘Turd On the Run’ and ‘I Just Want to See His Face.’ Even though the album isn’t perfect, I still really enjoyed this one throughout. 

Even though I don’t think it belongs in the top 15 albums ever, I can once again see why it was placed here. I’d say Rolling Stone was somewhat correct here. 

My personal rating for “Exile On Main Street:” 9/10

#13: Aretha Franklin- “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You” (1967)

Album cover for “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”.

Off the back of her first number-one hit, Aretha Franklin capitalized on the hype and released one of the most passionate and soulful records ever with “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” Though it hasn’t exactly aged perfectly, it still holds up 57 years later. 

Of course, the song that everyone knows whether they like it or not, ‘Respect,’ is the major standout from the record, but other songs like ‘Soul Serenade,’ and her cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ are great additions. 

Franklin is recognized by many as possibly the greatest female vocalist of all time, and it’s very likely that this album is the reason why. As I said earlier, it holds up in 2024 because of her voice which can only be described as attention-grabbing. There’s some jazz found in nearly every track, and similar to the Stones album, it compliments her vocals very well. 

There isn’t too much to say for this one because of the amount of material found in the original album, but it was still a welcome surprise and I may come back to it eventually. 

Its spot on the list is once again unsurprising, especially since ‘Respect’ was listed as the greatest individual song of all time by Rolling Stone a couple years ago. I’m not saying it’s undeserving but I feel as if there’s been albums on this list that are just better, as well as albums that weren’t included this high up that are more than deserving. 

My personal rating for “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You:” 8/10

#12: Michael Jackson- “Thriller”

Album cover for “Thriller”.

Saying Michael Jackson moved people with his music would be an understatement. Jackson is the best-selling solo artist of all time, second overall. Lots of that success can be attributed to this album, as “Thriller” is the single best-selling album ever made. 

Everybody knows that it’s a pop phenomenon. All seven of the singles released for “Thriller” charted the top ten, with two of said singles reaching the coveted number one slot. But enough of the commercial success, what about the music?

Well, you’d be delighted to know that the music is just as delightful as its success states. It’s one of the most upbeat, catchy, and to my surprise, amazingly crafted. Every beat was carefully put together, and every single song is a viable contender for being the album’s best. 

My personal favorite song off “Thriller” is ‘The Girl Is Mine,’ which features Paul McCartney because of the excellent handoff between the two, as well as the smooth beat that backs it. 

Obviously, you can’t talk about this album without mentioning the big three: ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Thriller,’ and ‘Beat It.’ All three are songs that everybody has heard, and most people would agree that they are all pop masterpieces. 

There’s no concept to “Thriller,” but every song is a perfectly crafted pop song that is just a wonder to listen to. The feeling associated with listening to this album is unlike any pop album I’ve ever heard. 

It’s spot on the list is absolutely deserved, not only because of its legendary status, but because of the music being next to perfect as well. 

My personal rating for “Thriller:” 10/10

#11: The Beatles- “Revolver”

The Revolver album cover for The Beatles.

There is absolutely no introduction needed for the legendary Beatles. While they were only around for seven and a half years, their presence was felt then, and arguably even more now. BeatleMania was a phenomenon in every single sense, incomparable to anything else. 

Similar to the Rolling Stones, at some point in the band’s tenure, they focused less on making hits, and more towards improving their sound, while also innovating and creating musical concepts that are still used today. 

Amongst the Beatles’ historically renowned and incredible discography, I’d say that “Revolver” is their defining masterpiece. In a sense, it’s the most ‘Beatles’ album in their catalog, as everything that the group is known for can be found here. 

From songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ “Revolver” is purely made of the bread and butter that The Beatles are known for now. The simplicity of the songs combined with many experimental aspects (which is more than likely caused by drug issues between McCartney and Lennon) create this super straightforward, yet amazingly diverse sound that they really didn’t replicate after the release of it. 

Although their previous album “Rubber Soul” may have kickstarted the new Beatles sound, “Revolver” only built off of it, while simultaneously taking a step in another direction for the group. 

This album’s spot on the list is more than deserved, and luckily, it won’t be the last time I speak about it in this series. 

My personal rating for “Revolver:” 10/10


I will admit that this part of the list doesn’t match up to the previous one, but that’s not to say that there aren’t gems here. Here are my rankings for the albums listed below:

  1. Beatles- “Revolver,” best songs include: ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ ‘For No One,’ and ‘And Your Bird Can Sing.’
  2. Michael Jackson- “Thriller,” best songs include: ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Thriller,’ ‘Beat It,’ ‘The Girl Is Mine,’ and ‘The Lady in My Life.’
  3. Rolling Stones- “Exile On Main Street,” best songs include: ‘Rocks Off,’ ‘Tumbling Dice,’ ‘Sweet Virginia,’ ‘Let It Loose,’ and ‘Shine A Light.’
  4. Aretha Franklin- “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” best songs include ‘Respect,’ ‘Soul Serenade,’ ‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ and ‘Baby, Baby, Baby.’
  5. Public Enemy- “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back,” best songs include: 

This was once again very time-consuming, but at the end of the day, I don’t regret it a bit. Part 3 will be out soon, and as a spoiler, it’s far better than this section.

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