Lauryn Hill's classic 'Miseducation' album tops Apple Music's list of best albums of all time

Let the debate begin

Jonathan Landrum Jr
Wednesday 22 May 2024 13:33 BST
Music Apple Music Best Albums
Music Apple Music Best Albums (2023 Invision)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


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

Apple Music certainly has an idea. The music streaming giant announced on Wednesday their 10 greatest albums of all time with Lauryn Hill’s 1998 iconic “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” claiming the top spot. Hill’s debut album outpaced other classic records from Beyoncé,The Beatles,Michael Jackson,Prince,Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar,Amy Winehouse,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,” Hill said after receiving the news.

The top 10 albums culminated Apple Music’s inaugural 100 best albums, which started with a 10-day countdown last week. There's only five artists with two albums on the full list including The Beatles, Wonder, Prince, Radiohead and Beyoncé.

The process started several months ago when Apple Music’s editorial 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) — generated a list of candidates from the past 65 years.

“This list isn’t a popularity contest,” Darden 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.”

Members from Apple Music’s internal team submitted their personal lists of albums through the company's voting microsite. The votes were weighted according to an album’s placement — the higher the ranking, the more votes assigned.

Apple Music used the same voting methodology for a select group external voters that included artists, songwriters, producers and some media.

And now, we're here. With commentary from Lowe and Darden, here is Apple Music’s top 10 best albums list:

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

DARDEN: 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)

LOWE: 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)

DARDEN: “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.

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

DARDEN: 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 favorite 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).

5. Frank Ocean, “blond” (2016)

LOWE: 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)

LOWE: 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 channeled something major.

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

DARDEN: 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)

LOWE: 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.

9. Nirvana, “Nevermind” (1991)

LOWE: 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)

DARDEN: 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.

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