Michael Jackson - Thriller

Most important popular music albums of the 20th century, by the New York Times’ critics

In the beginning of 2000, the New York Times published a list of “the most significant albums of the last century” made by its popular-music critics Jon Pareles, Neil Strauss, Ben Ratliff, and Ann Powers. They chose 25 albums “representing turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music.”

“As we argued, we found ourselves reflecting our own place and time, concentrating on American music and with a slightly foreshortened focus on the years since 1950,” they said. “We accepted one anachronism: choosing albums, not singles, for performers throughout the century, although the LP was introduced only in 1948. Faced with an abundance of deserving music, we also slipped in a few hits collections and compilations. By necessity much is left out, but the chosen albums are a foundation for understanding the popular music of the 20th century.”

Below are the two lists the critics compiled, in chronological order. The first is comprised of the actual 25 most important albums; the second has other 25 “worthy contenders”, as they called them.

The most important

Hot Fives & Sevens Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong
JSP or Columbia, 1925-1928

The Bristol Sessions Various artists

Various artists
Country Music Foundation, 1927

Greatest Hits Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday
Columbia/Legacy, 1935-41

Oklahoma! (Original Broadway cast) Various artists


(Original Broadway cast)

Various artists
MCA, 1943

[amazon template=custom_thumbnail&asin=B000001G1E&search_text=%TITLE%&title=Star Time James Brown]
[amazon text=Star Time&template=custom_title&asin=B000001G1E&search_text=%TITLE%&title=Star Time James Brown]
[amazon text=James Brown&template=custom_search&search_text=%TITLE%&title=James Brown] 1991, Polydor
[amazon text=Amazon&template=custom_text_price&asin=B000001G1E&multi_cc=1&search_text=%TITLE%&title=Star Time James Brown]

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The contenders

Rhapsody in Blue George Gershwin

George Gershwin
Paul Whiteman conducting, George Gershwin piano
RCA, 1924

Anthology of American Folk Music Various artists

Various artists
Smithsonian Folkways, recorded 1926-34, collected 1952

His Best Chuck Berry

His Best

(Volume 1 and Volume 2)

Chuck Berry
MCA, 1955-72

West Side Story (Original film soundtrack) Various artists

West Side Story

(Original film soundtrack)

Various artists
Sony Classical, 1961

Saturday Night Fever Various artists

Various artists
RSO, 1977

Sign o’ the Times Prince

Warner Brothers, 1987

The Chronic Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre
Death Row/Interscope, 1993

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The New York Times is an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since September 18, 1851. It has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization, and is one of the most influential papers in the world. (Wikipedia.)

Source: The New York Times
Last checked on: 10 February 2016