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We Americans have the best music in the world.

That’s not just patriotism talking. Jazz, blues, rock & roll, soul, country and hip-hop — they all started in the U.S.A. From the backwoods Georgia soul of Otis Redding to the New York sophistication of the Velvet Underground to the California decadence of the Eagles, American music is as broad and diverse as the nation itself.

Blender pays tribute to these united states of musical grace by presenting the 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time. Feel free to salute.
By John Aizlewood, Johnny Black, Ben Brandt, Clark Collis, J.D. Considine, Paul Du Noyer, John Harris, Erik Himmelsbach, Rupert Howe, Peter Kane, Michael Leonard, Steve Lowe, Ben Mitchell, Alex Pappademas, David Peisner, John Perry, David Quantick, Kieran Scott, Phil Sutcliffe, Rob Tannenbaum, Frank Tope and Carlo Twist
100. OTIS REDDING, OTIS BLUE — OTIS REDDING SINGS SOUL
(Atlantic, 1965)

From Dawson, Georgia
They called him Mr. Pitiful
Recorded in just three days, it’s a virtual template for soul music. Whether craving a little wifely “Respect” or seemingly about to implode on “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” Redding was never more sweatily persuasive. This topped the R&B charts, but rock fans didn’t catch on until later.
Standout tracks “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Respect”
Buy it!

99. STEVIE WONDER, FULFILLING-NESS’ FIRST FINALE
(Tamla, 1974)

From Saginaw, Michigan
Candid ’70s soul
A lot more eccentric (and a much bigger success) than Innervisions, this ponderously titled but lightly executed album is Stevie Wonder’s most personal project. It’s not all introspection — “You Haven’t Done Nothin’ ” is a solid crowd-pleaser — but there’s plenty to think about here.
Standout tracks “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” “Creepin’ ”
Buy it!

98. THE REPLACEMENTs, LET IT BE
(Twin Tone, 1984)

From Minneapolis
Indie rock’s favorite fall-down drunks stand tall
By 1984, the Replacements had proved they could do sloppy drunk better than anyone, but on Let It Be they finally brought the tunes. They were still confused, bored, rude, disaffected, horny and, quite often, wasted, but for 34 glorious, pop-savvy minutes, they sounded exactly like winners.
Standout tracks “Unsatisfied,” “I Will Dare”
Buy it!

97. THE DOORS, THE DOORS
(Elektra, 1967)

From Los Angeles
This ain’t the Summer of Love
The Doors is a double-platinum amalgam of rock, blues and jazz that sounds fully psychedelic. Ray Manzarek’s swirling organ provided the melodic backbone for the apocalyptic hoodoo of Jim Morrison. Though he fancied himself a poet, Morrison ultimately had greater impact on the nation’s leather-pants industry.
Standout tracks “Light My Fire,” “The End”
Buy it!

96. KID ROCK, DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE
(Top Dog/Lava/Atlantic, 1998)

From Romeo, Michigan
His name is Kiiiiiid Rock!
Kid Rock declared himself the “pimp of the nation,” and after the opening salvo, “Bawitdaba,” no one was arguing. Devil had listeners riding shotgun in the Kid’s souped-up Caddy as blue-collar rock got a much-appreciated boost, complete with the manly tearjerker “Only God Knows Why.”
Standout tracks “Bawitdaba,” “Cowboy”
Buy it!

95. HARRY NILSSON, NILSSON SCHMILSSON
(RCA, 1971)

From Brooklyn, New York
A sweet, soulful pop pastiche
In the ’60s, Nilsson was a cult figure clever enough to wow the Beatles, but not to sell records. This disc changed that. With the whimsical “Coconut” and a number 1 remake of Badfinger’s self-pitying “Without You,” Nilsson gave post-Beatles pop an American spin.
Standout tracks “Coconut,” “Without You”
Buy it!

94. NIRVANA, IN UTERO
(DGC, 1993)

From Aberdeen, Washington
Grunge icons’ second number 1
Hyped as intentionally uncommercial; producer Steve Albini later branded the band sellouts for remixing the album. Kurt Cobain tried to keep indie cred by mocking his “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” status but wasn’t able to turn off the hook-writing part of his brain. So instead of mere bile, fans still heard hits.
Standout tracks “Heart Shaped Box,” “All Apologies”
Buy it!

93. TORI AMOS, UNDER THE PINK
(Atlantic, 1994)

From Newton, North Carolina
Flame-haired torch songs from hell
Just one woman, her inner demons and a unique way of sitting astride the piano stool: It all seemed so naive, but Amos’s double-platinum second album was powerful magic: love songs with hidden teeth and sexy confessions whispered across her pillow. Jerry Springer was never this dark.
Standout tracks “Cornflake Girl,” “Pretty Good Year”
Buy it!

92. LUCINDA WILLIAMS, LUCINDA WILLIAMS
(Rough Trade, 1988)

From Lake Charles, Louisiana
The thinking listener’s country songwriter
Williams stands apart from the Nashville mainstream by virtue of the intelligence of her songs, delivered in a voice of uncompromising honesty. Her third album enriched rootsy country with soul/blues touches, predating the likes of Shelby Lynne.
Standout tracks “Passionate Kisses,” “Am I Too Blue”
Buy it!

91. EAGLES, HOTEL CALIFORNIA
(Asylum, 1976)

From Los Angeles
Nothing succeeds like excess
“Life in the Fast Lane” captured coke culture in a catchphrase, while the title tune framed Hollywood anomie in terms so impressively vague they seemed mythic. It spent two months at number 1 and epitomized the suburban ’70s, but made its most enduring mark as the template for ’90s Nashville.
Standout tracks “Hotel California,” “New Kid in Town”
Buy it!

90. WEEZER, WEEZER
(Geffen, 1994)

From Los Angeles
Classic from geek-rock innovators
A major influence on punk softies like Blink-182, Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo was among the first alt-rock craftsmen to combine no-nonsense hard rock with sublime melody and harmony, justifying the “Everly Brothers meet Nirvana” critical tag his band garnered. Their first, and still their finest.
Standout tracks “Buddy Holly,” “Undone — The Sweater Song”
Buy it!

89. TALKING HEADS, REMAIN IN LIGHT
(Sire, 1980)
From New York
A legendary union of brains and ass
Talking Heads were always bursting with nervous energy and interesting ideas, but Remain in Light married their new-wave idiosyncrasies to Afro-funk beats and grooves that drew on everything from James Brown to Fela Kuti to disco. Who knew that geeky former art students had this much soul?
Standout tracks “Born Under Punches,” “Once in a Lifetime”
Buy it!

88. DJ SHADOW, ENDTRO-DUCING . . .
Mo’Wax/FFRR, 1996

From Davis, California
Hip-hop abstraction gets funky
A hip-hop DJ with a scholar’s sense of purpose and a gargantuan record collection, Josh “DJ Shadow” Davis composes with turntables. Davis’s debut drew on horror-film ambience and pounding prog-rock, but was anchored by old-school production. This rendered all other “trip-hop” entirely irrelevant.
Standout tracks “Midnight in a Perfect World,” “Mutual Slump”
Buy it!

87. R.E.M., AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE
(Warner Bros., 1992)

From Athens, Georgia
Michael Stipe: the lush years
For Automatic, R.E.M. returned to their earlier sound, but with string arrangements by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. From the aching grace of “Nightswimming” to the empathetic Andy Kaufman tribute, “Man on the Moon,” it was the band’s most emotional, most human album.
Standout tracks “Everybody Hurts,” “Man on the Moon”
Buy it!

86. NEIL YOUNG, AFTER THE GOLD RUSH
(Reprise, 1970)

From Toronto, Ontario
Ripped denim gems
A Woodstock superstar, Neil Young was too much the maverick to bliss out with the Love Generation. On his breakthrough third album, he made a majestic survey of the emotional landscape, and found that flower children must grow up, and that even hippies get the blues.
Standout tracks “Southern Man,” “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
Buy it!

85. WILLIE NELSON, RED HEADED STRANGER
(Columbia, 1975)

From Abbott, Texas
Outlaw landmark — not a yee-ha! on it
Simple elegance expressed complex ideas in this milestone concept album about a Wild West psycho in Montana. Nelson’s somber voice and lurching guitar and sister Bobbie’s exquisite piano shaped a dark and dense masterwork having nothing to do with Nashville.
Standout tracks “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Can I Sleep in Your Arms”
Buy it!

84. BUDDY HOLLY, GREATEST HITS
(MCA, 1995)

From Lubbock, Texas
Definitive overview of lost ’50s rocker
Holly’s death on February 3, 1959 — “the day the music died,” sang Don McLean — robbed ’50s rock of its most promising white songwriter. His records didn’t match the excitement of his live shows, but they compensated with simplicity and a sophistication that remains a songwriting benchmark.
Standout tracks “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue”
Buy it!

83. THE MINUTEMEN, DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME
(SST, 1984)

From San Pedro, California
Small-town band made punk its own
The Minutemen’s fourth album had singer/guitarist D. Boon and bassist Mike Watt spitting political rants and brainy working-class yarns, while Boon’s gnarled guitar leads occupied the middle ground between funk, jazz, hardcore and John Fogerty.
Standout tracks “Corona,” “History Lesson, Pt. 2”
Buy it!

82. DE LA SOUL, 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING
(Tommy Boy, 1989)

From Amityville, New York
Listen . . . to what the flower people rap!
At the close of the ’80s, De La Soul popped up with boldly goofy alternative hip-hop, spilling satirical whimsy over Prince Paul’s sample-crazed production. Likewise, for better or worse, 3 Feet High and Rising made the between-songs “skit” a hip-hop staple.
Standout tracks “Me, Myself and I,” “Potholes in My Lawn”
Buy it!

81. VARIOUS ARTISTS, NUGGETS: 1965?1968
(Elektra, 1972)

From all over the U.S.
Garage-rock days revisited
In his liner notes, rock critic (and Patti Smith guitarist) Lenny Kaye writes that these were “unprofessional” bands. Take that as a glowing recommendation. Found among Nuggets’ garage one-hit wonders, though, are first steps by Todd Rundgren and Ted Nugent.
Standout tracks Standells, “Dirty Water”; the Barbarians, “Moulty”
Buy it!

80. NINE INCH NAILS, THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
(Nothing/Interscope, 1994)

From Cleveland
Platinum American Gothic
Between Lollapalooza I and Woodstock II, Trent Reznor settled in at the Manson murder house on L.A.’s Cielo Drive and cranked out an industrial-rock gem. Musically complex, lyrically bleak, its fascination with self-destruction made Reznor a synth antihero.
Standout tracks “Closer,” “Hurt”
Buy it!

79. WOODY GUTHRIE, DUSTBOWL BALLADS
(Camden, 1964)

From Okemah, Oklahoma
The Grapes of Wrath: The Musical
“Hard-hitting songs for hard-hit people,” Pete Seeger called these tunes, cut in 1940. Guthrie — an all-American folk-hero Communist — thrived on gritty stories and gallows humor. Croaking, cackling and pounding his guitar, he was Bob Dylan’s principal inspiration.
Standout tracks “I Ain’t Got No Home,” “Blowin’ Down the Road”
Buy it!

78. ELVIS PRESLEY, FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS
(RCA, 1969)

From East Tupelo, Mississippi
Hippie era chomped by lion King
Elvis’s 1968 TV comeback restored his priapic glory and mocked his silly movies. Then, in a little Memphis studio with no one watching, he let rip. He sang like a wild animal with a wounded heart — so rough and raw, he made Otis Redding sound calculating.
Standout tracks “Power of My Love,” “After Loving You”
Buy it!

77. JANE’S ADDICTION, NOTHING’S SHOCKING
(Warner Bros., 1988)

From Los Angeles
Alt-rock goes deep — and heavy
If Led Zeppelin and the Doors had a child — then divorced, leaving the tyke a latchkey kid on Ritalin — their spawn would have been Jane’s Addiction. Jane’s were a genre unto themselves. And when singer Perry Farrell sought similarly odd acts for his Lollapalooza fest, a new era began.
Standout tracks “Jane Says,” “Pigs in Zen”
Buy it!

76. MUDDY WATERS, AT NEWPORT 1960
(Chess, 1960)

From Rolling Fork, Mississippi
Maximum mojo for yo’ moolah
This was many white folks’ first exposure to deep blues. For some, it became the gospel. One of the earliest recordings of Waters’s electric band, Newport found the former McKinley Morganfield in needle-sharp form with his mojo working overtime.
Standout tracks “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Got My Mojo Working”
Buy it!

75. LAURYN HILL, THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL
(Columbia, 1998)

From South Orange, New Jersey
Chilled but sassy hip-hop schoolin’
Following the Fugees’ smooth alchemy (turning classic tracks into modern gold), Hill’s solo debut seemed even more effortlessly assured. Laying gravelly vocals over superslick grooves, this Grammy-sweeping album showed what Hill really learned.
Standout tracks “Doo Wop (That Thing),” “Ex-Factor”
Buy it!

74. ARETHA FRANKLIN, LADY SOUL
(Atlantic, 1968)

From Memphis, Tennessee
Ten steps to R&B perfection
Nobody ever got close to stealing Aretha’s Queen of Soul crown. She was in her prime in 1968, offering this master class in technique, power and pure feel. No filler — just 10 cuts of complete artistic control, with “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” the sexually liberating star turn.
Standout tracks “Chain of Fools,” “Niki Hoeky”
Buy it!

73. PIXIES, SURFER ROSA
(4AD, 1988)

From Boston
Beautifully weird alt-rock touchstone
The Pixies’ angular guitar squalls, menacing bass lines and gripping dynamics made them the model for a decade of alt-rockers. Import-only at first, Surfer Rosa struck an ideal balance between Black Francis’s demented rants and Kim Deal’s melodic silliness, achieving sonic heights few Pixies imitators ever approached.
Standout tracks “Gigantic,” “Where Is My Mind?”
Buy it!

72. CARPENTERS, THE SINGLES 1969?1981
(A&M, 2000)

From Downey, California
Masters of soft rock
Thanks to Karen Carpenter’s gently authoritative voice, these pristine pop singles illuminated the work of the era’s great songwriters (Burt Bacharach, Leon Russell, Paul Williams) — and topped the charts more than four times in a career now impossible to separate from its well-known and tragic end.
Standout tracks “Superstar,” “Goodbye to Love”
Buy it!

71. L.L. COOL J, RADIO
(Def Jam, 1985)

From Bayshore, New York
Ladies (and rap fans, too) loved cool James
Big beats, small scratches, verbal agility and a whole lot of B-boy attitude were all the ingredients necessary for 18-year-old L.L. Cool J (born James Todd Smith) to turn his debut album platinum and kick-start the Def Jam hip-hop dynasty. It’s raw and often verbose, but also highly effective.
Standout tracks “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” “Rock the Bells”
Buy it!

70. PRINCE, SIGN “O” THE TIMES
(Paisley Park, 1987)

From Minneapolis
Soul, sex, excess: everything U listen 2 Prince 4
It took Prince three years to nail a worthy follow-up to 1984’s 13-times-platinum Purple Rain. This kinky double disc topped that album artistically: Prince swung from funk to rock to power pop, electronically gender-bent his vocals and achieved epic musical sprawl without sacrificing intimacy.
Standout tracks “Adore,” “Ballad of Dorothy Parker”
Buy it!

69. LYNYRD SKYNYRD, (PRONOUNCED LEH-NERD SKIN-NERD)
(MCA, 1973)

From Jacksonville, Florida
The South rises again
Skynyrd’s debut was fiery finger-lickin’ boogie, driven by Ronnie Van Zant’s workingman’s growl. Though known for their three-guitar attack, Skynyrd’s gut-busting ballads wrenched the soul, particularly “Free Bird,” the greatest lighter-waving anthem of all time.
Standout tracks “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Free Bird”
Buy it!

68. TLC, CRAZYSEXYCOOL
(Laface, 1994)

From Atlanta
Sisters were doing it for themselves
Two years after their debut, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas made a Girlz II Women quantum leap, applying mid-’90s urban pop sophistication to become the smartest female trio since Diana Ross led the Supremes. Never topped the charts, but sold 11 million all the same.
Standout tracks “Waterfalls,” “Creep”
Buy it!

67. PAVEMENT, SLANTED AND ENCHANTED
(Matador, 1992)

From Stockton, California
The Nevermind of cerebral indie rock
Their intention was simply to make a “cool record” — but Pavement’s debut was a generational touchstone, bundling a selected history of maverick music into an album that’s still an integral part of the alt-rock curriculum. It never charted, but fans believe the band never bettered it.
Standout tracks “Summer Babe (Winter Version),” “Loretta’s Scars”
Buy it!

66. MODERN LOVERS, MODERN LOVERS
(Berserkley, 1976)

From Boston
It played a part in me finding my guitar tone. I heard it when I’d just turned 18. They were so energetic, so young. And “Pablo Picasso” is basically just the same chord all the way through! Now that’s cool.
Buy it!

65. BILLIE HOLIDAY, LADY IN SATIN
(Columbia, 1958)

From Philadelphia
Startling masterpiece rooted in tough times
Pickled in gin, sharing a needle with her junkie Chihuahua and barely able to hold a note, Lady Day was in big trouble by 1958. So she turned actress, falling back on her peerless way with a lyric and mining the contrast between fat string arrangements and emaciated vocals in this classic jazz drama.
Standout tracks “You’ve Changed,” “For All We Know”
Buy it!

64. GRAM PARSONS, GRIEVOUS ANGEL
(Reprise, 1974)

From Winter Haven, Florida
The patron saint of alt-country
Released four months after Parsons went to that great nightclub in the sky, Grievous Angel was more than a final bow. It infused the ex?Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother’s cosmic twang with melancholy soul, breathing new life into both country and rock & roll.
Standout tracks “Hearts on Fire,” “$1,000 Wedding”
Buy it!

63. JOHNNY CASH, AT FOLSOM PRISON
(Columbia, 1968)

From Kingsland, Arkansas
Everybody likes a captive audience
Johnny Cash and band stride into California’s second oldest prison, unleash their gut-wrenching country- and blues-tinged rock and stride back out. Legend has it that there’s gold beneath Folsom. For Cash, there was gold inside: At Folsom Prison charted for two years.
Standout tracks “Jackson,” “Folsom Prison Blues”
Buy it!

62. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
(Columbia, 1978)

From Freehold, New Jersey
The essence of Bruce
The grandiose Born to Run (1975) proved Springsteen was far more than just another New Dylan, but the Boss was stung by accusations of hype. For the triple-platinum Darkness, he crafted material that mined his blue-collar roots with a vitality he never topped.
Standout tracks “Badlands,” “Racing in the Street”
Buy it!

61. THE COASTERS, 50 COASTIN’ CLASSICS
(Rhino, 1992)

From Los Angeles
Rock’s most enduring novelty hits
When L.A. vocal group the Robins met East Coast writer/producers Leiber & Stoller, they struck R&B gold. Driven by riotous King Curtis sax, the renamed quartet’s late-’50s hits — four R&B chart-toppers, including “Searchin’ ” and “Poison Ivy” — mixed ghetto narratives with zany wit.
Standout tracks “Charlie Brown,” “Yakety Yak”
Buy it!

60. PAUL SIMON, GRACELAND
(Warner Bros., 1986)

From Newark, New Jersey
He loved Africa. Africa loved him
Jaded after Hearts and Bones, Paul Simon recruited the cream of South Africa’s musicians and loosened up. The result was Simon’s biggest-selling and best solo work, a renewal of his superstar status, the magical hit “The Boy in the Bubble” and the appearance of a world-music section in your local record store.
Standout tracks “The Boy in the Bubble,” “Homeless”
Buy it!

59. WU-TANG CLAN, ENTER THE WU-TANG (36 CHAMBERS)
(Loud/RCA, 1993)

From Staten Island, New York
New York brings the ruckus (back)
The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut had all the earmarks of cultdom — masked rappers, a back story shaped by comics and kung-fu flicks, and grimy beats. Yet the octet’s output was so badass, it drew gangsta rap?jaded hip-hop fans back to New York.
Standout tracks “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Bring Da Ruckus”
Buy it!

58. GRATEFUL DEAD, AMERICAN BEAUTY
(Warner Bros., 1970)

From San Francisco
Farewell, “Dark Star”; hello, songs
Workingman’s Dead paved the way, and the acid-etched Californians took their newfound love of rolling tunes, loose harmonies and folksy storytelling a step further on American Beauty. Their indispensable album, it gave them both FM-radio access and their peripatetic anthem, “Truckin’. ”
Standout tracks “Truckin’, ” “Box of Rain”
Buy it!

57. MARY J. BLIGE, MY LIFE
(MCA, 1994)

From Bronx, New York
There’s always been something about Mary. . . .
If her 1992 debut, What’s the 411?, cast Blige as hip-hop diva par excellence, her sophomore set proved her worth beyond the dance floor. Her singing on “You Bring Me Joy” was personal, emotional and life-affirming, while producer Sean “Puffy” Combs’s beats pushed the music to triple platinum success.
Standout tracks “Be Happy,” “You Bring Me Joy”
Buy it!

56. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, EVIL EMPIRE
(Epic, 1996)

From Los Angeles
I loved the energy they put forth on that record. They made people aware of shit that everyone else tries to ignore. They were the only band on the planet with any integrity.
— Chad Kroeger, Nickelback
Buy it!

55. BOB DYLAN, THE BASEMENT TAPES
(Columbia, 1975)

From Duluth, Minnesota
The most influential bootleg of all
After a 1966 motorcycle crash nearly killed him, Dylan spent nine months recording new songs with what would become the Band. The result was almost the birth of country-rock, but Dylan declined to release it. Bootleggers spread the word until Dylan saw the error of his ways in 1975.
Standout tracks “This Wheel’s on Fire,” “Bessie Smith”
Buy it!

54. FRANK SINATRA, IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS
(Capitol, 1955)

From Hoboken, New Jersey
A masterpiece of late-night misery
The sound of swingin’, Scotch-on-the-rocks cool finally grew up. Ol’ Red Eyes’ legendary “dark days” — the booze-soaked brawls, the fall from popularity, the heartbreak and hair loss — were behind him, but each scar added depth and power to these smoky ballads.
Standout tracks “Deep in a Dream,” “I’ll Be Around”
Buy it!

53. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, THE LOW END THEORY
(Jive, 1991)
From Queens, New York
The discerning fan’s hip-hop
A Tribe Called Quest rose above the murky waters of gangsta rap to hold aloft a beacon of hip-hop positivity. The Low End Theory was their second album, an undisputed masterpiece with warm jazz samples plus relaxed, thoughtful rhymes by Q-Tip and Phife Dawg.
Standout tracks “Butter,” “Scenario”
Buy it!

52. RANDY NEWMAN, 12 SONGS
(Reprise, 1970)

From New Orleans
Even short people have no reason to dislike this
Randy Newman had written numerous hits for others, and “Mama Told Me Not to Come” would later send Three Dog Night to the top of the charts. But the singer’s own version — and the other 11 tracks of “Jewish blues” on this album — had a heart, wit and soulful style that transcended the charts.
Standout tracks “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Lucinda”
Buy it!

51. JONI MITCHELL, COURT AND SPARK
(Asylum, 1974)

From Fort McLeod, Alberta
Affairs of the heart, ’70s-style
Blue (1971) was wonderful but also well-named. For those who didn’t feel like drowning in melancholy, this — her biggest seller — was Mitchell’s finest. The old “who’s this one about?” game is tantalizing (the “Free Man in Paris” is apparently mogul David Geffen).
Standout tracks “Help Me,” “Free Man in Paris”
Buy it!

50. KISS, DESTROYER
(Casablanca, 1976)

From Queens, New York
Uncle Gene wants you
With a fistful of fully erect anthems commingling with boys’ choirs, drippping strings and classic American cheese (“Beth”), Kiss built on the success of 1975’s Alive! Though true believers yelled “Sellout!” upon its release, Destroyer (Kiss’s first million-seller) sounds positively heartfelt 25 years on.
Standout tracks “Beth,” “Detroit Rock City”
Buy it!

49. EMINEM, THE SLIM SHADY LP
(Interscope, 1999)

From Detroit
Slim Shady? His name is trouble!
A snarky white kid from Motor City spinning lurid rhymes about self-abuse, prescription painkillers and offing his wife? The Moral Majority recoiled, but there was no stopping this debut. Powered by Dr. Dre’s beats, Slim Shady sold 4 million, making Marshall Mathers the world’s most notorious rapper.
Standout tracks “My Name Is,” “Guilty Conscience”
Buy it!

48. MILES DAVIS, KIND OF BLUE
(Columbia, 1959)

From East St. Louis, Missouri
Taking jazz way beyond cool
Davis was already a major star by the late ’50s, and this album reinforced his rep as a trendsetter and innovator. His approach to blues and improvisation here was revolutionary, but it was the tuneful grace of his sextet — a group including legends-in-the-making John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley — that made this a classic.
Standout tracks “So What,” “All Blues”
Buy it!

47. PHIL SPECTOR, BACK TO MONO (1958?69)
(ABKCO, 1991)

From Bronx, New York
Monomaniacally massive, magical and mysterious
Spector’s “wall of sound” was a huge, Wagnerian slab of instruments that made even the most pedestrian teen pop seem mythic. For a time (the early ’60s), his minions — Darlene Love, the Crystals, the Ronettes — ruled the charts. These are their hits.
Standout tracks The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”; the Crystals, “Da Doo Ron Ron”
Buy it!

46. RUN-DMC, RAISING HELL
(Profile, 1986)

From Queens, New York
Where rock and rap first said “I do”
After 1984’s “Rock Box” brought guitar noise to hip-hop, the trio that invented hardcore rap sealed the deal by inviting Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to retool “Walk This Way.” Rap-metal was born; “My Adidas” birthed the hip-hop/fashion axis. In Florida, a light bulb flashed over young Fred Durst’s head.
Standout tracks “Walk This Way,” “You Be Illin’ ”
Buy it!

45. PEARL JAM, VS.
(Epic, 1993)

From Seattle
Supergrowly grunge deluxe
Initially the flannel-shirted bridesmaid to Nirvana’s bride, Pearl Jam emerged from that shadow with this superb, roiling, emotional collection. Eddie Vedder never managed that blend of menace and sympathy quite as well again, and the band’s notorious battles with fame and Ticketmaster would soon sap its energies.
Standout tracks “Daughter,” “Rearviewmirror”
Buy it!

44. DR. DRE, THE CHRONIC
(Death Row, 1992)

From Compton, California
Nuthin’ but a “G” thang
After helping write the book on gangsta rap with N.W.A, Andre “Dr. Dre” Young started a smokin’ new chapter with his triple-platinum solo debut. With Snoop Doggy Dogg as his vocal foil and beats influenced by George Clinton’s ’70s P-Funk, The Chronic managed to be both dangerous and addictive at once.
Standout tracks “Let Me Ride,” “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”
Buy it!

43. SLY & THE FAMILY STONE, THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON
(Epic, 1971)

From San Francisco
Civil disobedience never sounded like so much fun
Riot is one of the great radical albums, and definitely the funkiest. Stone was teetering on the brink of self-destruction, but his music never sounded more eclectic and expressive. Every subsequent beat revolutionary, from De La Soul to Beck, owes him.
Standout tracks “Family Affair,” “Smilin’”
Buy it!

42. PATTI SMITH, HORSES
(Arista, 1975)

From Chicago
Rimbaud with punk guitars
Patti Smith’s vision of extremist poetry and rock music, filtered through sex, the Beats and horses, was best realized on her Lenny Kaye? produced debut, on which ’60s garage covers melded with rude remarks about Jesus to produce the best punk-rock Bob Dylan album ever made. Not a hit (it peaked at number 47), but clearly a landmark.
Standout tracks “Gloria,” “Redondo Beach”
Buy it!

41. JIMI HENDRIX, ELECTRIC LADYLAND
(Reprise, 1968)

From Seattle
Guitar innovator enters studio, leaves galaxy
To create this psychedelic landmark (his final studio recording with the Experience, and his only number 1), Hendrix camped out at New York’s Record Plant for months, filtering the blues through effects-drenched arrangements and turning studio science into science fiction.
Standout tracks “Gypsy Eyes,” “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”
Buy it!

40. HOLE, LIVE THROUGH THIS
(DGC, 1994)

From Los Angeles
Grunge’s drama queen makes good
Before Courtney Love became a Hollywood sideshow, her band made one of the most potent albums of the post-punk era. Released on the heels of hubby Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the music’s fury smelled eerily like teen spirit, but ultimately it was Miss World herself who sold the guitar-fueled drama.
Standout tracks “Violet,” “Doll Parts”
Buy it!

39. ELVIS PRESLEY, THE SUN SESSIONS
(RCA/BMG, 1976)

From East Tupelo, Mississippi
The days the planets aligned
Between 1953 and 1955, Elvis Presley’s first recordings captured a force of nature: untutored, unsophisticated, but somehow brilliant. These spartan takes on (primarily) blues songs, recorded at Memphis’s Sun Studios, are the sound of rock music being invented, however unwittingly.
Standout tracks “That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train”
Buy it!

38. ARETHA FRANKLIN, I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU
(Atlantic, 1967)

From Memphis, Tennessee
The queen of soul finds her voice
Under the tutelage of Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler, this album saw Franklin become the soul diva of her generation. From “Respect” to “Do Right Woman?Do Right Man,” this was a plea for love and dignity no listener couldn’t be moved by.
Standout tracks “Do Right Woman?Do Right Man,” “Respect”
Buy it!

37. BEASTIE BOYS, PAUL’S BOUTIQUE
(Capitol, 1989)

From New York
Rump-shaking. Mind-boggling
Cut in Hollywood but quintessentially New York, the Beastie Boys’ second album baffled fans primed for a party-hearty Licensed to Ill sequel (it peaked at number 14). But the crafty rhyming — abetted by dizzying Dust Brothers production — helped the Beasties shake off their novelty-act rep.
Standout tracks “Hey Ladies,” “Shake Your Rump”
Buy it!

36. CHIC, RISQUÉ
(Atlantic, 1979)

From New York
Good times and classic bass lines
Chic started out as a rock trio but couldn’t crack the music industry’s color barrier. So they went disco, and for a while ruled the charts. This million-selling third album was their acme, and the smooth, bass-driven “Good Times” (as later appropriated by the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”) became a hip-hop cornerstone.
Standout tracks “Good Times,” “My Feet Keep Dancing”
Buy it!

35. THE B-52’s, THE B-52’s
(Warner Bros., 1979)

From Athens, Georgia
They were campy, amateurish and outrageously good
In the slipstream of punk rock, ’70s new wave was melded to ’50s trash-rock, thanks to a gang of southerners with a significant following in New York. To call the B-52’s’ resulting sound unique — it was bolstered by a mess of smoke alarms, walkie-talkies and toy pianos — would be a considerable understatement.
Standout tracks “Rock Lobster,” “Planet Claire”
Buy it!

34. STEELY DAN, KATY LIED
MCA, 1975

From New York
Sex, jazz and rock & roll
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had ditched their band by their fourth album. Accompanied by their favorite session players, they fashioned a world of gimlet-eyed sophistication that, for all its suavity, dealt with drug dealers (“Doctor Wu”) and enticing teenage girls to watch porn (“Everyone’s Gone to the Movies”).
Standout tracks “Black Friday,” “Doctor Wu”
Buy it!

33. HANK WILLIAMS, 40 GREATEST HITS
(Mercury, 1978)

From Mount Olive, Alabama
Lonesome and blues were his favorite words
Williams lived fast and worked fast, too, recording relentlessly from 1947 until his alcohol-related death in 1953. This compilation shows how craft transcended the demon booze. Of these 40 hits, more than a quarter topped the country charts.
Standout tracks “Lovesick Blues,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
Buy it!

32. CURTIS MAYFIELD, SUPERFLY
(Curtom, 1972)

From Chicago
Blaxploitation’s finest 40 minutes
The movie was no Oscar winner, but the ex-Impression’s gold soundtrack was a milestone. It also won over white rock fans who wanted a little ghetto funkiness. Inventively atmospheric, with Mayfield’s edgy guitar and whispery falsetto ratcheting up the tension, its message was crystal clear: Drugs are bad, sucker.
Standout tracks “Freddie’s Dead,” “Pusherman”
Buy it!

31. LOUIS ARMSTRONG, THE COMPLETE HOT FIVE AND HOT SEVEN RECORDINGS
(Columbia Legacy, 2000)

From New Orleans
Jazz starts here
Between 1925 and 1929, Armstrong invented scat singing, defined swing and introduced the jazz solo. He laid the foundations for America’s first indigenous art form — and had a ball doing it. No wonder he was our first global pop star.
Standout tracks “Heebie Jeebies,” “West End Blues”
Buy it!

30. LITTLE RICHARD, GROOVIEST 17 ORIGINAL HITS!
(Specialty, 1959)

From Macon, Georgia
Wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!
His career was over by 1959, for Richard Penniman had denounced rock & roll as the devil’s work. But he had time to add a fistful of songs to his existing greatest hits. He sounded possessed (evil was actually the word he used), but Jesus! — he knew how to thrill.
Standout tracks “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly”
Buy it!

29. BECK, ODELAY
(DGC, 1996)

From Los Angeles
A freewheeling collision of styles
Beck Hansen’s father hung out with Yoko Ono, and Beck enjoyed similar attention from the artsy. Mellow Gold in 1994 put him on the map commercially, but his second major-label album cemented his status as a ’90s icon. Mixing blues, country and hip-hop, the double-platinum Odelay swiftly acquired classic status.
Standout tracks “Devil’s Haircut,” “Where It’s At”
Buy it!

28. AEROSMITH, ROCKS
(Columbia, 1976)

From Boston
The toxic twins’ ultimate high
Pile-drivin’, funked-up blues brimming with sassy, salacious swagger, Rocks was Aerosmith’s greatest buzz. The potent combo of Joe Perry’s chug-a-lug riffs and Steven Tyler’s lecherous wail would never again sound as lethal. Perfect for shaking ass while juggling a bottle of Jack in one hand and a big doobie in the other.
Standout tracks “Back in the Saddle,” “Last Child”
Buy it!

27. AL GREEN, CALL ME
(HI, 1973)

From Forrest City, Arkansas
The reinvention of Memphis soul
His third classic set in just 18 months, the Top 10 Call Me marked Green’s creative and commercial peak. His awesome voice soared, soothed and seduced, and Willie Mitchell’s production chugged smoothly, while covers of Hank Williams and Willie Nelson made country and soul bewitching bedfellows.
Standout tracks “Call Me,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”
Buy it!

26. VAN HALEN, VAN HALEN
(Warner Bros., 1978)

From Pasadena, California
The ultimate party band’s ultimate party record
Van Halen’s debut, like frontmuffin David Lee Roth’s trousers, was tight in the right places, but comfortably loose where it counted. Eddie Van Halen wowed ’em with his revolutionary guitar technique, but it was Diamond Dave’s roguish, knockabout delivery that gave Van Halen their sleazy charm.
Standout tracks “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Jamie’s Cryin’ ”
Buy it!

25. NOTORIOUS B.I.G., LIFE AFTER DEATH
(Bad Boy/Arista, 1997)

From Brooklyn, New York
The storyteller who defined East Coast gangsta
Before he became a gun-culture martyr and folk hero, the former Christopher Wallace was a rapper, and a great one. Piloted by Sean “Puffy” Combs, this quadruple-platinum double CD infused routine gangsta fare with charisma, detail and wit.
Standout tracks “Mo Money Mo Problems,” “Hypnotize”
Buy it!

24. PARLIAMENT, MOTHERSHIP CONNECTION
(Casablanca, 1975)

From Plainfield, New Jersey
When funk was the bomb
George Clinton cast funk as religion, himself as prophet and a band of acid-gobbling James Brown castoffs as apostles. Beyond the spaceship and bizarre costumes, the grooves his collective uncorked were as deep as anything Brown cut in the mid-’70s.
Standout tracks “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)”
Buy it!

23. R.E.M., MURMUR
(IRS, 1983)

From Athens, Georgia
A great American musical journey begins
Nailing R.E.M.’s debut was hardly a breeze — during initial sessions, they attempted no fewer than 40 takes of “Catapult” — but they eventually pulled off a peerless meeting of intelligence and power. It marked the point at which the punk legacy made peace with rock history, and a new U.S. folk music was born.
Standout tracks “Radio Free Europe,” “Talk About the Passion”
Buy it!

22. ROBERT JOHNSON, KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS
(Columbia, 1966)

From Hazlehurst, Mississippi
Where it all starts
Before his early death in 1938, Robert Johnson virtually defined the blues. Whether the devil made him do it or not, these songs (recorded in 1936 and 1937) certainly hit otherworldly extremes. On first hearing this music, Keith Richards assumed Johnson had two guitars.
Standout tracks “Cross Road Blues,” “Walking Blues”
Buy it!

21. BOB DYLAN, BLONDE ON BLONDE
(Columbia, 1966)

From Duluth, Minnesota
Everybody must get . . . this album!
Routinely booed by folk fans feeling betrayed by their erstwhile idol’s embrace of electric instruments, Dylan enraged them even more by decamping to Nashville, leaving coffee bars behind forever with a sprawling, Robbie Robertson?abetted set which began to bring country into rock & roll.
Standout tracks “Just Like a Woman,” “Visions of Johanna”
Buy it!

20. JAMES BROWN, SEX MACHINE
(King, 1970)

From Macon, Georgia
A shift in funk’s foundations
Brown recorded most of this “live” album onstage in Augusta, Georgia, in 1969. Then his band quit. He recorded four songs with a scrappy new lineup, featuring future P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins, added taped applause and put the whole messy thing out. Both lineups smoked.
Standout tracks “Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine,” “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose”
Buy it!

19. NEIL YOUNG, RUST NEVER SLEEPS
(Reprise, 1979)

From Toronto, Ontario
Young invents grunge
It was fitting that Kurt Cobain quoted “Hey Hey, My My” in his suicide note, for half of Rust Never Sleeps boasts the grungiest guitar ever. Elsewhere, Young featured a clutch of brilliant but subdued country-rockers. A serious meditation on aging, it paradoxically made Young appear younger.
Standout tracks “Pocahontas,” “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”
Buy it!

18. PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION, PURPLE RAIN
(Warner Bros., 1984)

From Minneapolis
A prince becomes a king
Prince had been building a mythology for five albums before hitting the jackpot with this autobiographical movie and soundtrack. Purple Rain sold 13 million, inspired Tipper Gore to start her album-stickering crusade and briefly made Minneapolis the musical capital of the United States.
Standout tracks “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry”
Buy it!

17. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE VELVET UNDER-GROUND & NICO
(Verve, 1967)

From New York
Chapter one of alternative rock
Today, rock is commonly about S&M, heroin and death. In 1967, it wasn’t — not until this lot turned up. Adored by the artsy (Andy Warhol was the band’s sponsor), the Velvets made rock & roll a dangerous place.
Standout tracks “Heroin,” “I’m Waiting for the Man”
Buy it!

16. RAY CHARLES, MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC
(Rhino, 1962)

From Albany, Georgia
Soul grits and country gravy
Not content with inventing modern soul, Ray Charles couldn’t resist a crack at country, too. Extravagant arrangements and high-octane vocals confirmed the method in Charles’s country madness.
Standout tracks “Worried Mind,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
Buy it!

15. MARVIN GAYE, LET’S GET IT ON
(Tamla, 1973)

From Washington, D.C.
What’s Goin’ On may be more socially conscious, but Let’s Get It On is more love conscious. My aunt and uncle would play it, and they’d act like I didn’t know what was goin’ on. But they’d start dancin’ real close. You knew what that meant.
— Pharrell Williams, the Neptunes
Buy it!

14. BEACH BOYS, PET SOUNDS
(Capitol, 1966)

From Hawthorne, California
Brian Wilson’s finest hour
Effectively a Brian Wilson solo album, Pet Sounds so appalled Capitol the label rush-released a best-of to shore up the band’s career (though Pet Sounds hit number 10). The Beatles, disagreeing, later cited this orchestral song cycle as the inspiration behind a little record called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Standout tracks “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows”
Buy it!

13. MICHAEL JACKSON, OFF THE WALL
(Epic, 1979)

From Gary, Indiana
Michael, all grown up
He looks great on the sleeve, at ease with himself despite the formalwear. Chic attire aside, this was the first suggestion that disco need not be tacky. These immaculately produced, pre-Thriller tracks are now too familiar to shock, but in 1979, they were revolutionary. Perfection, however, is timeless.
Standout tracks “Off the Wall,” “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”
Buy it!

12. METALLICA, METALLICA
(Elektra, 1991)

From Los Angeles
None more black
“Enter Sandman” and “Sad but True” packed massive riffs, but the hardcore gagged at Metallica’s blatant commercialism. The “Nothing Else Matters” video was extra jaw-dropping, showing the lads being (gasp!) sensitive in the studio. Still, the band’s newly pared-down assault converted millions, making thrash seem almost mainstream.
Standout tracks “Enter Sandman,” “Sad but True”
Buy it!

11. PUBLIC ENEMY, IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK
(Def Jam, 1988)

From Garden City, New York
Believe the hype
Welding Chuck D’s hectoring black-power agenda to the equally militant sound of the Bomb Squad’s apocalyptic sample barrage, the fierce Nation made traditional rock & roll posturing seem museum-bound.
Standout tracks “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Bring the Noise”
Buy it!

10. JONI MITCHELL, BLUE
(Reprise, 1971)

From Fort McLeod, Alberta
Tales of love and loss. But mostly loss
“Write about what you know” is advice few have followed as thoroughly as Mitchell did on this set of laments, in which she ruminated on affairs with James Taylor and Graham Nash. Kris Kristofferson, hearing these songs, pleaded, “Joni, save something for yourself.” It was advice she chose to ignore.
Standout tracks “Carrie,” “The Last Time I Saw Richard”
Buy it!

9. NIRVANA, NEVERMIND
(DGC, 1991)
From Aberdeen, Washington
The punk revolution, part two
One of the most overanalyzed albums in history, Nevermind is best appreciated for its simpler charms — scattershot rage wrapped in punk fury and crisp pop melodicism. Weirdly, it made listeners feel thoroughly alive. Kurt Cobain loathed it, but it’s often better to trust the art rather than the artist.
Standout tracks “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Lithium”
Buy it!

8. CHUCK BERRY, THE GREAT TWENTY-EIGHT
(Chess, 1982)

From St. Louis
Classics from rock’s founding father
Twenty-eight tracks (spanning 1957 to 1963) aren’t all that’s great by Berry. But marvel at his wondrous storytelling and Johnny Johnson’s piano finesse, and then have fun spotting which of Berry’s classic guitar licks later appeared on hits by the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Beatles and others.
Standout tracks “Maybelline,” “Roll Over Beethoven”
Buy it!

7. BLONDIE, PARALLEL LINES
(Chrysalis, 1978)

From New York
Downtown art-punk goes pop
Blondie were too smart and sexy to be genuine punks, and their third album proved it. With pop chops, disco grooves and enough cooing harmonies to pass for low-rent Ronettes, the million-selling Parallel Lines transcended new wave, winning over Middle America.
Standout tracks “Hanging on the Telephone,” “Heart of Glass”
Buy it!

6. RAMONES, RAMONES
(Sire, 1976)

From Queens, New York
Prog rock, prepare to die
“Rock & roll had got bloated and lost its spirit,” said Joey Ramone. The solution? A 14-track riot of ripped denim, dumb lyrics and fuzz-toned guitars. Ramones was released in the summer of ’76; within 12 months, thousands picked up guitars, and punk rock grabbed headlines. Job done!
Standout tracks “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”
Buy it!

5. GUNS N’ ROSES, APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
(Geffen, 1987)

From Los Angeles
They were rabble. But they rocked
A typically L.A. blend of surface glamour and nasty underbelly, Appetite tossed the psychological car crash in Axl Rose’s head atop the hardest-rocking outfit since Aerosmith. Result? Megafame, breakdown and decline. But for a brief moment, this was the shit.
Standout tracks “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
Buy it!

4. STEVIE WONDER, INNERVISIONS
(Tamla Motown, 1973)

From Saginsaw, Michigan
The boy genius comes of age
“Higher Ground,” “Living for the City” and “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” were the hits, but the other six tracks were equally sublime. Wonder — the preeminent artist of his era — had mastered angry, socially conscious, ingenious music that remained danceable.
Standout tracks “Living for the City,” “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”
Buy it!

3. BOB DYLAN, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED
(Columbia, 1965)

From Duluth, Minnesota
Bob Dylan invents folk music from the future
Dylan didn’t abandon folk music; he just hauled it forward a few centuries. Out went acoustic hymns of protest, in came a whirlwind of images — mad, random, yet cruelly precise. This was big-city stuff, all psychic chaos and information overload. A loud bastard, and a Top 5 hit.
Standout tracks “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Desolation Row”
Buy it!

2. BEASTIE BOYS, LICENSED TO ILL
(Def Jam, 1986)

From New York
A revolution starts with one joke
Licensed to Ill was a swift kick in the nuts to the staid 1980s. With snotty rhymes, loud guitars, cool samples and badass grooves, in one fell swoop it ripped down the walls between hip-hop and rock, the city and the suburbs, the art house and the frat house. It spent seven weeks at number 1.
Standout tracks “She’s Crafty,” “Fight For Your Right (to Party)”
Buy it!

MADONNA, THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION
(Sire, 1990)

From Bay City, Michigan
Is there anything better? Is there anything more American?
Yes, she’s a colossal star, one who has been both mall icon and cultural radical for almost two decades. But the real reason Madonna’s Immaculate Collection — a flawless hits package spanning the first 10 years of her career — tops this list is that it’s everything a great album ought to be: whip-smart, megasexy, covertly dangerous and heart-stoppingly, ass-shakingly, world-shapingly fun. Why The Immaculate Collection? It’s the pleasure, stupid.

Just as Bob Dylan’s insurgent braininess embodied the boundary-stretching ’60s, Madonna epitomized the ’80s, from the coy consumerism of “Material Girl” to the stylish hedonism of “Vogue.” She was a change-agent of Hollywood-blockbuster proportions, embodying womanhood’s power while simultaneously upending musty notions of femininity.

But she never lost her knack for the flirty and frivolous, either, and Immaculate gets at the heart of American desire as brazenly as any twentieth-century book or film. And, since this is above all expertly built, wonderfully sung music, the songcraft lets listeners ignore all of the above and just dance. Whether she’s extolling escapism (“Holiday”), wrestling with heartbreak (“Live to Tell”), personalizing big issues (“Papa Don’t Preach”) or just breathing heavily (“Justify My Love”), each listen shows that Madonna’s unerring musical instincts — let’s go ahead and call it genius — were as formidable as her more famous ambition.

Even its creator still plays it.

“Quite recently, as a matter of fact,” Madonna tells Blender.

The collection deftly traces her path from disco queen to pop singer to cultural lightning rod (the video for “Justify My Love,” rejected by MTV, landed her in the hot seat on ABC’s Nightline). But there’s no whiff of the time capsule here, no sense of neatly summing up a moment. “I never thought of the album as the end of anything,” she says.

Indeed, her career has lost little momentum in the 12 years since. Commercially and creatively, Madonna is still taking the competition to school. As a fellow blond pop star, No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, puts it: “She’s been able to keep everyone’s attention, to mature and grow older in front of the world. It’s not easy to do. And she just keeps on being good.”

No wonder Madonna laughs upon being told that The Immaculate Collection has been named Blender’s number 1. “What about Greatest Hits Volume 2?” she teases. “Get into the twenty-first century!”
— John Aizlewood
Buy it!

February/March 2002
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