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'Rolling Stone' Updates Its List Of The Greatest Albums Of All Time

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In its own time it was the soundtrack to a shattered United States of America, the title track inspired by police violence against protesters in Berkeley, Calif.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT'S GOING ON")

MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother...

CORNISH: This week, Rolling Stone magazine updated its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Marvin Gaye's 1971 record "What's Going On" landed at No. 1.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

More than 300 people, from journalists to industry veterans to Beyonce and Billie Eilish, voted for this list. Jon Dolan is the reviews editor for Rolling Stone.

JON DOLAN: We originally did the list in 2003. And the sort of sense of how big and how sort of different and diverse the canon of great albums can be kind of expands. And it just needs to be kind of readdressed.

CORNISH: In the new list, 86 of the albums are from this century. And there's a lot of hip-hop and R&B, like Frank Ocean's "Blonde" at No. 94.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NIGHTS")

FRANK OCEAN: (Singing) Round the city, round the clock, everybody needs you. No, you can't make everybody equal...

CORNISH: And Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly" at 19.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THESE WALLS")

KENDRICK LAMAR: (Singing) If these walls could talk, they'd tell me to swim good. No boat, I float better than he would. No life jacket, I'm not the God of Nazareth, but your flood can be misunderstood...

CORNISH: Like every such list, this one has sparked criticism. The uptick in Black music has been seen as performative, a response to Black Lives Matter protests. But for Rolling Stone's Jon Dolan, this timeliness isn't necessarily bad. He says the Marvin Gaye album was an overwhelming favorite.

DOLAN: While we were asking people to send in their ballots, it was, you know, 2020. I think that the sense of kind of, like, relevance and people maybe even playing that record for kind of solace during this time influenced the fact that it made it that high.

PFEIFFER: As for the previous No. 1, the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" has dropped down to 24. It's now below two other Beatles albums. But for a band with nine albums on the list, it's just a day in the life, we suppose.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A DAY IN THE LIFE")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) I read the news today, oh, boy... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.