Ranking the best and worst years in music history

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August 13, 2020
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Ranking the best and worst years in music history

Arguing about the best music eras is an age-old American tradition. Generation Xers—generally considered those born after the 1946-1964 baby boomers—are likely to wax poetic about Seattle grunge or even New Jack Swing, while the Greatest Generation—with members born from 1901-1927—usually have fond memories of Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby. Of course, millennials—born between 1981-1996 and addicted to Spotify, YouTube, and Beats By Dre headphones—will probably tell you that Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Drake are the greatest performers to ever grace a stage.

To help dissect each of these arguments and more, Stacker compiled comprehensive chart data on every year in music ranging from 1940-2019, using Best Ever Albums data as of July 30, and ranked the years according to their total rank score. The total rank score is devised by Best Ever Albums, which awards points to an album based on how many times it appears on “Best of” lists in magazines, e.g., Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time; on entertainment websites, e.g., Pitchfork's Top 100 albums of the 2010s; print media, including books and academic research; official forum rankings; and more. The total albums listed for each year is the number of albums in the database for the given year.

One spoiler to take note of, the 1940s and the 1950s tend to be ranked considerably lower because there was much less music production back then, and the data used measures the number of great albums in a year, as much as the “greatness” of the albums themselves.

Do years in which hip-hop reigned supreme push the 1990s and 2000s to the top of the list? Or do the days of Woodstock, tie-dye shirts, and raging Jimi Hendrix guitar solos garner more accolades? Continue reading to find out which year over the past eight decades has been the best in music history.

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#80. 1943

- Total rank score: 305
- Total albums: 19
- Top-ranked album: "The King Cole Trio: Volume 1" by Nat King Cole

Frank Sinatra reached new levels of popularity, and fans mobbed him during a residency at the Paramount in New York City. Duke Ellington introduced his most ambitious project, “Black, Brown and Beige” at Carnegie Hall. The 45-minute musical depicted the African American experience.

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#79. 1942

- Total rank score: 342
- Total albums: 21
- Top-ranked album: "Her Second Album of Piano Solos With Drums" by Hazel Scott

Even during the height of World War II, musical artistry did not pause. In 1942, despite his city being continuously bombed by the Germans, Dmitri Shostakovich debuted his Symphony No. 7 in Leningrad, Russia.

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#78. 1944

- Total rank score: 582
- Total albums: 22
- Top-ranked album: "An Album of Outstanding Arrangements" by Glenn Miller

Although his album ranked at the top of the charts, 1944 was a tragic year for fans of Glenn Miller. The famed big band leader went missing after his plane disappeared on Dec. 15. Mystery still surrounds the fate of the plane, which many presumed to have crashed, ending the life of Miller.

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#77. 1941

- Total rank score: 612
- Total albums: 26
- Top-ranked album: "The Lonesome Road" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Queen’s Hall, a famous site for live music, was bombed by the Germans in May 1941. Queen’s Hall was effectively replaced by Royal Albert Hall, which remains one of the top theaters in London for concerts.

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#76. 1945

- Total rank score: 754
- Total albums: 25
- Top-ranked album: "Merry Christmas" by Bing Crosby

Beethoven’s “Fidelio” was the first opera performed in Germany after the end of World War II. The album “Glenn Miller” was released, a year after the namesake musician disappeared.

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#75. 1940

- Total rank score: 818
- Total albums: 35
- Top-ranked album: "Dust Bowl Ballads: Volume 1" by Woody Guthrie

Billboard magazine published its first music chart in 1940. The top-ranked album of the year, “Dust Bowl Ballads,” was actually recorded in Camden, New Jersey.

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#74. 1948

- Total rank score: 896
- Total albums: 44
- Top-ranked album: "Chansons Des Cafés De Paris" by Edith Piaf

The world’s first jazz festival was held in Nice, France, and Louis Armstrong was among the notable names who performed. Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” was one of the year’s biggest hits.

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#73. 1947

- Total rank score: 896
- Total albums: 51
- Top-ranked album: "Souvenir Album" by Ella Fitzgerald

Bing Crosby’s “St. Patrick’s Day” album was one of the biggest releases of the year. Posthumous Glenn Miller albums continued to be big sellers. “Glenn Miller Masterpieces, Vol. 2” was released to much fanfare.

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#72. 1946

- Total rank score: 950
- Total albums: 43
- Top-ranked album: "The Voice of Frank Sinatra" by Frank Sinatra

Annie Get Your Gun” was a Broadway hit, and an album recorded by the original cast became a bestseller. Perry Como’s “Prisoner of Love” was one of the year’s top hits.

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#71. 1949

- Total rank score: 1,027
- Total albums: 58
- Top-ranked album: "Bird Blows the Blues" by Charlie Parker

“Miss Martha King” became B.B. King’s debut single in 1949. His first recording effort was held at radio station WDIA in Memphis, Tennessee.

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#70. 1951

- Total rank score: 3,828
- Total albums: 119
- Top-ranked album: "Genius of Modern Music: Volume 1" by Thelonious Monk

Johnny Ray’s “Cry” was one of the biggest songs of the year. Ray was born in Dallas, Oregon, but earned his stripes in the music business at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit.

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#69. 1950

- Total rank score: 4,345
- Total albums: 106
- Top-ranked album: "The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert" by Benny Goodman

Sam Cooke joins The Soul Stirrers, replacing Rebert Harris. One of the biggest records of the year was Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa.”

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#68. 1953

- Total rank score: 5,730
- Total albums: 177
- Top-ranked album: "Black Coffee" by Peggy Lee

Dean Martin released “That’s Amore,” a single that played on a loop in pizzerias across the country for the next 60-plus years. Hank Williams released “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” which was a staple in country bars and saloons for the next 60-plus years as well.

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#67. 1952

- Total rank score: 6,391
- Total albums: 142
- Top-ranked album: "Anthology of American Folk Music" by Various Artists

The first songs were recorded at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout the years, the label released albums by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. Also, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Jimmy Boyd was released.

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#66. 1954

- Total rank score: 9,740
- Total albums: 203
- Top-ranked album: "Chet Baker Sings" by Chet Baker

After recording “That’s All Right” for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, the success of Elvis Presley began a rock revolution. The first Newport Jazz Festival was held at the Newport Casino in Rhode Island.

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#65. 1955

- Total rank score: 12,506
- Total albums: 275
- Top-ranked album: "In the Wee Small Hours" by Frank Sinatra

Raucous fans at Elvis shows became commonplace throughout the years, but the first “Elvis riot” took place in Jacksonville, Florida, in May. Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” is considered the first rock anthem.

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#64. 1962

- Total rank score: 16,904
- Total albums: 457
- Top-ranked album: "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" by Ray Charles

In March, Bob Dylan released his self-titled debut album. The mashed potato became a dance craze, and Ringo Starr joined The Beatles.

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#63. 1961

- Total rank score: 19,858
- Total albums: 434
- Top-ranked album: "My Favorite Things" by John Coltrane

Ben E. King notched a hit with “Stand By Me,” and Chubby Checker inspired the nation to twist again. The Beach Boys released “Surfin’,” their first single.

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#62. 1960

- Total rank score: 21,495
- Total albums: 429
- Top-ranked album: "Sketches of Spain" by Miles Davis

Before the 1961 sequel, Chubby Checker taught dance-crazed teens to do “The Twist.” Elvis Presley left active duty in the U.S. military.

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#61. 1956

- Total rank score: 28,878
- Total albums: 362
- Top-ranked album: "Elvis Presley" by Elvis Presley

“Heartbreak Hotel” became Elvis Presley’s first #1 hit, and he closed out the year with “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender” also reaching the top of the charts. The first Eurovision Song Contest was held.

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#60. 1958

- Total rank score: 36,468
- Total albums: 471
- Top-ranked album: "Lady in Satin" by Billie Holiday

Billboard launched its Top 100 singles chart. Kenny Rogers makes his first appearance on “American Bandstand,” and Elvis entered the U.S. Army.

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#59. 1957

- Total rank score: 42,194
- Total albums: 463
- Top-ranked album: "Blue Train" by John Coltrane

Jerry Lee Lewis brought the heat with “Great Balls of Fire,” and Elvis scored another hit with “Jailhouse Rock.” “American Bandstand” hit TV airwaves.

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#58. 1964

- Total rank score: 46,030
- Total albums: 583
- Top-ranked album: "A Hard Day’s Night" by The Beatles

Beatlemania kicked off in the United States as The Beatles arrived in New York City. The Rolling Stones finalized their debut album, and Bob Dylan released “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

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#57. 1963

- Total rank score: 51,582
- Total albums: 498
- Top-ranked album: "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" by Charles Mingus

Bob Dylan released “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and also performed at the March on Washington. “Bye Bye Birdie” was a musical film smash.

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#56. 1959

- Total rank score: 81,289
- Total albums: 493
- Top-ranked album: "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis

Rock fans across the country are shocked when the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. The first Grammy Awards were held in Los Angeles, and Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” topped the charts.

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#55. 2019

- Total rank score: 87,022
- Total albums: 4,978
- Top-ranked album: "Igor" by Tyler, The Creator

BTS proved the power of K-pop, as the group was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people. Janet Jackson and Radiohead were among the inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A remix of the song “Old Town Road” catapults Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus to the top of the charts.

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#54. 1981

- Total rank score: 120,742
- Total albums: 1,686
- Top-ranked album: "Moving Pictures" by Rush

MTV launched and aired “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles as their first music video 39 years ago. Phil Collins released his first solo album “Face Value,” and U2 made its U.S. television debut.

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#53. 2018

- Total rank score: 123,895
- Total albums: 5,330
- Top-ranked album: "Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)" by Car Seat Headrest

Lady Gaga had a critically-acclaimed performance in a remake of “A Star is Born.” BTS became the first K-pop group to top the U.S. Billboard album chart with “Love Yourself: Tear.” Drake dominated the charts with three #1 singles.

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#52. 1990

- Total rank score: 135,448
- Total albums: 2,243
- Top-ranked album: "Violator" by Depeche Mode

Madonna broke box office records and revolutionized pop concerts with her Blonde Ambition tour. The Three Tenors—Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti—performed for the first time together in Rome. “Cry-Baby,” a rock-inspired film starring Johnny Depp, hit theaters.

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#51. 1983

- Total rank score: 136,150
- Total albums: 1,653
- Top-ranked album: "Murmur" by R.E.M.

Madonna and Metallica released their debut albums, beginning their journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was established early in the year. The single “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson established residency at the top of the charts.

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#50. 1985

- Total rank score: 144,146
- Total albums: 1,677
- Top-ranked album: "Hounds of Love" by Kate Bush

Spin magazine and VH1 are born. The world’s biggest artists joined together to sing “We Are the World” and raise money for humanitarian efforts in Africa. Live Aid, a concert at Wembley Stadium, raised additional funds for charitable purposes in Africa.

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#49. 1974

- Total rank score: 147,322
- Total albums: 1,482
- Top-ranked album: "Red" by King Crimson

The first-ever American Music Awards ceremony was held in 1974. After success as a pop duo, Cher filed for divorce from Sonny Bono.

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#48. 1982

- Total rank score: 148,598
- Total albums: 1,663
- Top-ranked album: "Thriller" by Michael Jackson

Sony released the CDP-101, which it billed as the first CD player. “Pink Floyd: The Wall” hit theaters. “Thriller,” released on Nov. 30, eventually became one of the bestselling albums of all time.

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#47. 1978

- Total rank score: 154,384
- Total albums: 1,612
- Top-ranked album: "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" by Bruce Springsteen

The musical film “Grease,” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, was a box office smash. Van Halen released its debut album. Nancy Spungen, partner of Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious, was found dead.

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#46. 1976

- Total rank score: 154,954
- Total albums: 1,553
- Top-ranked album: "Songs in the Key of Life" by Stevie Wonder

“Frampton Comes Alive!” by Peter Frampton was one of the most notable releases of the year. Boston released its debut album, while The Sex Pistols had a hit with their debut single “Anarchy in the U.K.

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#45. 2017

- Total rank score: 157,561
- Total albums: 5,577
- Top-ranked album: "Damn." by Kendrick Lamar

After years with One Direction, Harry Styles released his self-titled debut album. Chuck Berry, Chris Cornell, and Tom Petty died.

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#44. 2008

- Total rank score: 166,453
- Total albums: 4,060
- Top-ranked album: "Fleet Foxes" by Fleet Foxes

Lil Wayne became one of hip-hop’s top acts with “Tha Carter III.” Beyonce had a smash hit with “Single Ladies.” Spotify officially entered the industry of streaming music.

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#43. 1988

- Total rank score: 166,691
- Total albums: 2,008
- Top-ranked album: "Daydream Nation" by Sonic Youth

Bobby McFerrin scored an unexpected hit with “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” The Source magazine, a hip-hop publication, launched. George Michael’s “Faith” was the top-selling album of the year.

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#42. 1965

- Total rank score: 169,643
- Total albums: 690
- Top-ranked album: "Highway 61 Revisited" by Bob Dylan

Petula Clark encouraged city-goers to venture “Downtown.” Over in the New York borough of Queens, The Beatles rocked Shea Stadium. The Rolling Stones have arguably the year’s biggest hit, though, with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

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#41. 2009

- Total rank score: 170,747
- Total albums: 4,174
- Top-ranked album: "Merriweather Post Pavilion" by Animal Collective

On June 25, at 50, Michael Jackson died. Mariah Carey, Jay Z, and Sting were among the artists to play President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball. British singer Susan Boyle became an internet phenomenon with her performance on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

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#40. 1987

- Total rank score: 176,708
- Total albums: 1,953
- Top-ranked album: "The Joshua Tree" by U2

What a year for seminal albums. Guns N’ Roses released “Appetite for Destruction,” U2 released “The Joshua Tree,” and Michael Jackson released “Bad.” Also, N.W.A. formed in Los Angeles and toured as the opening act for Salt-N-Pepa.

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#39. 1984

- Total rank score: 177,606
- Total albums: 1,663
- Top-ranked album: "Purple Rain" by Prince and The Revolution

Some music critics say Prince ascended to “musical genius” status after the release of “Purple Rain.” Notable singles released this year included Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” “Weird Al” Yankovic scored his first gold record with “‘Weird Al’ Yankovic in 3-D.”

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#38. 2014

- Total rank score: 184,535
- Total albums: 5,793
- Top-ranked album: "Lost in the Dream" by The War On Drugs

BTS released its debut album. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded their final album, “Hypnotic Eye.” Pink Floyd also released its final album, “The Endless River.”

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#37. 1986

- Total rank score: 185,851
- Total albums: 1,763
- Top-ranked album: "The Queen is Dead" by The Smiths

The Beastie Boys partied onto the hip-hop scene with “Licensed to Ill.” Def Jam labelmates Run-DMC notched a hit with “Walk This Way,” a collaboration with Aerosmith, off its album “Raising Hell.” The Smiths played their last show in London.

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#36. 1992

- Total rank score: 186,107
- Total albums: 2,426
- Top-ranked album: "Automatic for the People" by R.E.M.

A slew of influential debut albums hit the shelves. Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” revolutionized West Coast hip-hop, and Rage Against the Machine brought a new level of political awareness to rock.

Music veterans Guns N’ Roses had one of their biggest hits with “November Rain.”

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#35. 2016

- Total rank score: 193,245
- Total albums: 5,508
- Top-ranked album: "A Moon Shaped Pool" by Radiohead

Two icons of music, Prince and David Bowie, died. Guns N’ Roses experienced a rebirth, as Axl Rose rejoined the band. Justin Bieber, Drake, and Rihanna all scored hit singles.

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#34. 2006

- Total rank score: 201,597
- Total albums: 3,879
- Top-ranked album: "Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not" by Arctic Monkeys

Dr. Dre became a headphone influencer with his sleek Beats By Dre brand. Three 6 Mafia were the first hip-hop act to win an Academy Award with its song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from the film “Hustle and Flow.” Amy Winehouse transformed into a pop sensation with “Back to Black.”

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#33. 1993

- Total rank score: 205,136
- Total albums: 2,543
- Top-ranked album: "Siamese Dream" by The Smashing Pumpkins

The Wu-Tang Clan reshaped the hip-hop industry with its unique group approach on “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Meatloaf’s power ballad “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That),” became a radio and music video smash. The Who’s “Tommy” opened on Broadway.

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#32. 1999

- Total rank score: 205,718
- Total albums: 3,181
- Top-ranked album: "Ágætis byrjun" by Sigur Rós

Britney Spears became a pop culture phenomenon with the release of “... Baby One More Time.” The Backstreet Boys had a summer hit with “I Want It That Way.” Napster was launched by two teenagers, forever changing the way music is shared.

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#31. 2003

- Total rank score: 206,118
- Total albums: 3,551
- Top-ranked album: "Elephant" by The White Stripes

The Dixie Chicks were criticized for publicly bashing President George W. Bush. Queens, New York, rapper 50 Cent released “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” and Apple launched its iTunes Music Store.

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#30. 1980

- Total rank score: 206,525
- Total albums: 1,688
- Top-ranked album: "Remain in Light" by Talking Heads

John Lennon is shot and killed outside his New York City apartment. Blondie got dancers grooving with its hit “Call Me.” Moviegoers flocked to see “The Blues Brothers,” starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

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#29. 1996

- Total rank score: 210,056
- Total albums: 2,945
- Top-ranked album: "Pinkerton" by Weezer

Snoop Dogg was acquitted of murder in a case that captivated the music industry. Tupac Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas. Although the “Macarena” was recorded years before, it became a summer hit that swept the nation.

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#28. 2005

- Total rank score: 217,294
- Total albums: 3,699
- Top-ranked album: "Illinois" by Sufjan Stevens

Jersey Boys,” the story of The Four Seasons, became a sellout smash on Broadway. Mariah Carey scored another hit record with “The Emancipation of Mimi.” Destiny’s Child broke up; some of the members were just 9 when the group formed.

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#27. 1998

- Total rank score: 217,443
- Total albums: 2,963
- Top-ranked album: "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel

DMX burst onto the hip-hop scene with “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” while Lauryn Hill cemented her hip-hop legacy with “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” The Goo Goo Dolls penned one of the year’s biggest songs with “Iris.” Aerosmith got its first #1 single with “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.”

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#26. 1989

- Total rank score: 224,660
- Total albums: 2,071
- Top-ranked album: "Doolittle" by Pixies

MTV Unplugged” first aired and became a staple of acoustic sets over the ensuing decades. Madonna’s video for “Like a Prayer” drew criticism for its religious imagery. Ice Cube left the rap group N.W.A.

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#25. 2011

- Total rank score: 225,873
- Total albums: 4,595
- Top-ranked album: "Bon Iver" by Bon Iver

Lana Del Rey made a splash with her silky, noir sound, while Rebecca Black became a one-hit wonder with the autotuned hit “Friday.” Jay Z and Kanye West collaborate for the “Watch the Throne” album. At the end of the year, R.E.M. called it quits.

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#24. 2015

- Total rank score: 229,196
- Total albums: 5,714
- Top-ranked album: "To Pimp a Butterfly" by Kendrick Lamar

Apple Music launched, allowing iOS devotees to stream their favorite songs. Carly Rae Jepsen released one of the most critically acclaimed pop records of the year, “Emotion.” Adele’s single “Hello” recorded the biggest YouTube debut of any video.

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#23. 1966

- Total rank score: 230,817
- Total albums: 745
- Top-ranked album: "Revolver" by The Beatles

Despite having the top-ranked album of the year, John Lennon was criticized after saying The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. That didn’t prevent songs like “Yellow Submarine” from climbing to the top of the charts. Frank Sinatra released his bestselling single, “Strangers in the Night.”

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#22. 2013

- Total rank score: 232,526
- Total albums: 5,496
- Top-ranked album: "Modern Vampires of the City" by Vampire Weekend

Jay Z and Justin Timberlake embarked on a tour together. Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus recorded some of pop’s biggest singles. Drake, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Eminem dropped some of the bestselling hip-hop albums of the year.

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#21. 1995

- Total rank score: 241,250
- Total albums: 2,853
- Top-ranked album: "The Bends" by Radiohead

Pitchfork launched its music website. Pearl Jam’s legal battle against Ticketmaster ended with the ticket-selling giant still intact, but fans are more aware of the fees they pay when buying tickets. Eazy-E of N.W.A. died from complications from AIDS.

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#20. 2004

- Total rank score: 242,332
- Total albums: 3,465
- Top-ranked album: "Funeral" by Arcade Fire

Kanye West dropped “The College Dropout.” At the Super Bowl, Janet Jackson was embroiled in controversy after a “wardrobe malfunction” with Justin Timberlake. Usher’s “Confessions” sold 1.1 million albums in one week, the highest-ever total for an R&B artist.

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#19. 2002

- Total rank score: 243,324
- Total albums: 3,224
- Top-ranked album: "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" by Wilco

Hip-hop lost two icons in Left Eye of TLC and Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC. “American Idol” debuted and became a smash TV show. Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” was one of the top-selling albums of the year.

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#18. 2001

- Total rank score: 243,886
- Total albums: 3,133
- Top-ranked album: "Is This It" by The Strokes

Nas and Jay Z engaged in one of the biggest rap beefs ever. R&B singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash over the Bahamas. Apple released the iPod, altering how consumers listened to music.

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#17. 1979

- Total rank score: 247,035
- Total albums: 1,599
- Top-ranked album: "London Calling" by The Clash

A baseball promotion advertised as “Disco Demolition Night” turned into a riot at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Michael Jackson released “Off The Wall.” Charles Mingus died of a heart attack.

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#16. 2012

- Total rank score: 250,667
- Total albums: 4,898
- Top-ranked album: "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" by Kendrick Lamar

“Gangnam Style” by Korean rapper PSY became YouTube’s most played video. Taylor Swift released “Red” to rave reviews. Whitney Houston and Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch, the latter of whom helped organize the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, died this year.

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#15. 1968

- Total rank score: 253,856
- Total albums: 1,252
- Top-ranked album: "The Beatles (The White Album)" by The Beatles

Johnny Cash performed a concert at Folsom State Prison. James Brown went on television to try and calm Americans after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Although recorded in 1967, Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” became a chart sensation.

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#14. 1975

- Total rank score: 264,050
- Total albums: 1,632
- Top-ranked album: "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd

“Saturday Night Live” debuted with Billy Preston and Janis Ian as the musical acts. “The Wiz” opened on Broadway, and Queen released “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

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#13. 2000

- Total rank score: 271,456
- Total albums: 3,082
- Top-ranked album: "Kid A" by Radiohead

Pandora Radio debuted and became one of the first popular streaming music apps, while Metallica sued file-sharing company Napster. Carlos Santana took home eight Grammy awards. Tim Commerford of Rage Against The Machine climbed the set at the MTV Video Music Awards, interrupting an acceptance speech by Limp Bizkit.

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#12. 2010

- Total rank score: 276,207
- Total albums: 4,451
- Top-ranked album: "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" by Kanye West

Kesha’s debut single “Tik Tok” was a hit. Jim Morrison was posthumously pardoned for indecency charges. Lady Gaga received a record number of MTV Video Music Award nominations.

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#11. 1977

- Total rank score: 287,689
- Total albums: 1,604
- Top-ranked album: "Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac

Elvis Presley died at his Graceland home on Aug. 16. “Saturday Night Fever” and its Bee Gees-infused soundtrack were hits. The Eagles took a trip to, and scored a smash hit, with “Hotel California.”

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#10. 1970

- Total rank score: 288,260
- Total albums: 1,562
- Top-ranked album: "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath

Paul McCartney announced that he was leaving The Beatles. Jimi Hendrix died at age 27. Simon & Garfunkel split up.

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#9. 2007

- Total rank score: 294,538
- Total albums: 3,906
- Top-ranked album: "In Rainbows" by Radiohead

Live Earth, a concert to raise money to slow global warming, was held. The Spice Girls reunited and “High School Musical 2” became one of the most popular American television musical films.

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#8. 1972

- Total rank score: 297,386
- Total albums: 1,648
- Top-ranked album: "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" by David Bowie


After leaving The Beatles, Paul McCartney debuted his new band Wings. Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up. Released in 1971, Don McLean’s “American Pie” reached #1 on the charts.

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#7. 1991

- Total rank score: 301,721
- Total albums: 2,286
- Top-ranked album: "Nevermind" by Nirvana

Nirvana shook up the music world with “Nevermind,” introducing grunge music to the masses. Whitney Houston sang a stirring rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl; and German band The Scorpions released “Wind of Change,” an end of the Cold War anthem that recently has been speculated to be propaganda secretly written by the CIA.

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#6. 1997

- Total rank score: 305,563
- Total albums: 2,928
- Top-ranked album: "OK Computer" by Radiohead

The Spice Girls became worldwide pop stars with their hit “Wannabe.” The Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in Los Angeles. Teen pop trio, and brothers, Hanson graced magazine covers and flooded radio airwaves thanks to their song “MMMBop.”

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#5. 1973

- Total rank score: 312,225
- Total albums: 1,596
- Top-ranked album: "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd

KISS played its first concert on Jan. 30, at the Popcorn Club in Queens, New York. Later in the summer in another borough, DJ Kool Herc was credited with birthing hip-hop. Over on the Jersey Shore, Bruce Springsteen released his first album, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”

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#4. 1994

- Total rank score: 325,511
- Total albums: 2,787
- Top-ranked album: "Grace" by Jeff Buckley

In April, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Already revered in the South, Outkast showed the rest of the country that hip-hop was more than just East Coast and West Coast talent, with “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral” and The Offspring’s “Smash” were two of the most notable rock albums released, while Nas dropped his debut, “Ilmmatic.”

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Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

#3. 1967

- Total rank score: 369,747
- Total albums: 982
- Top-ranked album: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles

This year began with The Doors kicking down the doors of the music industry with their debut album, also called “The Doors”. On Valentine’s Day, Aretha Franklin recorded “Respect.” The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” was among the year’s biggest hits, and Rolling Stone magazine launched.

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#2. 1971

- Total rank score: 378,555
- Total albums: 1,603
- Top-ranked album: "Untitled (Led Zeppelin IV)" by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin’s fourth studio album was released on Nov. 8, and became its biggest seller of all time, thanks to hits like “Stairway to Heaven.” Contrary to popular belief, the song does not contain hidden lyrics when played backwards. John Lennon released “Imagine” in September of this year.

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Howard Arnold Collection // Getty Images

#1. 1969

- Total rank score: 401,170
- Total albums: 1,515
- Top-ranked album: "Abbey Road" by The Beatles

Woodstock, the groundbreaking music festival, saw an estimated 400,000 people crowd on a patch of farmland in upstate New York to watch some of the world’s most renowned rock acts. Led Zeppelin released its debut album in January; a few days later, the Beatles held their last public performance on a rooftop in London.

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