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NPR’s 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women

Joni Mitchell Blue

As they said they would, NPR published a list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women this week. The list comes with a must-read intro by Ann Powers, which sheds a light on who made the list, what criteria went into it, and what it aims to achieve:

What you see before you is a list that I hope will be read as an intervention. Nearly 50 women who play a role in NPR compiled and voted on this list. It features albums by artists who identify as female — including some by mixed-gender bands, like Fleetwood Mac and X, that, in our view, relied on women’s creativity for their spark. These albums were released between 1964, the year The Beatles invaded America and set in motion what can be called the “classic album era,” and 2016, when Beyoncé arguably ushered in a new period with her “visual album” Lemonade. The point is to offer a view of popular music history with women’s work at the center. The list does not represent an “alternate history.” It stands for music history, touching upon every significant trend, social issue, set of sonic innovations, and new avenue for self-expression that popular music has intersected in the past fifty years.

Powers’ intro goes on to weigh the pros and cons of a list like this, and answers just about any question you may have about the list. Here’s another great excerpt:

…Now consider another scene, this one presented by the literary scholars Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar in their 1979 study The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination. They recognized that women had, for a century, been reading an alternate history of literature into existence, a “canon that lived in the mind of every femme moyenne intellectuelle who spent her girlhood avidly devouring the classics of female imagination produced by Austen and the Brontës, Mary Shelley and George Eliot, and yes, if the girl liked poetry, Emily Dickinson.” Gilbert and Gubar’s scenario of women trading worn paperbacks back and forth and having long discussions about Pride and Prejudice in comparison to Wuthering Heights doesn’t isolate any one female writer as exceptional, instead placing them in dialogue with each other in ways that change the idea of what great literature can be. Acknowledging only women writers, this vision might be viewed as extreme, a form of separatism that as isolating in its own way as keeping the best female artist at a gathering in a separate room. Yet when feminists like Gilbert and Gubar did create new canons of women’s literature, in books like the 1986 landmark Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, it changed the game. More books by women were taught in college courses. Some titles lost to time, like Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, were rediscovered. Arguments about these new canons ensued, and resulted in more change, including greater acknowledgment of women of color and women writing beyond North America.

The list really touches so many different eras and styles of music, from classic artists like Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and Stevie Nicks to newer artists like Joanna Newsom, Solange, Alabama Shakes, Taylor Swift and Adele; from punk like Bikini Kill, X, The Slits, X-Ray Spex, The Runaways, Against Me! and Sleater-Kinney to pop like Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Whitney Houston and Destiny’s Child; and plenty of the in-between. Check out the full list below and read the commentary on each pick at NPR.

The #49 slot on the list is Rickie Lee Jones‘ 1981 album Pirates, and in celebration of the list, Rickie Lee will perform that album in full at a FREE Lincoln Center Out of Doors show TONIGHT (7/26). UPDATE: Rickie opens the show at 7 PM, followed at 8:30 PM by Torres, Ronnie Spector, Nona Hendryx, Alynda Segarra (Hurray for the Riff Raff), Lizzo and Gaby Moreno, who will all be performing music from albums on NPR’s list. Torres tweeted that she’ll be playing some Britney Spears and Kate Bush.

Ann Powers mentioned in her intro that she wanted the list to be a conversation starter, and after the list came out, The FADER continued the conversation by posting a list of 150 More Great Albums Made By Women. That makes a combined 300 great albums made by women. What did they miss?

NPR’s 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women
150. The Roches – The Roches (Warner Bros., 1979)
149. Alicia Keys – Songs In A Minor (J Records, 2001)
148. Terri Lyne Carrington – The Mosaic Project (Concord Jazz, 2011)
147. Meredith Monk – Dolmen Music (ECM, 1981)
146. Patty Griffin – Flaming Red (A&M, 1998)
145. Oumou Sangare – Moussolou (Women) (Kartell/World Circuit, 1989)
144. The Breeders – Last Splash (4AD/Elektra, 1993)
143. Robyn – Body Talk (Konichiwa Records, 2010)
142. Iris DeMent – My Life (Warner Bros., 1993)
141. Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City, 2006)
140. Norah Jones – Come Away with Me (Blue Note, 2002)
139. The Bangles – All Over the Place (Columbia, 1984)
138. Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas (4AD, 1990)
137. Ofra Haza – 50 Gates Of Wisdom (Yemenite Songs) (Shanachie, 1987)
136. Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band – Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (Apple Records, 1970)
135. The B-52’s – The B-52’s (Warner Bros., 1979)
134. Solange – A Seat at the Table (Saint/Columbia 2016)
133. Fanny – Fanny Hill (Reprise, 1972)
132. Shelby Lynne – I Am Shelby Lynne (Island/Mercury, 2000)
131. Shirley Horn – I Thought About You — Live At Vine St. (Verve Records, 1987)
130. Teena Marie – Wild and Peaceful (Motown Records, 1979)
129. Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (Island, 1979)
128. Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis – Deep Listening (New Albion, 1989)
127. Sonic Youth – Sister (SST, 1987)
126. The Carpenters – A Song for You
125. Fiona Apple – Tidal (Work Group/Clean Slate/Columbia, 1996)
124. Carly Simon – No Secrets (Elektra, 1972)
123. Cris Williamson – The Changer and the Changed: A Record of the Times (Olivia Records, 1975)
122. Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (Polydor, 1978)
121. Joni Mitchell – Hejira (Asylum, 1976)
120. Anita Baker – Rapture (Elektra, 1986)
119. The Slits – Cut (Island Records, 1979)
118. Chaka Khan – I Feel for You (Warner Bros., 1984)
117. Joan Jett – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (Boardwalk, 1981)
116. Macy Gray – On How Life Is (Epic, 1999)
115. La Lupe & Tito Puente – La Pareja (Fania/Tico Records, 1978)
114. Reba McEntire – Rumor Has It (MCA, 1990)
113. Aretha Franklin – Young, Gifted and Black (Atlantic Records, 1972)
112. Mercedes Sosa – Mercedes Sosa en Argentina (Universal Distribution/Philips, 1982)
111. Diamanda Galás – The Litanies of Satan (Y, 1982)
110. Miranda Lambert – Platinum (RCA Nashville, 2014)
109. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble, 2014)
108. Gladys Knight and the Pips – Imagination (Buddah Records, 1973)
107. The Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack (Red Bird Records, 1965)
106. No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom (Interscope, 1995)
105. Sheila E. – The Glamorous Life (Warner Bros., 1984)
104. ESG – Come Away With ESG (99 Records, 1983)
103. Umm Kulthum – Enta Omri (You Are My Life) (Sono, 1964)
102. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (ATO, 2015)
101. Eurythmics – Touch (RCA, 1983)
100. Buffy Sainte-Marie – It’s My Way! (Vanguard Records, 1964)
99. Taylor Swift – Fearless (Big Machine Records, 2008)
98. Bikini Kill – Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (Kill Rock Stars, 1993)
97. Mariah Carey – Daydream (Columbia Records, 1995)
96. Lil’ Kim – Hard Core (Big Beat/Undeas Recordings, 1996)
95. Shakira – ¿Dónde Están los Ladrones? (Sony, 1998)
94. Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club (A&M, 1993)
93. Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time (Jive Records, 1999)
92. Meshell Ndegeocello – Peace Beyond Passion (Maverick, 1996)
91. Alison Krauss And Union Station – New Favorite (Rounder, 2001)
90. Barbra Streisand – Funny Girl, Broadway Cast Album (Capitol Records, 1964)
89. Shania Twain – Come On Over (Mercury Records, 1997)
88. k. d. lang – Ingénue (Sire, 1992)
87. X – Los Angeles (Slash/Rhino, 1980)
86. Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda (GRP/Impulse!, 1971)
85. Joan Baez – Diamonds & Rust (A&M, 1975)
84. Roberta Flack – First Take (Atlantic, 1969)
83. Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Billie Joe (Capitol Records, 1967)
82. Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry (Columbia, 1969)
81. Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out (Kill Rock Stars, 1997)
80. Laurie Anderson – Big Science (Warner Bros., 1982)
79. Portishead – Dummy (Go! Beat, 1994)
78. The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Choir – Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares (Nonesuch, 1987)
77. Aaliyah – Aaliyah (Blackground/Virgin America 2001)
76. Tammy Wynette – Stand By Your Man (Epic, 1969)
75. Donna Summer – Bad Girls (Casablanca, 1979)
74. The Raincoats – The Raincoats (Rough Trade, 1979)
73. Astrud Gilberto – The Astrud Gilberto Album(Verve Records, 1965)
72. The Runaways – The Runaways (Mercury, 1976)
71. Salt-N-Pepa – Blacks’ Magic (London, 1990)
70. Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna (Modern, 1981)
69. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (Portrait/Sony 1983)
68. Rosanne Cash – King’s Record Shop (Columbia, 1987)
67. Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Chrysalis Records, 1990)
66. Miriam Makeba – Pata Pata (Reprise, 1967)
65. Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light ‘Til Dawn (Blue Note, 1993)
64. Spice Girls – Spice (Virgin, 1996)
63. Madonna – Like a Virgin (Sire, 1984)
62. Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces (BMG/Sony, 1998)
61. Destiny’s Child – The Writing’s on the Wall (Columbia, 1999)
60. The Pretenders – Pretenders (Sire, 1980)
59. Indigo Girls – Indigo Girls (Epic, 1989)
58. Labelle – Nightbirds (Epic, 1974)
57. Mary J. Blige – What’s the 411? (Uptown/MCA, 1992)
56. X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents (EMI, 1978)
55. The Go-Gos – Beauty And The Beat (I.R.S., 1981)
54. Nico – Chelsea Girl (Verve, 1967)
53. Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel (Capitol, 1974)
52. Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time (Capitol/EMI, 1989)
51. Sarah Vaughan – Sassy Swings Again (Mercury, 1967)
50. Hole – Live Through This (DGC, 1994)
49. Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates (Warner Bros., 1981)
48. Etta James – Rocks The House (Argo, 1964)
47. Celia Cruz – Son con Guaguanco (Emusica/Fania, 1966)
46. Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball (Elektra, 1995)
45. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic, 1969)
44. Heart – Dreamboat Annie (Mushroom, 1976)
43. M.I.A. – Kala (XL/Interscope, 2007)
42. Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Song Book (Verve, 1964)
41. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (Elektra, 1988)
40. The Staple Singers – Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (Stax, 1972)
39. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) (Acony Records, 2001)
38. Odetta – It’s a Mighty World (RCA Victor, 1964)
37. Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love (EMI, 1985)
36. Grace Jones – Nightclubbing (Island Records, 1981)
35. Blondie – Parallel Lines (Chrysalis, 1978)
34. Tina Turner – Private Dancer (Capitol, 1984)
33. Queen Latifah – All Hail The Queen (Tommy Boy, 1989)
32. Björk – Post (Elektra, 1995)
31. Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville (Capitol/EMI/Matador, 1993)
30. Adele – 21 (Columbia/XL, 2011)
29. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (Maverick, 1995)
28. Nina Simone – Nina Simone Sings the Blues (RCA Victor, 1967)
27. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes (Atlantic, 1992)
26. TLC – CrazySexyCool (LaFace, 1994)
25. Ani Difranco – Little Plastic Castle (Righteous Babe Records, 1998)
24. Loretta Lynn – Coal Miner’s Daughter (Decca, 1970)
23. Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace (Atlantic, 1972)
22. Sade – Diamond Life (Sony, 1984)
21. PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me (Island Records, 1993)
20. The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (Philles Records, 1964)
19. Selena – Amor Prohibido (EMI Latin, 1994)
18. Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (Mercury, 1998)
17. Janet Jackson – Control (A&M, 1986)
16. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (Warner Bros., 1977)
15. Diana Ross and the Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (Motown, 1964)
14. Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston (Arista, 1985)
13. Madonna – Like a Prayer (Sire, 1989)
12. Erykah Badu – Baduizm (Universal, 1997)
11. Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors (RCA Records, 1971)
10. Carole King – Tapestry (Ode, 1971)
9. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black (Island, 2006)
8. Janis Joplin – Pearl (Columbia, 1971)
7. Patti Smith – Horses (Arista, 1975)
6. Beyoncé – Lemonade (Parkwood/Columbia, 2016)
5. Missy Elliott – Supa Dupa Fly (The Goldmind/Elektra, 1997)
4. Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You (Atlantic, 1967)
3. Nina Simone – I Put A Spell on You (Philips, 1965)
2. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998)
1. Joni Mitchell – Blue (Reprise, 1971)

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