Apple announces the best album of all time, and everyone is saying the same thing

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Now Playing is a weekly column from iMore's resident audiophile Tammy Rogers, looking into the state of the media streaming landscape. From headline-grabbing Apple Music exclusives to Oscar-baiting blockbuster Apple TV+ films, Apple is becoming a more recognized part of the media, arts and entertainment landscape. Now Playing will help you make sense of Apple's place in the industry.

If you spend any amount of time browsing music sites, like me, then you’ve undoubtedly seen roughly six hundred and thirty-seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-six different ‘best’ lists that try to tell you who the best guitarist of all time is. Sometimes, you agree with the list — after all, they put Steve Vai at the top, and who could disagree with that? Not me, he’s my favorite guitarist you know, he wrote ‘For the Love of God’, one of the greatest instrumental guitar pieces ever put to tape, and he…

Sometimes, though, you don’t agree with the top pick. Why would they pick Kirk Hammet? I mean, yeah, he’s good, but best of all time? Nah, couldn’t be, best he did was the solo on ‘The Shortest Straw’ and everyone knows that doesn’t even get close to someone like Randy Rhoads and his work with Ozzy…

Apple, apparently trying to become the arbiters of ‘the best music that you should listen to’ has stomped into the scene, not just picking the best albums in a particular genre of music, but the 100 best of all time. That should mean albums spanning all the way from the 20s to right now (although Apple’s timeline seems to start around 1965, so there are around 40 years of big band, soul, and jazz missing somewhere along the line), and just as you’d expect from something that claims to gather up all the best music of the 20th and 21st centuries people aren’t happy with the results — particularly Apple’s top pick.

I mean, it’s good, but…

Lauryn hill

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You can sum up most of the world’s feelings (apart from, perhaps, the overly opinionated on Twitter) to any list with “I mean, yeah, it’s good, but surely X is better?”. These are entirely opinion-based lists, and as with any opinion, there are going to be those that disagree. The top pick for Apple’s list is the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Hill’s only solo album to ever hit shelves.

There’s no one that can definitively say that Hill’s album is bad. It broke new ground, it was an angry woman writing angry music about being angry at the world around her, lashing out at injustice and everything that makes the world difficult to live in — in an industry that still would rather its female artists were pop music vehicles rather than politicized individuals. It was however Hill's one solo work of brilliance — Hill has as yet never released a complete follow-up — from an artist that managed to destroy most goodwill toward her over the course of a very troubled career. 

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill may have gone down as one of the best albums of all time (whether you like it or not, Twitter) but whether Lauryn Hill's legacy will be that of her music or troubled personal life, only time will tell. Recognition of this album, thankfully, for the moment at least, will out shadow any criticism beyond her music.

Most importantly, however, you know what likely wouldn’t choose Hill's debut as the best album of all time? A computer.

But Tammy. You cry. Why is this important to Apple’s list? It’s important because while Hill has become a sort of cultural pariah, loved by some and pitied by others, her album still deserves recognition for the effect that it’s had on music as a whole — but as the best album of all time? The jury is very much out on that one. Most importantly, however, you know what likely wouldn’t choose Hill's debut as the best album of all time? A computer. 

The internet lists that you might find on Rolling Stone or NME are fun because they get people talking for a little bit, and then fade into internet obscurity. People rant at each other for a minute as to whether Paul McCartney was a better songwriter than Noel Gallagher, and then they forget about it. Apple’s list isn’t even the first list that has been created by a streaming platform; there are plenty out there on the likes of Spotify.

The Apple list, however, is something different. It’s not just designed to create conversation, but to show that Apple has a human curation element that other streamers lack. The list feels like a bunch of like-minded people got together with an enormous pile of records to discuss which of them is the best of all time. Crucially, it wasn’t just an algorithm that read through a list of streaming stats, which would have popped the most streamed album at the top of the list. The latter doesn’t show you the best, it just shows you what people like.

While there are plenty of people who completely disagree with Apple’s selection, the top pick makes the list feel more human. I don’t agree with Zane Lowe and the rest of the crew about that top pick, but I appreciate that they’ve taken the time to discuss it, and then editorialize it on the Apple Music page. The whole thing is an interesting project. Is it worth getting all het up about it like some particularly voracious fans are on Twitter? No.

But surely part of the fun is working out why you don’t agree with the list at hand and going off to make your own.

Spotify has a new… font?

Spotify new font

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Look ma, it’s not in court! (Well, it is, but we’re not talking about that right now. For once.) Spotify, evidently bored with the font that its app has been using for the last few years, has decided to completely redesign one from the ground up. Spotify says, “To design this typeface, we broke free from traditional typographic constraints and merged elements from a variety of font styles. This approach mirrors the dynamic and evolving nature of audio culture over the years.”

Quite. It’s supposed to be, apparently, a ‘remix’ of traditional fonts, adding some together for a new one that looks like… a font. It’s going to roll out today on the apps on both desktop and mobile, so you’ll get to experience Spotify Mix, the firm tells us, starting today.

New features could be coming to Apple Music

Where is the first place we usually hear about Apple Music features? That’s right, it’s in the ever-boring back-end code of iOS! Before Apple has a chance to announce any of them at the upcoming WWDC 2024, eagle-eyed code nerds are sorting through all the numbers and letters that make Apple Music work to see what's coming next for the streamer.

While I couldn’t give a monkey’s foot what the code looks like, I am excited by what the code nerds have found hiding away in an iOS 18 leak. There’s apparently going to be better song transitions, for one, which will smooth out those gaps between songs. Does Apple Music have a massive problem with this at the moment? Not that I can detect, although there are more transition options on the likes of Spotify, and it looks like the update will bring similar cross-fade options for playlists and radio stations.

The second new feature is one called ‘Passthrough’, and it's more nebulous in its purpose. There is some conjecture that it is a rebranding of Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos — although given the ubiquity of the two names, that seems unlikely. What the new feature actually does remains a mystery.

What to watch

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X-Men '97

X-Men '97 screenshot

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When I was a kid, waking up early in the morning to watch infinite reruns of the X-men’s various animated adventures was always a highlight of the day. Waiting for my Dad to drive to work, and then filling the time between my Mum waking up with a few episodes was exciting — and Wolverine just made it even more so.

The X-Men '97 show isn’t a reboot. It’s a continuation, and there’s a lot you’re not going to understand if you didn’t watch the old nineties animated show. As a new season of an old show, however, it's spectacular. The animation, while cleaner, smooth, and modern, still looks like the old show. The best way to put it is that ‘it’s how you remember the old one’, even if you could instantly tell them apart if you were to put them side by side.

It’s grown up with its audience as well, bringing the themes of the original 90s show in line with the age of most of the people watching it now. It’s not afraid to be more violent, point out more extreme cases of injustice, and deal with more harrowing themes. It’s now finished, and you can go and watch it on Disney Plus on your Apple TV.

What to listen to

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Apple’s 100 Best Albums

100 Best Albums

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Listen to the list that has the internet talking — you might not agree with what’s on it, but you can discover why each album is on the list thanks to the Apple mini-site. There are undeniably some absolute bangers on here, so sit down, get comfy, and get listening. 

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.

  • Annie_M
    I've never (that I know of) even heard any of Lauryn Hill's work.
  • Wotchered
    Me either !
  • Ledsteplin
    Not everyone I know. Most everyone thinks Apple's top 100 is ridiculous. It's a subjective list by four people in Cupertino.
  • Wotchered
    Ledsteplin said:
    Not everyone I know. Most everyone thinks Apple's top 100 is ridiculous. It's a subjective list by four people in Cupertino.

    Who are obviously a lot younger than me, whose opinions are therefore suspect. As I have lived more of "ALL TIME"than they have !