Rolling Stone's Five-Star Album Reviews

The latest issue of Rolling Stone has a five-star review of the new U2 album, which led us to wonder when the last time the magazine gave a five-star review to a non-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist. Over the years, we noticed that they seem to reserve the perfect rating for artists who have already cemented their legendary status (Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan come to mind). When was the last time the magazine went out on a limb to anoint an album of new material an instant classic?

For our purposes, we're excluding five-star reviews of reissues and compilations, which Rolling Stone hands out fairly regularly and generally are given to artists that are already determined to be "immortals." So let's find the five-star reviewed albums by artists before they were eligible for the Rock Hall. Here are the five-star reviewed albums by non-Rock and Roll Hall of Famers since 1986 (in reverse chronological order):

As you can tell, Rolling Stone is extremely judicious in handing out five star reviews, but when they do, they have a good track record of picking artists who eventually end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And of the artists who are not in yet, it's difficult to find any who won't likely end up enshrined in Cleveland someday. The only two artists on the list who are eligible and not in the Rock Hall are The Smiths (eligible since 2008) and Sonic Youth (eligible since 2007). Neither group has received much attention from the Nominating Committee yet, but that is likely to change in the coming years.

One other thing to note is that there is only one debut album on the list (Appetite for Destruction). Usually, the five-star reviewed album follows other notable work from the artist, so Rolling Stone isn't gambling its reputation on a previously unknown artist.

Major thanks go out to Erik J. Heels who has been tracking these five star reviews for many years now. We'll be sure to take note of any new five-star reviews in the future.

Update: We removed Pavement's Slanted & Enchanted from the list above. That album didn't get its five-star review until the reissue came out. Can anyone confirm the others were all from their initial review?

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