Around a year ago, a group of women connected within the NPR universe started having a conversation about music. We had a plan to make a list, one that would challenge decades-old assumptions about what and who matters most in popular music. Our idea was a simple one: Put women at the center, instead of just including a few somewhere around number seven or 32. And don't label this list as an alternative to the standard ones topped (inevitably) by Dylan, The Beatles, Nirvana and Biggie; challenge readers to think of this list as a new canon, standing at the center of popular music history instead of in some pink anteroom.
Turning the Tables: The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women hit the Internet July 24, 2017 and caused an instant sensation, including plenty of arguments. Many rejoiced at seeing Joni Mitchell next to Lauryn Hill next to Nina Simone in the Top Ten, and artists as diverse as Anita Baker, The Slits and the Spice Girls claiming space further down. Others quickly assembled their own lists, throwing light on what we'd merely acknowledged, including heavy metal, classical music and country. These alternative canons made sense to us, and we expanded upon them with the Shocking Omissions series, in which writers argued for the inclusion of artists we'd left off.
We want to keep this process going, and the next step involves you. We're going to finish the first season of Turning the Tables with a list that mirrors our original, only created by our readers. To participate, fill out the poll on this page by the end of Monday, April 2 with your picks for the greatest albums made by women since 1964, and tell us why they belong on this list. We welcome voters from across the gender spectrum. We'll publish the results April 9 — and we'll also announce our new season of Turning the Tables then.
Our new canon is still blossoming. This was the point: not only to show that popular music history does not have to be a story of great men and a few women who lived up to their standards, but that the contributions of women are dazzlingly various and ongoing, and that a feminist canon is an open one, constantly shifting to accommodate new perspectives. We hope you'll add yours.
The conversation we've begun is never-ending. Our canon grows like a garden, not like a skyscraper. There's no ceiling on it.