For this article the authors analysed thirty-eight lists of ‘The 100 greatest albums of all time’ type. As the findings demonstrate, a canon of popular music has evolved which shows strong tendencies towards stability in featuring albums from the late 1960s (especially those by The Beatles), while only a few albums from the 1990s have gained ‘classic’ status. The canon's contents and exclusions are explained by the social dispositions of the participants, predominantly white males aged twenty to forty. Influenced by efforts of the cultural industries, these actors also evaluate certain albums for the purposes of distinguishing themselves from the ‘mainstream’. Furthermore, aesthetic and artistic criteria underlying the esteem of the ‘masterworks’ are identified by analysing reviews. The authors suggest that future research on canonisation should interlock sociological and aesthetic perspectives. Findings from such an approach might initiate reflection among music fans about their own exclusions, and result in an opening up of the meaning and significance of the canon.
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