What’s the difference between best and favourite albums?

NME's list of the 500 best albums ever – and its writers' own votes – raises a question: is it more honest to ask for favourites instead?

What does "greatest" mean? And what's the difference between something you would claim to be the greatest in its field, and something that's actually your favourite? That's one of the questions raised by NME's list this week of the "500 greatest albums of all time" which was topped by the Smiths' The Queen is Dead. The magazine listed some of the top 10s of individual writers, and two lists in particular stood out.

In her top four spots, Laura Snapes listed four albums by the National (Boxer, Alligator, Trouble Will Find Me and High Violet), with another (Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers) at No 7. Similarly, Kevin EG Perry's top four were all by the Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street, Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers). For what it's worth, I was rather heartened by these choices. Not because I think the National have made five of the seven greatest albums of all time – I don't – but because these seemed to me to be the choices of people who were honestly telling their readers what music had moved them the most, rather than offering a box-ticking exercise to display exquisite and wide-ranging taste.

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