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Top 10 Best Albums of the 80's

Updated on June 10, 2013

Compiling a top ten list really isn’t as easy as it seems. Let’s face it, how are you supposed to cram in a decade’s worth of successful albums into ten tiny slots? There are so many different albums to choose from that I often spend hours agonizing over which to include and which to leave out, since there are hundreds of artists that have impacted each decade of music.

So after lots of debating and research, these are the top 10 albums that appeared to have the most influence on the 80’s decade of music. And if your favorite album isn’t on here, trust me, I’m sure it was one of the ones that almost made the cut.

10. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

The Joshua Tree release marked the moment where U2 stopped being just another rock band and started being icons to music fans everywhere. It included some of their most popular hits such as “With or Without You”, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The album was listed as #26 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and landed the band several Grammy awards in 1988.

9. Van Halen – 1984 (1984)

Creatively named after the years of it’s release, 1984 was the final album where David Lee Roth was featured as the lead vocalist before Sammy Hagar took over. Eddie Van Halen used the album to take the band into a different direction, using the keyboard more than in any other Van Halen album and also recording it in his home studio. The album contained hits such as “Hot for Teacher”, “Jump” and “Panama” and sold over 10 million copies in the US.

8. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA (1984)

The Boss put a different spin on his music for the release of Born in the USA, using synthesizers and radio-friendly hits for a unique Springsteen sound. The album was most famous for its self-titled track, along with “Cover Me”, “I’m on Fire”, “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark”. It not only made #85 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, but it also landed the #6 slot on their list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 80’s.

7. AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)

Who doesn’t love to dance to the infamous “You Shook Me All Night Long”? With the help of other tracks such as “Hells Bells” and “Back in Black”, the album was certified as multi-platinum in 2007, with sales of over 42 million albums, making it the second best-selling album of all time. What was the first? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.

6. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986)

Slippery When Wet was the top selling album of 1987 and sold over 16 million copies in the US. “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” made Bon Jovi the first rock band to have two consecutive #1 singles. It also included tracks such as “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Never Say Goodbye” and was featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

5. Madonna – Like a Prayer (1989)

Look out ladies and gentlemen, the Queen has arrived. Just when you thought Madonna had conquered all, she did it again. She had certainly made her presence known with albums such as True Blue and Like a Virgin, but this one tops the charts. Literally. Like a Prayer was certified as Gold, Platinum and Double Platinum in 1989 and then made its way up to Quadruple Platinum status in 1997. Besides the famous self-titled track, it also featured hits such as “Express Yourself and “Cherish”. It has sold over 14 million copies worldwide and was nominated as one of the 100 greatest albums of all time by Time magazine.

4. Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)

Although Pyromania came in a close second, I have to go with Hysteria as the most influential Def Leppard album of the 80’s, if for nothing else, than solely for the “Pour Some Sugar on Me” breakthrough. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is one of those songs that will never die, no matter how outdated it becomes. Hysteria has sold over 20 million copies to date, making it the band’s best selling album, and consisted of 7 hit singles that were released, including (but not limited to) “Love Bites”, “Hysteria” and “Armageddon It”. It currently sits as the 51st best-selling album of all time in the US.

3. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Guns N’ Roses proved that they weren’t just another 80’s hair metal band when they released Appetite for Destruction. The album has been ranked as the 4th best-selling debt album in the US and included hits such as “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “Paradise City”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Rocket Queen”. I mean, honestly, is there a song on this album that we don’t know? Some of the album’s achievements include: ranking #27 in Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of the 1980s and #61 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, ranking #42 in VH1’s list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, ranking #18 in Spin magazine’s list of Greatest Albums Released Between 1985 – 2005 and ranking #32 on the Rock Hall of Fame’s Definite 200 Album List.

2. Prince – Purple Rain (1984)

Where do I even begin? Purple Rain is known as one of the best albums in the history of rock and roll. It includes hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy”, “When Doves Cry” and ends with the self-titled track that is also the title of the Motion Picture that the soundtrack accompanies. Purple Rain has received numerous awards and recognitions, including ranking #15 in Time magazine’s list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, #18 on VH1’s list of The Greatest Rock and Roll Albums of All Time, #72 on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Albums and most recently, in June of this year, it was featured as #1 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of 100 Greatest Albums of the past 25 years.

1. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… (drumroll, please)… the #1 most influential album of the 80’s decade (if not, ever), Michael Jackson’s Thriller. For an album that only consists of 9 tracks, it seems like the majority of them ended up as hit singles (“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, “Thriller”, “Beat It”, Billie Jean”, “Human Nature”, “Pretty Young Thing”). The album won 7 Grammy awards in 1984 and was recognized as the world’s best-selling album with an average of over 65 million sales as stated in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007. It was the only album that was ever a best-seller two years in a row (1983 and 1984) and was certified as 27x Platinum in 2005. Michael Jackson may have a lot of quirks, but let’s face it: the guy sure knows how to make an album.


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    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What a great blast from the past. So much has changed in the music arena since then. There's so much competition and YouTube has made live concerts accessible. Maybe that's why people talk about the 80's so much: it was before the World Wide Web!

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Great list, I remember all of these albums when they arrived on the scene.