10 Must-Own Albums from the 1980s

Our favorite hits from the '80s

Thanks to movies like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Netflix binge-fest series such as “Stranger Things,” our collective love and admiration for music from the 1980s is as strong now as it was in that “like totally awesome” decade. And with the renewed interest in playing music on vinyl again, you might be wondering what discs were hottest in the ’80s. Here are our picks for the 10 best rock and pop albums from the ’80s.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Michael Jackson's Thriller
Cast your mind back to a time when moonwalking and zombie line dancing was as fresh as Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America.” Jackson’s 1982 masterpiece fused disco, pop, rock and funk into a collection of nine songs that redefined the art form of music. The album featured contributions by Eddie Van Halen, Paul McCartney and Vincent Price, who was offered either a percentage of album sales or a flat $20,000 for his “Thriller” rap. Price chose the $20k, while “Thriller” raced to become one of the best-selling albums of all time. Amazon

AC/DC’s Back In Black

AC/DC's Back In Black
The all-black cover was the band’s tribute to former lead singer Bon Scott, who died from alcohol poisoning in 1980 shortly before work on the album began. Feeling it was inappropriate to use any of Scott’s lyrics, the album was written by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young along with new lead singer Brian Johnson. “Back in Black” features four of the band’s most epic creations: the title track, “Hells Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The band’s mix of blues-infused rock with heavy metal created a sound that would carry AC/DC to continued stardom throughout the ’80s and beyond. Amazon

Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA

Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA
This 1985 opus by “The Boss” – featuring seven singles that became Top 10 hits – remained on the Billboard charts for more than two years. Among the album’s unique features, an album cover shot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz and a video for “Dancing in the Dark” directed by Brian De Palma (featuring a cameo by future “Friends” star Courteney Cox.) More than 70 songs were recorded for the album before the list was whittled down to just 12. Amazon

Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction

Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction
The hedonistic L.A. band was still grinding out a living on the club circuit when “Appetite for Destruction” was released to little fanfare in 1987. Critics either hated or dismissed GNR’s debut album but once MTV and radios finally started promoting anthems such as “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” sales quickly shot the band to the top of the charts. Amazon

Whitney Houston’s Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston
How appropriate is it that an album so full of romantic anthems – “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All” – was released on Valentine’s Day in 1985? Discovered by legendary producer Clive Davis in a New York nightclub, Whitney Houston’s work on her debut album was lauded by one critic as “the blueprint for decades of divas.” Amazon

Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required

Phil Collins' No Jacket Required
Released in 1985, the Genesis drummer’s third solo album was also his most commercially successful – at least with the fans. Critics couldn’t agree if tunes like “Sussudio” and “Don’t Lose My Number” were soulful or just painful. TV and movie producers – along with the fans – loved it and featured many of the album’s tunes in episodes of “Miami Vice” and “Cold Case.” Amazon

Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet

Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet
Jon Bon Jovi and his New Jersey bandmates were only marginally making waves on the music scene in the mid-80s. “Slippery When Wet,” released in August 1986, changed all that. Overnight, it seemed, suddenly everyone was singing along to the words “Tommy used to work on the docks,” the opening lyrics of the anthemic “Livin’ On a Prayer.” With “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Slippery When Wet” became the first rock album with three hits in the Top 10. Amazon

U2’s The Joshua Tree

U2's The Joshua Tree
Any list of best ’80s albums needs to include a disc by Ireland’s U2, but which one? With the live album “Under a Blood Red Sky” and studio classic “The Unforgettable Fire,” the lads from Dublin had become MTV icons. But with “The Joshua Tree,” anchored by “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You,” U2 gained the superhero status they still enjoy today. Amazon

Madonna’s Like A Virgin

Madonna's Like A Virgin
Few things can claim to be cultural artifacts in the ’80s, but thanks to a very risqué performance in a wedding dress on the first-ever MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, the second album by Madonna makes quite a case. “Material Girl” and the title track won over the nation’s dance floors, and wedding days for the ’80s generation would never be the same again. Amazon

Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down

Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down
The former Commodores front man traded his funk for R&B-tinged pop in his second solo album, released in 1983. Five tunes, including “All Night Long” and “Stuck on You,” would reach Billboard’s top 10. But only “Hello” proudly endures today as an Internet sensation thanks to the “Hello? Is it meme you’re looking for” variations. Amazon

100 Best-selling Albums of the 80s

100 Best-selling Albums of the 80s
Want to Read More? Check out “100 Best-selling Albums of the 80s,” a love letter to music of the decade by authors Peter Dodd, Justin Cawthorne, Chris Barrett and Dan Auty. Read the stories behind the platinum achievements by Madonna, Van Halen, Phil Collins and many more. Amazon

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