For someone who has such an eclectic taste in music as I do, it can be hard to come up with a top ten album list. However, after taking a few minutes to think about it, I have come up with a list. Since I am a member of Generation X, you will find that my picks tend to come from the 1980s and 1990s. I have listed the albums in alphabetical order by artist, instead of trying to rank them from one to ten.
First on my list is Aqua’s 1997 album, Aquarium. A lot of people are probably baffled by this choice, and might even be scoffing at me for including a simple pop album by a “one hit wonder” artist. While I initially gained interest into Aqua through “Barbie Girl” and bought the album based on that song, after listening to the whole album, I realized that I enjoyed every song on it. It’s a very solid pop album from start to finish. While there are kitschy songs like “Barbie Girl” on the album, there are also some slower, serious songs, such as “Turn Back Time” and “Be a Man.” While all the songs may be “pop” songs, the group showed diversity in the sounds and themes presented on the album.
Next on my list is Depeche Mode’s 1984 album, Some Great Reward. While their most popular album, Violator, is a good album, I just think Some Great Reward is a little better. The album contains one of their early hits in the United States (“People Are People”), as well as the controversial “Blasphemous Rumours.” I appreciate that the band was willing to tackle the subject that’s talked about in that song. The tender ballad “Somebody” also appears here, as well as the stomping “Something to Do.” All nine of the songs on the album are very strong, both musically and lyrically, and all of the songs work together as one cohesive unit.
Erasure’s 1989 album, Wild!, is next on my list. Overall, this is a rather strong album from start to finish, except for “La Gloria,” which is one of the most hated songs among Erasure’s fanbase. I like how the album opens with an instrumental of “Piano Song,” and then ends with “Piano Song.” The ballad “How Many Times?” is a musing ballad that most listeners can identify with. The best song on the album, “Brother And Sister,” was a song that should’ve been released as a single but wasn’t. “You Surround Me,” “2,000 Miles,” “Drama!,” “Blue Savannah,” and “Star” are other standout tracks on the album. The songs on the album flow together really well, and it’s a rather enjoyable listen, especially if you skip “La Gloria.”
Next is Debbie Gibson’s 1989 album, Electric Youth. This is a rather solid 1980s pop album from start to finish, with the main exception being the final song (“Shades of the Past”). I love the lyrics to “Shades of the Past,” but the music just kind of plods along. However, the rest of the album is pop perfection. From the upbeat sounds of the title track, “Who Loves Ya Baby?,” and “Should’ve Been the One,” to the ballads “Lost in Your Eyes,” “No More Rhyme,” and “Silence Speaks (A Thousand Words),” the album flows seamlessly from one song to the next. The CD pressing of the album even includes two bonus tracks: acoustic versions of “We Could Be Together” and “No More Rhyme.”
Madonna’s 1998 album, Ray of Light, is also included on my list. For this album, she collaborated with electronic music producer William Orbit, and their partnership yielded a spectacular album. This was the first album Madonna released after having her daughter, Lourdes, and the influence of having a new child definitely shines through on this album. This is especially evident in songs such as “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” and “Little Star.” Ray of Light flows perfectly from one song to the next, and to me, it is still the best album Madonna has released during her career.
Next on my list is Nirvana’s 1991 album, Nevermind. Nirvana was one of the first artists to really start making me look beyond mainstream pop music. It took me about a year after hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to finally pick up the album, but when I did, I wasn’t disappointed. Nevermind is a very solid alternative rock album, and there isn’t a single song on it that I skip when I listen to it. Of course, I enjoy all the singles (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” “Come as You Are,” and “Lithium”), but other songs of interest on the album include: “Breed,” “Polly,” “Drain You,” “On a Plain,” and “Something in the Way.”
Next is the Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 album, Actually. “It’s A Sin,” the lead-off single from the album, really grabbed my attention when I heard it on the radio and saw the video on MTV. I admire the fact that they collaborated with Dusty Springfield, a singer famous in the 1960s, for “What Have I Done To Deserve This?,” and that the song was actually issued as a single. The entire album flows together well as a unit, and you hear different styles of songs. On the one hand, you have upbeat dance numbers like “One More Chance” and “Heart.” On the other hand, you also have a very serious song like “It Couldn’t Happen Here” included on the album. But these different styles work well together.
Roxette’s 1988 album, Look Sharp!, is next on my list. This was the album that first introduced the duo to America; however, this was the second album that Roxette recorded. “The Look” really took America by storm, and it turns out the rest of the album is just as good as this song. The other singles (“Dressed for Success,” “Dangerous,” and “Listen to Your Heart”) are also excellent songs in their own right. Other songs that are just as strong in their own right are: “Chances,” “Cry,” and “Shadow of a Doubt.” The album as a whole flows smoothly as one cohesive unit. And I believe that Look Sharp! is one of the perfect pop albums to represent the late 1980s.
Next on my list is Savage Garden’s 1999 album, Affirmation. From the title song at the beginning of the album, to the song that closes the album, it’s a very solid late 1990s pop album. I absolutely love the song “Affirmation” and the message that it has. I also really like the song “Crash and Burn,” which is a song about telling someone that you’re there for them if they feel like they’re all alone and that they want to give up. I also enjoy the ballads “I Knew I Loved You,” “The Lover After Me,” and “Two Beds and a Coffee Machine.” “The Best Thing” and “Chained to You” are also excellent songs. After I hear this album, I still feel a little disappointed that the duo broke up after releasing it. There was such an evolution from their first album to this one, and so when you listen to this one, you wish you could have heard how the duo would have continued evolving their music and their sound.
The final album on my list is the Smashing Pumpkins’ 1995 album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. This was a double album, and there really isn’t a song that feels like a “filler” that was tacked on simply to make this a longer release. What I really appreciate is the fact that the band was willing to experiment with a lot of different sounds on this release. On the one hand, you had you straight-forward alternative rock songs (such as “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”), a song like “Tonight, Tonight” that wasn’t afraid to feature a string section, a very explosive rock number like “Tales of a Scorched Earth,” a pop-sounding song like “1979,” a stripped back song like “Farewell and Goodnight,” and more “playful” songs like “We Only Come Out at Night.” Even though this double album encompasses a wide variety of sounds, it actually works very well, and you really aren’t hearing jarring transitions between songs. There may be a lot of material to absorb on this release, but it’s worth the listen.