As a child and pre-teen during the 1980s, I gained a lot of exposure to the music of the 1980s at the time it was popular. Below is my list of essential albums of the 1980s.
Depeche Mode – “Some Great Reward”: This was Depeche Mode’s fourth album, which was released in 1984. This is definitely the band’s strongest album from the 1980s. Not only does it include the big single, “People Are People,” but all of the songs on the album are incredibly strong. When I listen to this one, I don’t really feel compelled to push the “skip” button on my CD player. Other standout songs include: “Something to Do,” “Lie to Me,” “Somebody,” “Master and Servant,” and the controversial “Blasphemous Rumours.”
Janet Jackson – “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814”: This album was released in the fall of 1989, so it just makes it into this list. Personally, I feel this was Janet’s creative peak. Janet took a lot of chances with this album, and put a lot of focus on social issues in many of the songs presented on the album. While the album relies heavily on interludes, for the most part, the interludes enchance the listening experience. My favorites from this album for me are: “Rhythm Nation,” “State of the World,” “Miss You Much,” “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” “Alright,” “Escapde,” “Black Cat,” and “Come Back to Me.”
Michael Jackson – “Thriller”: By far, this was undeniably one of the biggest albums of the 1980s. This was one of my favorites back when I was in the second grade, and I would listen to the vinyl copy my older sister had purchased. I loved the song “Beat It” so much that I played it over and over, and managed to get a scratch on the record, so Michael would be stuck singing the words, “Beat it, beat it, beat it” repeatedly. Overall, it was a rather solid album, although I have never really cared much for “The Lady in My Life,” which is the last song on the album.
Billy Joel – “An Innocent Man”: This album marked my first exposure to Billy Joel, and it is another one that defined my early grade school years. The album spawned several hits: “An Innocent Man,” “Uptown Girl,” “Tell Her About It,” “The Longest Time,” “Leave a Tender Moment Alone,” and “Keeping The Faith.” Billy Joel was able to contemporize the 1960s sound and produce a rather strong album; in my opinion, there’s really only two songs on the album I would deem as “clunkers.”
Cyndi Lauper – “She’s So Unusual”: My older sister had asked for this album for her birthday, but our parents refused to buy it because they didn’t like her dyed hair. However, after getting some birthday money, my sister went and bought a cassette copy of it on her own. I remember borrowing this tape and listening to it on her Walkman quite a bit as a kid. Of course, it includes Cyndi’s signature song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” but other notable songs include: “Money Changes Everything,” “When You Were Mine,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” and “All Through the Night.”
Madonna – “True Blue”: This was Madonna’s third album, and by far, I believe it’s the strongest album in her 1980s catalog; it’s just a perfect mid-1980s pop album. From the socially-conscious “Papa Don’t Preach,” to the melancholy mood of “Live to Tell,” to the Latin feel of “La Isla Bonita,” this album comes together to make for an enjoyable listen. This is another one where I don’t feel a need to hit the “skip” button on my CD player. “Open Your Heart,” “White Heat,” and “True Blue” are some more of my favorite songs from this album.
Prince and the Revolution – “Purple Rain” soundtrack: Purple Rain was one of the biggest music films of the 1980s, and its soundtrack was one of the biggest soundtracks of that era. Several of the songs became hits: “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and the title song. “Computer Blue” and “Darling Nikki,” while not hits, gained notoriety in their own right. “When Doves Cry” is also my favorite Prince song of all-time.
Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A.”: This album gave me my first exposure to Bruce Springsteen, and it is an album that remains one of my favorites today. On this album, Bruce touched on a lot of themes hitting his generation at that time, such as a scatching look back at the Vietnam era, looking back on their “glory days” of high school, and changes taking place in the small towns where members of his generation would have grown up. For me, my favorites from this album are: the title song, “Cover Me,” “Working on the Highway,” “I’m on Fire,” “No Surrender,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” “Glory Days,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “My Hometown.”