Songfactors Choice: Top Albums of the '80s

A surprising number of these selections came from artists who established themselves in the '70s. The '80s were like that - with a few tweaks, some rockers that had a hard time getting on the radio could suddenly be getting airplay and dominating the charts. As selected by the Songfacts community, these are the Top 10 albums of the '80s.
10. Graceland - Paul Simon

Key Tracks:
You Can Call Me Al (in video)



Simon went to Africa to record some of the tracks with African musicians, which was no small political feat in 1986.
Nominated by Phil

9. Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty

Key Tracks:
I Won't Back Down

Free Fallin' (in video)

Runnin' Down A Dream

Produced by Jeff Lynne, Heartbreaker's guitarist Mike Campbell told us the MCA records rejected it at first. Six months later, their A&R department had turned over, the band played them the same record, and this time they loved it.
Nominated by MC Kenne

8. 1984 - Van Halen

Key Tracks:

Hot For Teacher (in video)


The last Van Halen album with David Lee Roth, it made them huge stars with a perfect '80s album and videos you couldn't take your eyes off.
Nominated by Laurie

7. A Momentary Lapse of Reason - Pink Floyd

Key Tracks:
On The Turning Away (in video)

Learning To Fly

Signs of Life

The first Pink Floyd album without Roger Waters, bringing back producer Bob Ezrin, who worked on The Wall, helped make it work.
Nominated by Viaene

6. Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble

Key Tracks:
Pride And Joy (in video)

Texas Flood


It took an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival and session work with David Bowie to get Vaughan a record deal with his band Double Trouble. This was their first album, and it's a Blues/Rock masterpiece.
Nominated by Phil

5. Appetite for Destruction - Guns 'N' Roses

Key Tracks:
Welcome To The Jungle (in video)

Sweet Child O' Mine

Paradise City

You can't recreate the conditions that led to Appetite. The band was hungry and out to set the world on fire, which they accomplished.
Nominated by Pinkstones

4. The Joshua Tree - U2

Key Tracks:
Where The Streets Have No Name (in video)

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

With Or Without You

While Guns 'N' Roses was crushed by the weight of success, U2 thrived on it, creating an album celebrating a mythic America.
Nominated by Lucky

3. Thriller - Michael Jackson

Key Tracks:
Billie Jean (in video)

Beat It

Human Nature

Numbers don't lie: Worldwide, this one has sold twice as many as any other.
Nominated by Peaches

2. Back in Black - AC/DC

Key Tracks:
Back In Black

You Shook Me All Night Long (in video)

Hell's Bells

If it wasn't for Thriller, this would be the best selling album worldwide.
Nominated by Lea

1. Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

Key Tracks:
Dancing In The Dark (in video)

Born In The U.S.A.

Glory Days

At times angry, raucous and intense, Springsteen and his E-Street Band created our choice for the best album of the '80s.
Nominated by Lea

November 19, 2010
More Song Writing

Comments: 41

  • Judah from TexasRush' "Moving Pictures" should be up there...
  • Sarita from Tempe, AzSLIPPERY WHEN WET and PURPLE RAIN should definitely be listed here. They, like BORN IN THE USA, THRILLER and JOSHUA TREE defined the 80s. And I think somebody forgot about Madonna, too. She is so much more relevant than Tom Petty or AC/DC. I'm not just listing my favorites here, but Albums that favorites of the masses. Many of my favorites would be a different, except for BORN IN THE USA and THRILLER; I believe they are both timeless and just as good today as when they were released. I loved Survivor (Every song from their self-titled album), Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Lionel Richie and others that have been defined by my friends as MUSH MUSIC. I repeat BON JOVI, PRINCE and MADONNA can't be overlooked.I don't know when this list was compiled, but having these listed reviewed every so often, wouldn't be a bad idea.
  • MikeSurely Sign of the Times should be number 1.
  • K.c. from NhGuns'n'Roses? Seriously? Severely overrated.
  • BrooksIt's floodin' down in Texas, all the telephone lines are down!!!" Love seeing SRV in the top 10. He died 3 months after I was born. :(
  • Josh from AustraliaBoomtown Rats - V Deep. Such a brilliant album!
  • Allen from Concord, NhYou need Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet. Livin On a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, and Wanted Dead or Alive.
  • Carlos from Laredo Txsynchronicity- the police
  • Joe Dufrene from New OrleansWhere's ZZ Top-Eliminator (Legs, Sharp Dressed Man, etc), Def Leppard-Pyromania
  • Niels from NetherlandsPower Windows !
  • Alex from Somewhere Out ThereThis is actually a good list. 1-5 is spot on. All worthy and important albums with the exception of "A Momentary Lapse of Reason". "Purple Rain" is way more worthy. I'd also flip-flop "Back in Black" with "Thriller". "Born in the USA" and "Thriller" were the 2 greatest and most important albums of the 80's. No brainer.
  • Joe from OhioThere is no way Born in the USA is even close to The Joshua Tree.
  • Tomtsj from MdAt least one of the other albums mentioned that didn't make this list are certainly a better choice than MLOR, Pink Floyd! C'mon, I'm a HUGE Floyd fan, and this album is very weak. And the reason is simple: David Gilmour is nowhere near as good a songwriter as Roger Waters. The lyrics are forced, the production is piled on to help make up for the lack of substance in the songs...this album just doesn't come close to belonging in this list.
  • Jake from KansasNo metallica? What kind of list is this?
  • Dan from DetroitXTC, Skylarking and R.E.M., Life's Rich Pageant should be the list.
  • Jon from Enumclaw , WaWhere is Ride The Lightning?
  • Michael from Forest City NcBeastie Boys License to Ill anyone?
  • Todd from Texas80's!! What about the likes of Def Leppard (Pyromania and Hysteria) or Bon Jovi (Slippery When Wet and New Jersey)?
  • Lenny from LouisvilleA list of the best 80's albums and no Metallica? What the hell, man?!
  • Frank from Pennsylvania And VirginiaBeastie Boys License to Ill anyone?
  • Bob from BoblandWhatever happened to Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth? One of the best alternative rock albums of all time.
  • Adrian from Illinoisokokok i know purple rain should be on here but where is Public Enemy's "It takes a nation of Millions to Hold us Back"
  • Tami from UsaOn top of Prince's Purple Rain... What about Motley's Dr. Feelgood album that was released in September 1989 and went to Number 1 in October 1989. Bon Jovi's New Jersey album. Poison's Open Up and Say Aahhh! Def Leppard's Hysteria. Hair Metal they might be... but that's what sold in the 80s
  • R.dove from Snow CampTotally missed Prince Purple Rain....
  • John from Wilmington NcThe Police belong on this list.
  • Tim from CharlotteNeed Prince - Purple Rain and need David Bowie - Let's Dance.
  • Dani from IsraelDisintegration - The Cure
  • Jeff from MinneapolisA "top albums of the 80s" list without Prince is like a "top albums of the 60s" without the Beatles. "Purple Rain" is better than half of this list. I think you have suffered a momentary lapse of reason.
  • Gabriella from St. LouisThe only way I would attend an AC/DC concert is if I were sitting/standing close enough to lop rotten eggs at them.
  • Jim from MassYou missed ZZ Top and Eliminator. Only sold 10 million copies. Sports by Huey Lewis and the News, You heard it for about three years running, Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears, you heard it the entire summer of '85. And what's with Graceland? Are you serious? Please tell me, when was the last time you heard anything off of Graceland on any radio station?
  • BomberA truly forgettable floyd effort.
  • Niels from NetherlandsPS I would add those Prince albums too Jacob!
  • Niels from NetherlandsRUSH with Moving Pictures and/or Power Windows I would put in my eighties list, if not more of them.
  • Jacob from AlabamaWe are talking about the 1980's, right? How can a list titled "Top Albums of the '80s" not mention Prince? Record sales and quality are rarely proportional; in terms of artistry, Thriller cannot come close to touching Purple Rain or Sign o' the Times.
  • Austin from Monument, ColoradoThese choices aren't too bad, and I see how most of them made the list. However, I, too, think that you can't have an 80's best-of list without a Metallica album. There were 80's albums that meant more to heavy metal than Appetite for Destruction or even Van Halen, and if heavy metal (which really is a major genre) were to land spots on any kind of best-of list, it would surely be one for the 1980's. Let us not forget Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz, either. Regardless, this list definitely accounts for some major albums; not too shabby, Fishies.
  • Matt from Bakersfield, CaI think metallica's Master of Puppets or any of there 80's albums are much better then any of these.
  • Jeff from ChattanoogaUmm...Tommy Tutone?
  • Brandon from OhioYou missed the Replacements' "Let It Be". One of my favorites ever.

    Also, how about Sonic Youth, "Daydream Nation"?
  • Kenne from Phoenix, AzSome definite classics, but also a few forgettable albums towards the bottom half, considering there were many other greats that just missed out in the voting, such as Prince, Dire Straits, Talking Heads, etc.
  • Adam from BostonUmm...Slippery When Wet???
see more comments

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