Well, we’ve covered the best albums of the Nineties and the best albums of the oughts…what could possibly be next?

*scratch your collective heads*

Um…something something flux capacitor, time machine, DeLorean, EIGHTIES!!

Yep, we’ve gathered the troops (in addition to nabbing a couple of moonlighters) and compiled a definitive list of the best albums of the decade of excess, starting with #100 (sheesh, talk about excess) and ending, of course with #1 (holy crap, more excess!). In between, you will find albums that scale a variety of genres: from alternative rock (which was plain old college rock back in the day) to hip-hop (to name the two genres that had completely changed the musical landscape by the end of the decade.) You’ll also find disco, funk, heavy metal, punk, new wave, singer/songwriters, easy listening pop, funk-punk, punk-funk, spelunk (I made that one up) and a handful of artists that defy description.

For this list, the regular Popblerd team has been joined by occasional Popblerd contributors Michael Parr and Rob “I’m Not The Guy From The Cure” Smith (who also work over at Popdose,) Dennis Corrigan (who you can find on Twitter @IrishJava,) Dan Paquette (who runs the awesome Facebook page Dan Paquette’s Music Obsession,) musician Carlos Halston (of Popblerd faves Halston,) and Crispin Kott, whose work you’ll usually find over at my old stomping grounds, Popmatters. Their much-respected musical opinions (not to mention their writing skills) made for an eclectic and fun list. Shall we begin? Let’s go!

#100: Bobby Brown | Don’t Be Cruel

Released: 6/20/88 | RIAA certification: 7X Platinum

Fun Fact: Don’t Be Cruel was the #1 album of 1989, according to Billboard magazine.

Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel was released in the heyday of the New Jack Swing era and was known as the Thriller of the genre because of its sales until Michael Jackson’s Dangerous jacked its swing. The music was edgy and it was then 19-year-old Brown’s version of Janet Jackson’s Control. Brown was the most successful artist to branch out of New Edition and probably still has the most cachet of anyone from the group thanks to his marriage to Whitney Houston. Five out of the nine songs from “Don’t Be Cruel” were top-ten Billboard hits. You had the brash “My Prerogative”, the title track which suggested that since Brown was giving his love to a girl, she must give it back to him, the softer sides of Bobby B. in “Roni” and “Rock Wit’cha” and the most fun song on the album, “Every Little Step”. Really, since they were the first five non-interlude tracks on the album, Brown could’ve cut those as an EP and called it quits. No one remembers the other tracks anyway.

Brown was the perfect middle ground between R&B and hip hop. He drew from both audiences, which made him the best single artist of the era. Brown was oft-troubled which took away from his genius. He wouldn’t release another album until the tail end of the era and his genius was soon gone. Had Brown been able to reach his potential, he could’ve been an enormous star. Then again, he and Whitney were probably having a little too much fun. (GG)

#99. The Jesus & Mary Chain | Psychocandy

Released: November 1985 | RIAA certification: none

Fun Fact: The UK’s NME (New Musical Express) voted Psychocandy the #1 album of 1985.

Out in the ether, where the highway meets the sky and keeps running upward, straight on to Centaurus A, there is a parallel plane of existence—one that looks like ours, but is even weirder.  I visit there from time to time, usually while on the run from the family and the job and everything else.  AM radio is fucking fantastic out there.  Weirder, but fantastic.  Brian Wilson exists there only as a concept, an idea whose time has not yet come.  Phil Spector exists, but only as a convicted felon; there was no Wall of Sound, at least not until Wayne Coyne came up with it.  In its place was an abrasive wall of fuzz, through which melodies were strained and reorganized into waves of static and synths and feedback; the sound’s Darlene Love is the Jesus and Mary Chain.

“Just Like Honey” kicks off with drums that we here in this plane recognize as the intro to “Be My Baby” or “Don’t Worry Baby” (happens again later in the record, on “Sowing Seeds”), and continues to remind us of other things, mostly Velvet Underground outtakes and white noise.  “Never Understand” sounds like a great surf song, albeit with a power saw trying to cut through a girder, mixed above even the vocals.  “Something’s Wrong” is the prom anthem that wasn’t, and “Some Candy Talking” pulses like the evening’s final slow dance, at a high school that lets songs about scoring dope and sex be played as the evening’s final slow dance.  At my prom, it was Aerosmith’s “Angel.”  I’m pretty sure the parallel plane’s high schools are cooler, though.

What’s so striking about Psychocandy, even now, is the same thing that’s so striking about albums like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, where so much beauty hides within an onslaught of noise, even the noise itself becomes a thing of beauty.  Few have achieved such a thing as successfully as the Jesus and Mary Chain did on Psychocandy; we’re still getting to the bottom of it all. (Rob Smith)

#98. Lionel Richie | Can’t Slow Down

Released: 10/11/83 | RIAA certification: Diamond

Fun Fact: Can’t Slow Down won the 1984 Grammy for Album of the Year, and is Motown’s biggest-selling album by a solo artist.

Lionel Richie’s name has been associated with cheese and corniness for the past 25 years. That’s probably due to a number of things: that snazzy ‘stache he wore for most of the ’80s, the fact that he hosted the American Music Awards in 1985 and screamed out the word “outrageous” about 500 times, the beatdown he withstood at the hands of his ex-wife Brenda, that damn “Hello” video. Underneath that cheese however, is a sense of pop craftsmanship that’s damn near unparalleled. Want proof? Give a listen to his 10 million-selling Grammy winning 1983 magnum opus, Can’t Slow Down.

By the time Can’t Slow Down was released, Lionel was already a megastar, but the success of Michael Jackson’s Thriller that same year seemed to light a fire under Lionel, or at least it provided a blueprint towards world domination. The album’s title track was a funky tune with some similarities to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” (listen to those basslines!) “Running With The Night” added a rock edge to the proceedings, while popular album cut “Love Will Find A Way” was smooth L.A. soul with slight pop touches. Of course, MJ never went all the way twangy-twang the way Lionel did on songs like “Stuck On You.” Nevertheless, those two albums (combined with subsequent successes by Prince & Tina Turner) provided the source material for black music’s MTV-assisted crossover explosion in the Eighties.

Want proof that Lionel deserves to (and will be) remembered as much more than a soft-rock cornball from the Eighties and that Can’t Slow Down deserves a place on this list? 2012’s #2 album (behind the juggernaut that is Adele) is Tuskegee, a collection of countrified versions of Lionel’s hits, an album that gets much of it’s tracklist from…you guessed it, Can’t Slow Down. (Big Money)

#97. Double Fantasy | John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Released: 11/17/80| RIAA certification: 3X Platinum

Fun Fact: Unless you count the George Harrison-curated, multi-artist The Concert For Bangladesh album, Double Fantasy is the only album by a former Beatle to win the Album Of The Year Grammy.

Tuesday morning, December 9, 1980, started like any weekday morning.  I was living on a small Army base in southern Germany and had to get up at 5:45 to catch a bus at 6:30 for the hour and a half ride to my high school.  I poured myself a bowl of cereal and flipped on Armed Forces Radio to catch the news and Monday Night Football score, thinking the game should be over.  What I heard was that John Lennon was shot to death outside his New York apartment building barely an hour earlier.  I remember going back upstairs and waking up my mom and saying, “Mom, John Lennon’s dead.”

I write this as the intro because it’s impossible to separate that awful event of December 8 from Double Fantasy, the last record Lennon released in his lifetime.  As we’ve sadly seen too often this year, death remains the last great career move.  The album had been released three weeks later to middling at best reviews but solid sales given it was Lennon’s first album of original material since 1974’s Walls and Bridges.  In the weeks following his murder, it shot to number one, stayed there for almost two months and later won a Grammy for album of the year.  It spawned a number 1 and a number 2 single on US pop charts in “(Just Like) Starting Over” and ”Woman”.  It became the best selling record of Lennon’s solo career, and a hallmark album of the early 80’s.

And yet, it’s a fairly ho-hum album.  It’s not a bad record by any stretch (easy, Yoko haters), but neither is a record on par with LP’s like Plastic Ono Band or Imagine.  Gone is the biting social commentary or personal anguish of his earlier works.  Here was Lennon in midlife domestic tranquility. He unapologetically has “gotten off the merry go around” as he sings in “Watching the Wheels” and found bliss in his reunion with Yoko Ono and subsequent birth of their son, Sean.  In that respect it’s a fine overview of that stage of life, one I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve settled down and started raising a family of my own.  We’ll never know what more Lennon might have had to say, but at least in the sadness of ours, we can find happiness in the joy he had found in last years with us. (Dennis)

#96. ABC | The Lexicon of Love

Released: 6/25/82 | RIAA certification: Gold

Fun Fact: When you judge a book by it’s cover, then you judge a look by the lover.

The only debut album of the 80s to begat its own spy movie? Post-punk proved the ideal crucible for ABC’s high-concept japery. In the future, ABC would become “rock traitors (see Primal Scream c. 1994)” … and cartoons, espousing the delights of fake fabrics (and instruments), but…

Lexicon of Love is the sound of contrary young men in love with Motown, Glam and Philly Soul. And kitchen-sink drama.

If you sped up “How Soon Is Now” and got Norman Whitfield in to produce, you’d not be far off. It’s quite good.

key words sourced from youtube reviews:

suit, 80s, vibes guy, 007, England, cheesy, bellissimo (Carlos Halston)

#95. Metallica | Master Of Puppets

Released: 2/24/86 | Certification: 6X Platinum

Fun Fact: Some versions of Master of Puppets contain a sticker that says: “The only track you probably won’t want to play is ‘Damage, Inc.’ due to the multiple use of the infamous ‘F’ word. Otherwise, there aren’t any ‘Shits,’ ‘Fucks,’ ‘Pisses,’ ‘Cunts,’ ‘Motherfuckers,’ or ‘Cocksuckers’ anywhere on this record.”

1986 was quite the year for hair metal and hard rock: Bands like Bon Jovi and Poison used liberal amounts of hairspray and pop hooks to ride high on the charts, while old veterans like Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne incorporated similarly MTV-friendly looks and sounds. But the biggest noise on the metal scene was made by Metallica, which made its major label debut with Master of Puppets. The album ended up going six times platinum, an amazing achievement considering it received no radio support and there were no videos made for it. James Hetfield and crew perfected the pioneering thrash metal sound they had unveiled on previous albums Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning. The album is relentlessly heavy and fast, although it starts off with some flamenco guitar in the intro to “Battery” before launching into an aural assault. The title track is 8-plus minutes of ass-kicking that remains a live favorite to this day. “Disposable Heroes,” “Leper Messiah” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” are all classic Metallica tracks. The album also marks the final appearance of bassist extraordinaire Cliff Burton, who tragically died in a bus accident as the band was touring Sweden in September 1986. It’s a fitting tribute to Burton, whose unique “lead bass” style is in the forefront on the instrumental “Orion,” since Master of Puppets is the best Metallica album (IMHO) and one of the best metal albums of all time. (Jay)

94. The Rolling Stones | Tattoo You

Released: 8/27/81 | RIAA certification: 4X Platinum

Fun Fact: Tattoo You was the last Rolling Stones album to top the American charts, and “Start Me Up” is, to date, the last Top 5 Stones single.

Band decides to tour, combs through previously unreleased tracks, compiles and releases album, hits the road.  On the surface, this sounds like a cynical recipe for a piece of crap to be foisted upon loyal fans to spur ticket sales.  Only in this case, the band was the Rolling Stones and the resulting LP, Tattoo You, became the last great Stones record.

As the Stones approached their twentieth year as a band in 1981, Mick and Keith weren’t speaking to each other, let alone writing songs together.  When they decided to tour the US that year, they needed a record and needed it fast, so producer Chris Kimsey started digging through the band’s tapes, finding tracks from the recording of the band’s 1980 release Emotional Rescue (including Richards’ lascivious “Little T&A”) all the back to the ’72 Goats Head Soup sessions, where he found one the album’s hits, “Waiting On a Friend” (this and “Tops” ended up featuring the long departed Mick Taylor on guitar).  Overdubs were added often with Mick being the only member of the band present.  Jazz great Sonny Rollins was tapped to add sax bits given Mick’s lingering antipathy at the time toward Bobby Keys, et voila, one ready-made Stones record.

As expected, the record sounded like a tour of the past ten years, with flat out rockers like “Hang Fire” and “Neighbours” as well as more mellow numbers like “No Use in Crying” and “Worried About You”.  The latter, from the Black and Blue sessions is a worthy cousin of “Fool to Cry” and “Memory Motel”.  And, of course, there was one of their biggest singles ever, “Start Me Up”, which dated to the recording of both Black and Blue and Some Girls.  The three chord opening riff took its place with the iconic openings “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, and became rally music at stadiums all over America (as well as Microsoft campaign).  Interestingly, “Start Me Up” was usually played toward the end of the set of on the subsequent U.S. tour with “Under My Thumb” serving as the show opener

Tattoo You would go multi-platinum and was the last Stones’ album to top the Billboard album charts.  The tour would gross over $50 million in ticket sales.  Richards wrote in his recent autobiography that it wasn’t until that tour that the band finally started making money on the road.  Not a bad showing for a record that from a lesser group could have been just a throw-away tour souvenir. (Dennis)

#93. Genesis | Invisible Touch 

Released: 6/6/86 | RIAA certification: 6X Platinum

Fun Fact: “Invisible Touch” was Genesis’ first and only #1 single. The song that knocked it off the #1 spot? “Sledgehammer”-by former Genesis lead singer Peter Gabriel.

A 1983 single by Depeche Mode shouted “Get The Balance Right!”

In the summer of 1986, Genesis finally got the balance right with Invisible Touch. The band had been around for a decade and a half, and you know the story by now. Art-rock beginnings, Peter Gabriel, theatrical stage shows, negligible U.S. success, Peter Gabriel leaves, band searches frantically for replacement lead singer, eventually settles on drummer Phil Collins as new lead singer, Steve Hackett and Tony Phillips also eventually leave band, American success follows, Phil Collins then becomes solo mega-star.

I wouldn’t call Invisible Touch my favorite Genesis album, but it is a pretty solid piece that intermingles more adventurous pieces like “The Brazilian” and “Domino” with pop-centric songs like the title track (which nevertheless contains a pretty bonkers synthesizer solo) and the ballad “In Too Deep.” Of course, Phil had just come off of the massive success of 1985’s No Jacket Required, and a lot of casual fans came on board as a result of that. The wildly inventive “Land of Confusion” video and the licensing of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” to Michelob beer for ads also assisted in affording the trio their widest audience yet. As far as pop albums go, not a bad choice, but I’d have gone with No Jacket Required (which inexplicably didn’t make this list) instead. (Big Money)

#92. U2 | The Unforgettable Fire

Released: 9/24/84 | RIAA certification: 3X Platinum

Not Really Fun Fact: The title of The Unforgettable Fire comes from an art exhibit about the bombing of Hiroshima. Of course, U2 would name a later album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. What’s the fascination with explosives?

I’m wide awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!!!!

If there’s any one line in U2’s thirty year career I most associate with the fire and passion that has become the band’s trademark, it’s that one. It comes from the song “Bad,” a harrowing narrative about a friend’s drug addiction, and if it doesn’t make your hair stand on end, I don’t think you have a soul.

By the time The Unforgettable Fire was released at the tail end of 1984, U2 was well on their way to becoming a household name. Even if it would take one more album to officially get them there, Fire set the stage for that breakthrough. First, they replaced producer Steve Lillywhite with the team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, creating a darker, more atmospheric sound for the band. Second, they turned their political focus (for at least two songs) to an American icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The tribute “Pride (In The Name of Love)” became the band’s first Top 40 hit. Finally, about nine months after the album’s release, U2 took the stage at Live Aid to show the world what they were capable of as a live band. U2’s performance is-after Queen’s monumental set-the show’s most memorable moment. Everything fell into place, and world domination was imminent. (Big Money)

#91. Frankie Goes To Hollywood | Welcome To The Pleasuredome

Released: 10/29/84 | RIAA certification: none

Frankie Say: Holy kitchen-sink production, Batman! Yes-man Trevor Horn cemented his production rep with walls of sound, a post-disco, arena-rock thump that was perfect for dance clubs and those fancy-schmancy new hi-fi systems.

Frankie Say: Welcome To The Pleasuredome (hand in hand with Bronski Beat’s The Age Of Consent) took the homo-erotica that was given a suggestive wink by the likes of Boy George and shoved it as far into your face as they possibly could during the ’80s. By now, everyone knows that “Relax” is a cocksucking tutorial (although I don’t know what laser beams have to do with it.)

Frankie Say: Remember when even the flimsiest pop music could make a statement? Ladies and gentlemen, FGTH wasn’t just about the gay. The “Two Tribes” song and video (not to mention the Ronald Reagan impersonator that appears throughout the album) made the boys’ political agenda clear.

Frankie Say: Who the hell else is gonna cover “Born To Run” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” on the same album? (Big Money)

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