For your reference, here’s 21-30
Now for some funk/new wave/pop/rock NASTY action from the man who appears on our Top 100 more than any other artist.
#20. Prince | Dirty Mind
Released: 10/8/80 | RIAA certification: Platinum
Fun Fact: Sticker on the front, addressed primarily to radio jocks: “please audition before playing.”
“Dirty Mind” changed everything for Prince. His first two albums, although enjoyable, were rather pedestrian musically. Yes the whole ‘he plays, writes and produces everything himself’ angle was worked to death, and was very impressive given his young age, but there wasn’t much on either “For You” or “Prince” that announced to the world this was a musical genius at work. Then came the release of this album in 1980.
A complete departure sonically from Prince’s earlier mix of polished R&B, funk and rock, “Dirty Mind” is raw in every way. Lyrically, musically, even the cover art. Prince’s management originally wanted him to do post-production and remixing on the tracks he presented to them as his new album before delivering them to Warner Bros. But it was decided they would submit the stripped down, almost demo-like songs as is and despite some understandable concerns, Prince got his way. Thus marked the true birth of the Minneapolis Sound.
“Dirty Mind” took Prince’s emphasis on exploring sexuality to a whole new level. There’s the celebration of oral sex on “Head”, still one of his nastiest funk grooves ever, the boasting of his sexual appetite on the title track and the biggest jaw dropper, “Sister”, just a little tale about incest that still shocks to this day. And what else could a song called “Do It All Night” be about? But bigger topics were tackled including the anti-war anthem “Partyup” and Prince’s call to arms for everybody to go “Uptown”, a challenge to break free from society’s norms and expectations that became an anthem for his increasing fan base. “Dirty Mind” is where Prince first established himself as a true original and someone that would set trends for the rest of the decade. (Mike A.)
19. Talking Heads | Speaking In Tongues
Released: 5/31/83 | RIAA certification: Platinum
Fun Fact: The title of Speaking In Tongues came from David Byrne’s penchant for singing gibberish.
If not exactly famous, the Talking Heads were certainly well-known by 1983. With four terrific albums under their belt, the New York punk scene’s most artistically enduring act was about to enter the upper reaches of the pop charts. The album’s lead single, “Burning Down the House” hit #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and thanks to a quirky video that matched the band’s quirky sensibility, Talking Heads were everywhere.
Thanks to the hypnotic rhythms, a greater reliance on synthesizers, collaborators like Parliament-Funkadelic co-founder Bernie Worrell, David Byrne’s spazzy art school vocals, Jerry Harrison’s understated guitars and the criminally underrated bass guitar of Tina Weymouth and drums of Chris Frantz, everything seemed to come together at just the right time on Speaking in Tongues.
Songs like “Burning Down the House,” “Making Flippy Floppy” and “Girlfriend is Better” still move butts on the dance floor, but for truly lasting brilliance one must turn to “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”. Byrne’s description of the album’s second single made it sound like something of a reluctant love song, though “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” certainly feels unabashedly and genuinely romantic. It’s a love song even a cynic could love. (Crispin Kott)
18. The Replacements | Let It Be
Released: 10/2/84 | RIAA certification: None
Fun Fact: Peter Buck of R.E.M. was one of the people considered to produce Let It Be.
With the wink at the Beatles in the album’s title and the rooftop cover photo, the Replacements were up to something on their third release, 1984’s Let It Be. When the needle dropped onto “I Will Dare” to open side 1 (yes, kiddies, that’s how we used to do it), listeners heard an opening guitar riff that seemed to have come from one of R.E.M.’s records, especially since Peter Buck was playing on it. When Paul Westerberg’s mandolin came in after a finger picked guitar solo, it was the clear that the ‘Mats were taking a new direction with a heavier focus on song-writing as well as pushing into different musical styles.
Nowhere was this more on display than on the “Androgynous” the greatest celebration of cross-dressing since “Walk on the Wild Side”. There’s not a guitar played on the track at all, just a jazzy piano backed with brushed drums. The song sounds like it came out of the Oak Room or Café Carlyle and not some dingy rock club basement. My favorite track on the record, “Unsatisfied” opens with a solo acoustic 12 string and continues with Westerberg bitterly spitting out how unfulfilling a current relationship.
There were still plenty of thrashing songs like “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” or “Gary’s Got A Boner” but the album veers all over the rock map with mid-tempo songs of teenage angst and confusion (“Sixteen Blue”) and a note for note cover of Kiss’ “Black Diamond”. It’s a near perfect document of a band, or at least Westerberg, starting to realize it might be capable of a whole lot more. (Dennis)
17. Madonna | Madonna
Released: 7/27/83 | RIAA certification:
Fun Fact: Madonna’s first 12″ single, “Everybody,” was released without her face on the cover–a trick previously used by Motown with Teena Marie–in order to make people think that she wasn’t white.
Madonna would go on to greater success throughout the 1980s, but her 1983 self-titled debut boldly established her as a pop star. All of Madge’s subsequent ‘80s albums had higher sales. But considering that her debut moved 10 million units and went platinum five times over, she hit the ground running. Three of the album’s singles went Top 20 (with “Lucky Star” hitting #4), while all five singles went top 5 on the Billboard dance charts. And why not? Madonna is simply one of the best dance records of the decade, with all eight of its tracks boasting undeniably dancefloor ready pop. While subsequent albums such as the smash Like a Virgin and True Blue fared better on the charts and at the sales counter, neither is as consistently pleasurable as Madonna. Beyond sales, as teenage girls across the country began copping Madge’s boy toy fashion sense, it became clear that Madonnamania had officially arrived. (Dr. Gonzo)
16. U2 | War
Released: 2/28/83 | RIAA certification:
Fun Fact: The Coconuts, of Kid Creole & The Coconuts fame, contribute background vocals to three songs on War.
U2 have spent most of their comeback years curating an image instead of making not shitty artistically fulfilling music. Maybe they’re still reeling from the unjustified backlash Pop received—maybe they’re officially in the “Rolling Stones” portion of their career where they just don’t give a fuck anymore—either way, U2 haven’t pushed themselves in over a decade.
War has become a greater anomaly with every passing U2 album. They didn’t fall off completely (I’ll give them The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and maybe half of Pop), but they’ve never sounded as raw, angry and vital as they do here. It’s the only thing in U2’s discography that could pass for a legitimate punk record. Hell, I’ll go out on a limb and say that War has the best opening half of any album ever conceived. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” are two of the most visceral protest songs of the eighties (that have, somewhat unaccountably, become CVS background music within the last few years—nothing brightens a shopping experience like the skulls of North Ireland). The Cold War slumdance “Seconds” and the grainy folk ballad “Drowning Man” show an understated side of the band that seldom manifested after War. “Like a Song…” contains the most impassioned performance of Bono’s career, and some of Larry Mullen’s finest percussion work.
I’ll admit, the album loses some of its momentum in the latter half; with the exception of “Two Hearts Beat As One,” nothing rings with the same urgency as “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Like a Song…” Still, U2 have never sounded fiercer or more passionate than they did on War. (Greg)
I just just a kid when War came out, about ten years old, and just starting to really get into music. This album changed my entire musical direction at the time, away (well, somewhat, at least) from cheesy hair bands and toward the type of artists that would start to formulate my tastes later on…people with something to say. Bono and the boys had plenty to say on War, foregoing sappy relationship songs that sold well on the radio to instead tackle subjects like The Troubles in Northern Ireland (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”), the Polish solidarity movement (“New Years Day”), prostitution (“Red Light”), and nuclear proliferation (“Seconds”). U2 didn’t just speak up, they went in hot;the album is saturated with political commentary and protest. The title marks the overarching theme of the album, and is meant both literally and as a metaphor for inner conflict.
The sound of the recording was a lot more harsh and direct than previous albums, but the songwriting and end product were a lot more refined. This marked U2 as having really grown up, and it showed in their songwriting and chops here. The band sounded significantly tighter than on earlier efforts and Bono’s vocals were just so damned earnest. Especially during the era in which it was produced, he made me believe every word that came out of his mouth. If I would have been old enough to vote, Bono would have been my write-in candidate.
War was extremely successful in both the US and UK, and actually supplanted Thriller as the #1 album in the latter. It marked U2’s first gold album in the US, and also acted as a harbinger of the depth of music we would see from U2 in the future. To this day, it probably remains my favorite U2 album (although The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby are right up there as well), and it still functions as sonic therapy on those days when the world doesn’t make much sense. (Grez)
15. Pixies | Doolittle
Released: 4/14/89 | RIAA certification: Gold
Fun Fact: Doolittle was the first Pixies album to be distributed outside of the U.S.
Doolittle is a study in contradiction. It is easily the Pixies most accessible work with mid-tempo power pop ditty’s like “Wave of Mutilation,” and the R.E.M. flavored romp, “Here Comes Your Man.” Imagine the shock of the teenagers who bought Doolittle for one of these tracks when “Tame” melts down into Black Francis shredding his vocal chords. It’s this constant battle that makes Doolittle the classic it is today. (Michael Parr)
14. Run-DMC | Raising Hell
Released: 7/18/86 | RIAA certification:
Fun Fact: Chris Rock calls Raising Hell “the first great rap album ever.”
In 1986, rap was largely considered a fad that had limited appeal beyond the ghetto. Top 40 radio wasn’t going anywhere near it, and it was even difficult to get urban radio stations to play hip-hop. Sales-wise, there wasn’t much going on, either. The Fat Boys and Whodini had Gold albums, but the thought of a multi-platinum album consisting of solely rap music was a pipe dream. At least it was until Run, D and Jay kicked the door down with 1986’s minimalist masterpiece, Raising Hell.
While that album’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” (featuring original members Steven Tyler and Joe Perry) is widely credited as the song that broke the trio through to the mainstream, consider a) Raising Hell was well on it’s way to platinum status before “Walk This Way” became a hit (remember, it was the album’s second single,) and it’s arguable that the song did more for Aerosmith (who were considered washed up by 1986) than it did to Run-DMC. Either way, the collaboration set the stage, unwittingly, for every “featuring” credit you now see littered across the Top Ten, and spawned everyone from The Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill (good) to Kid Rock and Fred Durst (bad, bad, bad…)
…and it’s not even the album’s best song. On an album that celebrates everything from materialism (“My Adidas”) to family (the acapella “Son of Byford”) stupidity (“You Be Illin'”) and black pride (uh…”Proud To Be Black”), “Walk This Way” is just one of several classic tracks on what became a high-water mark for Run-DMC, hip-hop, and the entire decade. Everyone that picks up a check for something even remotely related to hip-hop needs to send these cats a thank you note. (Big Money)
13. Michael Jackson | Bad
Released: 8/31/87 | RIAA certification:
Fun Fact: Bad lost the 1987 Album of the Year Grammy. The album that won (and another nominated album) finished in our Top Ten.
How do you follow up the world’s best-selling album of all time? Well, if you’re Michael Jackson, you follow it up with another of the world’s best-selling albums. Five years after the release of Jackson’s magnum opus, Thriller, Michael donned a chained leather jacket, a jheri curl and released his seventh studio album, Bad in 1987 (the year I was born, no less!). Everyone knows the songs on this album; of course, there’s the now classic title track, where Michael first lets us all know just how bad he really is. But this is also the album that contains other staple MJ hits- “Smooth Criminal” (and that iconic anti-gravity lean which debuted in the music video), the inspirational ballad, “Man in the Mirror”, the upbeat number you’d have a hard time not dancing along with, “The Way You Make Me Feel” and one of my personal favorite MJ songs, “Dirty Diana”- there’s just something so awesome about screaming along with him in the chorus during that one. Bad went on to win eight Grammys in 1988, pretty much solidifying Michael’s status as the King of Pop…but the amazing thing about this album, is that I can still listen to it now without it feeling dated or overplayed. And yes, I will admit that I still sing along with the female parts of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”…I have no shame. (Brittany)
12. The Police | Synchronicity
Released: 6/1/83| RIAA certification:
Fun Fact: Sting & Stewart Copeland came to blows during the recording of this album.
This is how you go out on top.
Synchronicity was the album that perfectly married The Police’s pop smarts with experimentation. The result? An album that would have ruled 1983 if it wasn’t for a pesky little album called Thriller. Sting, Stewart and Andy indulge every whim here, cruising through genres with the greatest of ease. The tricky time signatures of “Synchronicity I” give way to the thundering power chords of “Synchronicity II.” Andy Summers’ completely bonkers “Mother” rests on the same album as the jazzy “Murder By Numbers.” Of course, there are also three perfect hit singles–all of which were a bit dark for pop radio in 1983 but landed in the Top 10 nevertheless. Seriously, take a listen to “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” Not that The Po-Pos were ever the happiest, lyrically, but these songs are friggin’ disturbing. Who said great pop music had to be happy? (Big Money)
11. Bruce Springsteen | Born In The U.S.A.
Released: 6/4/84 | RIAA certification:
Fun Fact: Born In The U.S.A. was the first CD to be manufactured in the United States.
There’s been a lot of ink spilt between Popblerd writers about Bruce Springsteen’s commercial breakthrough and massive singles machine Born in the U.S.A.; as it turns out, we’ve got a substantial amount of Boss fans on staff, and we get our jollies from comparing and contrasting albums. Whether or not it’s upper-echelon Bruce is immaterial, at the end of the day – stripped of the gaudy ballpark keys that tether the record’s biggest hits (“Glory Days”, “Dancing in the Dark”, the title track) directly to 1984, Born in the U.S.A. is still a triumph of streamlined, honest pop songwriting. The pure highway escape of Bruce’s youth rears its head again in “No Surrender”; “I’m On Fire” is a tightly-coiled masterpiece of seething, sweat-soaked sex; and, most importantly, Bruce reminds us that he’s a titan of hiding his most devastating lyrical content beyond a peppy, genial veneer, delivering wrenching narratives in the upbeat “I’m Goin’ Down” and the false bravado of “Bobby Jean” and the title track. Whether you prefer your Bruce in compact, propulsive pop-rock numbers or in winding, free-form boardwalk journeyman mode, BitUSA remains a triumph of pop as art. – Drew
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