The 25 Best Albums of the 1980s
New Wave, New Age, metal, dub, and more!
The 1980s are sometimes pilloried as a low-point in popular music I think that’s because they were a time of such accelerated, disturbing change. The 80s were when electronic equipment and synthesizers transformed rock and soul into New Wave and hip hop, making the radio into an alienating wonderland of cheesy alien newness.
This list tries to capture some of the proliferating genres and weirdness that made purists gasp and the future sit up in its spaceship. They countdown from 25th best to 1st.
I Am What I Am (1980)
Producer Billy Sherrill layers on the strings and the echoes for I Am What I Am, but there’s no polishing up late-period George Jones. His ravaged, Texas-thick twang and gulping syllable-chewing delivery make every song a devastated exercise in failing to clean-up. You know Jones himself is the broken man shoved into a suit before being laid out in the coffin in the schlock operatic classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
The Burning Train (1980)
For this disaster picture, longtime Bollywood composer R.D. Burman shows he can keep up with the times. He deploys his usual assortment of gritty funk guitars, psychedelic sitar, manic percussion, blaring horns, and swirling swings. But, especially on the title track, he adds laser zap synthesizer, pushing the song to an intensity both fiery and incongruously space-aged. His ex-wife, the incomparable Asha Bhosle, handles the sinuous vocals on the bulk of the album.
But it’s the man himself who emits the signature English lyric in a rumbling growl: “The Burning Train! The Burning Train”