The best albums of 1983 reflect the shifting pop landscape. It was a moment when one of the best-selling bands in the world, The Police, brought in elements of punk, New Wave, and reggae into their sound. And Lionel Richie perfected a sort of soft soul music. And R.E.M. began their incredible run of records. In short, it was a strange time where anything goes. We hope this list can serve as the beginning of your journey into a year where anything was possible.
Check out the full list of 1982’s best albums below, and listen to our 80s pop playlist on Spotify.
67: Kiss – Lick It Up
Perhaps best known as the album in which the band left their make-up behind, Lick It Up kept the group’s basic formula of colossal guitar riffs and bombastic tunes intact.
66: Spandau Ballet – True
Recorded at the famed Compass Point Studios, the band’s third album saw them abandoning the New Romantic sound for more pop and R&B; it also produced their most successful single to date, “True.”
65: Tangerine Dream – Hyperborea
The group’s last record with Virgin Records is a solid example of their love for incorporating new musical technology and features some of the earliest usage of waveform-sampling computers in recorded music.
64: Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain
The Scottish singer-songwriter’s debut album is a hallmark of ’80s jangle pop that is as eclectic and free-wheeling as it is fun and bright.
63: Billy Bragg – Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy
The British artist’s debut album is socially conscious, down-to-earth and raw – three key ingredients for a folk-punk masterpiece.
62: Bryan Adams – Cuts Like a Knife
The Canadian rocker’s third studio album displays an artist who’s found his stride – it’s confident, catchy, and pleasing pop-rock to soothe the soul.
61: Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels
Featuring classics like “Sugar Hiccup” and “Musette And Drums,” the Scottish band’s 1983 album is markedly lighter than their previous work, pointing signs towards the beauty and sophistication that would characterize future albums.
60: Elton John – Too Low for Zero
After a seven-year break, Elton John reunited with songwriter Bernie Taupin for a big, bold and irresistibly enjoyable comeback album.
59: Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear
The prog rock revivalists’ debut studio album may have seemed anachronistic at the time of release, but its technical mastery and theatrical flair has made it a favorite of all ages.
58: Minutemen – What Makes a Man Start Fires?
The band’s 1983 album, which includes the uptempo “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs,” offers a uniquely diverse and expansive take on punk music.
57: Robert Plant – The Principle Of Moments
Plant’s second studio album, which includes hits “In the Mood” and “Big Log,” helped establish the singer-songwriter as an artist in his own right, far from the shadow of Led Zeppelin.
56: Social Distortion – Mommy’s Little Monster
The punk band’s debut album may have been recorded in a single session but rather than showing growing pains, it reveals a band with a clear vision and excellent musicianship.
55: Stray Cats – Rant N’ Rave with the Stray Cats
Home to hits like “(She’s) Sexy + 17” and “I Won’t Stand in Your Way,” the rockabilly band’s 1983 album continued their streak of great releases.
54: The B-52’s – Whammy!
The New Wave band’s 1983 album captures the best of ‘80s pop with synths galore and funky rhythms.
53: Charanjit Singh – Synthesizing – Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat
Though it didn’t make much of a stir upon its release, the Bollywood session musician’s 1983 album has since been hailed as a pioneering record in the acid house genre.
52: Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon
Accompanied by a new guitarist and greater production value, Osbourne’s 1983 album perfected his unique take on pop-metal.
51: Men at Work – Cargo
The Australian band’s second album is heavier than their earlier work but still exhibits their flawless pop sensibilities.
50: Sonic Youth – Confusion Is Sex
The inimitable band’s debut album is foundational to No Wave and perfectly captures the underground scene in New York City in the 1980s.
49: Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
48: Pink Floyd – The Final Cut
The band’s 1983 album requires deep and repeated listens, but if you can manage it, its dense lyrics and complex textures are worth the while.
47: Rainbow – Bent Out of Shape
Featuring the radio smash, “Street Of Dreams,” the British band’s seventh studio album is a hard rock classic with plenty of pop appeal.
46: Tears For Fears – The Hurting
The British band’s debut album explores the heartbreak of a difficult childhood amidst chilling synths and drones.
45: Dio – Holy Diver
Fresh after leaving Black Sabbath, the heavy metal rocker’s debut album as Dio is a pop metal success home to classics like “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Don’t Talk To Strangers.”
44: Echo & The Bunnymen – Porcupine
The post-punk band’s third studio album came out to mixed reviews upon its release, but over time its ominous instrumentation and captivating imagery has made it a highlight of their catalog.
43: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – The Distance
42: Womack and Womack – Love Wars
Love Wars is packed with stirring songs about love and loss, solidifying Womack and Womack as one of the great soul duos of all time.
41: Philip Glass – Koyaanisqatsi
Philip Glass’ soundtrack to the 1982 film of the same name is a minimalist wonder that offers up something new upon each listen.
40: The Replacements – Hootenanny
A wonky mashup of country, blues, and rock, the band’s 1983 album is a fun and funny musical ride that introduced the band to a whole new audience.
39: Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning
The Irish band’s final album to date saw them leaning into heavy metal and hard rock making for an explosive and thrilling closing statement.
38: X – More Fun in the New World
The Southern California rock band’s fourth studio album painted a vivid picture of youthful disillusionment and paranoia in 1980s America to thrilling effect.
37: OMD – Dazzle Ships
36: Eurythmics – Touch
The pop duo’s chart-topping album boasts hits like “Who’s That Girl?” and established them as leaders of the British new wave scene.
35: Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock
McLaren’s eclectic and wildly varied 1983 album is considered to be an early hip-hop classic as it introduced some of the genre’s key elements (rapping and vinyl scratching) to a new audience.
34: Quiet Riot – Metal Health
The metal band’s third studio album brought metal to the masses by being the first metal album to top a Billboard chart.
33: Slayer – Show No Mercy
The thrash metal band’s debut album is an early peek into the unbridled, raw energy of a band on the cusp of superstardom.
32: Donna Summer – She Works Hard for the Money
31: Bob Dylan – Infidels
Produced in large part by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, Dylan’s 1983 album marked his return to secular music and features a number of pop and rock hits including “Jokerman” and “Sweetheart Like You.”
30: Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence OST
The soundtrack to Nagisa Oshima’s film, which stars David Bowie alongside Sakamoto, is a graceful and emotionally powerful record that transcends the film.
29: Midori Takada – Through the Looking Glass
The famed Japanese composer’s debut album is ambient music at its most inventive, and incorporates percussion styles from Asia and Africa to enthralling results.
28: The Chameleons – Script of the Bridge
The English band’s debut album is a post-punk triumph that shows off the group’s sharp lyricism and excellent production.
27: Mötley Crüe – Shout at the Devil
The heavy metal titan’s 1983 album was their breakthrough record and paved the way for them to dominate the genre for years to come.
26: Big Country – The Crossing
Including the critically-acclaimed “Harvest Home,” the Scottish band’s debut album is packed with stirring rock anthems and bagpipes and established them as leaders in the Celtic rock movement.
25: Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues
Infusing art-rock and punk with funk and gospel, the Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues is a uniquely uplifting listening experience.
24: Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood
The blues rock icon’s celebratory album helped to revitalize blues music in popular music, proving that it was a cultural mainstay.
23: Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Bolstered by megahit, “Flight Of Icarus,” the British heavy metal band’s 1983 album catapulted them from cult favorites to American radio mainstays.
22: ZZ Top – Eliminator
Featuring popular songs like “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Sharp Dressed Man,” the veteran rock band’s 1983 album is their best-selling album to date.
21: Maze featuring Frankie Beverly – We Are One
With charismatic frontman Frankie Beverly and Maze’s skillful chops, We Are One is a perfectly executed work of jazz-inflected soul. “Joy And Pain” and the title track are classics that are still beloved to this day.
20: Cybotron – Clear
The Detroit techno classic still sounds as futuristic today as it did back in 1983 and continues to serve as a source of inspiration for the current torchbearers of electronic music.
19: Whodini – Whodini
One of the great superstar rap acts of the early 80s, Whodini’s 1983 self-titled debut is full of slick, accessible rhymes and catchy beats.
18: Culture Club – Colour By Numbers
With their rich combination of pop, reggae, and New Wave, Culture Club dominated the 80s on the strength of smash hits like “Karma Chameleon.”
17: Huey Lewis and the News – Sports
Full of soaring, anthemic tunes, Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports contains enduring hits like “The Heart of Rock n’ Roll” and “I Want A New Drug.”
16: Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual
Full of quirk and bold pop sweetness, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual dominated the charts on the strength of enduring classics like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time”
15: Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones
14: David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Co-produced by Nile Rodgers and home to the stellar title track, Bowie’s 1983 album signified one of his most successful reinventions, from idiosyncratic rockstar to dance-pop icon.
13: Def Leppard – Pyromania
The rock band’s third studio album saw them embracing a more radio-friendly sound as displayed in hits like “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages.”
12: Minor Threat – Out of Step
The band’s stunning 1983 album deserves a mention not because it was their only album to date but because of its huge influence on American hardcore music as a whole.
11: Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
The iconic metal band’s debut album introduced them as a force to be reckoned with, and is a perfect example of what makes thrash metal so great.
10: New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies
Inspired by nights out at storied New York nightclubs like the Paradise Garage and Danceteria, the former Joy Division members put together an electro-pop classic fit for the clubs they were so taken with.
09: U2 – War
Featuring the standout, “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the iconic band’s third studio album reinvigorated pop music by infusing it with bold political statements and fiery production.
08: Al Jarreau – Jarreau
Jarreau is a masterwork that finds the veteran singer combining jazz and cool 80s soul. Jarreau is as comfortable on ballads like “Will Be Here For You” as he is on groovy dance cuts like “Step By Step” and “Blacks And Blues.”
07: The Pointer Sisters – Break Out
“Jump (For My Love),” “I’m So Excited,” and “Neutron Dance” are the big hits here but The Pointer Sisters’ 1983 album Break Out has further gems like “Automatic” and the underrated boogie cut “Telegraph Your Love.”
06: Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes’ 1983 self-titled album channels punk’s boundless energy into a set of quirky and endearing songs. Massive hits like “Blister in the Sun” and “Gone Daddy Gone” are classics that live on.
05: Herbie Hancock – Future Shock
The jazz innovator’s 1983 album marks the beginning of his electronic funk era and features the classic, “Rockit” with Grand Mixer D.ST.
04: Madonna – Madonna
“Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “Holiday”: Madonna’s 1983 debut is an outstanding slice of pure pop goodness and dance floor-ready grooves.
03: Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down
A breezy pop-soul classic that took the world by storm, Can’t Slow Down contains the smash singles “Hello” and “All Night Long.”
02: R.E.M. – Murmur
Featuring standout, “Radio Free Europe,” the alt rock band’s 1983 album remains one of the greatest debut albums in rock music history.
01: The Police – Synchronicity
The band’s first number one and last studio album to date makes for a bittersweet listen given the circumstances, but either way, it is a fantastic cap on an incredible career.
Think we missed one of the best albums from 1983? Let us know in the comments below and check out our 80s pop playlist on Spotify.