10 best albums of the 1980s

The decade produced lots of excellent albums.
Martyn Goodacre/GettyImages
5 of 5

No. 2 - Depeche Mode - Black Celebration (1986)

The first album Depeche Mode ever made was with Vince Clarke, but the band and Clarke split over the direction of the group. Clarke wanted to make poppier and happy songs (and he made many great ones), but Martin Gore wanted to do something differently than what other synth-driven groups were doing. Gore wanted to in essence, out-goth the goths. But he and the rest of the group, most notably vocalist Dave Gahan, also wanted to approach the songs organically; not create music while only aiming for a sense of style.

Over the next few albums, the group's sound grew until perfection occurred with the emotional darkness of Black Celebration. There are references to death, of course, but the bleakness doesn't come from signing about the end of life. This was something worse: The pain and bittersweetness of loving and being loved. This album would heavily influence industrial and metal, but with songs such as the title track, "Stripped," and "A Question of Time," the album will expel any darkness in your soul with an order of a tracklist that is the best-conceived in the history of music.

No. 1 - Prince - Purple Rain (1984)

One of the more amazing parts of this album is that there are only nine tracks. One might believe that with the beauty, rage, and emotional depth of the record, there could be 20 songs, and even then, the album would not be long enough. That is because Prince at the uncommon ability to fit a lot of thoughts and musical excellence into 4-5 minute segments and make one think they had been enjoying a single song for an hour.

Prince wrote this album relatively quickly - some tracks were written and recorded in one day - and all were fully formed. But he did not want the sound to be as if he spent all his time in a recording studio. He debuted many of the tracks at the same Minneapolis club where the filming of Purple Rain occurred, 1st Avenue. Some of the tapes from the live performances became part of the finished product of the record.

And what an amazing album Purple Rain was. The first time Prince mastered all of his immense skills as a songwriter, musician, producer, and band leader. There is likely no album ever with a better opening track ("Let's Go Crazy") and closing track "Purple Rain"), but with everything in between reaching perfection. It is the closing song that cements this album as the best of the 1980s, though, and pushed Prince into one of the best musical artists ever.

Read more from AudioPhix