Top 100 Albums Of The '80s (Nos. 21-30)

For this week's Ranked!, we've got one of our most epic editions ever: the Top 100 Albums Of The '80s. Did we get it right? Let us know!

Here are Numbers 21-30:

30. Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes

Even though Violent Femmes wasn't a big hit at the time of its release, you cannot deny its place in popular culture. It is partially responsible for the acceptance of "alternative" or "college" music. And I don't care when you attended, you can't tell me Violent Femmes wasn't the official soundtrack to one or two of your favorite college memories.

And how could it not? Pound for pound, Violent Femmes is the most solid disc on this list. There's no filler at all on this album. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to name an album that has a stronger four-track start than the Violent Femmes' "Blister In The Sun," "Kiss Off," "Please Do Not Go," and "Add It Up."--Chris

29. Mötley Crüe, Girls, Girls, Girls

So in 1989, a friend of mine took me to this strip club called J.K.'s Playroom in Baltimore. I had been to strip clubs prior to that, and some of them were pretty seedy. None of that prepared me for J.K.'s. It was a dive. Worn carpet, haze of cigarette smoke, men's room toilet that tended to overflow on a regular basis, soaking the aforementioned threadbare carpet... Just flat out awful. But my buddy was driving, and the beer was cheap, so I humored him. Even so, after a couple of okay-looking girls strutted their stuff on stage, I was about ready to ask my friend why the hell he brought me to this place. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Then, over the speakers, I heard a motorcycle rev, and the dulcet tones of Mötley Crüe started singing about strip clubs (that, ostensibly, were much nicer than this one). And out came Julie.

Julie was just plain awesome. She danced on the stage for a bit, then made her rounds of the bar (it was a small place, and the dancers usually danced among the patrons--this was a bikini strip club, mind you, and table/lap dances were not part of the repertoire.) Anyway, Julie danced over to me and winked at me over the mirrored sunglasses she was wearing, her hand brushing my knee... and I was a Mötley Crüe fan for life.

I'm not sure you could find anyone who would go so far as to describe Vince Neil and company as huge talents. But for me, the music I like is often more about the context in which I was introduced to it rather than it's intrinsic merits as "good music." There were a whole slew of bands that I heard for the first time in my strip club-frequenting days of the late '80s and early '90s, and some of my earliest CD purchases were a direct result of this. Girls, Girls, Girls was certainly one of my first 10 CDs. (Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction was THE first--also strip club music in my mind). And to this day, I can picture Julie in her mirrored shades and bikini every time I hear that song.--Dave

28. Paul Simon, Graceland

There aren't very many albums that I can say actually changed me. But Paul Simon's masterpiece, Graceland, did; it taught me that I can expect more from music, and that originality, beauty, worldliness, and art are utterly achievable in popular music. It didn't stick to some predictable formula or radio-friendly genre of the time, but instead used the familiar as a springboard to something refreshingly, stunningly unique. Much has been written of Simon's journey to South Africa during apartheid to discover the music of Soweto and how he incorporated it into the music of Graceland. It's a great story, but it's nothing compared to the stunning music. I remember watching Paul Simon perform "Diamonds On The Souls Of Her Shoes" on Saturday Night Live in '86 with Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing a capella and dancing behind him, utterly smitten and silenced by the music. That song, as all the songs on this album, weaves a human story that is both epic and familiar and surrounds it with lush African rhythms and instrumentation. Graceland is a mind-expanding album, connecting us to the larger world and opening up musical possibilities most musicians would never dare. And it's not just that it's a bold album; it invites sing-alongs and impromptu dance parties in our home, too, in a way few albums do. One of the absolute high points of the '80s.--CroutonBoy

27. Def Leppard, Hysteria

What can I say about Hysteria that I haven't already said at length in my tribute to it a couple months ago? But in the context of the year 1987, when you look at the glory of the rest of the albums that year, the achievement of this record is that much more impressive. There are so many "important" albums from 1987, seminal works that are touchstones for a generation and influences for later bands, and yet Hysteria stands shoulder-to-shoulder with all of them, awaiting for revisionist history to give pop-metal its due and rightly place Def Leppard and Hysteria in the pantheon of modern classics.--CroutonBoy

26. Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation

Being a young kid just discovering MTV, Aerosmith was the reason my parents forbade me from watching it. The video for "Rag Doll" was an extensive education for me in the world of sexual desires and fetishes. Permanent Vacation was already Aerosmith's ninth album, but the first to reach wider audiences and give them visibility on MTV. For a band that would be considered classic blues-hard-rock, this could be seen as selling out, but I think it only brought a great retro-sound to a welcoming mainstream audience. Aersosmith can be dirty and crass (would "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" ever thrive in a current, politically-correct world?) but on the same album, produced one of the best hard rock ballads ever with "Angel."--Robin

25. R.E.M., Murmur

Michael Stipe's voice is a like a fishing hook. Layered in bright echoes, it gets stuck in your head and makes you sing along. There is no escape. You may not understand the whole journey, but you'll love the trip.

Once stuck, the songs turn themselves over in your head, revealing carefully woven sounds and slightly dense lyrics. None of the words are meant too seriously, and puzzling them out is half the fun.

Part of the instinctive appeal of Murmur also comes from its guitar tones. Clean and simple, they bring an element of folk to the mix, especially in the cheerful bounce of "We Walk."

The music never drags, even when it's deep in thought. The chorus of "Perfect Circle" is almost like a round, neatly rolling it past the pitfalls of moaning and moping. It's a trick that sets R.E.M. apart from the angst of later alternative rock. Murmur is great because it lets things go.--Amanda

24. Poison, Look What The Cat Dragged In

If you're looking for songs with deep and meaningful lyrics, move along. Look What The Cat Dragged In is brash, in-your-face, and dumb. But it's also a hell of a lot of fun.

While the album boasted the ballad "I Won't Forget You" and the anthem "Cry Tough," most of the songs on the album were about sex. And they weren't very subtle either with titles like "I Want Action," "Talk Dirty To Me," and "Want Some, Need Some." It was good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. It was the music of my youth, the perfect soundtrack for those hot summer nights, cruising around town with the top down.

Damn, I loved this album. "Talk Dirty To Me" might very well be the greatest hair band song of all time.--Chris

23. The Go-Go's, Beauty And The Beat

The Go-Go's came onto the scene of New Wave with an all-girl group and some of the best pop numbers, well, ever. "We Got the Beat" is still a fun song in any club, no matter what the atmosphere may be; it gets everyone, guys and girls, up and moving. "Our Lips Are Sealed" is still a best friends song for the ages, still being covered by today's young female pop stars. The album's still, to this day, the only album entirely written and performed by an all-female band to top the charts. Try to name a downside to it - just try - you can't! Belinda, Charlotte, Gina, Kathy, and Jane made a fantastic album that's just too much fun to turn off!--J-Hawke

22. The Police, Ghost In The Machine

With its bold red digital representations of the band set against the simple black background, the cover of The Police''s fourth album still sends jolts of electricity through my system when I run upstairs to hug and kiss my vinyl copy. If this highly listenable record still evokes such powerful reactions from music and art lovers now, imagine the reaction when it first hit the shelves in 1981. It was a departure of sorts for the band with the introduction of heavy synthesizer and horns to the normally stripped-down powerhouse trio. Their sound was changing, their path was shifting and the natives were becoming restless. This was the album that strapped on the rockets and propelled The Police into the stratosphere where only the very famous had legs long enough to straddle and rule the world. They were now one of the biggest bands on the planet.--Dufmanno

21. Various Artists, Footloose Soundtrack

I'm a sucker for the movie versions of shows I've been in, and even more of one for their soundtracks. This one gave the best of the best, even if none of the songs were performed in the movie (which made me angry at fourteen when I bought it for research for auditions. I got over it, though. Much love, Kevin Bacon.). Every song on here is an '80s classic in its own right. "Let's Hear It For The Boy" and "Holding Out for a Hero" are power songs, albeit in different mindsets toward said boy, that will forever be belting songs for a good '80s night at the bar. Some of the best numbers in the show are covered here as well: "Somebody's Eyes" and "I'm Free" contain the most passionate moments of Beaumont. And of course, the most famous tracks to come from this, "Almost Paradise" and "Footloose" will always have their place on classic radio. For a movie soundtrack, it's rare to see quite so many hits all at once, but Footloose does it and does it beyond well.--J-Hawke

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