Celebrating 40 Years: My Picks for the 10 Best Albums of 1982
With a resurgence of ’80s styles in contemporary pop music, here’s a look back at some albums that defined and inspired the aesthetic of the decade as they turn 40.
10. “Nebraska”, Bruce Springsteen
A lot changed in the 1980s. Pop music took a drastic turn and even “The Boss” himself couldn’t avoid the changing tide. While the uptrend in the early 80s was for more danceable, synth-driven ballads and anthems, Bruce Springsteen veered in the opposite direction. Moving away from the louder, explosive sounds of “Born to Run” or “The River”, Springsteen crafted “Nebraska” through a series of demos he recorded at home. Using minimal instrumentation, Springsteen draws the listener’s attention to his narration; its dark lyricism echoes through tales of conflicting workers and sinners, as the freedom of the open road on the American frontier surrenders to society’s inescapable conformity.
9. “Number of the Beast”, Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden is practically synonymous with Heavy Metal, and that’s down to jaw-dropping masterpieces like ‘Number of the Beast’. This is a monster of an album, with back-to-back, skull-crushing songs filled with wild guitar solos, bass riffs and an opera singer’s voice soaring above it all. The lyrics are steeped in references to British literature and historical allusions. Whether it’s long guitar solos or Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Iron Maiden doesn’t shy away from anything.
8. “Juju Music”, King Sunny and his African rhythms
Already a star in his native country, Nigeria, Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye, or “King Sunny Adé”, established himself on the international market with his instrumental album “Juju Music”. Accustomed to playing songs of 18 to 20 minutes, Adé has cut his songs into shorter pieces which, when put together, make all the tracks on the album part of a coherent and rhythmic whole. The transitions between songs are fluid, thanks to the production work of Martin Meissonier, and the eccentricity of Adé’s almost psychedelic style, combined with traditional rhythms, has drawn World Beat music and Afro-pop to international fame. .
7. “1999”, Prince
The appropriately titled “1999” was ahead of its time in both sound design and aesthetic appeal. The combined elements of pop tropes, funky synthesizers and idiosyncratic songwriting make for a danceable, edgy whole. Either Prince could see the future, or this album was a major influence on pop and electronic music of the late 80s and 90s. comfortable in the realm of 90s music than in the early 80s, which just demonstrates the unique and creative breadth of Prince’s musical abilities.
6. “Nanbai Torai”, Jagatar
Mixing rock, punk, funk, and reggae, this Japanese band took all kinds of crazy directions on “Nanbai Torai.” Bordering ska and tiptoeing into noise, this album explores the more erratic side of punk with an eccentric infusion of jazz and funk, but with a crystal-clear production style that leaves all instrumentals polytonal and howling. as crisp and clear as ice. If dissonance were an instrument, the Jagatar would be the masters.
5. “Bad brains”, bad brains
Would you believe that a jazz fusion band turned Rastafarian would create one of the most important and influential hardcore punk albums of the 1980s? Embodying the essence of punk rock, “Bad Brains” is the antithesis of conventional pop music. A muddy, distorted mess, the album continues, song after song, with unbridled intensity and distorted ferocity; that is, until the noise is sporadically interrupted by groovy and unexpected reggae interludes. Both a unique and groundbreaking album, the influence of “Bad Brains” is evident today in the music of bands like No Doubt and Death Grips.
4. “Moments”, Julio Iglesias
Serene and sublime, “Momentos” is a work of traditional writing, rivaling records such as “Ferrat sings Aragon” by Jean Ferrat or “Volume 1” by Fabrizio de André. Written primarily by Iglesias, everything from the vocals to the instrumentation is smooth and haunting, instilling the listener with tones of romance and familiarity. His delivery of melodies is as smooth as velvet and as sensual as a whisper on the back of the neck.
3. “Shoot the Lights”, Linda and Richard Thompson
Recorded during the dissolution of their marriage, Linda and Richard Thompson capture and convey the tension of their strained relationship on “Shoot Out the Lights”, as well as the frustration resulting from the failure of their previous albums. Linda’s swaying ballads are filled with powerful metaphors and distinct imagery; the lyrical allusions in “Walking on a Wire” and “Just the Motion” are beautiful but heavily accentuated by Linda and Richard’s descriptive writing. In addition to songwriting, Richard strongly asserts himself as a guitarist. His flexibility between brilliant rhythmic chords in the background, contrasting with rough, idiosyncratic solos, shows his ability to be a diverse and creative player able to maneuver into any style that helps convey the emotion of the song.
2. “Rio”, Duran Duran
Dominating the airwaves and playing at the center of the euphoric, brightly colored aesthetic of the 80s is “Rio” by Duran Duran. Its self-titled single, “Rio” is undeniably famous, but the rest of the album is equally consistent in quality and mood. Heartbreaking, slamming basslines underline brightly colored synth chords harmonizing with the filtered, almost artificial voice of Simon Le Bon. An archetypal example of the genre, “Rio” captured an aesthetic that was followed by other major ’80s acts such as Tears for Fears and Spandau Ballet. The sharp, clean cut of the guitars and the bouncing computerized synth patterns imbued rock and roll with stylistic elements of funk and instrumentation usually left to ambient music that morphed into a new style of punk that was copied, but never equaled – the sound of “Río.”
1. “Thriller”, Michael Jackson
What about “Thriller” that hasn’t already been said? The best-selling album in the United States and around the world, “Thriller” is the pinnacle of pop music as a genre and defined the genre of pop in a way that, 40 years later, echoes until today. The exceptional qualities of “Thriller” extend to all facets of its being: from production, instrumentation to recording, everything in “Thriller” is tuned to perfection. A listener can choose to focus on any individual instrument and find something interesting and essential to bring the sound of “Thriller” to life. The partnership of composer and producer, Quincy Jones, with the perfectionist and showman qualities of Michael Jackson comes together in a 42-minute masterpiece that knows no equal.
Le Calvez is originally from San Diego and currently a student at Point Loma Nazarene University. He spent two years as arts and entertainment editor for PLNU’s student newspaper, “The Point”, in addition to contributing as a music and pop culture writer. Coming from the French pop music of the 1980s, Tony has an admiration for all forms of music and uses his writing to highlight his favorite discoveries.