June 23, 2010

Poll: Best albums of the last 30 years (the critics be damned)

Michael Blowhard ran a poll several years ago asking for nominations for the Best American Fiction Movie of the Last 25 Years (the Critics Be Damned). A movie could only make it if it was great but not beloved -- maybe even hated -- by serious critics. Therefore, it's not an attempt to out-snob the critics but to celebrate crowd-pleasers that the critics pass over in naming great movies. Die Hard was by far the winner, though others like The Terminator, Back to the Future, and Dumb and Dumber make a good showing too.

Why not do this for albums? Say back through 1980, given that most of the pre-'80s stuff the critics and mass audiences are more agreed on. (The critics would place the later Beatles higher than the average music fan, but they'd both probably put it on such a list somewhere.) As a rough guide to albums that are ruled out for appealing to serious critics, nothing is allowed that appears on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time. (Hit Ctrl + F and search for the album to easily make sure it's not there.) In the interest of space, limit it to 10 albums max. If you need to jog your memory, here's a list of the Billboard #1 albums starting with 1980; a box at the bottom has the other years.

Remember -- we're not naming niche albums that are like art-house films to one-up the critics, but the musical equivalent of Die Hard. Something that was a deserved smash but that you wouldn't learn about by consulting the critics. I'm just winging it with my list; the point is to get the ball rolling and see what types of albums have gotten short shrift.

Artist, Album

INXS, Kick
INXS, Listen Like Thieves
Madonna, Madonna
Madonna, Like a Virgin
Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet
Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
Duran Duran, Rio
Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
Bananarama, Bananarama
The Bangles, Different Light

Critic nerds cannot dance, and in their eyes getting your body involved -- especially for some social occasion -- would profane the music, so anything great that has a dance influence will always be underrated (also true in classical music). And as they use music as a refuge from the world, rather than an impetus to get out there and stir shit up, they prefer songs that are cozy and human-scale rather than grand, which leaves out most '80s hard rock or hair metal. I tried thinking outside of my preferences, but there really isn't much from the '90s or 2000s that Rolling Stone didn't already name, like Dookie or Siamese Dream. Music became much more singles-oriented than album-oriented then, so it's not surprising that there's little to choose from.

Anyway, thoughts? Your list? Hall and Oates should be in there somewhere, but I don't have enough of their albums to know which one it would be.


  1. Journey "Greatest Hits" needs to be ut there. Solid power ballads. "Faithfully" is for the ages.

    "Footloose" soundtrack was awesome at the time; Mike Reno's and Ann Wilson's duet "Almost Paradise" is an undeservedly forgotten ballad.

    Speaking of Mike Reno, Loverboy had put out some excellent songs. Another forgotten gem: "This Could be the Night."

    Boston's "Third Stage" included great guitar riffs and earnest singing, especially "Amanda" and "Cantcha Say" [damn, now I'm getting nostalgic for wrestling practices, with Boston cranked.]

    Bon Jovi's 80s albums, similar to Journey, included fantastic power ballads. My favorite: "I'll be there for You." Check out the video on Youtube -- pure 80s.

    Debbie Gibson's "Electric Youth" had some nice stuff, especially the sweet ballad "Lost in your eyes" [heh, I "lost" something while that song was on]

    So that's my run through the 80s albums. Come early 90s, there have been excellent hairband power ballad albums, with individual songs by minor bands like "House of Pain" by Faster Pssycat and "Hot Sherrie" by Hardline, many others... not to mention Guns and Roses... but unfortunately hard rock was yielding to Grunge on one end, and hip-hopish pop on the other by that time.

  2. I was hoping someone would mention Debbie Gibson (another I left off for not having heard too much) and Footloose (ditto).

    I picked up the Top Gun soundtrack for $2 and it's pretty good too. It was #1 during the summer of '86, but it'll never show up on a critic's "best of" list -- too many motivational pump-you-up songs.

    Anyone want to cover R&B? Candy Girl by New Edition maybe, or Whitney by Whitney Houston?

  3. I second Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

    Arcade Fire - Funeral
    Manu Chao - Próxima Estación ... Esperanza

  4. Journey's Greatest Hits.
    Hall and Oates Greatest Hits.

    Quaterflash had some catchy songs from the early 80's. Youtube them

    Duran Duran's 'Decade' (Greatest Hits)

    Kiss, "Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits"

    Deep Purple, 'Perfect Strangers'

    Van Halen, 'Diver Down', 'Fair Warning', '1984'

    Robert Plant, 'The Principle of Moments'----wore this one down. Big Log and In the Mood were fantastic. His voice at its best.

    Lone Justice, 'Shelter'. Major league talent and beauty.

    Fleetwood Mac, Greatest Hits

    The Fixx, YouTube them, "Saved by Zero"

    The Police, Greatest Hits

    Heart, Greatest Hits

    Sting, "Dream of Blue Turtles"---Fortress Around Your Heart...excellent song

    Steely Dan, "Greatest Hits" (missing FM and Hey Nineteen though)

    Fleming and John, Delusions of Grandeur

    1979's "In Through the Out Door", Led Zeppelin.

    Rick Springfield's Greatest Hits

    If Aerosmith has put out a greatest hits album, it would be there. I had their comeback album from 1983---the one with "Sheila" on it.

    90's, Alice in Chains, Nirvana's Nevermind

  5. BTW----Mostly I liked singles that are primarily forgotten now for the most part, not entire albums

    Asia's Only Time Will Tell and Heat of the Moment

    38 Special's If Id Been the One

    Destination Unknown by Missing Persons

    More Than This by Roxy Music

    Self Control by Laura Branigan

    Trouble by Lindsey Buckingham

    Feel it Again by Honeymoon Suite

    I'll Still Be Loving You by Restless Heart (admittedly corny)

    Eyes Without a Face, Got to Be a Lover, Hot in the City by Billy Idol

    Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe by Whale

    Supernova by Liz Phair

    Metropolis, Reptile, Milky Way by The Church

    Here and Now by Letters to Cleo

    There are more, but my mind (sleepy) is drawing a blank.....

    Telephone Line, Turned to Stone by Electric Light Orchestra

    You Took the Long Way Home by Supertramp (really good stuff)

    Lets Go by the Cars

    Foolin' by Def Leppard, Hair Metal's best

    Wanted Man by Ratt

    Back for More by Ratt

    You Just Got Lucky by Dokken (catchy stuff)

    There are certainly some more.....

  6. Something by AC/DC should be there.

    - Breeze

  7. You have gone paleo? Didn't think I would come across that through a Roissy link. My two interests at the moment have converged on your blog.

  8. The best 80s music came out in the late 70s. The Cars, The Cars. The Cars, Heartbeat City. The theme from Rocky.

    With you on Different Light. If She Knew What She Wants.

  9. If you're making a list of music that normal people like and critics love to look down on, you'll end up with plenty of country. Garth Brooks, Bellamy Brothers etc.

  10. In no particular order:

    The Outfield - Play Deep
    Donald Fagen - The Nightfly
    China Crisis - Flaunt the Imperfection
    Eddie Money - No Control
    Hall & Oates - Private Eyes
    Icehouse - Flowers
    J. Geils Band - Freeze Frame
    Joe Jackson - Night and Day
    John Hiatt - Slow Turning
    Level 42 - World Machine
    Pete Townsend - Empty Glass
    Queen - The Game
    Tragically Hip - Up to Here
    Yes - 90125


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