This was the album that launched this previously somewhat traditionalist hard rock band into the pop music stratosphere. In addition, it retained enough of Def Leppard's glam rock and '70s rock roots to help it hold up as a genuine hard rock album as well as an accessible pop record. The band had had some fine moments before and would have plenty more following the even bigger smash of 1987's Hysteria, but where that follow-up sounded mechanized and even neutered at times, this album rocks and snarls in spite of Mutt Lange's shimmering production. And though this record has been blamed for the often embarrassing hair metal explosion, those bands would have been much better off had they followed Pyromania's template more closely.
For many longtime fans of the legendary Athens, Georgia indie rock band, this full-length debut album may still stand as the group's finest moment. Although R.E.M. remained just as active and groundbreaking throughout the remainder of the first half of the '80s, the more the band became known in mainstream circles it seemed to lose some of its luster as a best-kept secret. That's why perhaps this album is the best place to get a true feel for just how organically unique R.E.M. was and just how much influence the group would exert on alternative rock thereafter. The band was a breath of fresh air during the heavily image-conscious '80s, and this famous, important debut thankfully cleared the air considerably for years to come.
Another debut album that did much to thrust college rock into the pop music consciousness, this fresh and wonderful record still stands as the crowning achievement of jittery post-punk outfit Violent Femmes. The angst-ridden teenage immediacy of this album continued to strike a chord with young music fans through the rest of the '80s and into the next decade, although I must admit I relate more strongly to the material now than when I was a teenager (yeah, I'm a slow learner). Dotted with alternative rock classics like the highly familiar "Add It Up" and "Kiss Off," this release also boasts some fantastic, lesser-known album tracks like "Good Feeling" and "Please Do Not Go" that cover lots of musical ground.
Though it was released and quickly became a hit toward the end of 1982, this sprawling smash hit album from the wonderfully eclectic Prince made 1983 the first year utterly dominated by the pop mastery of this artist. This is one of those select few albums that showed up in many households (including mine) that otherwise did not house innovative funk-rock dance-pop of any kind. Of course, Prince's frank treatment of sexuality also seemed rebelliously attractive to kids like me who listened to a carnally direct tune like "Let's Pretend We're Married" in the same house with my parents, wondering when the record would be taken away from me. Beyond the familiar hits, 1999 was most definitely an endlessly challenging early-'80s listen.
One of many strong comeback albums of the '80s that represented a major '70s band reinvention, this album unleashed some of 1983's most ubiquitous hits in a fresh blend of blues rock and synth-heavy sounds. Old-time fans of the Texas boogie band had to be shocked by the new, glossy sound, but it was difficult to argue with the tuneful appeal of "Legs" and the crossover pop/rock appeal of "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man." Some of the album tracks seemed far less urgent than the hits, perhaps because of the distance created through overproduction, but luckily Billy Gibbons' blazing blues guitar seared through those layers anyway. Iconic visually, ZZ Top also put its distinctive stamp on the '80s with memorable music.
1983 was a banner year for Phil Collins, as both this album from the band he now fully led and his own solo Hello, I Must Be Going became substantial hits that year, bestowing some solid if straightforward music on the rock and pop world. This probably upset many fans of the obscure, progressive rock past of Genesis, but a significant pop fan base quickly filled any void left by fans who felt betrayed by Collins' increasing influence. And while "That's All" and "Taking It All Too Hard" most certainly pushed the boundaries of pop music in the band's work, album tracks like "Mama" and "Just a Job to Do" revealed a persistent level of quirk and expansiveness in the group's evolving sound.
I don't really want to talk about Motley Crue very much in this space or any other on this site, but I know I have to at some point. That being said, this 1983 album probably represents the band's harshest, most threatening musical moment that also epitomizes its singular blend of old-school heavy metal and the emerging sounds of pop metal. The title track, "Too Young to Fall in Love," and especially the snarling "Looks That Kill" really separated this band from the coming ethos of pop metal and even from Motley Crue's own turn toward balladry and mainstream rock on later releases. Though they were often less thanvisible , bassist and frequent songwriter Nikki Sixx and the tough guitar of Mick Mars were vital to the Crue sound.