Top 10 Best R&B Albums of the ’80s

“Thriller” may have taken over the world during the 1980's, but there are enough decent albums quivering in its hulking shadow to round out a list of the top 10 best R&B albums of the '80s. From New Jack swing innovators to soulful songstresses, the '80s had more than its fair share of great R&B.

  1. Thriller” What else can be said about this album? It’s got hits (“Billie Jean“, "Beat It“; heck, all of them), innovation, spectacular vocal performances, grooves, ballads, a duet with a Beatle and Vincent Price rapping about “the funk of forty thousand years.“ This album may likely be listened to 40,000 years from now, as it's not only one of the best R&B albums of the ‘80s, but one of the best of all time.
  2. Purple Rain” Prince caught everyone’s attention with his previous release, “1999,” but this album, and its accompanying film, took that album’s model and cranked its pop/funk/rock/soul/R&B fusion to 11, resulting in one of the best R&B albums of the '80s. The Minneapolis marvel even managed to churn out an R&B hit, “When Doves Cry,” that didn’t even have a bass part!
  3. Whitney Houston” You can’t mention ‘80s R&B without giving Whitney Houston her proper due. This follow-up to her smash and other creatively-named debut album,“Whitney Houston,” this album features soaring vocals, cheesy-good pop songs (“I Wanna Dance With Somebody”), ballads (“Where Do Broken Hearts Go”) and ridiculous song-titles (“Love Is A Contact Sport), enough to make it one of the best R&B albums of the ‘80s.
  4. Rhythmn Nation 1814” A high-concept dance-pop album by Michael Jackson‘s cute little sister? You got it. This song helped helped usher in the New Jack Swing production technique of the ‘90s and had “Nasty” dance cuts (“Rhythm Nation” “Miss You Much“) and unstoppable pop (“Escapade” “Love Will Never Do (Without You)". Michael may have had the top album of the ‘80s, but this one’s definitely one of the best R&B album of the ‘80s.
  5. Don’t Be Cruel” This album made Bobby Brown, the former New Edition boytoy, a superstar deemed to take over the world. His career tanked after this, but this album stands as one of the best R&B albums of the ‘80s, spearheading the New Jack Swing style with hip-hop infused tracks like the anthemic “My Prerogative” and bouncy “Every Little Step I Take.”
  6. Private Eyes” Blue-eyed Philly soulsters Hall and Oates made one of the best R&B albums of the ‘80s by merging ’60s soul sounds with ‘80s production. Songs like the title track and “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” were cheesy, but classic singles.
  7. Hotter Than July” From its album cover to a tribute to Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley (“Master Blaster”), Stevie Wonder’s first foray into the ’80s music scene found the Motown star cranking up the heat via a slew of funky-R&B numbers.
  8. Rapture” While it may not be the coolest name to drop, Anita Baker’s second album features some of the most soulful vocals heard since ‘60s Motown. Classic performances in songs like “You Bring Me Joy” and “Sweet Love" make this one of the best R&B albums of the '80s.
  9. Guy” This album may sound incredibly dated, but that’s just because a multitude of artists ended up aping its sound. Thank this album, with cuts like “Groove Me” and “Round and 'Round (Merry Go 'Round of Love)” for groups like Boyz II Men and Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous.” It's one of the best R&B albums of the '80s and one of the most influential.
  10. "Bad" So what if Michael and his sister are already on here? This album, while not as cohesive or innovative as "Thriller," still featured Michael's usual eclectic array of badass pop ("Bad"), ballads ("Man In The Mirror"), dance ("Smooth Criminal") and cameos (Stevie Wonder in "Just Good Friends"), making it one of the best R&B albums of the '80s.
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