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Our Top 10 Most Influential Pop Albums

What does it mean for an album to be truly influential? There are many things to consider such as awards won, amount of time in the charts… But for us ‘influence’ isn’t about the number of copies sold (although most great albums were chart-toppers) but where it took the music genre and industry. Pivotal albums that changed the way we experience pop music and added a new dimension to our listening experience.

Get your Nuraphone or NuraLoop ready to revisit what we think are the top 10 most influential pop albums of all time.

1. Fleetwood Mac — Rumours 

With four Top 10 singles and a Grammy gong for Best Album of the Year, Rumours is one of the best-selling albums of all time. However, its true influence lies in the more way in which it continues to inspire generations of writers and musicians. Mired in the ‘myths’ and realities of the band members lives, Rumours gave us Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Don’t Stop and You Make Loving Fun all in just over 39 minutes. Its brilliance is within the simplicity of the parts, coming together to make something lasting. Forty years since the release of Rumours artists such as Florence + The Machine, Lorde and HAIM, cite the album as an influence. 

2. Michael Jackson — Thriller 

Despite the problematic nature of Michael Jackson’s personal life, it would be remiss of us to leave out one of the greatest pop albums of all time, Thriller. Quincy Jones and Jackson changed the way everyone produced records, and are hailed as one of the most innovative and influential of pop forces. Thriller is currently the best-selling album of all time, and the accompanying 13-minute music video to the title track changed the face of the industry.

3. The Beatles — Abbey Road

If you don’t already have the intro to Come Together playing in your mind please… don’t walk but run to your nearest streaming service and listen to this album start to finish. The Beatles work is so eponymous and influential that it is easy to take them for granted. From the iconic album cover still being recreated and immortalised, to the Moog synth Abbey Road is difficult to fault. The closing track The End was also the last time all four members recorded together. 

4. Prince — Purple Rain

It would probably be enough to say When Doves Cry here, but we will elaborate. The blissful combination of electronic and organic elements, full-band performances and its consolidation of rock and R&B, are some of the most experimental aspects of Purple Rain. It was this album that established Prince as a figurehead and pop icon and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

5. Whitney Houston — Whitney 

Whitney defined the ‘pop album’ formula of the 80s. While it received mixed reviews at the time, it gave Houston a slew of ‘firsts’ in the charts such as being the first female artist to ever debut at number one in the US. We can’t deny that the formula worked and we’re still humming I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

6. Madonna — Like a Virgin  

Considered as one of the edgiest albums of its time, Like a Virgin maintained its grip on pop culture from its release in 1984 to the (now iconic) Britney / Madonna / Christina kiss in 2003 and beyond. Madonna defined an entire generation’s fashion choices. Something about Madonna’s Material Girl speaks to our public consciousness of her taking the baton from Marilyn Monroe as THE blonde. Like a Virgin provides the blueprint for many years to come for female pop albums. 

7. Stevie Wonder — Songs in the Key of Life 

Songs in the Key of Life influenced so many artists and genres, from Elton John, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Mary J. Blige, Prince, Mariah Carey, Phil Anselmo… and the list goes on. This album is widely considered ‘the standard’ and has become Stevie Wonder’s signature album. Its commercial success, staying power, award wins and sheer power making this a true ‘artists album’. And a favourite for Nuraphone owners. 

8. Spice Girls — Spice 

Now, to change track a little, we couldn’t go past Spice as a phenomenon that epitomizes the girl group, sugar pop craze of the late 90s and early 00s. Spice Girls were truly one of the first girl groups to be recruited and moulded by a record company but their personalities captured the hearts and imaginations of a whole generation of young women. Deeper below the sugary surface, Spice delivers a powerful and uniting message of feminism and girl power. The album does everything a good pop album should — delivering catchy hooks, blending genres, topping charts and selling a casual 23 million copies worldwide.

9. Beyoncé - Lemonade 

Beyoncé is an icon in so many ways, but Lemonade marks a pivotal moment in her career. This album deals with ideas of intersectionality, feminism, relationships and power all with perfect choreography. Combined with the visual release, Lemonade is Bey’s most critically acclaimed album. It opened the gates for creating art out of albums through film, dance and more. Lemonade opened up some very important conversations and delivered us Queen Bee in perfect Formation. 

10. Lady Gaga - The Fame

Straddling the worlds of electronic, dance and pop music The Fame introduced the world to Lady Gaga. The album brings performance art back into the limelight with the catchiest of hooks. The success of her first five singles is testament to her prowess as a songwriter. 

Honorable mentions to 

Blondie — Parallel Lines 

Mariah Carey — Butterfly 

Adele — 21

Taylor Swift — Red

Loved this article? Check out some of our favourite music videos, movie soundtracks and podcasts.

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