This list is in no particular order. These are 10 albums from which I was inseparable in my middle and high school years. They shaped my taste in music and I still love them to this day.
Scritti Politti - Cupid & Psyche '85
The Breakfast Club - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Bangles - Different Light
Rick Astley - Whenever You Need Somebody
VH1's The Big '80s
Janet Jackson - Design Of A Decade
Gold & Platinum Vol. 2
The Goonies - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Beverly Hills Cop - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Once Bitten - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
This was my introduction to synthpop and it's still my favorite synthpop album of all time, as well as my favorite album of the entire 1980s. It is absolute perfection.
Best song: "Perfect Way"
I first saw The Breakfast Club when I was 12 or 13 and I was entranced not by the famous title theme, but by Karla Devito's "We Are Not Alone," which plays during the penultimate scene in which the five have lowered all their barriers and let out all the emotions that have arisen by dancing around the library. It's about as perfect as a powerpop song can get. The rest of the album is high-quality synthpop and some solid instrumentals.
Best song: Karla Devito - "We Are Not Alone"
It was the first cassette ALBUM I ever owned (the first cassette I ever owned was the cassingle of Corona's brilliant "The Rhythm Of The Night", which I thank largely for making me the fabulous person I am today). It also happens to contain my favorite song of all time, the universally loved "Walk Like An Egyptian," written by a guy who just thought people looked funny trying to keep their balance on a ferry as it drifted across a turbulent river. The rest of album is packed with singable, danceable jangle pop rock.
Best song: "Walk Like An Egyptian"
Long before Rick was a meme, he was just a happy little '80s weirdo that lived in my knockoff cassette walkman. This is one of the tapes I used to play while I threw down Super Nintendo games with the sound off. I have no idea why I preferred Rick's soulful voice and K-Mart drum machines over the sounds of the X-Men and Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but I did. There's something magical about kicking a bad guy's ass to "Whenever You Need Somebody."
Best song: - "Together Forever"
This is one of the first tapes my parents bought me when it was apparent that '80s music was becoming my thing. I was obsessed with all the retro shows on VH1 and any radio station that was playing the hits of that decade, but having this tape finally let me listen to some of these tracks on my time and feel what it felt like to own and collect music.
Best song: Nena - "99 Red Balloons"
Technically a greatest hits compilation, but it undoubtedly cemented Janet as one of my all-time favorite artists. My dad bought this for me when my 14-year-old self asked for her then-new album All For You. Good thing he did, because I got acquainted with some of her lesser-known (to me) singles and discovered the dancepop revolution that was her first few albums.
Best song: "The Pleasure Principle"
Probably the earliest-acquired item on this list, and technically it was my dad's before it was mine, but this is one of the earliest albums I ever remember intently playing myself and being into. Some of these songs are nowhere to be found on classic playlists and radio now, and funny enough those were the ones I listened to least. Even 8-year-old me knew what that Cyndi Lauper song was about.
Best song: Cyndi Lauper - "She Bop"
Still my favorite soundtrack of all time. It just oozes mid-'80s pop. The work I put into tracking down a copy of this is what led to my discovery of eBay, and when I finally landed my cassette of it, it was the first time I experienced the feeling of holding a rarity and adding it to my collection. "Holy crap," I remember thinking, "I finally get to hear the song from the famous octopus scene!"
Best song: Goon Squad - "Eight Arms To Hold You
Another one that was an early cassette in my collection when I started digging into more offbeat '80s stuff. There are a few recognizable names on the track list, but about half of it is lesser-known artists that happened to be on MCA Records and got to record a cut for this album in an effort at name recognition. I made "Axel F" the (un)official closing music of our morning announcements at Meyzeek Middle School, played each day over the end credits from a CD jukebox and with the track skipped up to 33 seconds in. This was a favorite to play in the mornings while I got ready for school. My friend Campbell taught a group of us this coordinated dance once in the parking lot after school, and after we ran through it a few times, I turned on "Neutron Dance" and it became the official soundtrack for our future parking lot performances.
Best song: Harold Faltermeyer - "Axel F"
The first ACTUAL (not just perceived) rarity that I added to my collection. After seeing this movie around age 15 or 16, I knew I needed this soundtrack in all it's crunchy '80s goodness, but cursory searches indicated that it was quite rare and expensive. Fate smiled on me not long after that one day when I was with my mom in the now-closed Unique Thrift Store in Louisville's Portland neighborhood, and I found it among the cassettes for the price of one whole dollar. The image you see next to this text is a scan of that exact copy, which I of course still have.
Best song: 3-Speed - "Once Bitten"