Aside from the wonderful songs in the 80s, another thing that a lot of people admire is album covers. It’s because album covers are the visual accompaniment to the music that each album contains. The album covers back in the 80s, mostly featured the bright and manic aesthetic of the decade. Most of them have garish portraits and sharp-cornered designs in neon colors. They served as the perfect indicator of the electro-pop verboseness of the 1980s.
If you grew up in the 80s, or you’re a fan of 80s bands and artists, you’ll likely love to see the best album covers in the decade. If you do, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we are giving you a list of the iconic 80s album covers.
1. Out of Step by Minor Threat
In the 80s, Minor Threat played a vital role in the Washington D.C. punk scene. Out of Step is their lone album, which features a symbolic art of a black sheep fleeing from a flock of white sheep. This illustrated the self-induced outsider status of punk rock in the 80s.
2. Hot Space by Queen
The 1980s marked a different direction for pop music. It turned away from the heavy guitar-centered rock of the 1970s, going to a synthesize-driven evolution of disco and funk. The same thing happened to the album covers of the 80s. This is why Queen’s 1982 album titled Hot Spacehassummed up all of the glitz of pop-disco. It has a beautiful pop art style portrait in bright colors of each of the band members. This album cover still has the soaring vocals and heavy guitars elements that Queen is known for, but it’s funkier and fancier-looking.
3. 3 Feet High & Rising by De La Soul
During the late 1980s, hip-hop was also transitioning from an expression of youth to the viciousbitterness of gangsta rap. That’s why when you look at De La Soul’s 3 Feet High album cover, it is in the middle of the transition. It features striking bright colors that scream the 80s, while the three members’peaceable portraits are more reminiscent of the 1960s and flower power.
4. Like a Virgin by Madonna
In the early 1980s, Madonna was an upcoming pop star when she hit the studio for her second album with famed producer Nile Rogers. For the album art, Madonna posed in a wedding dress that suggested innocence. However, people were irritated by the sarcasm of such a sexually provoking personality, taking the name of a religious icon and mocking the virginal image of a new bride. That’s why this album cover, together with the suggestive lyrics and dance moves of Madonna, safeguarded a classic pop album of epic proportions.
5. Oh, No! It’s Devo by Devo
Devo is a popular synth-pop group back in the 80s, which is wacky and defined by their weirdness. All of their albums are consisting of catchy, strange, and undeniably tight tracks. Oh, No! It’s Devo, is their album that was released in 1982, where they are represented as potatoes with large, UFO-like white collars. It is a strange-looking image that is made stranger by the group’s frontman who’s holding the image and staring at the camera while sporting thick-framed glasses and fake pointed eyelashes.
6. London Calling by The Clash
The Clash’s album, London Calling, is widely hailed as one of the best albums of all time. Even if it was released two weeks earlier, it still deserves a spot among the best album covers of the 80s. This album is like a tribute to Elvis, having pink and green lettering over a black and white image. It also features the band’s bassist Paul Simonon smashing a guitar on stage, which represented the anger and angst of the fading punk rock movement. It is also contrasting the iconic rock and roll design with frustration and grit.
7. Ghost in the Machine by The Police
There were also changes in technology in the 1980s, which is represented in The Police’s Ghost in the Machine album cover. It features the three members of the band represented as seven-segment displays. It prophesizes an increased dependence on technology at the start of the age of the synthesizer. This cover is very appropriate for a band that began in punk and took a turn to a new wave at the start of the 1980s. It is an iconic album cover that remains one of the best of the 80s.
8. Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen or known as The Boss was already a rock god in 1984, but the release of his album Born in the U.S.A. made him legendary. The album cover features his trademark worn jeans, white shirt, and dusty cap in front of an American flag. This album cover served as a reminder of the real America where people continued to struggle in spite of official economic policy. It is an openly political album that reacts to Reagan era policies that hurt the underprivileged.
9. War by U2
During the early 1980s, Ireland was going through a state of chaos, and U2 thought of making an album that will show all sides of thewar, especially the people behind the bombs. It resulted in this classic War album, which became one of the most famous and best-selling albums of all time. The band chose an image of a confused and angry child, to represent the haunting mental effects of war on people.
10. Radio by LL Cool J
When this album was released, L.L. Cool J was just sixteen years old and was just coming up on the scene. During that time, Def Jam Records was just a small independent hip-hop label. This album defined hip-hop for the 80s. It also has an equally iconic album cover. It features a close-up photo of a cassette deck on a boombox, which brought to mind the B-Boy and graffiti scene of the late 1970s and 1980s from which they all came. This album cover defined what hip-hop meant and from where it came from.
11. Hounds of Love by Kate Bush
The album cover for Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” is a true 80s icon, featuring a stunning, dreamy image of the singer-songwriter surrounded by lilac netting and silk. The photograph, taken by Bush’s brother John Carder Bush, shows her with her friend’s two dogs, the Weimaraners Bonnie and Clyde. The exceptional attention to detail and technical skill required to capture the image has made the cover one of the most highly regarded and recognizable album covers of the decade, cementing its place in music history.
12. Like a Prayer by Madonna
An excellent example of Madonna’s distinctive sense of style and her capacity for reinvention is the album cover for “Like a Prayer,” which was released by the singer in the 1980s. This was Madonna’s first genuinely radical departure from her previous aesthetic, and the album cover art did not fail to impress. The arresting image that truly captures the mood of the period is Herb Ritts’ photograph for the cover of “Like a Prayer,” which portrays a jumble of religious imagery, jewelry, and jeans. This album cover, widely considered to be among the all-time greats, will forever be remembered as a tribute to Madonna’s uninhibited 1980s artistic vision.
13. Sign O’ The Times by Prince
Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times” album cover from the 1980s is an absolute work of art. Prince’s previous albums all prominently displayed his visage, but the cover of “Sign O’ The Times” places more emphasis on the background and barely shows half of Prince’s face. The set was taken from a “Guys and Dolls” stage play, and Prince and his crew used items from his studio and home to make the scene more surreal and philosophically profound. Jeff Katz, who took the album cover photo for Prince’s “Parade” album, remarked on Prince’s meticulous attention to detail and openness to a surreal aesthetic. Because it reflects Prince’s one-of-a-kind perspective on music and art, this album cover’s inventiveness and originality have made it a classic from the 1980s.
These are some of the most iconic album covers of the 1980s. Aside from the songs of these popular bands and artists that speak a lot of meaning, their album covers also have a lot to tell. Which of these iconic album covers do you like the most?