Pretenders Back in Black Diana Dirty Mind
Gaucho Zenyatta Mondatta Remain in Light British Steel

1980 isn't necessarily considered one of the all-time great years in music, not in the way that 1956, 1967, 1971, or 1977 are. Once again, an initial impression proves to be misleading, as 1980 was something of a watershed year, generating a mountain of all-time classics in all manner of styles. A lot of this was reverberation from punk and not just from the movement splitting into arty post-punk and poppy new wave. Mainstream rockers like Billy Joel and Daryl Hall borrowed some of punk’s sound and sensibility, while Paul McCartney cut his own home-grown synth-pop album and Prince cleverly co-opted punk's nerviness for his breakthrough Dirty Mind. But 1980 wasn't just about post-punk: this was the year that saw hip-hop make waves on vinyl, the year AC/DC unleashed Back in Black and Judas Priest countered with British Steel, the year disco produced its final classic crossover hits, the year Bruce Springsteen had his first Top 10 hit, the year George Jones had "He Stopped Loving Her Today," the year power-poppers donned skinny ties and knocked out killer melodies, a year where arena-rockers like Journey and REO Speedwagon ruled the heartland of America while the airwaves were filled with soft sounds of the music later dubbed as Yacht Rock, highlighted by Steely Dan's West Coast masterpiece Gaucho. And all this was the background for such classics as Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, Talking Heads' Remain in Light, Elvis Costello's Get Happy!!, The Pretenders and the Clash bookending the year with London Calling and Sandinista. The list could go on and on…. and it does below, in a number of lists that capture a lot, but by no means all, of what made 1980 a great year.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Another year where there was simply too much great music -- great music in every style and sound, from acknowledged classics to ephemeral pop that's proven strangely enduring. There is so much that it makes it hard to sort out the best albums and singles of the year, so I narrowed down the favorites, ranking them according to personal of-the-moment preference, and then tried not to have singles that were also on the album lists (although I could not resist "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today," but these were self-imposed rules anyway).

Steely Dan - Gaucho
The Clash - London Calling
Pretenders - Pretenders
Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure
Prince - Dirty Mind
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!
Billy Joel - Glass Houses
The Jam - Sound Affects
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel
AC/DC - Back in Black
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
David Bowie - Scary Monsters
Bruce Springsteen - The River
Daryl Hall - Sacred Songs
Michael Jackson - Off the Wall
Pete Townshend - Empty Glass
Squeeze - Argybargy
Bobby Bare - Drunk & Crazy
Wreckless Eric - Big Smash!
Warren Zevon - Stand in the Fire
Daryl Hall/John Oates - Voices
XTC - Black Sea
Utopia - Deface the Music
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
Paul McCartney - McCartney II
George Jones - I Am What I Am
Huey Lewis and the News - Huey Lewis and the News

Robbie Dupree - "Steal Away"
Rocky Burnette - "Tired of Toein' the Line"
Phil Lynott - "Tattoo (Giving It All Up for Love)"
Paul Simon - "Late in the Evening"
Bobby Bare - "Numbers"
The Rolling Stones - "Emotional Rescue"
Genesis - "Turn It on Again"
The Jam - "Going Underground"
AC/DC - "You Shook Me All Night Long"
George Jones - "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
The Clash - "Bankrobber"
Tommy James - "Three Times in Love"
Fred Knoblock - "Why Not Me"
Kenny Loggins - "This Is It"
Led Zeppelin - "Fool in the Rain"
Waylon Jennings - "I Ain't Living Long Like This"
Pretenders - "Talk of the Town"/"Cuban Slide"
Eddie Rabbit - "Drivin' My Life Away"
Al Stewart - "Midnight Rocks"
The Vapors - "Turning Japanese"
Kenny Loggins - "I'm Alright"
Eagles - "I Can't Tell You Why"
Al Stewart - "Midnight Rocks"
Tommy Tutone - "Angel Say No"
Split Enz - "I Got You"
Ambrosia - "You're the Only Woman"
Felix Cavaliere - "Only a Lonely Heart Sees"
Boz Scaggs - "JoJo"

John Bush
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
Dexys Midnight Runners - Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
Echo & the Bunnymen - Crocodiles
The Fall - Grotesque (After the Gramme)
The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms
Jon Hassell/Brian Eno - Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics
Paul McCartney - McCartney II
Pylon - Gyrate
Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure
Steely Dan - Gaucho
XTC - Black Sea
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Paul McCartney - "Coming Up"
Billy Joel - "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"
Dr. Hook - "Sexy Eyes"
Olivia Newton-John - "Magic"
The Clash - "The Magnificent Seven"
Zapp - "More Bounce to the Ounce"
Disco Four - "Move to the Groove"
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - "Freedom"
Funky Four + 1 - "That's the Joint"
The Romantics - "What I Like About You"
Pete Townshend - "Let My Love Open the Door"
Billy Joel - "Don't Ask Me Why"
Journey - "Any Way You Want It"
REO Speedwagon - "Keep on Loving You"
The Beach Boys - "Endless Harmony"
Billy Joel - "You May Be Right"
Christopher Cross - "Ride Like the Wind"
John Denver - "Autograph"
Diana Ross - "Upside Down"
The Treacherous Three - "The Body Rock"
The Sequence & Spoonie Gee - "Monster Jam"
Christopher Cross - "Sailing"

Heather Phares
Buggles - The Age of Plastic
The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
Devo - Freedom of Choice
Echo & the Bunnymen - Crocodiles
The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
The Fall - Grotesque (After the Gramme)
The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms
Danny Elfman - Forbidden Zone
Daryl Hall/John Oates - Voices
The Jam - Sound Affects
Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette
Joy Division - Closer
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Pretenders - Pretenders
Pylon - Gyrate
The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
X - Los Angeles
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

AC/DC - "You Shook Me All Night Long"
Blondie - "Call Me"
Kurtis Blow - "The Breaks (Part 1)"
Christopher Cross - "Ride Like the Wind"
Devo - "Whip It"
The Flying Lizards - "Money"
Peter Gabriel - "Games Without Frontiers"
Michael Jackson - "Rock with You"
Grace Jones - "Warm Leatherette"
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - "(Just Like) Starting Over"
Olivia Newton-John - "Magic"
Pointer Sisters - "He's So Shy"
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - "Don't Do Me Like That"
Kenny Rogers - "Lady"
The Rolling Stones - "Emotional Rescue"
Diana Ross - "Upside Down"
Pete Townshend - "Let My Love Open the Door"
Vapors - "Turning Japanese"
Yellow Magic Orchestra - "Computer Game/Firecracker"
Zapp - "More Bounce to the Ounce"

Tim Sendra
The first ten are albums I simply wore out in 1980, the second ten are albums that didn't quite make it to small town Michigan that year but have become real favorites. In fact, I only just discovered how awesome the Brothers Johnson are about a month ago thanks to an Iowa City thrift shop find. The ten songs all sound as good today as they did 29 years ago.

Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
The B-52's - Wild Planet
The Clash - Sandinista!
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!
Def Leppard - On Through the Night
The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
The Jam - Sound Affects
Prince - Dirty Mind
REO Speedwagon - Hi Infidelity
The Specials - More Specials

The Brothers Johnson - Light Up the Night
Dexys Midnight Runners - Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
Vic Godard & Subway Sect - What's the Matter Boy?
Lio - Premier Album
Freddie McGregor - Bobby Bobylon
The Revillos - Rev Up
Phil Seymour - Phil Seymour
The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
The Wipers - Is This Real?
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

The Babys - "Turn and Walk Away"
Echo & the Bunnymen - "Do It Clean"
The Gap Band - "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)"
The J. Geils Band - "Love Stinks"
Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Prince - "Uptown"
The Selector - "Too Much Pressure"
Bunny Wailer - "Dancing Shoes"
XTC - "Respectable Street"
Zapp - "More Bounce to the Ounce"

Jonathan Ball
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra - Xanadu
Pete Townshend - Empty Glass
The Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue
Van Halen - Women and Children First
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
Roxy Music - Flesh + Blood
The Clash - Sandinista!
Squeeze - Argybargy
AC/DC - Back in Black
Judas Priest - British Steel

Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra - "Xanadu"
Johnny Lee - "Lookin' for Love"
Blondie - "Call Me"
Pink Floyd - "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2"
Joy Division - "Isolation"
Willie Nelson - "On the Road Again"
Eddie Rabbitt - "I Love a Rainy Night"
Ronnie Milsap - "Smoky Mountain Rain"
Air Supply - "All Out of Love"
Christopher Cross - "Ride Like the Wind"
Cliff Richard - "We Don't Talk Anymore"
Santana - "You Know That I Love You"
Diana Ross - "Upside Down"
Gary Numan - "Cars"
Split Enz - "I Got You"
Led Zeppelin - "Fool in the Rain"
Pat Benatar - "Hit Me with Your Best Shot"
Paul Simon - "Late in the Evening"
Billy Joel - "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"
Dave Dudley - "Rolaids, Doan's Pills and Preparation H"

Matt Collar
David Bowie - Scary Monsters
The Clash - London Calling
The Cure - Seventeen Seconds
Echo & the Bunnymen - Crocodiles
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel
Rupert Holmes - Adventure
The Jam - Sound Affects
Japan - Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Billy Joel - Glass Houses
Joy Division - Closer
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure
Diana Ross - Diana
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Pete Townshend - Empty Glass

Air Supply - "All Out of Love"
Ambrosia - "Biggest Part of Me"
George Benson - "Give Me the Night"
The Boomtown Rats - "I Don't Like Mondays"
Buggles - "Video Killed the Radio Star"
Robbie Dupree - "Steal Away"
Dan Fogelberg - "Longer"
David Gates - "Where Does the Lovin' Go"
Rupert Holmes - "Him"
Al Jarreau - "This Time"
Kool & the Gang - "Celebrate!"
Lipps, Inc. - "Funkytown"
Chuck Mangione - "Give It All You Got"
The Police - "Don't Stand So Close to Me"
Iggy Pop - "Dog Food"
Diana Ross - "I'm Coming Out"
Boz Scaggs - "JoJo"
Sister Sledge - "Got to Love Somebody"
The Vapors - "Turning Japanese"
Pete Townshend - "Let My Love Open the Door"

David Jeffries
AC/DC - Back in Black
Black Uhuru - Sinsemilla
Dennis "Blackbeard" Bovell - I Wah Dub
The Fall - Grotesque (After the Gramme)
General Echo - 12" of Pleasure
Jezzreel - Great Jah Jah
Linton Kwesi Johnson - LKJ in Dub
Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette
Joy Division - Closer
Judas Priest - British Steel
Killing Joke - Killing Joke
Magazine - The Correct Use of Soap
Bob Marley & the Wailers - Uprising
Freddie McGregor - Bobby Bobylon
Johnny Osbourne - Truths and Rights
Robert Palmer - Clues
Yukihiro Takahashi - Murdered by the Music
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
UB40 - Signing Off
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Andy Kellman
The Comsat Angels - Waiting for a Miracle
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Joy Division - Closer
The Sound - Jeopardy
Prince - Dirty Mind
Diana Ross - Diana
Simple Minds - Empires and Dance
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Kaleidoscope
The Associates - The Affectionate Punch
The Durutti Column - The Return of the Durutti Column
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel
George Benson - Give Me the Night
Japan - Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Earth, Wind & Fire - Faces
Change - The Glow of Love
Chaka Khan - Naughty
Colin Newman - A-Z
Suicide - Suicide: Alan Vega/Martin Rev
John Foxx - Metamatic
Defunkt - Defunkt

Yarbrough & Peoples - "Don't Stop the Music"
Teena Marie - "I Need Your Lovin'"
Zapp - "More Bounce to the Ounce"
Pauline Murray & the Invisible Girls - "Dream Sequence"
The Cure - "A Forest"
Was (Not Was) - "Wheel Me Out"
Young & Company - "I Like What You're Doing to Me"
Magazine - "A Song from Under the Floorboards"
George Benson - "Give Me the Night"
Slave - "Watching You"
The Whispers - "And the Beat Goes On"
Diana Ross - "Upside Down"
Pretenders - "Precious"
Mission of Burma - "Academy Fight Song"
A Certain Ratio - "Flight"
Loose Joints - "Is It All Over My Face?"
Ryuichi Sakamoto - "Riot in Lagos"
The Soft Boys - "I Wanna Destroy You"
The Birthday Party - "The Friend Catcher"
Robert Rental - "Double Heart"

Uncle Dave Lewis
There was an enormous amount of crap coming out of the mainstream in 1980; power ballads, fake new wave, commercial jazz and the groaning, screeching halt to disco. As a dedicated, Artpunky undergrounder myself, I was amazed at the sheer volume of great, edgy, groundbreaking music that came out in 1980 that didn't seem to be getting into very many hands. What 1980 was really about was the true emergence of industrial electronics and the apogee of '70s weird quirky artpunk, and Double Fantasy -- an album I was slow to warm to, but is of primary importance in retrospect. Below are the albums that rocked my world that year; they were massively influential and important, but many remain largely unknown and controversial -- some don't even know positive critical attention. Within two years, nearly all of these acts would be either gone, off the radar or changed for good; 1980 was great, but it couldn't last.

Cabaret Voltaire - The Voice of America
Cristina - Cristina
DAF - Die Kleinen und die Bösen
The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
Fad Gadget - Fireside Favorites
The Fall - Grotesque (After the Gramme)
Glaxo Babies - Nine Months to the Disco
Half Japanese - 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts
Joy Division - Closer
Kid Creole & the Coconuts - Off the Coast of Me
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy
MX-80 Sound - Out of the Tunnel
New Musik - From A to B (Straight Lines)
Colin Newman - A-Z
Pere Ubu - The Art of Walking
The Pop Group - For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?
Public Image Ltd. - Second Edition
Pylon - Gyrate
The Residents - The Residents Commercial Album
Skafish - Skafish
The Specials - More Specials
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Jason Lymangrover
Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
The B-52's - Wild Planet
Circle Jerks - Group Sex
The Clash - Sandinista!
The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
David Bowie - Scary Monsters
Devo - Freedom of Choice
The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
Joy Division - Closer
Judas Priest - British Steel
Magazine - The Correct Use of Soap
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz
Pretenders - Pretenders
Siouxie and the Banshees - Kaleidoscope
Alan Vega/Martin Rev - Suicide
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
The Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro
Van Halen - Women and Children First
Wipers - Is This Real?
X - Los Angeles

Dead Kennedys - "Kill the Poor"
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - "The Imposter"
Peter Gabriel - "Games Without Frontiers"
The Psychedelic Furs - "Sister Europe"
Genesis - "Turn It On"
Grace Jones - "Warm Leatherette"
The Jacksons - "Can You Feel It"
The Jam - "That's Entertainment"
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - "Kiss Kiss Kiss"
Loverboy - "Turn Me Loose"
Motorhead - "Ace of Spades"
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "Enola Gay"
The Police - "Canary in a Coalmine"
Queen - "Another One Bites the Dust"
Ramones - "I Can't Make It on Time"
U2 - "I Will Follow"
The Vapors - "Turning Japanese"
Stevie Wonder - "Lately"
XTC - "Generals and Majors"
Bob Marley - "Coming in from the Cold"

J. Scott McClintock
XTC - Black Sea
Japan - Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Original Soundtrack - Xanadu
The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
Gary Numan - Telekon
The Vapors - New Clear Days
Diesel - Watts in a Tank
Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell
Kurtis Blow - Kurtis Blow
The Blues Brothers - The Blues Brothers (Original Soundtrack)
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
The Damned - The Black Album
The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
The Jam - Sound Affects
Killing Joke - Killing Joke
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Pretenders - Pretenders

Devo - "Girl U Want"
Ultravox - "Vienna"
The Teardrop Explodes - "Sleeping Gas"
The Rolling Stones - "Emotional Rescue"
Motörhead - "Ace of Spades"
Paul McCartney - "Coming Up"
Madness - "Baggy Trousers"
Neil Diamond - "America"
Barnes & Barnes - "Fish Heads"
Blondie - "Rapture"
Kim Carnes - "More Love"
The Jim Carroll Band - "People Who Died"
The Cure - "Killing an Arab"
Robbie Dupree - "Steal Away"
Echo & the Bunnymen - "Do It Clean"
The J. Geils Band - "Love Stinks"
Daryl Hall/John Oates - "You Make My Dreams"
The Jacksons - "Can You Feel It"
John Lennon & Yoko Ono - "(Just Like) Starting Over"
Loverboy - "Turn Me Loose"

James Christopher Monger
Original Soundtrack - Popeye
The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
Rush - Permanent Waves
XTC - Black Sea
The Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro
Nic Jones - Penguin Eggs
Judas Priest - British Steel
AC/DC - Back in Black
Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
Queen - The Game
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel
The Damned - The Black Album
Devo - Freedom of Choice
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz
David Bowie - Scary Monsters
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
Ramones - End of the Century
Original Score - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta

Motörhead - "Ace of Spades"
Killing Joke - "Requiem"
Ultravox - "Vienna"
The Jim Carroll Band - "People Who Died"
Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra - "Xanadu"
Buggles - "Video Killed the Radio Star"
Steely Dan - "Hey Nineteen"
Split Enz - "I Got You"
Gordon Lightfoot - "Ghosts of Cape Horn"
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "Enola Gay"
The Clash - "London Calling"
Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb"
Daryl Hall/John Oates - "You Make My Dreams"
The Alan Parsons Project - "Time"
Talking Heads - "Once in a Lifetime"
Rockpile - "Teacher Teacher"
Warren Zevon - "Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School"
Donnie Iris - "Ah! Leah!"
Dexys Midnight Runners - "Geno"
Van Halen - "Everybody Wants Some!!"

Sean Westergaard
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Doc at the Radar Station
The Jim Carroll Band - Catholic Boy
The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
Defunkt - Defunkt
Devo - Freedom of Choice
Robert Fripp - God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners
Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society - Eye on You
Japan - Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Robert Palmer - Clues
Pretenders - Pretenders
The Psychedelic Furs - The Psychedelic Furs
Public Image Ltd. - Second Edition
The Specials - More Specials
Sun Ra - Strange Celestial Road
The Residents - Commercial Album
Snakefinger - Greener Postures
The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
X - Los Angeles
XTC - Black Sea

Although some songs and albums in these lists are technically 1979 releases, they peaked in the U.S. in 1980.

Previously
AllMusic Loves 1968
AllMusic Loves 1974
AllMusic Loves 1977
AllMusic Loves 1984
AllMusic Loves 1987
AllMusic Loves 1988
AllMusic Loves 1993
AllMusic Loves 1999