7 Best 80s New Wave Albums 
With origins in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that new wave music really began to take off. The term came from the 1950s, though, when it was used to categorise a certain style of French cinema. From the late 70s onwards, new wave was adopted as a moniker for a musical genre – and that genre is pretty broad.
Which makes it rather confusing when you’re searching for the best 80s new wave songs and albums. New wave is a term that can be used to describe the work of artists and bands ranging from The Cure, Culture Club and The Clash to Duran Duran, The Jam, Joy Division, New Order, the Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths, U2 and many more. Including my all-time faves INXS.
If you want to listen to the top new wave hits of the 80s to discover this kind of music, then this guide includes all the best new wave music from the 80s – in compilation album form. You can then use the best 80s new wave albums as a playlist, or as a basis for discovering bands and artists whose work you might like to own more of.
The best new wave songs of the 80s in fact covered many sub-genres, including pop, rock, the New Romantics and more. An 80s new wave playlist thus includes a lot of variety, so it’s the kind of music you can listen to over and over.
Read on to find the best of 80s new wave music, so you can delve a little deeper into this broad genre that arguably defined a decade. Whether you want to buy an album that covers 100 of the greatest new wave songs or would prefer one including specific 1980s new wave hits, there’s one of for you in this list of the best 1980s new wave albums!
Best 80s new wave albums comparison chart
|NOW That’s What I Call Punk and New Wave||89||Adam and the Ants, Blondie, The Clash, The Jam, Joy Division||Amazon|
|Ministry of Sound: Electronic 80s||80||Soft Cell, New Order, Human League, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran||Amazon|
|The #1 Album: New Wave||60||Iggy Pop, Altered Images, The Vapors, Squeeze, Martha and the Muffins||Amazon|
|Top of the Pops: New Romantics||57||Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Nik Kershaw||Amazon|
|Rock and New Wave: The Ultimate Collection||100||ZZ Top, Faith No More, Ramones, Nazareth, Deep Purple||Amazon |
|Punk and New Wave: The Ultimate Collection||100||The Damned, The Boomtown Rats, China Crisis, Heaven 17, Buzzcocks||Amazon|
|Electric Dreams||60||Gary Numan, Harold Faltermeyer, Ultravox, A-ha, The Cars||Amazon|
7 of the best 80s new wave albums
NOW That’s What I Call Punk and New Wave
The new wave music of the 1980s was related to punk, though the former was more commercial and less political. Buying this album that includes the edgier genre means getting your mitts on 89 tracks, and there’s a great mix of 1980s new wave songs and punk hits featured.
Some of the decade-defining tracks here include London Calling by The Clash, Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, Denis by Blondie and Going Underground by The Jam. This album is from NOW That’s What I Call Music, which still produces a highly successful series of compilation albums.
Electronic 80s – The Collection
A defining feature of new wave in the eighties for me was the use of electronics. That was something that the music of my parents’ generation didn’t feature. My mum and dad adored The Beatles and Deep Purple respectively, and their album collections didn’t feature any synth pop. Like it’s parent genre new wave, synth pop didn’t appear until the late 70s.
So the Electronic 80s album from the Ministry of Sound in turn defines a decade in many ways. This one features Tainted Love by Soft Cell, New Order’s Blue Monday, Don’t You Want Me by the Human League, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax and Girls on Film by Duran Duran, among others.
The #1 Album: New Wave
If you want to listen to the best of 70s and 80s wave, The #1 Album: New Wave might be for you. This collection of classic music from 70s and 80s new wave bands and artists crosses the decade divide, and includes plenty of tracks that are typical of the genre.
Lust for Life by Iggy Pop, Happy Birthday by Altered Images, Turning Japanese by The Vapors, Up the Junction by Squeeze and Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins are some examples among the 60 tracks on this album.
Top Of The Pops: New Romantics
The new romantics are another 80s new wave music sub-genre. Typical acts belonging to this category – and featured on this CD – include Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Dead or Alive and Nik Kershaw.
The new romantic subculture and look was characterised by flamboyant fashion and glamorous make-up. Big curls, lots of frills and drama are typical. This was also a style that successfully crossed gender boundaries, when girls and boys were equally likely to dress in this way.
Rock and New Wave: The Ultimate Collection
Some of the acts seen as new wave leaned more towards the rock genre. (Such as my personal favourite, INXS.) This one includes 100 of the best new wave songs, and some are a little heavier. Such as ZZ Top, Faith No More, Ramones, Nazareth and my dad’s favourite, Deep Purple.
There are more alternative 80s hits on this one than other similar compilations, so it’s ideal if you want to try something other than what’s played on 80s radio stations.
Punk and New Wave: The Ultimate Collection
Again this is an album that fuses punk with new wave pop and rock 80s music. The greatest new wave hits ever aren’t really featured here, as this album delves a little deeper to bring you some lesser-known but great tracks.
The Damned, The Jam, The Boomtown Rats, The Cure, China Crisis, Squeeze, Heaven 17, The Human League, OMD, Simple Minds, Buzzcocks, Toyah… it’s a pretty impressive line-up. There are 100 80s new wave songs on this one too.
My final pick featuring some of the best new wave songs of the 80s is Electric Dreams. This is one we have at home – and one of the few compilations we both play. Again synth pop is the theme here. (Of course the track listing includes Together in Electric Dreams – what did you expect?)
Other 80 new wave hits on the song list here include Cars by Gary Numan, Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F from Beverley Hills Cop) Vienna by Ultravox, A-ha’s Take On Me, The Reflex by Duran Duran, Drive by The Cars and of course Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart.
Which 80s new wave album will you be playing?
From albums featuring 100 of the best new wave songs to those listing only the most popular new wave songs from the biggest acts of the early and mid 80s, there’s some great new wave music to discover.
With sub-genres including synth pop, the new romantics and rock, the 80s was defined by electronic sounds, androgynous glamour – and of course big hair.
Find more 80s music to play in these posts:
- Top 80s party albums
- Best 80s compilations
- 80s NOW albums
- Best selling 80s albums
- Top 100 80s songs list
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