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The 10 best David Bowie albums

Dig into these classics picked out of David Bowie's 25 album discography, from Blackstar to Hunky Dory

By Miles Raymer
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Twenty-five David Bowie albums are more than enough to show for the legendary musician’s many musical modes: glam rock, funk, art rock, cabaret-tinged pop and more. His discography is as much a map of rock & roll’s evolution, as it is a document of one artist’s tenacious drive to constantly reinvent himself. Here’s our list of 10 of David Bowie's best albums (including, spoiler alert, one of the most anticipated albums of 2016Blackstar) for your listening pleasure.

Best David Bowie albums

10. The Man Who Sold the World, 1970

While it will forever best be known for the dreamy title track—a fitting complement to the cover art’s portrait of the artist looking otherworldly in a “men’s dress” from renegade fashion designer Michael Fish—much of the rest of Bowie’s third album is solid, gut-punching hard rock not all that far away from Black Sabbath.

Buy The Man Who Sold the World on Amazon

9. Heathen, 2002

Bowie may have set a world record with the number of comebacks he made over his career. After spending the ‘80s making increasingly bland synthpop and the ‘90s exploring dance music, his 2002 return to rock & roll reconnected him with his primary audience. No mere cash grab, cuts like “Slow Burn” and his cover of the Pixies’ “Cactus” showed Bowie rediscovering the swagger of his glam rock days.

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8. Young Americans, 1975

Already deep into the cocaine addiction and spiritual collapse that would result in his emotionally harrowing Thin White Duke phase, Bowie made the curious decision to decamp to Philadelphia and record his own take on the satiny big-band soul music coming out of the city at the time. Moments like the title track nail Philly soul’s uplifting spirit, but the paranoid funk on “Fame” gives off a fascinatingly strange buzz.

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7. "Heroes," 1977

As Bowie’s confidence returned over the course of the Berlin trilogy he joined krautrock groups like Neu! and Kraftwerk out on the leading edge of rock innovation. This album’s abstract pop hooks, krautrock-style motorik rhythms, and synthesizer experiments all orbit the perfectly composed title track.

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6. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), 1980

Crossing the Berlin trilogy’s sonic ambition with some of the strongest hooks he’d written in years, Scary Monsters marked the superstar’s return to mainstream success. The album’s popularity tends to overshadow how deeply freaky it is, with its electronically altered vocals and imagery of a smacked-out Major Tom.

Buy Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) on Amazon

5. Diamond Dogs, 1974

Aladdin Sane may be his most iconic album visually, but the sonic shorthand for Bowieness will forever be the virtuosic buzzsaw bubblegum of “Rebel Rebel” and “Diamond Dogs.” Casually tossed in the middle of a bunch of bad-trip sci-fi surrealism, it’s the sound of Bowie reaching the limits of his capital-R rock star phase before finally tossing it aside.

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4. Low, 1977

Hiding out in Europe and recovering from a years-long cocaine binge, Bowie teamed up with Brian Eno to rebuild his shattered identity. Starting with Low, the three albums that resulted took rock music to a new artistic plane while Bowie’s lyrics dismantled his own mythology to reveal the broken man underneath.

Buy Low on Amazon

3. Blackstar, 2016

The sound of one of the greatest creative minds of the past century summoning up all his powers in order to stare down his impending mortality and record the results. The final step in a long artistic evolution, it finds him once again redrawing rock’s borders while delivering the most visceral and moving performance of his entire career.

Buy Blackstar on Amazon

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2. Hunky Dory, 1971

Recorded on the verge of his transition from quirky folk-pop singer to kinky glam rock messiah, Hunky Dory mixes sweepingly broad melodicism (“Changes,” “Life On Mars”) with intriguingly unbalanced psychedelia (“Andy Warhol,” “Bewlay Brothers”) and a hint of the glittery, knife-flashing sound he was about immerse himself in (“Queen Bitch”). Maybe the most evenly balanced album in his catalog, it gives equal time to crowd-pleasing hits and experimental ventures.

Buy Hunky Dory on Amazon

1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972

The album that overnight turned David Bowie from a C-list singer into a rock god. Its premise is hilariously ambitious, and Bowie lets his theatrical side free to run to near-Broadway levels, but somehow he pulled it off. It’s been pretty much the coolest record of all time since its release in 1972, influencing punk, metal and alternative rock—in short, all the worthwhile electric-guitar music that's come in its wake.

Buy The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on Amazon

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