Never Let Me Down (1987), Black Tie White Noise (1993), Buddha of Suburbia (1993), Outside (1995), Hours (1999). OK. It’s not that these are bad albums per se–even a mediocre Bowie album has its moments–there’s just no sense in ranking them. They are all forgettable.
20. Reality (2003)
Bowie made this record and then disappeared for 10 years.
Best cuts: I do enjoy the cover of Pablo Picasso, but this album doesn’t have any real stand-outs.
19. Heathen (2002). This album is like if Hours… was a lot better.
Best cuts: Cactus (Pixies cover) and I’ve Been Waiting for You (Neil Young cover).
18. Earthling (1997). Perhaps the last example of Bowie’s ability to jump styles, as he hired Trent Reznor to produce a hard-edged, industrial album. After this, Bowies discography would be that of a mature elder statesman.
Best cuts: I’m Afraid of Americans.
17. David Bowie aka Space Oddity (1969)
Although this album had one of his all-time greatest songs, it was a reissue of the tune–which first came out as a single. The songs here feel random and disorganized–it is a portrait of the artist at the beginning of his career.
Best cuts: Space Oddity, Janine.
16. The Man Who Sold the World (1970). His first attempt at being a rock star, and…It really didn’t work as an album. But it does have some very strong individual cuts.
Best cuts: Title track, Madmen, Width of a Circle.
15. The Next Day (2013). A beautiful, quiet record.
Best cuts: Valentine’s Day.
14. Tonight (1984). Universally hated, except by me. I like this album a lot! I am confident that this is the only blog that will recommend this record. Bowie himself dismissed it, despite that it sold very well, as well as the album that followed it, Never Let Me Down. I think it’s underestimated and underrated.
Best cuts: Loving the Alien, Blue Jean, I Keep Forgetting.
13. Young Americans (1975). A lighter album, but with some very strong songs–two of which were created with no less than John Lennon.
Best cuts: Young Americans, Fame, Fascination.
12. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980). David Bowie ruled the ’70s. His ’80s output was more uneven. But it began with one of his better albums.
Best cuts: The sequel to Major Tom, “Ashes to Ashes,” and Fashion.
11. Lodger (1979). Most would rate Lodger much higher on a list of Bowie’s best. And it is a great record–despite the lack of radio-ready hits. It’s the third album he recorded in Berlin, and it has a sober, experimental bent, mixing reggae, funk and afrobeat–the same sounds being played with by The Clash.
Best cuts: Yassassin, DJ.
10. Diamond Dogs (1974). The last of Bowie’s “glam rock” albums.
Best cuts: Rebel Rebel, title track, 1984.
9. Aladdin Sane (1973). What do you do after you record one of the greatest albums of all time (Ziggy Stardust)? You mix together experimental rock with some of the catchiest songs of all time.
Best cuts: The Jean Genie, Panic in Detroit.
8. ★ (Blackstar) (2016). David Bowie’s final album is easily his best later-period record. The rest of his 2000-on albums are way below this one on the list. Blackstar is imperfect, but the moments that shine are some of the most beautiful of his long career.
Best cuts: Blackstar, Lazarus, I Can’t Give Everything Away.
7. “Heroes” (1977). Obviously the title track is epic–perhaps Bowies best creation of all time. The rest of the album is all deep cuts like Beauty and the Beast and Sense of Doubt.
6. Pin Ups (1973). His all-covers album. And it’s great!
Best cuts: Here Comes the Night, Sorrow.
5. Station to Station (1976). Practically every one of his albums broke from what came before. On STS, though, he does this track by track! There is the “blue eyed soul” of Golden Years, the classic rock riffs of TVC15, and the title track: A 10 minute cocaine fever dream. David Bowie’s career is marked by constant genre shifting and busting.
Best cuts: See above and add in the underrated deep cut, “Stay.”
4. Let’s Dance (1984). Most critics will tell you that this was, commercially, the peak of top 40 Bowie. They’re probably right.
Best cuts: Title track, Cat People, Modern Love, Under Pressure. Those four songs were monster hits. China Girl was a solid cut as well, featuring Iggy Pop.
3. Hunky Dory (1971). Many of Bowie’s best records are “concept albums” (like the top two on this list). Hunky Dory is just a collection of really great post-60s pop.
Best cuts: Obviously “Changes” is the best remembered. But there’s also the freak pop of “Oh! You Pretty Things;” the promise of Ziggy in “Life on Mars;” and the ode to the artist “Andy Warhol.”
2. Low (1977). It’s almost impossible to pick between this album and Hunky Dory. They’re incredibly different, but each is brilliant. I went with Low because of its experimentation, how wonderfully it set and created a mood, and, frankly, how transportive the entire record is.
Best cuts: Hard to say. This is a true “album” that should be listened to from end to end, without a pause. But I will recognize that Breaking Glass has one of the best opening lines of any song, ever (“Don’t look on your carpet/I drew something awful on it”) and “Sound and Vision” is a masterpiece that bridges pop music and genius-level creativity.
1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972). This wasn’t Bowie’s most experimental or groundbreaking, and yet his adoption of a new identity in Ziggy and the creation of an album as that alien-turned-rockstar signaled his entire chimerical career. This isn’t just David Bowie’s best album, it’s one of the best albums of all time, period. Best cuts: Every damn one of them.