What a guy, what a musician, what a cultural icon. David Bowie was THE guy to be for 5 decades, redefining fashion and his sound seemingly every year. He was a true innovator up until his untimely passing in 2016, so to celebrate his legacy I thought I’d rank all 26 of his studio albums (bear with me, it’s going to be a long list).
I explain my rating system in this list:
Let’s delve into The Chameleon’s / The Thin White Duke’s / Ziggy Stardust’s / Major Tom’s illustrious career…
26 – Buddha Of Suburbia
Let’s just forget this album exists. Please.
The only decent song on the album is “Strangers When We Meet”, but even 1.Outside does that better. Completely and utterly abysmal.
- Best Song – Strangers When We Meet
- Worst Song – Sex And The Church
- Underrated Gem – n/a
25 – David Bowie
This album just feels wrong. It’s completely different to any later Bowie album, and that’s definitely not a good thing. I’m glad he deviated from this cheesy 60’s style in his follow up album and every subsequent release.
- Best Song – We Are Hungry Men
- Worst Song – Please Mr. Gravedigger
- Underrated Gem – We Are Hungry Men
24 – Never Let Me Down
A lot of people would say this is Bowie’s worst album and rightly so – even The Thin White Duke called out the production of this album as being sub-par.
There are just too many bland songs on this train-wreck; tracks like “Zeroes” and “Beat Of Your Drum” hardly showcase any Bowie talent. I will give credit to “Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)”, as even though its one of Bowie’s cheesiest songs, I just find it to be a catchy, harmless pop tune.
- Best Song – Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)
- Worst Song – Beat Of Your Drum
- Underrated Gem – Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)
23 – Hours…
Bowie didn’t have a good decade in the ’90s, almost all of his albums were either passable or bad.
Hours… is a classic example of an extremely talented artist playing it safe, but by doing that Bowie created one of his most boring albums. There are quite a few OK / good songs on here, but those are the best Bowie can conjure up.
“Thursday’s Child” is good, and songs like “The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell” and “Seven” are OK. The good feeling you might have gotten from this album is immediately erased by the final few songs, which painstakingly draw out a poor entry in Bowie’s discography.
- Best Song – Thursday’s Child
- Worst Song – Brilliant Adventure
- Underrated Gem – The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell
22 – Reality
This album effectively killed Bowie’s career for 10 years until “The Next Day”, which is a shame for the world of music but probably best for Bowie creatively.
This album starts and ends strongly with “New Killer Star” and “Bring Me The Disco King”, but its the forgettable tracks in the middle that let it down (except “Days” maybe).
- Best Song – New Killer Star
- Worst Song – Try Some, Buy Some
- Underrated Gem – Bring Me The Disco King
21 – Pin Ups
This album leaves a mark on what would have otherwise been a flawless decade for Bowie. Nearing the height of his fame, Bowie decided to do a covers album for some reason (and not a particularly good one)
“Sorrow” will always be a Bowie fave, and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” is a fun romp, but the rest of the covers are uninspired and bland. Let’s put this one down under “creative misstep”.
- Best Song – Sorrow
- Worst Song – Shapes Of Things
- Underrated Gem – Where Have All The Good Times Gone
20 – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
I’m going to get a lot of hate for this one.
There are definitely some killer tracks here, but there are also some of Bowie’s worst.
The stretch of songs from “Teenage Wildlife” to “Because You’re Young” has to be one of the worst runs of 4 songs in Bowie’s career (very unpopular opinion I know).
That being said, “Ashes To Ashes” is a top 3 Bowie song for sure, and “It’s No Game (Pt. 2)” is a great way to end the album. Shame about that streak in the middle though.
- Best Song – Ashes To Ashes
- Worst Song – Because You’re Young
- Underrated Gem – It’s No Game (Pt. 2)
19 – Black Tie White Noise
I actually don’t think this album is as bad as people say it is.
Seeing as this was a wedding gift from Bowie to his wife Iman, there are a few songs that reference this. The best of those is “The Wedding Song”, a beautiful track in itself regardless of the context.
There are a few boring ones that let this down, but the standouts have to be “Jump They Say” and “Black Tie White Noise”. The latter of those is an extremely underrated Bowie song, and probably an extremely underrated song in general.
- Best Song – Black Tie White Noise
- Worst Song – Pallas Athena
- Underrated Gem – Black Tie White Noise
18 – Tonight
After the major success of “Let’s Dance”, I can see why Bowie fans aren’t too fond of this one. I think its a passable album nonetheless.
There are quite a few catchy songs on here – “Loving The Alien” is a great opener, “Blue Jean” is probably the famous one from this record (and rightly so), and the duet with Tina Turner “Tonight” is better than people give it credit for.
There are a couple of sub-par songs, and the finale “Dancing with the Big Boys” is an anti-climactic way of ending the record. Not a terrible outing from Major Tom.
- Best Song – Blue Jean
- Worst Song – Dancing with the Big Boys
- Underrated Gem – Tonight
17 – The Next Day
Bowie’s long-awaited return to music was … fine.
I can see why fans and critics liked this one, it’s a creative return to form for Bowie; it’s just not one of my favourites. Songs like “Where Are We Now?” and “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” are some of his best, and others like “Valentine’s Day” and “How Does The Grass Grow?” are great as well. Not really an album I’d choose to listen to.
- Best Song – The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
- Worst Song – Love Is Lost
- Underrated Gem – How Does The Grass Grow?
16 – Earthling
A slightly better ’90s offering from Bowie, this album showed some potential.
Electronica isn’t really a genre that Bowie is known for, but he does a good job nonetheless. There are some great tracks on this – “Little Wonder” is brilliant, “I’m Afraid Of Americans” is great (but the remix is better), and “Seven Years In Tibet” is a surprisingly good song. A few strange ones, but a decent effort overall.
- Best Song – Little Wonder
- Worst Song – Telling Lies
- Underrated Gem – Seven Years In Tibet
15 – Heathen
A very dark album, Heathen demonstrated a change in style for Bowie going into the ’00s.
There are actually quite a few boring ones on here, but what puts this record above some others is the quality of the good ones. “Sunday” is a haunting opening (that apparently has nothing to do with 9/11. Sure, I’ll believe you David), and Heathen (The Rays) is an amazing way to close off the album.
- Best Song – Sunday
- Worst Song – Afraid
- Underrated Gem – 5:15 The Angels Have Gone
14 – Aladdin Sane
I’ll probably get a lot of stick for this one as well, but I don’t think Aladdin Sane is as good as people say it is.
There are definitely some great ones – “Watch That Man” is an energetic (but poorly mixed) opener, “Jean Genie” is one of those songs everyone has heard, and “Lady Grinning Soul” might be one of his most underrated songs. However, the title track’s piano solo is just plain annoying, and some songs like “The Prettiest Star” are completely forgettable.
- Best Song – Lady Grinning Soul
- Worst Song – The Prettiest Star
- Underrated Gem – Lady Grinning Soul
13 – David Bowie (A.K.A. Space Oddity)
If you pretend “David Bowie” doesn’t exist, then this is a really solid debut album.
There’s plenty to love here – “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” is a fantastic fantastical piece, “God Knows I’m Good” is Bowie at his most heart-felt, and “Memory of a Free Festival” is an early Bowie masterpiece. Oh, and “Space Oddity” isn’t too shabby. It’s the middle of the record that lets it down.
- Best Song – Space Oddity
- Worst Song – Cygnet Committee
- Underrated Gem – Memory of a Free Festival
12 – The Man Who Sold The World
The first of his albums from the ’70s, this record is full of Rock goodness.
“The Width of a Circle” is a long but rewarding opener, and “The Supermen” is a great closer. Other than the brilliant title track, “She Shook Me Cold” is an underrated Bowie classic.
As with some of the previous albums on this list, the middle songs prevent it from being anything except “OK”.
- Best Song – The Man Who Sold The World
- Worst Song – After All
- Underrated Gem – She Shook Me Cold
11 – 1.Outside
The best of The Thin White Duke’s ’90s offerings, 1.Outside is a dystopian concept album that is unique in Bowie’s discography.
Some of the songs on their own are a bit uneventful, but its the way they all work together that elevates this record. “The Hearts Filthy Lesson” and “We Prick You” are visceral, and tracks like “Hallo Spaceboy” and “Strangers When We Meet” will appeal to the more casual of Bowie fans.
I think the best song on the album has to go to “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town”, a song that works perfectly in the album that it’s in. The downside to this album is that some of the Segues feel a bit tacked on.
- Best Song – I Have Not Been to Oxford Town
- Worst Song – Segue – Algeria Touchshriek
- Underrated Gem – I Have Not Been to Oxford Town
10 – Let’s Dance
A lot of Bowie fans pick on this album for no reason, I just think it’s filled to the brim with songs that make you want to get up and dance.
The opening 3 songs are all iconic, and “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” is great, especially the use of the single version in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards”. A few middle tracks slow the break-neck pace down a little, but overall a very good album.
- Best Song – Let’s Dance
- Worst Song – Without You
- Underrated Gem – Shake It
9 – Lodger
This album could have easily been “great” if it wasn’t for the opening 3 songs. “Fantastic Voyage” is OK, but the next 2 are disappointing by Bowie’s high standards.
After that it really picks up again. “Yassassin” is a favourite of mine, “Look Back In Anger” is fast-paced greatness, and “Repetition” shouldn’t be as good as it is. The best part of the album has to be “Red Money”, one of Bowie’s best album closers by far.
- Best Song – Red Money
- Worst Song – Move On
- Underrated Gem – Yassassin
8 – Young Americans
This is another Bowie album that fans like to dish on, but I just can’t help but love it.
Songs like “Young Americans” and “Fame” have been crowd pleasers ever since the record’s release, but tracks like “Win”, “Fascination” and “Right” make this album great for me. You can just tell Bowie is having a blast, even if he was at a low point in his life with his drug habits. John Lennon helped a bit with this album, so maybe that’s why it turned out so good.
- Best Song – Young Americans
- Worst Song – Can You Hear Me
- Underrated Gem – Fascination
7 – Hunky Dory
Most people would probably put this in “amazing”, and although Hunky Dory is a great album, I’m not sure it quite makes it up there with Bowie’s very best.
“Changes” is an amazing opening track, and gems like “Kooks” and “Queen Bitch” make this album great. Props to the final song “The Bewlay Brothers” for being an amazing album closer as well.
I think it’s fair to say “Life On Mars?” is one of the best songs of all time. Who knows what Bowie did to come up with such a masterpiece, but here we are admiring it. A couple of stinkers like “Eight Line Poem” and “Andy Warhol” stop Hunky Dory from getting higher on this list.
- Best Song – Life On Mars?
- Worst Song – Eight Line Poem
- Underrated Gem – The Bewlay Brothers
6 – “Heroes”
Any album with the song “Heroes” on it was going to be amazing.
It helps that tracks like “Blackout”, “V-2 Schneider” and “Sons of the Silent Age” set the dark tone that Bowie was experiencing in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. The opening 2 songs “Beauty and the Beast” and “Joe the Lion” pack a punch as well, so of course this would be an amazing album.
The 3 instrumental songs can be a bit of a drag depending on my mood when I listen to them, but “The Secret Life of Arabia” more than makes up for them. A fantastic album from an in-form Bowie.
- Best Song – Heroes
- Worst Song – Neukoln
- Underrated Gem – The Secret Life of Arabia
5 – Diamond Dogs
I absolutely love this album – the whole concept of The Diamond Dogs is fascinating, and the songs are fantastic to accompany this.
“Future Legend” and “Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal People” open and close the album in bonkers ways, “1984” and “Big Brother” are definately inspired by the George Orwell novel, and the “Sweet Thing” medley is stunning. Let’s not forget the Rock staple that is “Rebel Rebel”, which has probably Bowie’s best ever riff. The only reason this album isn’t higher is that I just think the other 4 are just better, I literally can’t fault this record.
- Best Song – Sweet Thing
- Worst Song – Future Legend
- Underrated Gem – Big Brother
4 – Blackstar
Bowie’s farewell record is easily one of his best. It sort of plays out like a best of album of one of the best artists in music history.
This album kind of reminds me of “Station To Station” (we’ll get to that one), and that’s a great thing.
“Blackstar” is one of Bowie’s best tracks ever, and “Lazarus” makes you wonder whether The Thin White Duke knew of his imminent passing. To end a brilliant album you need a brilliant song, and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” is the perfect way to close off Bowie’s illustrious career. Absolutely stunning album.
- Best Song – Blackstar
- Worst Song – Girl Loves Me
- Underrated Gem – Dollar Days
3 – Low
This album has grown on me, so much so that a month ago I probably would have put it 10th rather than 3rd place.
The album that started the stellar “Berlin Trilogy”, this is nothing short of a masterpiece. “Speed Of Life” starts the album with a bang, and the pace only quickens from there.
Tracks like “Breaking Glass” and “Be My Wife” are somewhat underrated bangers (as a bassist myself, this has to be one of if not the best Bowie album for bass). “Always Crashing In The Same Car” and “A New Career In A New Town” are strange at first but quickly grow on you. The best song on the album has to be “Sound and Vision”, an unbelievable example of Major Tom’s creative talents.
One of the reasons I keep coming back to this one is the instrumental ending. On “Heroes” is kind of falls flat, but here it’s magnificent. “Warszawa” and “Art Decade” get better with every listen, and “Subterraneans” is an underrated Bowie classic. “Weeping Wall” isn’t quite as good, but on the whole it’s hard to disagree that this is one of the best albums of all time.
- Best Song – Sound and Vision
- Worst Song – Weeping Wall
- Underrated Gem – Subterraneans
2 – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Probably his most iconic album, this record is sensational.
A concept album to rival the best, “Five Years” sets the tone for what would turn out to be an all-time great. Songs like “Starman” and “Ziggy Stardust” deserve all their fame and praise, but other tracks like “Moonage Daydream” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” should get the same amount of radio plays.
It’s quite tricky to pick a favourite from a solid bunch of songs, but I have to give it to “Suffragette City” purely for all the Rock goodness Bowie manages to pack into 208 seconds. Just as mind-blowing on the hundredth listen as the first.
- Best Song – Suffragette City
- Worst Song – Star
- Underrated Gem – Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide
1 – Station To Station
How can someone create 6 of the most perfect songs on one album?
That is the question I always ask myself when I listen to “Station to Station”: The title track is a 10 minute epic that chugs along nicely, “Golden Years” is a top 3 Bowie track, “Word on a Wing” is his most underrated song, “TVC-15” is heaps of fun, “Stay” is Rock at its best, and finally “Wild is the Wind” might be The Thin White Duke’s best vocal performance.
It’s a shame Bowie was at the lowest point of his life whilst recording this record (a diet of milk, peppers and cocaine can’t be good for anyone), but this album has to be up there in the top 10 albums of all time. We’ll miss you and your talent, David.
- Best Song – Golden Years
- Worst Song – No. I Refuse.
- Underrated Gem – Word on a Wing
That’s the list. If you liked this album ranking, why not check out my Beatles and Muse rankings as well: