As one of the most popular female artists of the 1980s, Pat Benatar combined powerhouse vocals, aggressive sexuality, and tough rock with enough glossy pop to make her a darling of the mainstream. Capable of flitting effortlessly between arena rockers and gentle ballads, she dominated the charts in the 80s with a string of top ten hits and platinum-selling albums. Here’s how we rank all the Pat Benatar albums from worst to best.
In August 2003, Benatar dropped her first album since 1997’s Innamorata, and her latest album to date, Go. Vocally, she’s as strong as ever, as capable of delivering ballsy rockers as she is tender ballads. But while the singing is memorable, the songs, which veer from middle-of-the-road ballads to glossy pop, aren’t. The only truly unforgettable song is the bonus track Christmas in America, which, unfortunately, is memorable for all the wrong reasons.
11. Gravity’s Rainbow
After Benatar’s brief flirtation with the blues on True Love ended in disaster, she returned to the familiar territory of arena rock for its follow-up, Gravity’s Rainbow. All the elements are in place – the vocals are assured, the production is on point, and the album is well crafted – but by 1993, tastes had moved on and so had Benatar’s audience. The album crawled to number 84 on the Billboard 200 before promptly slipping into oblivion.
10. True Love
For 1991’s True Love, Benatar decided to give arena rock the day off and try some blues instead. The results are, at best, disconcerting, and at worse, unappealing. As Rolling Stone says, there’s an argument to be made for good singers letting down their hair, not worrying about being sincere and just having fun singing, but when that involves treating the blues like a cabaret shtick (as Benatar does here), there’s only so long the listener’s patience will hold out.
In 1997, Benatar released an album that barely anyone noticed and even fewer people remember. Innamorata debuted at number 171 on the Billboard 200 before dropping off the following week, destined to become one of Benatar’s most overlooked releases. Yet while apparently forgettable, it’s by no means unlikable, with a great combination of hard rockers and moody ballads, all well crafted and all sung beautifully. Standouts include Strawberry Wine and the irresistibly soulful River of Love.
8. Live From Earth
Consisting of a combination of live tracks and studio tracks, Live From Earth was released in 1983 during the peak of Benatar’s popularity. A commercial success, it peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200, charted well internationally, and picked up a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. With a great tracklist, sharp musicianship, and an intense vocal performance from Benatar, it does an excellent job of showcasing Benatar’s skill both in and out of the studio.
7. Seven the Hard Way
On its release in October 1985, Seven the Hard Way peaked at number 26 on the US Billboard 200 and certified gold shortly after. Benatar ceded songwriting control to outside writers for much of the album, which, considering the strength of hits like Sex as a Weapon and the Grammy-nominated Invincible, was a wise move.
After five albums, Benatar was ready to move away from the sound that had characterized her previous output and try something new. The result was Tropico, a collection of gentle, middle-of-the-road songs that Benatar handles remarkably well. Described by returnofrock.com as a solid, straight-ahead rock album with fortitude, Tropico reached number 14 on the Billboard 200 and became Benatar’s sixth consecutive platinum-selling album in the US.
5. Wide Awake in Dreamland
By 1988, Benatar was living on borrowed time. The next decade would see her commercial fortunes take a nosedive, but she still had one more trick to play before it happened. Although it isn’t in quite the same class as her early albums, Wide Awake in Dreamland is still a very solid effort, with tracks like the haunting Too Long a Soldier and the catchy Lift Em on Up standing out as highlights. Released in July 1988, the album peaked at number 19 on the Billboard 200 and certified gold shortly after.
4. Precious Time
Released in July 1981 as her third studio album, Precious Time may have stuck a little too closely to the formula of her debut and its follow up, but even so, it’s still a very respectable offering, with Benatar’s typically fine vocals covering over any cracks in the material. The album became her first (and last) to peak at number one on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified as Double Platinum in the US.
3. Get Nervous
Although Precious Time is a very fine album, it also showed that if Benatar wanted to keep up with the changing times, things needed to change. On its follow-up, she switched things up, producing a deeply melodic album with a strong pop bent. She doesn’t abandon hard rock completely (Anxiety (Get Nervous), The Victim, and Silent Partner all rock as hard and aggressively as anything in her catalog), but the mood and the style of the album show she had no intention of being pigeonholed as a one-trick pony.
2. In the Heat of the Night
In August 1979, Benatar broke onto the scene with her debut album, In the Heat of the Night. It was a sensation, charting at number 12 on the Billboard 200, certifying platinum in the US, and spawning a string of hit singles. Although there are a few underwhelming tracks, the proportion of filler to killer weighs heavily on the side of the latter, with the punchy Heartbreaker and gritty So Sincere standing out for particular merit.
1. Crimes of Passion
After her strong debut, expectations were riding high for Benatar’s sophomore outing. Crimes of Passion didn’t disappoint. Described by All Music as a “hard rocking ten-song session of power pop tempered with a few ballads for balance,” the album became the biggest of Benatar’s career, certifying 4× platinum in the US and 5× platinum in Canada. Listen out for the smash hit Hit Me with Your Best Shot and the sublime cover of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights in particular.