12 Van Halen Albums Ranked From Worst to Best
Van Halen is a classic American rock band from California. They are known for their epic performances focusing on various music genres, such as hard rock, heavy metal, and pop rock. During their history as a band, Van Halen was loved by fans and other bands alike.
Even when Eddie Van Halen passed away in 2020, fans came together to show their love for Van Halen. With that being said, in this blog, we will go over Van Halen albums ranked from worst to best!
Van Halen Albums Ranked Worst to First
Coming in at number 12 is their self-titled album “Van Halen.”
12. Van Halen (1978)
Despite being among the few most successful debut albums, Van Halen is my least favorite from Van Halen. Although I appreciate Eddie Van Halen’s supreme guitar-playing skills, such as in “Eruption,” I cannot say much about this album. Van Halen’s self-titled debut album is inconsistent with its mix of hard rock and ballads, making it disorganized. Additionally, I find most of the songs in this album to lack meaningful lyrics.
Although I do not believe Van Halen is not a good album, I will give where credit is due: Van Halen was a debut album that reached major success by reaching the #19 spot in the Billboard top 200 charts. However, the inconsistency regarding the melodies offered in this album leaves me wondering how this album became so successful?
Favorite song from Van Halen: As a big fan of guitar playing, “Eruption” is my favorite song. This song features some of Eddie Van Halen’s best guitar playing in this debut album. I appreciate Eddie Van Halen’s unique and technical guitar skills in this song.
11. Women and Children First (1980)
Women and Children First is a close-knit album demonstrating Van Halen’s musical mastery and versatility. What makes this album stand out is the raw-rock elements offered in this album, which present the album in a strip-down form, meaning it sounds more like a live concert than a studio-produced album.
Unlike Van Halen, I feel this album is more organized and has a better structure, which presents the various musical styles (hard rock, pop, and funk) in a far more musically enjoyable position.
Another highlight of this album is the themes presented and explored in the music. The band dives into the topics of sex, love, and partying, which takes them back roots, and they even approach these themes in a light-hearted manner that makes it hard not to enjoy this album.
Favorite song from Women and Children First: “In a Simple Rhyme,” is a great song because it highlights how Van Halen can compose a rock ballad while focusing on emotionally evoking lyrics.
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10. OU812 (1986)
With Sammy Hagar on vocals, this album showcases Van Halen’s musical talents in a pop songwriting aspect and less of the band’s earlier hard rock vibes. “When It’s Love” is a perfect example of the band’s pop-centered take on this album.
Despite Van Halen taking a heavy pop approach, it does not mean Eddie Van Halen’s guitar skills would be less involved. In fact, Eddie Van Halen’s talents are heavily showcased in this album, demonstrating his mastery of the guitar.
Although OU812 is heavy on the pop side, which many older Van Halen fans may not find appealing, I personally enjoy it. By taking on a pop sound makes this album refreshing and rejuvenating while showing Van Halen is capable of making good music in any shape and size.
Favorite song from OU812: I love the fun 80s pop vibe screaming in “Feels So Good.” This song has a catchy beat and a chorus that gets easily stuck in my head. It is undoubtedly a feel-good song!
9. A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
With David Lee Roth returning to Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth would be the final studio album from Van Halen. While listening to the first moments of “Tattoo,” it is clear that Roth and Van Halen had no issue rekindling their signature sound once more.
Despite returning to their signature sound, this album is good to listen to because Roth once more showcases his fun personality through his singing style. At the same time, Eddie Van Halen continues to kill it on the guitar.
What makes this album a special one is that not only was it their final studio album, but Van Halen clearly demonstrated their ability to write meaningful lyrics. Various songs, such as “As Is” on this album, focus on meaningful topics such as loss and self-reflection, which adds a meaningful touch to this final studio album.
Favorite song from A Different Kind of Truth: “Blood and Fire” epic start with Eddie Van Halen’s fantastic guitar skills pushes this song to be the best on the album. It does not stop there; the song’s chorus and rhythm are electrifying and catchy.
8. Van Halen III (1998)
With the “Van Hagar” era officially over and Gary Cherone as Van Halen’s new lead singer, the band changes its sound again. The album starts by clarifying that this album is a fresh take from the band as the first track, “Neworld,” is an instrumental-only song that is more soft-paced. This is a revivifying way to start a new album with a new singer.
Lastly, I appreciate Cherone’s vocal range on this album, demonstrating that he can adapt to any rock sub-genre as the band explores grunge and alternative rock on this album.
Favorite song from Van Halen III: Van Halen’s songwriting abilities shine in their song, “Josephina,” which is why it is my favorite song from the album. Compared to the other songs on this album, Josephina embodied the band’s genuine desire to experiment, which I thought was a successful try. I think the lyrics about love and loss in this song evoke emotion, ultimately making it powerful.
7. Balance (1995)
If there is any album where Van Halen genuinely steps away from their signature sound, it is in Balance. However, it is good since Van Halen does an exceptional job exploring alternative and pop-rock themes in this album. For instance, “The Seventh Seal” is such a catchy yet rocking song; it is one of the best tracks that start an album.
I appreciate Van Halen trying to adapt to that 90’s rock vibe on this album through Hagar’s powerful and dramatic vocal performances, such as in “Feeling” and “Not Enough.” These songs are a vibe! Overall, this has to be one of the best albums from 1995.
Favorite song from Balance: As a sucker for love songs, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” is obviously my favorite song. This song is very emotionally evoking through its passionate and loving lyrics. The album may not be in my top three, but this song is my favorite Van Halen song.
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6. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
For this album, released in 1991, I loved Eddie Van Halen’s guitar skills, which only explains why so many other musicians, such as Tom Morello, have respect for his guitar genius. Songs like “Judgement Day” demonstrate that Eddie Van Halen’s guitar talents have not dulled after several studio albums.
Another highlight of this album is the energy presented; from the instrumental showmanship to Hagar’s gorgeous vocal talents, this song is rocking and a fun album to listen to.
Favorite song from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge: This song’s deep lyrics make “The Dream Is Over” my favorite song from this album. I appreciate how the song focuses on the problems that come with fame and success.
5. 5150 (1986)
With Sammy Hagar crowned the new lead singer of Van Halen, 5150 represents a new era in Van Halen, which is my favorite Van Halen era. I am a big fan of Hagar’s vocals and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing; together, they make some of the best Van Halen songs.
What I love about this album is that many songs have a catchy chorus that makes this album truly memorable. Also, the lyrics in this album are some of my favorite written by Van Halen; with many songs focusing on love, a hopeless romantic like myself can’t deny the power of romance in this album.
Favorite song from 5150: “Dreams,” is my favorite song because I love how Hagar approaches the lyrics as if this is a solid rock song, but the beat is very pop. It is a unique combination, but it creates an inspirational tone.
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4. Diver Down (1982)
Diver Down is the most unique album from Van Halen. This album consists of original, instrumental-only, and cover songs, creating a fun listening experience for old and new Van Halen fans. Many fans have criticized this album since many feel the original songs for this album lack the classic Van Halen appeal.
Despite this criticism, I find this album another example of Van Halen’s musical talents. For example, Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work on this album remains as stunning as his contributions to earlier albums.
Favorite song from Diver Down: Eddie Van Halen never ceases to amaze me regarding his guitar skills, which remains steadfast in “Hang “Em High.” Eddie Van Halen shines in this song and is the sole reason it is my favorite song from the album.
3. Fair Warning (1981)
This album from Van Halen is what I consider their rough-around-the-edges album, which is something I love about it. The sound is heavier and has more grit than any album before or after Fair Warning. Songs like “Dirty Movies” are catchy and have some amazing guitar playing but showcase Van Halen’s ability to make a ridged song. Of course, David Lee Roth’s emotionally evoking vocal skills are a nice touch to this masterpiece.
Favorite song from Fair Warning: “So This Is Love?” has always been my favorite song from this album. From the catchy chorus, Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo, and the positive energy presented in this number makes this song stand out from the others.
2. Van Halen II (1979)
I love this album because it pleases the inner classic rock lover within me. Van Halen II reminds me of everything I love about classic rock. Even the themes it focuses on, partying and love, are common themes heavily explored in classic rock, and Van Halen does an exceptional job singing about these themes.
Also, some of the introductions to the songs on this album, for example, “Women In Love…” are filled with so much soul and rock n roll that it is highly infectious to the ears.
Favorite Song from Van Halen II: “Light Up the Sky” has one of the most potent guitar introductions I have ever heard in a song. Eddie Van Halen’s mastery of the guitar and Roth’s powerful vocals make any music lover want to headbang while listening to this song!
1. 1984 (1984)
By exploring Van Halen’s albums ranked from worst to best, it would be a terrible mistake if I did not rank 1984 as the best album ever from Van Halen. This album may be more polished compared to other Van Halen albums, but this album is an iconic one for not just Van Halen fans but for anyone who loves rock n roll.
Another impressive aspect of this album is the band’s creative approach using electronic instrumentation, which I think adds a fun energy to the album. Although some hard-core rockers may be disappointed with the use of such tools, it is hard to deny that doing so added a fun and inspiring dimension to Van Halen’s career.
Favorite Song from 1984: There is a reason why “Jump” dominated Billboard’s rock charts after Eddie Van Halen’s death: and that this song is just incredible! From its powerful tempo and catchy lyrics, it is impossible for “Jump” not to be your favorite song from 1984, and this includes me. Of course, Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo is the biggest highlight of this for me; it is hard not to fall in love with his guitar playing.
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