Today would have marked the 50th birthday of the late Whitney Houston, and in her honor, here are our top picks for the most memorable debut albums of all time: 

1.   Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston is remembered as one of the greatest voices of all time, yet it all started in 1985 with her self-titled debut album.  Though the record got off to a slow start, she found success with her first single “You Give Good Love.”  However, her breakthrough single, “How Will I Know,” truly showed off her vocal range and showed listeners that she had what music was missing at the time. She might have reached her height with her unparalleled vocals on her later megahit “I Will Always Love You,” but right from the get-go, she gave it her all right from the start. Whitney may be gone, but we will always love her.

2.   Madonna

Madonna’s self-titled debut album was released on July 27, 1983, after the 24-year-old moved to New York to pursue dance and soon fell in love with the music industry.  The album, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last month, included hit singles like “Borderline,” “Holiday” and “Lucky Star,” which started fashion trends from fishnet stockings to fingerless gloves.  While Madonna had a distinct fashion sense that started a craze, the success of her debut record, soon followed by her smash hit “Like a Virgin,” made her an legend and landed her 13 consecutive Top 5 hits. 

3.   Stevie Nicks

After finding success with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks decided to take a break from the group’s drama and go solo.  The release of “Bella Donna” in 1981, which hit No.1 on the Billboard charts, gave Stevie the chance the share more of herself with her fans.  The album featured duets with fellow music legends like “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty, but her iconic single “Edge of Seventeen” is as brilliant today as it ever was. Though she has since returned to tour with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie’s solo career continues to stand on its own.

4.   Britney Spears

Britney Spears started a craze after her debut album “...Baby One More Time was released in 1999.  The ex-Mouseketeer returned to the limelight with a bang, singing hits like “...Baby One More Time” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” Although the album debuted at No. 1, it was the frequent rotation of her controversial videos on MTV that elevated her to near-instant superstardom.  To date, the album has sold more than 14 million copies in the U.S, but the cache Britney earned with that first album has kept her a star despite her ups and down as both a successful pop star and a pop culture icon. 

5.    Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s debut album “The Fame (2009) was definitely a game-changer.  An eye-popping wakeup was exactly what pop needed with a charismatic shooting star like Lady Gaga.  Considered the second-coming of Madonna, the public was thirsty for hits like “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.”  By reaching out to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood or alone, Gaga made “letting your freak flag fly” okay and rapidly built a fanbase of “Little Monsters” as she refers to them. With Lady Gaga set to release her new single later this month, it’s always important to remember where it all began.

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