Sure, most commercially successful albums, follow the current music trends of each era. But there are always exceptions, and those albums below are such exceptions:
(In chronological order)
1) Breakfast In America by Supertramp (1979)
By the time Breakfast In America was released, Pomp-Rock bands like Kansas and Styx, were considered outdated because of New Wave acts (such as The Police and Blondie) were on the top and Disco acts (such as Village People and Bee Gees) were still big, but Supertramp hit #1 in the US charts with this album.
2) Diana by Diana Ross (1980)
Well, with the beginning of the new decade, the Disco trend of the second half of the 70s suddenly died, and New Wave took over for good. Surprisingly, this was Diana Ross’ biggest selling album, even if it was considered passé by the time of its release.
3) Paradise Theatre by Styx (1981)
As I said in #1, Pomp-Rock was considered outdated in 1979. In 1981, it was even more outdated, and Synth-Pop started to rise. And surprisingly, it made the UK Top 10 as well, even though UK charts weren’t much into Pomp-Rock acts, especially in the early 80s.
4) Love Over Gold by Dire Straits (1982)
The most anti-synth band (perhaps), made it big in the most synthish year in music. Dire Straits were a special case indeed. They never followed current trends in music and they went their own way (maybe Brothers In Arms is more in-sync with the music trends of the time, compared with the other albums), but still they were massive, especially in the first half of the 80s.
5) Metal Health by Quiet Riot (1983)
In 1983 Heavy Metal wasn’t some unknown obscure genre. It existed, but if you wanted to write a hit, then you’d definitely not go for Heavy Metal. Despite their music was considered anti-mainstream by the time, Quiet Riot made it mainstream, by helping acts like Motley Crue and Ratt, make it big during the next years.
6) Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen (1984)
The only song from the album that it’s an 80s tune, is Dancing In The Dark, which was the biggest hit of the album. Maybe My Hometown by some degree as well. The rest of the album sticks with the Heartland Rock style Bruce is known for. Still, Bruce dominated the charts with this album. Maybe was it because of its cover? Or because he gained airplay from MTV? Who knows?
7) The Dream Of The Blue Turtles by Sting (1985)
Once he went Solo, Sting followed a totally different direction, than the one from his years with The Police. He went into a jazzy anti-mainstream direction, but surprisingly he was always topping the charts around the world. His Solo debut is such an example. I believe this has to do with the fact that he was Sting, thanks to his fame with The Police. Perhaps if he was someone else, his albums would flop.
8. Fore! By Huey Lewis And The News (1986)
Huey Lewis And The News’ music, was always outside of the mainstream world, but still they managed to be on the top of the charts throughout of the 80s. Maybe it was because their music appeared in popular movies by the time? Well, personally that would be my guess!
9) E.S.P. by Bee Gees (1987)
Bee Gees weren’t big anymore in the 80s, but this album was more like a comeback album. It was big especially in continental Europe area. Not much in the UK or US, but again, like many 60s and 70s bands, when they tried to go 80s, they didn’t fully capture the spirit of the overall 80s music.
10) Watermark by Enya (1988)
Now this is the most extraordinary case among the list for sure. I am pretty sure, that nobody would have thought that a New Age act, would top the charts, and even make it to the American market. New Age was never a mainstream thing, but it has more like a cult following.
11) Mystery Girl by Roy Orbison (1989)
Well this album is considered Pop-Rock more or less which is an all-time classic genre, but not “Pop-Rock made in ’89”. It has a retro (by the time) Pop-Rock sound. Roy Orbison was a forgotten artist during the 80s, till he made a comeback with the group Travelling Wilburys. Maybe the success of the album might be related with his death, and if he was still alive nobody knows whether the album would flop or continue the success he had with Travelling Wilburys.
12) Violator by Depeche Mode (1990)
By the turn of the decade, the Synth-Pop genre pretty much died. Although Depeche Mode managed to pull it through with the all-time classic singles Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence. I cannot tell why Depeche Mode, didn’t fade away from the spotlight, unlike most 80s Synth bands though.
13) Slave To The Grind by Skid Row (1991)
By 1991, the Rock scene changed drastically. Most 80s Rock bands were dropped by their labels, in favor of the Grunge genre. Guess Skid Row were lucky here and made it in time though. The Grunge bomb exploded in September of ’91, with Nevermind by Nirvana. If Slave To The Grind, was released a few months later, then perhaps they’d never see a #1 in the albums charts.
14) Adrenalize by Def Leppard (1992)
As I said in #13, once Grunge took over most Rock bands of the 80s were vanished. This album came out at a time where Def Leppard’s music was considered outdated, so it was pretty obvious that this album would possibly flop. Luckily it didn’t, despite remaining faithful to their Glam Metal style. Although after this album they changed their style, just in order to survive in the music business.
15) “The Spaghetti Incident?” by Guns ‘n Roses (1993)
By 1993 Grunge explosion has toned down, and it became Alternative Rock. Hard Rock was dead for years too. Still Guns ‘n Roses made it big once again sticking to the traditional Hard Rock sound of their debut, Appetite For Destruction. Although it didn’t sell as much as the debut or Use Your Illussion, it was still huge. A brave move to follow such a direction in 1993, indeed.