A LA based publication published a list of the top 20 hair metal albums a while ago. I just found this via an imaginary Internet friend. I had some issues with their list.
20. Junkyard Junkyard (1989)
It's not a bad album, but I can't see how this makes a top 20 list. It was a little punkier than the standard for hair metal, but otherwise not particularly noteworthy and kind of late. By 89 hair metal was starting to die from over saturation and a change in musical tastes.
19. White Lion Pride (1987)
I was never a White Lion fan, but this album did spawn a bunch of hits and probably is a legitimate bottom of the Top 20 album.
18. Dokken Tooth And Nail (1984)
I was a huge Dokken fan boy back in the day, but Tooth and Nail is at best their 3rd best record. The album that followed this, Under Lock and Key, absolutely belongs on the list. I would consider their debut album Breaking the Chains before I would consider Tooth and Nail.
17. Europe The Final Countdown (1986)
No, just no.
16. Whitesnake Whitesnake (1987)
Finally, something I can agree with. I think I would move it up to the top 10 though. This was a huge album.
15. Spinal Tap This Is Spinal Tap soundtrack (1984)
I would place it at #11.
14. Queensryche Operation Mindcrime (1988)
IMHO, this is the most brilliant metal album of the 80s. However, they are not hair metal and it doesn't belong on this list at all.
13. Twisted Sister Stay Hungry (1984)
Another one they get right, although I might move it up a few places. The album prior to this, You Can't Stop Rock and Roll is Twisted Sister's best album. However, it isn't hair metal. It is angry metal.
12. Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet (1986)
It's easily a top 10 album, maybe top 5.
11. Cinderella Night Songs (1986)
I think Cinderella's debut record is their weakest release. They truly got better with every try, morphing into a damn fine blues rock band. If this belongs on the top 20 at all it barely sneaks in at 19 or 20.
10. Warrant Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989)
The song Cherry Pie is probably in part responsible for Jani Lane's early death due to addiction. It was a serious hook laden pop metal album though so I can't argue with the placement here.
9. Ratt Out Of The Cellar (1984)
Ratt peaked with their debut release. But it definitely belongs in the Top 20.
8. Def Leppard Hysteria (1987)
I might argue that this should be Top 5.
7. Faster Pussycat Faster Pussycat (1987)
A surprisingly inspired pick. Maybe a little over rated at #7, but not by much.
6. Poison Look What The Cat Dragged In (1986)
5. Motley Crue Shout At the Devil (1983)
I'd have it at #3 I think.
4. Skid Row Skid Row (1989)
Another great debut album but probably over rated at #4.
3. Motley Crue Too Fast For Love (1981)
Are they serious? It's a good record, but 3rd best hair metal album ever? I'd bet 99.9% of the people that ever owned this bought it after they bought Shout at The Devil. It was Motley Crue's demo record repackaged by the record company while The Crue was recording Shout At The Devil.
2. Def Leppard Pyromania (1983)
For my money Pyromania is the quintessential hair metal album. I'd put it at #1.
1. Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Guns N Roses was not hair metal. GnR was the first cut that led to the death of hair metal as a commericial genre. GnR was dangerous in the way that the Rolling Stones were dangerous in the early 70s and the Beatles were dangerous in the 60s and Elvis in the 50s. Hair Metal was light hearted and fun for the most part, with a big helping of teen angst mixed in. However, at the end of the day Vince Neil or Bret Michaels really weren't particularly scary. Axl Rose was scary. The anger and darkness that underlayed GnR music was the first step in a trip that ended with Nirvana. GnR has more in common with Nirvana and Pearl Jam than they do with Poison.
There are a few very notable albums missing from this list.
Quiet Riot Mental Health
The first hair metal album to break big on MTV and the first to hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Without Quiet Riot, many of the other bands on this list never get signed. Mental Health has to be a Top 10 album on this list. I'd put it at #2 because of the impact it had on the music industry.
Scorpions Love at First Sting
It was the pinnacle of the Scorpions commercial success. It was a huge freaking album loaded with great tunes. It absolutely belongs on the top 20 list.
Van Halen 1984
So they weren't really a hair metal band, but 1984 is absolutely a hair metal album and belongs on the list. I would listen to a case for 5150 being here too.
Motley Crue Theater of Pain
If Motley Crue deserves two albums in this list Theater of Pain is the 2nd album. It was kind of uneven overall but Home Sweet Home was so huge it compensates.
Ozzy Osbourne Bark At The Moon
Although the Prince of Darkness really isn't a career hair metal guy, he did go full on hair metal for this album, and it was a damn fine record. I'd consider arguments that it belongs on the list.