A debut album is often the most significant release in a musician’s career. While many artists will go on to develop their sound and produce some of their best and most commercial work on later releases, that first record often defines their musical mission. Serving as statements of intent, the best debut albums have enthralled fans, inspired countless other musicians and – sometimes – reshaped the music industry as a whole.
Here, then, are 40 of the best debut albums of all time: game-changing classics that served notice of their creators’ genius.
Listen to our Rock Classics playlist, and check out our list of the best debut albums, below.
40: Ed Sheeran: ‘+’ (2011)
With his refreshingly contemporary breed of folk-pop and hip-hop-inspired verbosity, Ed Sheeran’s debut album, +, marked the arrival of a peerless songwriter. Just 20 years old at the time of its release, Sheeran proved himself as adept at crafting affecting love ballads as he was conjuring beats from his loop-pedal to back up his delirious rapping, as on his career-launching song You Need Me, I Don’t Need You. Though Ed Sheeran would go on to find even greater commercial success with later releases, + saw him effortlessly turn in one of the best debut albums of the 2010s and set out his stall as one of Britain’s top-tier tunesmiths.
Must hear: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You