February 18, 2013 12:00 PM

>1. STEVIE WONDER

Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

He’d already won Album of the Year twice (’73’s Innervisions, ’74’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale), but Wonder’s double disc was a life-changer.

KEY TRACKS

“Love’s in Need of Love Today,” “I Wish”

2. U2

The Joshua Tree (1987)

The Irish rockers, who also triumphed for 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, found spiritual transcendence.

KEY TRACKS

“With or Without You,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

3. MICHAEL JACKSON

Thriller (1982)

Although I’m partial toward 1979’s Off the Wall, this is the undisputed champ of all pop blockbusters.

KEY TRACKS

“Billie Jean,” “Beat It”

4. LAURYN HILL

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

The ’90s weren’t great for Album of the Year winners, but in brilliantly fusing R&B and hip-hop, Hill schooled ’em.

KEY TRACKS

“Doo Wop (That Thing)”

5. ADELE

21 (2011)

With soul beyond her years on a cathartic breakup album, she achieved something timeless.

KEY TRACKS

“Rolling in the Deep,” “Someone Like You”

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