The 80’s. What a decade.
It was filled with cheese, pop, rock, soul, funk. Pretty much a bit of everything. The decade that made the charts diverse worldwide.
I am going to countdown the 20 artists that represent that decade very well. It is not strictly based on who sold the most records or how many musical achievements they have achieved. It is more a personal opinion chart. I am sure I have missed many people out since 20 is a very restricting number for having to pick musicians within a ten year period.
To qualify for this chart the artist or band has to have released music in the 80’s. Its that simple. Even if they started out in the 60’s or 70’s, it doesn’t matter. If they released anything in the 80’s then they quality for this chart.
20. Lionel Richie
Starting off our chart, it’s Mr. Lionel Richie. He was part of the mid-60’s group The Commodores which eventually made him decide to have a solo career in the early 80’s. He released 3 studio albums including the very successful Can’t Slow Down. Lionel’s soulful songs are a huge part of the 80’s that made him a household name.
Key 80’s album: Can’t Slow Down, Dancing On The Ceiling
Key 80’s singles: Hello, Penny Lover, All Night Long (All Night), Running with the Night, Dancing On The Ceiling
19. Cyndi Lauper
She released one of the biggest female anthems of all time, Cyndi Lauper is at #19. She started out in 1983 with her colourful sense of fashion taste and bold pop songs. She released 3 studio albums in the 80’s with 9 Grammy nominations in total with her winning Best New Artist in 1985. For all 3 studio albums, she toured for them worldwide.
Key 80’s album: She’s So Unusual
Key 80’s singles: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Time After Time, True Colors
18. Grace Jones
She does it all. Act, sing, write, model. You don’t wanna mess with Grace Jones, she’ll eat you alive. Although she started music in the 70’s, Grace continued to release music until 1989 till she took a long break from music. Grace, an overall icon is always influencing new upcoming stars. Her bold and unique style has separated her from every other female.
Key 80’s albums: Nightclubbing, Slave to the Rhythm
Key 80’s singles: Slave to the Rhythm, Pull Up to the Bumper, My Jamaican Guy
Blondie and lead singer Deborah Harry dominated the early 80’s. They started out in the 70’s where they released the hugely successful ‘Parallel Lines’ in 1978. Blondie only released two studio albums in the 80’s which leaded them to have 3 #1 singles in a row with Call Me, Atomic and The Tide Is High in the UK. From then on Debbie Harry decided to go solo for a while, not the same amount of success as she had with her band.
Key 80’s album: Autoamerican
Key 80’s singles: Atomic, Call Me, The Tide Is High
16. David Bowie
The 70’s was the decade where Bowie released his most loved work and the 80’s is where he struggled a lot. In 1980 and 1983 he released the albums Scary Monsters and Lets Dance which were a commercial success with great reviews, but the other two Tonight and Never Let Me Down were a huge downfall for Bowie. They lacked everything his other albums had and pretty much have been totally forgotten about. But it wasn’t all bad for Bowie, he achieved hit singles like Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, China Girl and Lets Dance which are some of his biggest.
Key 80’s albums: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), Let’s Dance
Key 80’s singles: Ashes To Ashes, Fashion, Up The Hill Backwards, Let’s Dance, China Girl, Modern Love
15. Whitney Houston
They say she is the best vocalist of all time, Whitney Houston won millions off with her voice and beautiful ballads and pop tracks. Her debut album went on to be the first debut album to achieve 3 #1 hits. Not only that she was nominated for 8 Grammy awards in that decade winning Best Pop Vocal from a female in 1986 and 1988. Within 5 years of the 80’s Whitney Houston sold over 55 million albums worldwide.
Key 80’s albums: Whitney Houston, Whitney
Key 80’s tracks: Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, So Emotional
14. Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi came onto the scene with their self-titled debut album in 1984 where they reached success in the US. But they became worldwide stars when they released their 3rd record Slippery When Wet in 1986. Since then the band have had a huge musical journey, still till now selling worldwide stadium tours.
Key 80’s albums: Slippery When Wet, New Jersey
Key 80’s singles: Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name, Wanted Dead or Alive, Bad Medicine
The most successful rock band of all time, Queen make an appearance at #13. If you think they couldn’t top hits like We Will Rock You, Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions, then they did. They did a song with Bowie called Under Pressure which was a massive success, they also had Radio Ga Ga, Another One Bites The Dust and I Want To Break Free.
Key 80’s album: The Works
Key 80’s singles: Another One Bites The Dust, Under Pressure, Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free, I Want It All
12. Kate Bush
A British gem is what Kate Bush is. She burst onto the scene in 1978 with her breakthrough debut #1 single Wuthering Heights. Since then Kate has continued to be original and mysterious wanting us to want more. Her album Never For Ever in 1980 made her the first female to debut at #1 on the UK albums chart. She has written and produced albums all by herself way before it was a normal thing to do. Kate is a pioneer by being the first artist to use a hands free mic on tour too. You can read about that here.
Key 80’s albums: Never For Ever, The Dreaming, Hounds of Love, The Sensual World
Key 80’s singles: Babooshka, Hounds of Love, Running Up That Hill, Sat In Your Lap, Cloudbusting
Sade, the soundtrack to our love lives with a beautiful lead singer. Her sultry sexy image and voice made us fall in love with her from the start. They have sold over 50 million units worldwide to date and were ranked at #50 on VH1’s chart of 100 greatest musicians of all time. They’re debut album released in 1984 won them a Brit Award for Best Album in 1985. They’re the type of band who can go missing for 10 years and come back stronger than ever like they proved in 2010.
Key 80’s albums: Diamond Life, Stronger Than Pride
Key 80’s singles: Your Love Is King, When Am I Going To Make A Living, Hang On To Your Love, Smooth Operator, The Sweetest Taboo, Never As Good As The First Time, Paradise, Nothing Can Come Between Us
10. Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine
Before J-Lo there was Gloria Estefan and her band. Latin dance hits like Dr. Beat and Conga have stood the test of time. Gloria is officially the most successful female Latin crossover artist of all time. Grammy awards, million of records sold, number 1 hit singles and worldwide success. You name it, her and the band achieved it in the 80’s!
Key 80’s albums: Anything for You/Let it Loose, Cut Both Ways
Key 80’s singles: Dr. Beat, Conga, Rhythm is Gonna Get You, Get On Your Feet, Don’t Wanna Lose You
09. Fleetwood Mac
The band released one of the most famous albums in the world in 1977, Rumours. Ten years later in 1987 they released they’re second most successful, Tango In The Night which kept them on the top of their game. The band have continued to make hit singles throughout all the decades that still sound fresh and timeless. Little Lies and Everywhere, potentially they’re most well known songs within the 80’s decade still sound as current as ever.
Key 80’s albums: Mirage, Tango In The Night
Key 80’s singles: Oh Diane, Gypsy, Little Lies, Big Love, Everywhere
08. George Michael
He was part of pop phenomenon Wham! who quit on their peak. On Whams album Make It Big, George released his first solo single Careless Whisper which became one of the most successful singles of the 80’s becoming a number 1 single worldwide. In 1987 he released his debut album Faith which went onto break musical records with hit after hit single. It is also in the best selling list of albums worldwide.
Key 80’s album: Faith
Key 80’s singles: Careless Whisper, Faith, I Want Your Sex, Monkey, Father Figure
Pop duo Eurythmics released their first studio in 1981 which didn’t make any impact at all. In 1983, everything was different – everyone knew their name. They released two albums within that year Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Touch which contained hit singles Who’s That Girl?, Right By Your Side, Here Comes The Rain Again and the title track Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) which was a #1 in the US making them one of the first UK acts to crack America. The success continued with worldwide success on further studio album releases giving them over 10 hit singles.
Key 80’s albums: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Touch, Be Yourself Tonight, Revenge
Key 80’s singles: Love is a Stranger, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Right By Your Side, Who’s That Girl?, Here Comes The Rain Again, Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves, There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), When Tomorrow Comes
06. Depeche Mode
They existed at the very beginning of the 80’s and they still exist now. Depeche Mode are #6 on this top 20 chart. The band have done it all: pop, dance, rock, electronica. They have released 13 albums over time and 6 in the 80’s. They have become known as the most popular electronic band in the world according to Q magazine with a huge legacy and influence behind them. Their classic 80’s singles have been covered and sampled in many modern day tracks from all genres (Rihanna – SOS, Infernal – I Won’t Be Crying, Marilyn Manson – Personal Jesus, etc.) which make them the most iconic electronic band too.
Key 80’s albums: Speak & Spell, Construction Time Again, Black Celebration
Key 80’s singles: Just Can’t Get Enough, Everything Counts, Shake The Disease, Strangelove, Personal Jesus.
Prince was for sure one of the most talented musicians to be part of the 80’s. His impressive creativeness stood him apart from his competition. Whether it was for a soundtrack album or a studio album, Prince would always be doing his thing no matter what. 9 studio albums released and 10 Grammy nominations all in one decade with him winning 4 of those Grammys. Not only that, he went on 8 tours in the 80’s too. Prince sure dominated that decade.
Key 80’s albums: Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Sign ‘O’ The Times
Key 80’s singles: 1999, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Purple Rain, Kiss, Sign ‘O’ The Times, Hot Thing
04. Janet Jackson
The youngest sibling of the Jackson family, Janet took Control of her career and made a name for herself on her own terms. In 1986 she released the hugely successful album Control shocking people that she could make a career out of her own family name. The album went onto have 5 top 5 singles on the US Billboard chart which included her first #1 When I Think Of You. She then went on to release her next album Rhythm Nation 1814 in 1989 which made music history. She is the only artist to have 7 top 5 hits from one album on the US Billboard charts with 4 of them going to #1. Her tour for the record too is also the highest grossing debut tour ever as well.
To look at Janet Jackson’s most iconic moments click here.
Key 80’s albums: Control, Rhythm Nation 1814
Key 80’s singles: Control, Nasty, What Have You Done For Me Lately, When I Think Of You, Let’s What Awhile, The Pleasure Principle, Miss You Much, Rhythm Nation
03. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s had started to gain popularity in the late 70’s but it wasn’t until 1984 when his popularity made him a phenomenon. That same year he released his album Born In The USA, his most successful and famous record which sold 15 million in the US and over 30 million worldwide. The album has the most top 10 singles from one album on the US Billboard chart along with Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson with 7. In the 80’s Springsteen won two Grammys and was the decade that made him the boss he is today.
Key 80’s albums: The River, Born In The USA, Tunnel of Love
Key 80’s singles: Hungry Heart, Dancing In The Dark, Glory Days, Born In The USA, Cover Me, Brilliant Disguise, Tunnel of Love, Tougher Than The Rest
02. Michael Jackson
The most famous man on earth, Michael Jackson. He was the star of the 70’s when he was a cute teen and continued his success in the 80’s. In 1982 Thriller, Michael’s 6th studio went onto be the best selling album worldwide selling over 60 million records. The album has 7 top 10 hits on the US Billboard chart, won a record-breaking 8 Grammys in 1984 including one for Album Of The Year. He then went onto release his 7th studio album Bad in 1987 which achieved 5 #1 singles on the US Billboard chart along with Katy Perry. Both Thriller and Bad are huge legacy albums in the 80’s that have remained relevant as time has gone on. Michael Jackson is officially the best selling male solo artist of all time selling over 400 million. Michael Jackson is the true King of Pop.
Key 80’s albums: Thriller, Bad
Key 80’s singles: Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Billie Jean, Beat It, Human Nature, PYT, Thriller, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, Dirty Diana, Man In The Mirror, Smooth Criminal
It was a very tough call for who should be #1 but it would only be right to give it to the queen of pop, Madonna. When people think of pop stars from the 80’s, Madonna is one of the first you think of. She released her first self-titled album in 1983 with her bold 80’s fun style with the hits to match. She then went onto re-invent herself with her 2nd studio album Like A Virgin in 1984. The album included her first US Billboard chart #1 with the title track. The album was described as “the album of the 80’s” and is known to be such a defining moment in her career. In 1986 Madonna released True Blue, her 3rd studio album which became her best selling studio album with sales of over 25 million worldwide. It has been described as the archetype of the late 80’s and early 90’s pop albums. All 5 of the singles went top 5 on the US Billboard chart with Live to Tell, Papa Don’t Preach and Open Your Heart going to #1. Madonna’s 4th and last studio album of the 80’s Like A Prayer was a continuation of success for her. The title track single has become one of her best selling singles and the album went onto sell over 15 million records worldwide. By the time it came to 1990 Madonna was the best selling female worldwide. Every single she had released was a top 10 success in the UK, she had sold out multiple tours worldwide, been in blockbuster films with successful soundtrack albums to match, album sales that were in the best selling worldwide lists and was named the “Artist of the Decade” by Billboard, MTV and Musician magazine. Madonna’s re-invention of sound and image has made her the best selling female artist of all time with sales of over 350 million.
Key 80’s albums: Madonna, Like A Virgin, True Blue, Like A Prayer
Key 80’s singles: Holiday, Borderline, Like A Virgin, Material Girl, Into The Groove, Dress You Up, Papa Don’t Preach, La Isla Bonita, Open Your Heart, True Blue, Who’s That Girl, Like A Prayer, Express Yourself, Cherish