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Music and artistes from the awesome 1980s

Updated on September 4, 2013
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By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

Who is your favorite 1980s artiste?

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The eighties - a time of big earrings, spandex and huge hair.

I was in preschool during the time and remember teachers who took such trends of the times to heart.

The eighties was a decade of outstanding fashion. Musically, it the decade has distinguishing characteristics that lets everyone know that what they are hearing is 1980s music without a doubt.

The decade represented fun, the listenable, the danceable and with new influxes in musical technology, the technological.

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Popular music and dance styles of the 1980s

The 1980s marked the start of new waves of music and the emergence of new forms of musical technology. Synthesizers and extended guitar solos were the features of the music of the 1980s.

Dancing at a disco meant something different during the era, pushing the 1970s hustle to a back seat. Sounds of the 1980s were also markedly different, with musical styles and their sub genres making an appearance.

Dance Music

Post Disco

The decade began with a backlash against disco music in the late 1970s and ending with House music in the late 1980s. Shortly after the Disco Sucks bashing movement, people began to pay attention to other forms of music. Like all 1980s music, Post Disco music was characterized by the heavy use of keyboards and synthesizers It lacked hi hat driven beat, string orchestration and sequencers.

Soulful female vocals characterized post disco. In Britain, musicians continued to play both old fashioned disco and and new wave music, which gave post disco an alternative twist. Hence the presence of acts like Chaz Jenzel, Central Line or Imagination.

Italo Music

This music originated in Italy and was produced from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. It is also tied to the marketing efforts of the ZYX which licensed the production of music out of Italy after 1982.

It featured electronic sounds, drum machines, catchy melodies, vocoders, overdubs and heavily accented English lyrics.

It was pioneered by acts like Cerrone and Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra. Themes mainly dealt with Robots and Space.

Euro Disco

Indeed, the European fever began to burn with a vengeance. Electronic dance music with an European flavor began to take root in the 1980s and a continuous disco like atmosphere began to take shape.

With the increased popularity of events like the Eurovision song contest, European disco began to really make waves. The song Waterloo by ABBA is an example of a Eurodance song that became popular during the time.

Rock Music of the 1980s

Rock music of the 1980s began to take on a different form. The 1980s saw the beginning of digital music, with the introduction of more synthesizers and electronic keyboards.

New wave music

New Wave music began with its ties to punk rock, incorporating elements of electronic or experimental music.

New Wave music relies heavily on the use of synthesizers and focuses on the styling and the arts. It began in earnest in 1976, with bands disassociating themselves from the influences of punk rock. The term was first used to describe new British Acts like ABBA. Later bands like Tears For Fears and A Ha began to produce music that was characteristic of the new wave.

The term New Wave was used to describe more electronic, synthesized forms of music in the United Kingdom before the United States. In Europe, the wave ended before the mid 1980s. It was used for the remainder of the 1980s to describe this wave of music in America.

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Glam Metal

This sub genre of hard rock took form in the 1980s. It was a fusion of punk rock, punk metal with hard rock. It relied on catchy hooks and guitar riffs and borrowed from the 1970s influences of Glam Rock. It often featured shred guitar solos.

Songs of the era were emotionally strong that culminated in a pounding finale. Think of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.

Pop

The 1980s saw the reinvention of the talented Michael Jackson, who began to make waves with constant reshaping of his facial features. He made new waves with the successful Thriller album, released in 1982 and selling more than 110 million copies worldwide. Madonna, Whitney Houston, Prince and Janet Jackson were arguably the most successful artists of the time.

Alternative rockAlternative Rock in the 1980s was still an underground form, featured mainly in fanzines or on college radio stations. Alternative bands toured constantly and released low budget albums. Alternative artists at the time did not enjoy much mainstream success, but had a considerable influence on future artists to come.

Soft rock

By the early 1980s, singer-songwriters had been absorbed into a soft rock format. The term, by end of the 1980s, was applied to a predominantly female U.S group of artists, such as Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman and K.D. Lang.

Contemporary R and B

Musicians began to add disco like beats and fuse elements of soul, hip hop and funk to rhythm and blues to make things danceable and modern. Mainstream R and B artists included Michael Jackson, his brother Jermaine, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Lionel Richie.

Female stars like Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson broke into the contemporary R and B scene with strings of hits.

Thriller By Michael Jackson

Popular songs of the 1980s

Thriller by Michael Jackson

Composed by Rod Temperton and produced by Quincy Jones, this is the 7th and final song from Jackson’s studio album of the same name. It was released on November 12, 1983 in most countries. It has appeared on compilations of Jackson’s Greatest Hits.

The song uses many instruments including basslines and synthesizers. To me, the voice over by Vincent Price and a 13 minute drama were contributing factors to making this number an MTV hit.

Fast Car Tracy Chapman

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

This was a single by singer and songwriter Tracy Chapman. It was released in 1988 from her self-titled debut album. Chapman appeared on Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute, which was a catalyst for the song peaking at No. 6 on the Blllboard Hot Hundred Charts.

The song re-entered the charts in 2011 after being performed by Michael Collings on Britain’s got talent. It lay in the same peak position as it did in 1988.

I am amazed by Chapman’s low, almost ethereal vocals, soft rock to a T.

Holiday by Madonna

Holiday by Madonna

This is a single from Madonna’s self-titled debut album. Released in a mixed form in several dance compilations, including You Can Dance and the Immaculate Collection, it was written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Hudson of Pure Energy.

Madonna was offered the song by her producer, John Jellybean Benitez, while looking for a potential hit track to include in her debut album. A piano solo was included by her friend, Fred Zarr.

The song features instrumental handclaps and is synthesized. It became Madonna’s first hit single, entering the billboard charts in the top 20.’

This number always never fails to make me want to board a plane.

I just called to say I love you

I just called to say I love you by Stevie Wonder

Written, produced and performed by Stevie Wonder, this was one of his commercially most successful singles. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984 and remained there for a consecutive three weeks.

The song was also Wonder’s 10th number 1 on the R and B charts and his 4th number 1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. It received 3 nominations at the 27th Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year and Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

One of my favorite numbers that waxes lyrical of true romance.

Karma Chameleon Culture Club

Karma Chameleon

From the Culture Club’s album Color by Numbers, this song reached the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1984. A huge global hit, it hit #1 in 16 countries worldwide and was in the top ten in several more.

It was the second single to reach number one on the UK Singles chart. I love this number because of its danceable rhythm and its lyrical content. It embraces that if we are not sincere, we receive Karma justice.

A Ha Take On Me

Take On Me by A Ha

By synthpop band A Ha from their studio album Hunting High, Hunting Low, this number epitomizes the 1980s New Wave sound. Besides the synthesizers, it utilizes acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums.

The music video for this song won 6 awards and was nominated for 2 others at the MTV video awards. It features the group in pencil sketch form in a comic book.

I personally like this number because Morten Harket does a wonderful job with his falsetto!

Living on a prayer by Bon Jovi

Living on a prayer by Bon Jovi

From their Slippery When Wet album, this song was written by Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child. Released in 1986, it was given much airtime on both Rock and Pop radio. It was the band’s 2nd consecutive Number 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit and has become its signature song.

The Best by Tina Turner

The Best by TIna Turner

Originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler, the song became a hit for Tina Turner who covered it in 1989. One of her more successful singles, it peaked at number #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and made it to the list of top five songs in both the UK and Germany.

Saving All My Love For You by Whitney Houston

Saving all my love for you by Whitney Houston

Slow and seductive (and a little controversial), the song was released in 1985 and became a huge hit for Houston, selling over 3 million copies worldwide. It entered the Billboard Chart at number 53, reaching the top ten five weeks later. It eventually reached the number one spot in the third week of October and the top 10 in various countries around the world. Houston won the Grammy in 1986 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

The 1980s was characterized by danceable, soulful, electronic tunes. Do share your love for the 1980s in the comments!

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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 3 years ago from Arizona

      Brings back some memories...I remember Phil Collins creating a lot of romantic feelings...I loved Madonna and still do. thanks for putting this most interesting hub together...Gotta read it once more.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      On popular music and artists of the 1980s.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Michael Jackson got my vote! Followed closely by Boy George. The 80's had some fun and memorable music!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I had to vote for Stevie Wonder; I wasn't a big fan of the rest of them. Nice job on this article, Michelle!

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I still love the song "Fast Car" and play it in my car!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you. I can use this info for my FB wall.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Still loved the 80s music so much and you named so many that I loved back and then day and still now. But by far my favorite was Madonna and my dad actually bought me my first record with her very first album back in the day! Thanks for sharing this Michelle and brought back some great memories for me.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes it did, Linda!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Love him too, Bill!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Very comprehensive Michelle. You really covered a lot of ground. Being from a slightly older crowd than you my music choices differ slightly too but I have to admit the songs you chose here are all great songs and your explanations of the genres are right on spot!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Me too, Christy!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I enjoyed the music of all the '80s artists you featured. I can recall playing (and singing--bacause, back then I still had a voice) "Karma Chameleon" over and over and over....

      While I agree that "awesome" defines '80s music, my favorite period will always be the "sensational"'70s, which put Classic Rock on the musical map.

      Voted Up++

      Jaye

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great hub! I was raised mainly with classical music but as an adult, I slowly discovered other genres of music. I think that Michael Jackson was a genius of music and dance as well. Too bad he past away so young. He still had a lot to bring to music!

      I loved Whitney Houston as well... who also died way too young!

      Tina Turner and Bon Jovi are great too!

      A lot of these artists brought a lot to the next generations of artists for sure!

      Thank you for sharing this great hub, Michelle! Voted up, very interesting and awesome!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 3 years ago from Georgia country

      I was born in the 80's and I grew up with the music and the artists you described in your hub. Your hub is very well-written and interesting. I still love many artists today like Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder. Thank you for sharing this wonderful hub.

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      midget38, what a great, educational hub about the different era's of music. Some of this music brought back such great memories for me!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Please do, Hatter!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Madonna's a fave of mine too!!!Thanks j9

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the share, Mary!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Karma Chamelon's one of those addictive songs! Can't stop singing it!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, MJ died way too young. Sad that he couldn't get his personal life sorted out, though!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Glad to hare rthe memories, Janet

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Those were the days, career mommy!

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

      That's a great hub about a fabulous decade. Brought back memories and some wonderful songs! Excellent hub and presentation.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Glad to share, Elias!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Wonderful memories from days gone by.

      Thanks for sharing Michelle.

      Eddy.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Music and artistes from the awesome 1980s geat hub, so well presented and music from the eighties was one of my best

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, DDE

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