Music and artistes from the awesome 1980s
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
Who is your favorite 1980s artiste?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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