Ah, the ‘80s. Big hair, Ronald Reagan, Cheers… what an era! If you grew up before or in that time, you surely remember how much the music created in those 10 years influence not only your own life but those around you, even up to today’s artists. Here are 10 acts who dominated the decade’s soundscape.
There’s no talking about the sound of the ‘80s without including this British group. With mega hits like “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf,” Simon Le Bon and company rocked the world with dreamy music that perfectly matched the decadence of a generation raised on Reaganomics.
Hall & Oates
This two-man outfit is the poster band for both blue-eyed soul and yacht rock. Listen to Daryl Hall’s bluesy and longing croons on songs like “One on One”, then notice the pop-funk in his voice as he knocks out uptempo tracks like “Maneater” and “I Can’t Go For That,” and pretend you don’t want to toss on a pair of flip-flops, aviator shades and peach-colored shorts even if you’re sadly not near the beach.
All hail the King of Pop. Sure, MJ technically began his career before the ‘80s as the leader of The Jackson Five, but it was 1982’s Thriller, led by the production genius of Quincy Jones, that turned the world upside-down with what is still considered the greatest music video of all time (zombies!!), and a flawless tracklist that had guest appearances by Eddie Van Halen, Paul McCartney and yes–Vincent Price.
It’s easy to forget that The Material Girl began with songs like “Like a Virgin” if you weren’t raised in the time that she was introduced to the world. Now seen as a maverick maven of music and a dominant figure in the history of female musical icons, Madonna’s fearless approach to controversy and sexuality made her a heroine to fans of all races and sexes, and influenced everyone from Janet Jackson to Lady Gaga.
Tears For Fears
This British new wave duo astounded the world with stadium-ready power ballads and melodic, emotional escapades. With each massive record (“Shout”, “Head Over Heels,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”), they turned crowds of fans into on-demand choirs, singing along to thematic, synthesizer-heavy hits that have never been duplicated or closely mimicked.
You didn’t have to see the movie Purple Rain to know that Prince ruled the ‘80s. With amazing hair (seriously), mascara, a sweaty/hairy chest and a long list of hit songs that don’t even need to be listed to be known, the Minneapolis native could only be compared to himself, and shared his talent with everyone from Sinead O’Connor to Sheila E, Sheena Easton and many, many others. Oh, and we don’t even need to go through his famously high-quality selection of lovely ladies. Grab a Revolution album and party like 1999 is always years away.
The Beastie Boys
Take punk rock and rap, the two biggest musical movements on the streets in the ‘80s, drop them in a bucket of explosives, and shake. What you get are three ridiculously rebellious dudes (R.I.P. to Adam “MCA” Yauch) who taught the world how to fight for their right to party, and aggressively (and to many parents, annoyingly) advised that there would be no sleep ‘til Brooklyn.
Though he may not have had the sex appeal of other stars on this list, Phil Collins had songs that almost define the ‘80s, from the good-time-initiating “Sussudio” to the heart-tugging “Against All Odds,” and the unforgettable “In The Air Tonight,” the English drummer-turned-singer made everybody imagine they were living inside an episode of Miami Vice.
While their compatriots The Beasties were doing their thing, Run, D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay were bringing street level to the mainstream with a classic look (leather clothing, brimmed mobster hats and shell-top Adidas), a hard-edged delivery, and a timeless Aerosmith mashup that is credited for bringing rap music to the forefront of popular music.
You’ve gotta have Faith. No, really. If you wanna know what one of the greatest albums of the ‘80s sounds like (or any time period if you consider the start-to-finish hits), grab a copy of this timeless debut from the Wham! frontman, and trip about how one guy could make a sound that incorporated rock, pop, funk, soul, jazz lounge and country into one masterpiece. Then give the guy credit for making everybody after him wear torn, stonewashed jeans.