Pop Music’s Hottest 80’s Artists

Cher, Tina Turner and Diana Ross became popular pop musicians during the 1980s; Lionel Richie successfully blended soulful sounds into pop music and Paul McCartney collaborated with other successful musicians to remain relevant.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson emerged as one of the premier artists from the 80’s with his iconic music and charismatic performances. A master of theater, his concerts were an event. A multi-platinum pop star with hits like Billie Jean, Beat It, and Thriller to his credit, Jackson also helped pioneer music videos as an art form and set new boundaries through provocative images and dance sequences in them.

Jackson became a dominating force in pop music during this era thanks to his musical prowess and groundbreaking music videos, with songs like Off the Wall becoming household names as did 1982’s Thriller with its gravity defying moonwalk that mesmerized audiences everywhere he performed.

Madonna was among the major pop music figures of the 80’s; Lionel Richie, Tina Turner and Diana Ross also excelled. Madonna achieved multiple top ten hits like Like a Virgin and Material Girl during this era and she also experimented with sexually explicit music and imagery.

Lionel Richie first rose to prominence as part of the Commodores, before going on to achieve solo fame as an influential solo artist with his smooth voice and romantic ballads. His ability to pen emotive yet catchy songs cemented his place among today’s premier musicians.

George Michael first found success as part of Wham!, before finding solo success with Cyndi Lauper. Her soulful voice and sophisticated pop music won him legions of fans; other major artists of this era included Cyndi Lauper whose iconic music and groundbreaking videos, particularly Madonna (still one of her top 10 songs today). Additionally, popular bands from this period such as Tears for Fears, UB40, and Rick Astley enjoyed immense popularity during this era.


Annie Lennox and English musician Dave Stewart joined forces in 1980 after the disbandment of The Tourists to form Eurythmics. Together, their shared musical interests included experimental music from avant-garde German bands Neu! and Ash Ra Tempel that provided new avenues for composition – though they never managed to reach the top of charts or sell out stadiums; their groundbreaking experimentation helped pave way for future synth-based artists like Depeche Mode, The Proclaimers and Blondie.

Conny Plank, known for producing experimental German bands, produced their 1981 debut In the Garden; though its melancholic sound may have disappointed fans of the group, it gave listeners an indication of what was to come from this eclectic duo.

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This was released to great acclaim, becoming renowned for its distinctive sound and Annie’s soulful vocals. Their music, as well as their eccentric looks and quirky style were unlike anything seen on the music scene before.

This duo was an unparalleled force both in the studio and onstage, drawing comparisons to both David Bowie and Diana Ross when it comes to their androgynous appearance that made them instantly recognizable in pop music circles. At MTV’s launch, some of their videos were some of the first shown; further expanding their reach. Though they ceased performing together after 1999’s Peace album was released, both Stewart and Lennox continued making music individually as solo artists.

The Police

The Police were among the most successful pop artists of the 80s to embrace multiple styles and ideas without hesitation, pioneering space age imagery while reinvigorating rhythm-and-blues and rock music from yesteryear. Unlike naive punk bands of their time, unlike punk bands of 1970s; They were skilled musicians. Drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist Sting had performed with various jazz-rock combos before playing as one, guitarist Andy Summers having performed in several British rock bands before initially being dismissed as bandwagon jumpers; due to their experimentation coupled with successful albums they quickly earned credibility among fans as bandwagon jumpers!

From Outlandos d’Amour through Zenyatta Mondatta and Ghost in the Machine, The Police broadened their textural palette through guitar synthesizer, acoustic drums, piano, effects pedals and an impressive variety of effects. At the same time they introduced more political views into their music and lyrics.

They were among the early pioneers of hip hop music, which would later gain prominence due to acts like Run DMC and LL Cool J in the 80’s. At the height of their fame in the 2000s, The Police represented the diversity of hip hop music. Their albums showcased this shift from street-level gangsta rap to something more melodic and global; ending this decade on an impressive note for them. Synchronicity remains one of the most iconic records in pop music history. After their departure, Sting and Summers pursued solo careers; Sting revisited his jazz roots while adding Latin and folk influences; Summers released many adventurous records, in addition to making occasional acting appearances (such as 1979’s Quadrophenia).

The Associates

As soon as The Associates burst onto the scene in early 1982 with their signature song Party Fears Two, the music press went into hyperbolic overdrive, extolling their “supernatural presence” and Sulk’s ‘timeless majesty”.

But something special set it apart. Not only did it top the charts for nine weeks, but there was something else about this record that set it apart: its music had a unique sonic complexity that no one had heard before – full of mesmerizing melodies and intricate rhythms while also conveying emotion and drama.

The Associates were formed by two Scots from Edinburgh – Alan Rankine of Edinburgh and Dundee-born Billy MacKenzie – both natives to Scotland. While Rankine handled instrumental parts for songs, Billy MacKenzie sang them. MacKenzie was an exceptionally gifted vocalist able to sing low notes as well as high ones and with his unique style produced a sound unlike anything recorded today.

Rankine’s use of synthesizers and keyboards helped The Associates achieve an unforgettable sound, which would go on to influence many 80s pop artists. Furthermore, their complex song structures gave The Associates an edge over their competition.

The Associates songs stood out from most pop music at that time with its emphasis on love, romance and longing themes as well as its sensually sensual sound; many 80’s artists even included sexual references into their lyrics – making them very appealing to young audiences.

Van Halen

Although the 80s is often perceived as decade of excess, its music had an immense impact. From electric guitarists to gender-bending pop icons, artists of this period helped define this decade of big hair and bold fashion with their art.

Madonna became one of the best-known pop musicians of the 80s through her hits like Like A Virgin, Material Girl and La Isla Bonita from that decade. Madonna quickly rose to international stardom as a masterful musician who remains at the forefront of musical innovation throughout her career.

Van Halen introduced a unique sound to heavy metal music with their debut album debuting at No. 19 on the Billboard 200 and quickly becoming a hit due to its party vibe. While lead singer David Lee Roth deservedly received most of the recognition, Eddie Van Halen stood out among their peers with his remarkable guitar playing – his use of whammy bars, string bending techniques and adoption of baroque techniques redefined rock guitar forever.

Van Halen continued their success with three more albums; 5150 in 1986, OU812 in 1988 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge in 1992. Even with various lineup changes – Sammy Hagar was recommended by Eddie’s Ferrari mechanic to join in 1985 – recording two top-five albums prior to Roth pursuing solo work and in the following years three more top albums were issued before they released their greatest hits compilation in 1997.