Music of the 1980s

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    Genres 
  • Alternative Rock: Otherwise known as college or modern rock back in the early days, alternative in this era was more a conglomeration of disparate left field styles (i. e. jangle pop, synthpop, post-punk, noise rock, hardcore, early alternative metal, etc.), all of which nonetheless served as an alternative to the homogeny of mainstream rock and top 40 radio. Steadily became more popular as more bands scored major airplay and started joining major labels as the decade came to a close, helping set the stage for the genre's mainstream success the following decade..
  • MTV debuted and had a huge influence on the popularity of acts during this decade.
  • Italo Disco
  • Heavy Metal: This decade was major for the genre, with many of its subgenres seeing major development during it.
    • Doom Metal: Bands began expanding upon Black Sabbath's sound during this decade in a very deeply underground scene.
    • Hair Metal: Massively popular, often pop-leaning style possibly best remembered for outrageous fashions and the power ballads.
    • New Wave of British Heavy Metal: In its strongest form in 1980-83, declined due to many egregious cases of Follow the Leader. Left an undeniable legacy and influence in other forms of metal listed here.
    • Power Metal: First saw popularity around the middle of the decade, mostly in Europe.
    • Thrash Metal: Led by the "Big Four" of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, a massive underground scene for this sonically violent, punk-infused genre developed as a backlash to hair metal throughout the decade, accumulating in some mainstream success at the very end of it before falling off at the start of The '90s.
      • Black Metal: Got its seeds planted throughout the decade, although didn't reach its best known form until The '90s.
      • Death Metal: Slowly began being codified throughout the later half of the decade.
  • The rise of New Wave Music and its offshoot sub-genres like New Romanticism.
  • Hip-Hop: The Golden Age of Hip Hop starts late in this decade (circa 88).
  • There was a huge wave of synth heavy R&B acts during the early to mid 80's. Usually called Synth Funk, Post-Disco, Electro Funk (or Boogie), or "New Wave R&B". Most of the time R&B would overlap with those aforementioned genres. Especially artists from The '70s who were trying to stay relevant in the early 80's like The Whispers, and Cameo who all started out as either Funk, or Soul.
  • The hip hop/R&B fusion genre New Jack Swing got its official start in 1987 with Keith Sweat's debut album Make It Last Forever.

    Musicians 
  • 2 Live Crew: One of the first hardcore rap groups to make an impact on the charts. Their breakthrough hit "Me So Horny" brought forth a major obscenity controversy.
  • 10cc
  • 10,000 Maniacs: Rock group fronted by Natalie Merchant. Although most successful in the '90s, they began their careers in the '80s.
  • ABBA: Swedish band that began in the 1970s, but eventually fizzled out in the early 1980s.
  • ABC: Popular british synth-pop group who had a few overseas hits.
  • AC/DC: Legendary Australian hard rock band who replaced their late lead singer Bon Scott with Brian Johnson and became bigger than ever despite the switch.
  • Paula Abdul: Although more known today for her stint on American Idol, she proved to be the biggest breakout star of 1989.
  • Accept: German heavy-metal band best known internationally for their 1983 metal anthem "Balls to The Wall."
  • Adam and the Ants: While their premiere album was released in 1979, the Ants in their better-known second lineup achieved great success in the early 1980s, particularly with the 1981 hit "Stand and Deliver."
  • Adam Ant: After leaving the Ants, Adam continued to have a strong solo career.
  • Bryan Adams: Canadian pop-rock singer who became one of his country's biggest international success stories.
  • Aerosmith: Had a resurge in popularity after Run-DMC's "Walk This Way" cover became a hit.
  • The Afghan Whigs: Formed in 1986.
  • A Flock of Seagulls: Best known for their late 1982 hit "I Ran."
  • Afrika Bambaataa: Highly influential hip-hop musician.
  • aha: This Norwegian pop group had a number one hit in 1985 with "Take On Me" thanks to its partially-animated music video becoming an MTV hit. They remained popular everywhere but the US.
  • Air Supply: Formed in the mid-70s, but the early 80s is when they had their big international breakthrough.
  • Al B. Sure!: One of New Jack Swing's earliest crossover artists.
  • The Alan Parsons Project
  • The Alarm: Welsh Rock/New Wave band who had several hits in the UK throughout the decade.
  • Alcatrazz
  • GG Allin: Batshit insane and controversial rock musician. Better known for his outrageously offensive stage acts than his music.
  • Maria Conchita Alonso: (Her first record came out in 1979, but she had many successful Spanish-language records in the 1980s.)
  • Alphaville: A group best remembered in the U.S. for their two minor hits "Big in Japan" and "Forever Young."
  • Laurie Anderson
  • Angel Witch
  • Annihilator
  • Anthrax: One of the most popular thrash-metal bands of all time first made a name for themselves in the late 1980s.
  • Ricardo Arjona
  • Art Of Noise: Collaborated with Tom Jones and advertising mascot Max Headroom for two top 40 hits.
  • Asia: One of the most successful rock "supergroups," this band "heat" up the charts in the middle of the decade.
  • The Associates: Popular Post-Punk/New Wave band in the UK.
  • Rick Astley: British pop singer whose #1 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" is now best known as the subject of a popular internet prank. (also see Ashley Tisdale)
  • The B-52s: Although they formed in 1976 and released their first album in 1979, the Eighties were their most successful decade by far. In the late 1980s, their music finally crossed over to mainstream radio.
  • P.D.Q. Bach
  • Bad Brains
  • Bad Religion
  • Anita Baker: A female R&B singer whose ballads became quite popular.
  • Bananarama: A British girl group who had a series of hits in the mid-80's including "Cruel Summer" and a cover of the 1970 hit "Venus." (also see Ace of Base)
  • The Bangles: One of the first all-female rock bands to have major commercial success, having many top 10 hits throughout the latter half of the decade.
  • Barenaked Ladies: Released their first indie tapes in 1988-1989. (also see The Big Bang Theory)
  • Bar Kays: Electro-funk (and formally Funk) group who made hits such as "Hit And Run" and the heart-attack-inducing "Freakshow On The Dance Floor".
  • Wild Willy Barrett
  • Bauhaus: An influential late 1970s band, continued releasing new material until their 1983 breakup. They considered founders of Goth Rock.
  • Beastie Boys: Widely considered to be pioneers of the rap-rock movement, they were solely responsible for breaking the color barrier of rap.
  • The Beat
  • The Beatles
  • Beat Happening: Influential in the indie pop sub-genre of Alternative Rock.
  • The Beautiful South
  • The Bee Gees
  • Leonard Bernstein
  • Pat Benatar: A famous female rock musician of the decade.
  • Berlin
  • Big Black
  • Big Daddy Kane: Although he never scored a hit until 1991, his work in the 1980s is still just as important.
  • Billy Bragg: English protest singer.
  • The Birthday Party: Influential Post-Punk band, best known as Nick Cave's first band (see below).
  • Björk: Rose to fame as the lead singer of a band, "The Sugarcubes".
  • Black Flag
  • Blondie: Female-fronted rock band who first gained traction in 1979 but continued their momentum through the early '80s.
  • Bolt Thrower
  • Bon Jovi: The band that launched the pop-metal movement in the '80s.
  • David Bowie: Vital to The '70s but in this decade had the biggest-selling album of his career with Let's Dance. (also see SpongeBob SquarePants)
  • Bobby Brown: Member of New Edition who went solo in 1986, and helped pioneer the sound of New Jack Swing.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Band who scored one big late 1988 hit with "Waiting For A Star To Fall"
  • Georges Brassens: Still went strong until his death in 1981.
  • James Brown: Had a few more hits during the decade.
  • Jackson Browne
  • The Buggles: Best known for "Video Killed the Radio Star," the song that introduced the world to MTV in 1981.
  • Kate Bush: Already an established star in the UK, she had her North American breakthrough with Hounds of Love in 1985.
  • Butthole Surfers: Debuted in this decade, made their commercial breakthrough in the 90s.
  • Cab Calloway
  • Cameo: Debuted in 1974, had their most famous hit "Word Up!" in 1986.
  • Camper Van Beethoven: Rock band best known for their college radio hit "Take The Skinheads Bowling" and their hit cover of "Pictures of Matchstick Men."
  • Captain Beefheart: Released one album in 1982 and quit the music business for good that same year.
  • Cardiacs

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