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Music of the 1980s

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  • 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, first breaking into the American mainstream in 1987 following a number of unprecedentedly successful releases in the genre, helping set the stage for the genre's mainstream dominance the following decade.
    • Grunge, especially at the end of the decade, though it didn't get mainstream recognition until The '90s
    • Hardcore Punk
    • Jangle Pop was born in The '60s, but reemerged as the first identifiable face of alternative rock in 1981.
    • Post-Punk technically predated and was the mother genre to alternative rock itself, but was later conglomerated into the movement as its sister genres New Wave Music and Synth-Pop quickly achieved mainstream success early in the decade.
    • Queercore, though it did not really take off until The '90s and never was well known.
  • MTV debuted and had a huge influence on the popularity of acts during this decade.
  • 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.
  • Italo Disco: A synth-heavy dance genre that emerged in Italy early in this decade and saw increased commercialization and production quality in the remainder, in addition to songs inspired by Italo produced in other mainland Europe nations with Germany being the lead. Had its roots from (Italian) disco, Europop, and Progressive rock.

  • 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.
  • Juan Atkins. Formed Cybotron in 1980. Released their debut record in 1983.
  • Big Country: Scottish Alternative Rock rock band famous for their use of the E-bow, which made front-man Stuart Adamson's guitar sound like bagpipes. Best known for their 1983 hit "In a Big Country".
  • 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.
  • a-ha: 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
  • Alexander James Adams: A Celtic musician who began his career in the 80s as "Heather Alexander".
  • Alex Johnson (Alix Plain, (St.) Ché)
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Barón Rojo: A Spanish Heavy Metal band born in 1980, the Trope Maker for Spanish Rock bands and still active until today.
  • 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. Known as The English Beat in America due to a threatened lawsuit from an American band of the same name.
  • The Beatles: Weren't active in the conventional sense due to having already broken up in 1970 and due to John Lennon's murder in 1980, but experienced a large-scale posthumous revival in popularity (which continues to this day), most notably a widely-publicized worldwide Compact Disc reissue campaign of their British album backlog; the surviving three members also reunited in 1989 for the purpose of putting together the Anthology compilation albums and documentary series, which would come to fruition the following decade.
  • 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
  • Bi-2: A Russian Alternative Rock band that was originally formed in 1988 but only became popular in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s.
  • 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.
  • Blue Öyster Cult: Faded after about 1983 but maintained their The '70s success into this decade.
  • Blues Traveler
  • Bolt Thrower
  • Bon Jovi: The band that launched the pop-metal movement in the '80s.
  • David Bowie: Vital to The '70s but became a worldwide phenomenon in this decade with the success of Let's Dance; however, a focus on maintaining mainstream audiences and high sales led to a perceived artistic decline, leading to the formation of the anti-commercial Tin Machine in 1988; consequently, fans and critics hold most of Bowie's output during this era in poor regard.
  • Bobby Brown: Member of New Edition who went solo in 1986, and helped pioneer the sound of New Jack Swing.
  • Bow Wow Wow
  • Boy Meets Girl: Band who scored one big late 1988 hit with "Waiting For A Star To Fall"
  • The Boys
  • Glenn Branca: No Wave composer from Pennsylvania.
  • 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.
  • B'z: One of Japan's greatest rock bands started in 1988 but got big succes 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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