Top Female Pop Stars of the 80s

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In the 1980s, the music industry witnessed a transformative era, marked by the emergence of some of the most iconic female pop stars. These women brought a unique blend of bold fashion, emotionally resonant lyrics, and innovative musical elements that captured the hearts of music lovers. This article presents a list of the top female pop stars of the ’80s, celebrating their contributions to the era’s musical landscape. Whether you had a single favorite or admired many, these remarkable artists made an indelible mark on the music of their time.90

1. Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul’s multifaceted career spans music, choreography, and television, showcasing her talents from cheerleading to becoming an acclaimed choreographer and American Idol judge. Her music career highlighted three albums and notable singles, notably “Forever Your Girl,” which soared on the Billboard 200 chart. Beyond music and TV, she displayed her skills in movies such as “Bruno,” “Robots,” “Touched By Evil,” and “The Waiting Game.” Acknowledged with numerous awards, Abdul’s advocacy for the National Eating Disorders Association and recent endeavors, including dance training and advocating for Breast Cancer Awareness, reflect her ongoing commitment to various causes and her diverse talents.

Top 3 Hits

  • Rush Rush
  • Blowing Kisses in the Wind
  • The Promise of a New Day

2. Debbie Gibson

Debbie Gibson stands out not just as a renowned singer but also as the talented songwriter behind all 20 of her singles. Her debut album, “Out of the Blue,” marked the beginning of her journey to stardom, featuring numerous hits, including “Foolish Beat,” which claimed the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This initial success catapulted her into an illustrious career that has continued to shine. Having sold over 16 million albums worldwide, Debbie Gibson has set records and achieved remarkable milestones. Currently, she is taking center stage on the 53-city North American Mixtape Tour, showcasing her enduring influence in the music industry.

Top 3 Hits

  • Only in My Dreams
  • Foolish Beat
  • Lost in Your Eyes

3. Belinda Carlisle

This American singer, musician and author was the lead singer of the Go-Go’s making it one of the most successful pop music bands of this era. Apart from music, Belinda Carlisle is also a supporter of animal rights and LGBT rights, both very evident in her music campaigns and videos. Her contributions to both the music industry and these social causes have made her a respected figure, known not only for her musical talent but also for her commitment to important societal issues.

Top 3 Hits

  • Heaven Is a Place on Earth
  • I Get Weak
  • Circle In the Sand

4. Tina Turner

While many 80s artists were bringing innovation in music and performance, Tina was one who consistently maintained her style. She started her music career as the lead singer with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. But took a twist when she became a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. During the 80s, she was in her mid-forties and yet a sizzling combo of confidence, sensuality and Versatility. Tina Turner has received Grammy Awards and ranked number 63 on the list of the 100 greatest artists of all time and 17th on its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. 

Top 3 Hits

  • What’s Love Got to Do with It
  • River Deep – Mountain High
  • We Don’t Need Another Hero

5. Pat Benatar

The four-time Grammy Award winner Pat Benatar got her break from MTV. Her turning single was “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” which gave her new doors to fame, wealth and fans. She released eight albums in the 80s and five tours. Her achievements include five platinum albums, three gold albums, two RIAA-certified multi-platinum albums and 15 Billboard Top 40 singles including “Love Is a Battlefield“, “Treat Me Right”, “We Belong“, and “Invincible“.     

Top 3 Hits

  • Heartbreaker
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot
  • Promises in the Dark

6. Joan Jett

This punk rocker started her career in the late 70s performing with The Runaways but her rock and roll side was more into the limelight with her appearance on MTV. Her hit singles include “Cherry Bomb“, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll“, “Bad Reputation“, “Crimson and Clover“, “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)“, “Light of Day“, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Dirty Deeds“. Joan has not only proved to be the Queen of Rock and Roll but also very confidently maintained her bold image without letting media intrude into her personal life. 

Top 3 Hits

  • I Love Rock and Roll
  • Cherry Bomb
  • Bad Reputation

7. Annie Lennox

This lead singer of Eurythmics made a timeless combination with David Stewart and gave some smashing hits in the 80s such as “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)“, “Here Comes the Rain Again“, “Would I Lie to You?” and “Missionary Man“. From her 6 solo album releases and a compilation album, The Annie Lennox Collection, Annie has received four Grammy Awards, One MTV Video Music Award, eight Brit Awards, a Billboard Century Award and many more. She also won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Into the West“, the soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Annie is also titled as the “The Greatest White Soul Singer Alive” by VH1 and one of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone

Top 3 Hits

  • Why
  • Love Is a Stranger
  • Would I Lie to You

8. Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is a shining example of evolution, growth, and success in the pop music industry. She embarked on her journey with a role in the television series “The Jacksons” and subsequently blazed a trail of success, producing hit albums that introduced fresh dimensions and musical fusion to the industry.

Her groundbreaking contract with Virgin Records solidified her status as the highest-paid artist in the field. With over 100 million records sold, Janet Jackson remains one of the world’s best-selling music artists. She holds the distinction of being the second most successful dance club artist of all time. Her impressive repertoire includes 78 singles and 11 studio albums, leaving an indelible mark on the world of music.

Top 3 Hits

  • Black Cat
  • Miss You Much
  • If

9. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston‘s arrival in the music scene in 1985 marked the emergence of a legend celebrated for her extraordinary talent, captivating presence, and record-breaking chart-toppers. She holds a unique place in music history as the only artist with seven consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. Whitney was also the first female artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Furthermore, she stands as the sole artist to attain eight consecutive multi-platinum albums, which include “Whitney Houston,” “Whitney,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “The Bodyguard,” “Waiting To Exhale,” “The Preacher’s Wife soundtracks,” “My Love Is Your Love,” and “Whitney: The Greatest Hits.”

Beyond her musical legacy, Whitney Houston established The Whitney Houston Foundation for Children and actively contributed to numerous charitable causes, leaving an enduring impact on both the world of music and philanthropy.

Top 3 Hits

  • I Will Always Love You
  • Greatest Love of All
  • How Will I Know

10. Madonna 

Madonna, the reigning queen of Pop, transcends time with her monumental presence in the 20th century and beyond. Her journey began with dreams of becoming a modern dancer, but she first entered the music scene as a versatile artist, mastering the drums, guitar, and vocals, ultimately signing with Sire Records. Her artistic endeavors extended to the silver screen, where she graced films like “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Dick Tracy,” “Evita,” and “A League of Their Own.” Beyond her music and acting, Madonna’s multi-faceted career encompasses business ventures in fashion, health clubs, filmmaking, and children’s literature. The music legend Madonna is also the visionary founder of “Ray of Light,” an organization committed to promoting peace, equal rights, and education for all. 

Top 3 Hits

  • Borderline
  • Lucky Star
  • Like a Virgin

Madonna’s Top Selling Albums of All Time

(via Illuminating Facts – Madonna By The Numbers Graphs)

Cyndi Lauper

11. Cyndi Lauper

A prominent figure in the 1980s music scene, Cyndi Lauper captivated audiences with her unique voice, varied aesthetic, and contagious energy. Her breakthrough record, “She’s So Unusual” (1983), made her a pop icon and shot her to stardom. Although Lauper’s vibrant sense of style and bubbly personality made her instantly recognizable, her emotive vocals and songs that told powerful stories were what really set her apart as an artist. 

Songs like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” became global hits and anthems for self-reliance and a carefree attitude, while “Time After Time” highlighted her sensitive yet powerful voice and brought her praise from critics worldwide. Lauper became a trailblazer in the 1980s thanks to her daring approach to music and her ability to meld various genres like pop, rock, and new wave.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • Time After Time
  • True Colors

12. Olivia Newton-John

Australian-born singer-actress Olivia Newton-John gained widespread recognition in the 1970s and kept crowds enthralled well into the 1980s. Her breakthrough performance with John Travolta in the movie “Grease” not only demonstrated her acting talent but also propelled her music to the top of the charts. Pop culture adored Newton-John for her enduring pop sensational voice and endearing demeanor. 

Her ability to move between pop, country, and adult contemporary music genres with ease revealed her versatility as an artist, garnering her a wide range of fans. Songs like “Physical” went popular topping charts all over the world and establishing her as a major force in pop culture. Because of her genuine performances and friendly stage demeanor, millions of people came to love Newton-John, and she became a vital part of the ’80s.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Physical
  • Magic (from the movie “Xanadu”)
  • I Honestly Love You

13. Gloria Estefan (Miami Sound Machine)

As the lead singer-songwriter for Miami Sound Machine in the 1980s, Gloria Estefan, a Cuban-American, rose to popularity. Her combination of pop sensibilities and Latin rhythms established a brand-new, vivacious sound that was heard on the radio. Estefan rose to international fame thanks to her contagious energy, captivating stage presence, strong voice, and engaging performances.

Beyond her music, Estefan became a symbol of strength and unity, especially after a tragic accident in 1990 that left her temporarily paralyzed. Her incredible comeback and return to the stage not only demonstrated her tenacity but also served as an inspiration to innumerable people across the globe, cementing her status as an influential person in the music industry and beyond.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Conga
  • Rhythm Is Gonna Get You
  • Anything for You

14. Neneh Cherry

Neneh Cherry is a pioneering artist whose music defied genres and expectations in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Her diverse blend of hip-hop, pop, and R&B, along with her fearless and boundary-pushing style, established her place in the music industry as a distinct voice. Cherry’s debut album, “Raw Like Sushi,” was a game changer, featuring the iconic hit “Buffalo Stance,” which effortlessly combined rap and pop. 

Her distinct musical style, that incorporates elements of punk, dance, and urban sounds, distinguishes her as an artist who is not afraid to experiment and challenge conventional norms. Cherry’s magnetic stage presence and unapologetic attitude made her a powerful figure not only in music, but also in fashion and culture.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Buffalo Stance
  • Manchild
  • 7 Seconds

15. Kate Bush

Kate Bush, a visionary and boundary-pushing artist, rose to popularity in the late ’70s and captivated the music world throughout the ’80s. Her ethereal voice, poetic lyrics, and innovative musical style differentiate her as a true revolutionary force. Bush’s debut single, “Wuthering Heights,” pushed her to stardom, showcasing her unique vocal range and storytelling ability. Her music crossed genres, incorporating elements of art rock, pop, and folk, and she drove creative boundaries in her songs, exploring unconventional themes and narratives. 

Her albums, such as “Hounds of Love” and “The Dreaming,” demonstrate her artistic brilliance by combining intricate arrangements with deeply personal and imaginative lyrics. Bush’s ability to create complex and emotive compositions while maintaining a sense of mystique and authenticity strengthened her position as a composer.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Hounds Of Love
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Running Up That Hill 

16. Sade

Sade, led by the unmatched Sade Adu, left a lasting mark on the music scene in the 1980s and beyond. Sade’s soft vocals and a seamless blend of soul, jazz, and R&B gave their music a timeless and seductive appeal. Sade’s unique sound captivated audiences worldwide with hits such as “Smooth Operator” and “The Sweetest Taboo.” Sade’s hauntingly beautiful voice, combined with the band’s sophisticated yet emotive melodies, created an intimate connection with listeners, earning them a devoted fanbase. Their album “Diamond Life” became an instant classic, establishing a high standard for smooth, sultry, and perfectly crafted music that surpassed generations.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Smooth Operator
  • The Sweetest Taboo
  • No Ordinary Love 

17. Bananarama

Bananarama is a renowned British pop group that emerged in the early 1980s, leaving a lasting mark on the music industry with infectious tunes and catchy melodies.  Formed by childhood friends Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward, and Siobhan Fahey, the trio’s harmonious blend of dance-pop, new wave, and girl-group aesthetics propelled them to international fame. Their breakout hit “Cruel Summer” became an anthem of the era, demonstrating their ability to create irresistibly upbeat tracks. Bananarama’s success continued with chart-topping singles such as “Venus,” establishing their position as one of the decade’s definitive pop acts and influencing future generations of artists.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Cruel Summer
  • Venus
  • I Heard a Rumour

18. Sheena Easton

Sheena Easton is well-known in the music industry for her versatile vocals, captivating stage presence, and chart-topping hits. With her powerful voice and magnetic charisma, this Scottish songstress quickly became a global sensation after breaking into the spotlight in the early 1980s. Her debut single “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” soared to the top of the charts, showcasing her incredible vocal range and securing her position as the first UK female artist to top the US charts in the 1980s. Easton’s ability to effortlessly transition between pop, ballads, and dance music contributed to her broad appeal and ensured her longevity in the industry.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Morning Trains
  • Sugar Walls
  • Strut

19. Cher

Cher is an entertainment powerhouse, a broad icon with a six-decade career that has left a lasting impact on music, film, and pop culture. She grew from humble beginnings as a member of the dynamic duo Sonny & Cher to become a solo sensation, solidifying her status as an innovative performer. Her distinct contralto voice, combined with a fearless approach to pushing boundaries, earned her legions of devoted fans all over the world. 

Cher’s determination and ability to reinvent herself across decades have made her an iconic figure in the entertainment industry. Whether it’s chart-topping hits like “Believe” or acclaimed performances in films like “Moonstruck,” she has consistently demonstrated her ability to captivate audiences and stay at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Believe
  • Strong Enough
  • If I Could Turn Back Time

20. Kim Wilde

In the 1980s, Kim Wilde became a vibrant pop sensation, enthralling audiences with her unique voice, edgy look, and contagious energy. Wilde, who first gained fame for her breakthrough hit “Kids in America,” soon came to represent the pop culture of the time. Her sound, which fused rock and synth-pop roots to create catchy hooks, greatly influenced the decade’s vibrant sound. In addition to her breakthrough success, Wilde’s real charm and free-spirited attitude won over fans and made her a legendary figure in the music industry.

Top 3 Hits:

  • Chequered Love
  • Cambodia
  • View from a Bridge

Conclusion

These are just a few female stars that have evolved the music industry with their dynamic appearance and innovative vocals.

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