Reliving 80s Pop Music

The pop music of any decade leaves a lasting impression on generations to come. It helps define the tone and feeling of a decade both for those that lived through it as well as those that will come to appreciate it later. The 60s had their protest songs and the Beatles. The 70s ranged widely from the mellow music of Bread, The Carpenters, and James Taylor to the gaudy and flamboyant disco music of the latter part of the decade.

80s pop music

Sure, the 80s had Ronald Regan and Reaganomics, John Hughes films and Molly Ringwald, but could any of that compare with the likes of Madonna, Tiffany, Olivia Newton-John, Michael Jackson, Kylie Minogue, Belinda Carlisle, The Bangles or Prince? I think not!

Not only did 80s pop music define who we were, but the music held the anthems of our daily lives. We woke up to “Manic Mondays” with the Bangles just to find ourselves “hangin tough” with the New Kids On The Block by the time Wednesday or Thursday rolled around. By the end of the week, it was “Friday, I’m in Love.” When the weekend came, Kylie had us doing the “Locomotive” and Debbie Gibson taught us that youth was electric. The best way to revisit all the great pop music of the 80s is to re-watch the music videos of your favorite songs. After all, MTV was a product of the early 80s – what better way to enjoy the fashions, dance moves and musical stylings of the decade’s music? We have a big collection of our favorite 80s music in our video section: watch 80s music videos here.

One Hit Wonders of 80s Pop

As with any decade of pop music, the 80s had its share of both pop icons and one hit wonders. The king and queen of the 80s pop music prom would certainly be Michael Jackson and Madonna. But, there is a lot to 80s pop music beyond the Material Girl and the Kind of Pop. Some notable one hit pop wonders include Dexys Midnight Runners with “Come on Eileen,” Murray Head’s “One Night in Bangkok,” and Timbuk 3’s “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” and our personal favorite Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.” What was your favorite one hit wonder of the 80s? Tell on us Facebook.

Hair Metal

No rundown of 80s pop music would be complete without mentioning the hair metal mega-bands of the late 1980s. From Poison and Def Leppard to Guns n Roses and Bon Jovi, these bands topped the pop charts in the second half of the decade. Bon Jovi was the first to hit the #1 Billboard spot in November of 1986 with “You Give Love a Bad Name.” 1987 saw two number ones from hair metal bands, Bon Jovi again with “Livin’ on a Prayer” and then Whitesnake with “Here I Go Again” later in the year. 1988 would be the apogee of heavy metal’s penetration into the pop charts with number one songs by Cheap Trick, Guns N Roses, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Poison. Click here for more information on hair metal and a more complete list of hair metal bands of the 80s.

Of course 80s pop music did have its dark side – if you could call it that. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was introduced to us in 1982 and the video for the song was the world’s first “horror” music video. I remember being a little kid and seeing the Thriller video for the first time. It scared the bejesus out of me. However, even scarier than that was the video for Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” where he cuts into Alice like a cake – yikes. So, who says pop music is all bubble gum and puppy love?

Unfortunately, not all 80s pop music stars were able to maintain their fortune and fame. Ask the youth of today what Bananarama is and they’ll probably say it’s an ice cream special. Tell them to name the New Kids On The Block and they may just start spouting off the names of the kids who have moved into the neighborhood over the past year. Not exactly the answers we would have given in the 80s, are they? (UPDATE 11.22.08 – actually, this last statement may no longer be true given New Kid’s appearance on ABC’s American Music Awards tomorrow night >info here)

With the overall comeback of the 80s, the music of the 80s is now being appreciated even by today’s teens. It just goes to show, you are never too old or too young to “Rock the Casbah.”

Check out Billboard’s pop charts for every year of the 80s here.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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  1. I was a Freshman in High School since 1986, and was in Elementary and Jr. High School since Early 80’s. I enjoyed the 80’s music I wish to see Debbie Gibson in person. or Tiffany and I miss my Decade? I Just Don’t belong in this crazy Generation at all. Personally this generational music sucks just my opinion no offense.

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  2. Kylie Minogue had us doing the “Locomotion”. Just as Grand Funk had us doing it in the 70’s and Little Eva had us doing it in the 60’s.

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