The most iconic artists of the 80s

The 80s was a time of relentless innovation, where pop exploded in such a way that we're still feeling its influence today.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 11th Mar 2022

The 80s was a time of relentless innovation, where pop exploded in such a way that we're still feeling its influence today. When we think of this decade we think of the brightest possible colour clashes, plenty of big hairstyles and some of the best sci-fi movies of all time. It was a time when creativity felt unrestrained and we can definitely feel that in the music.

In a decade that was so prolific, it has been hard to narrow down some of the most iconic artists but here you'll find ten of the very best from across a spectrum of genres that we still talk about constantly today.



Top hits of the decade: When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, Raspberry Beret

Prine is easily the definitive artist of the '80s. The 1984 album 'Purple Rain' is one of the most iconic albums of all time never mind in the whole decade. The '80s cemented Prince's legacy as a complete icon, with imagery and songs that will never be forgotten. Prince is one of those rare artists who will never be imitated, any attempt to do so would never make the same impact.

It's rare that we get an artist so singular in vision and pop music was never the same again after his arrival. It is impossible to escape his influence and it was truly a huge loss for the world when he passed in 2016. 






Top hits of the decade: It's Like That, It's Tricky, My Adidas

Run- D.M.C. are one of the most essential hip hop groups as they represent a time in which the genre was crossing over into mainstream consciousness. Classic tracks such as It's Like That and It's Tricky were hits and other songs such as My Adidas propelled hip hop as a commercially-viable genre, suddenly artists were getting brand deals, front cover magazine shoots and the iconography of the genre took its shape.

When you look at the history of hip hop you cannot ignore how much of an impact Run- D.M.C. had when they were in their prime.





David Bowie

Top hits of the decade: Let's Dance, Ashes To Ashes, Modern Love

Whilst David Bowie was incredibly active in the 70's, he's one of those artists whose impact stretched over decades. He didn't slow down in the 80s. He made the soundtrack and starred in the cult hit film Labyrinth and released some of his most loved songs. Think the likes of Let's Dance and Ashes To Ashes.

There will never be another David Bowie and he was a key pop culture figure right up until his death and we thank him for all the classics.





Stevie Wonder

Top hits of the decade: Superstition, Master Blaster (Jammin'), Happy Birthday

Another of those artists who had a legacy well beyond the 80s, Stevie Wonder was very much still in his prime here. An artist with an incredible story to match an incredible career, his ability to play so many instruments and create hit after hit meant he was just as prolific in the 80s. 

An artist whose work has always been teeming with vibrancy, he is an absolute joy to listen to.






Top hits of the decade: Material Girl, Like A Virgin, La Isla Bonita

We have the 80s to thank for Madonna and it is well up for debate as to whether she has been the most influential solo female artist to ever influence pop. So much of what we know of pop today has echoes that come from her debut self-titled album, Like A Virgin and True Blue.

With her first hit coming in 1984 it was a marker for incredible success from then onwards, Instantly recognisable, she got a reputation as a provocateur, poking at the fabric of what could and couldn't be within pop.





Diana Ross

Top hits of the decade: I'm Coming Out, Upside Down, Chain Reaction

Try listening to Diana Ross' greatest hits and not having a dance. An artist who graced funk and soul with her timeless vocals that will never be matched, she's even bagged herself a headline slot at this year's Glastonbury festival. Affiliated with the legendary Motown Records and one of the members of The Supremes Diana's career has endured the test of time.

Her solo career really kicked off in the 80s and she eventually fused her soul roots with pop music to create irresistible dance floor hits.





Bruce Springsteen

Top hits of the decade: Dancing in the Dark, Born in the U.S.A., I'm Goin' Down

The Boss officially gained said title in the 80s, providing a freeing message of life in America at the time, with all the highs and lows that come with it. It's said that Bruce writes a new song every day and you can certainly tell. One of the finest songwriters ever to live hit his stride in this decade.

His monumental album Born In The U.S.A. is the pick of the bunch. With countless Grammy nominations and other such awards, Bruce is still going strong.





Whitney Houston

Top hits of the decade: I wanna Dance With Somebody, Saving All My Love For You, One Moment In Time

There truly hasn't been another vocalist who has ever sounded like Whitney Houston, a singer whose voice was one-of-a-kind and capable of hitting incredible high notes. Her solo career blossomed in the mid-80s and she never looked back going on to produce hit after hit and reaching the top tier of pop idol worship.

Her albums have all sold massively and she had an impressive amount of range from ballads to R&B.





The Smiths

Top hits of the decade: This Charming Man, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, How Soon Is Now?

The Smiths are one of the best bands to come out of the decade and the likes of Morrissey and Johnny Marr went on to become British cultural icons. The former may be disgraced now for his extremely questionable viiewpoints but there is no denying that his music touched millions of people.

Their lyrics were strange and sometimes even macabre and were matched with some of the most memorable hooks that British rock music has ever heard.






Top hits of the decade: Another One Bites The Dust, Under Pressure, I Want To Break Free

The 80s saw a continuation of Queen's legacy as one of the best rock bands of all time and one that reached every corner of the world. In 1985 they played the iconic Live Aid gig which was one of the best live performances of all time and seen as the pinnacle of Freddy Mercury's powers.

They released Another One Bites The Dust, I Want To Break Free and Under Pressure all in the 80s and many more classic tracks. Their legacy has had an unimaginable influence.





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