There can be absolutely no denying that the ’80s was one of the most influential decades for music, and it was undoubtedly the decade in which female singers truly shone. From the first rapper to feature in an R&B song to the first woman to grace the MTV stage, these female artists were true trailblazers. They bagged hit after hit, and some even picked up the odd Grammy or two. So, here are some of the biggest names from music’s golden years – then, and now.
Pop sweetheart Tiffany was just 15 when she made waves in the charts with her number one hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.” And while most bands were busy playing large venues, Tiffany reached her audience through performances at U.S. malls. Tiffany’s subsequent albums were never quite as successful as her debut, but she is still on the road today.
19. Cyndi Lauper
A string of hits and a Best New Artist Grammy Award defined Cyndi Lauper’s career in the ’80s. The singer achieved success with songs such as the contagious “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “Time After Time.” And since the ’80s, she’s sold more than 50 million albums. Plus, she even picked up a Tony Award for composing music for the hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots.
After breaking onto the music scene with her self-titled album, Madonna soon became an icon of the ’80s. Her hits included the juicy – yet frowned upon – “Like a Prayer,” the catchy “Material Girl” and her first ever U.S. number one, “Holiday.” And while Madonna is still one of the biggest names in the music world today, she’s also turned her hand to acting, writing and business.
17. Debbie Gibson
Debbie Gibson followed in Tiffany’s footsteps when she became another teen pop star of the ’80s. Gibson’s debut single, “Only in My Dreams,” peaked at number four in the U.S. charts, but she soon achieved a number one hit in 1988 with “Foolish Beat.” Her success continued long after the decade ended, too, and she became a hit on Broadway and the West End with stints in Grease, Les Mis and Beauty and the Beast.
16. Sheena Easton
Some may not recall this, but Sheena Easton had a different road to fame than most – after appearing on TV show The Big Time: Pop Singer. The show gave Easton the publicity she needed and her singles “Modern Girl” and “9 to 5” catapulted her to success and helped earn her two Grammy Awards. Easton is still touring the U.S. today.
15. Kylie Minogue
She might be the Princess of Pop today, but Kylie Minogue’s music career was just launching back in the ’80s when she released her self-titled debut album along with the hit singles “I Should Be So Lucky” and “The Locomotion.” Since then, Minogue has gone from strength to strength, releasing no fewer than 13 albums and completing 15 tours. Plus, she’s even battled breast cancer. Keep going, Kylie!
14. Belinda Carlisle
Belinda Carlisle made her name in the girl group Go-Go’s, but after the band split in 1985 she went on to become an award-winning solo artist. Carlisle is perhaps best known for her catchy hit single “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” which earned her a Grammy nomination. And since then, she has continued her singing career, made an appearance on Dancing with the Stars and also published her memoirs.
13. Janet Jackson
She might have followed in the footsteps of her super famous brother Michael Jackson, but Janet Jackson became an established artist in her own right thanks to her hit single “When I Think Of You.” She’s still going strong today too, and she has recently finished her Unbreakable tour. Plus, in May 2016 she revealed that she was pregnant – just ahead of her 50th birthday.
12. Kim Wilde
“Kids in America” became a worldwide phenomenon for Kim Wilde in 1981, but the singer didn’t stop there. Wilde released a grand total of six albums throughout the ’80s, but her career took an unexpected turn when she decided to become a landscape gardener in 1998. She made a welcome return to music in 2003 and she can still be found touring today.
11. Paula Abdul
Today Paula Abdul might be best known for her role as a judge on American Idol, but prior to that she was actually a successful choreographer in the ’80s for the likes of George Michael and Duran Duran. Moreover, in the ’80s she also launched her own singing career with her break-out album Forever Your Girl, which featured the Grammy Award winning single “Opposites Attract.”
10. Kate Bush
The haunting “Wuthering Heights” might have been Kate Bush’s first number one single, but it certainly wasn’t her last. The songstress released four albums throughout the ’80s, alongside hit singles such as “Babooshka” and “Don’t Give Up.” Bush’s singing career has sporadically continued since the ’80s, but for a period of time the singer chose to keep a relatively low profile following the birth of her son.
9. Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox achieved fame in the ’80s after forming the Eurythmics alongside Dave Stewart. And Lennox’s unique voice was key to the hit album and song of the same name, “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This.” The Eurythmics went on to amass a grand total of 20 smash hits worldwide. Today, however, Lennox continues to work as a solo artist, and she’s pretty well known for her philanthropist work too.
8. Olivia Newton John
After portraying Sandy in Grease in 1978, Olivia Newton John rocketed to stardom. And the ’80s, famously, turned out to be her decade. The songstress and actress released 14 hit singles during those years, including the catchy and timeless “Physical.” And since then, her career hasn’t slowed down. After the ’80s she has continued to release numerous albums and is currently a resident performer in Vegas.
7. Joan Jett
No one rocked the ’80s quite like Joan Jett. The songstress and her band, Jett & The Blackhearts, achieved fame thanks to their hit album I Love Rock n’ Roll and the song of the same name, which went on to top the charts. Jett turned her hand to acting, but her career never took off and she went back to writing music. In her irrepressible style, the rocker continues to tour with her band today.
6. Gloria Estafan
Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine’s hit “Conga” was one of the defining songs of the ’80s. And Estefan released a string of hits in the ’80s, including “Bad Boys” and “Words Get in the Way.” Unfortunately, the band were injured in a horrific collision in 1990 which left Estefan with fractured vertebrae. However, the songstress bounced back and has since continued touring and releasing new music.
5. Bonnie Tyler
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” was a ballad of the decade while “Holding Out For A Hero” had every teenage girl singing into her hairbrush. And Bonnie Tyler was to thank for those moments. What’s more, the singer’s chart-topping songs earned her no fewer than three Grammy nominations, too. And Tyler hasn’t stopped recording music either. In fact, she’s recently revealed that she’s heading off to Nashville to collaborate with Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash.
Grammy Award winner Sade is perhaps best known for her performance on the song “Smooth Operator” and her vocal work for the band Sade. Indeed, the singer went on to see her album, Diamond Life, become one of the top-selling debut albums of the ’80s. Sade stopped touring in 2011, and since then she’s maintained a pretty low profile – keeping herself largely out of the spotlight.
3. Pat Benatar
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “We Belong,” and “Invincible” are just a few of the best-selling hits from Pat Benatar that we were all bopping along to in the ’80s. And Benatar also made history when she became the first woman to perform on MTV. Moreover, her career has been very impressive since then, and she now has four Grammy Awards under her belt and 12 albums to her name. Plus, she still tours today, alongside her husband Neil Geraldo.
2. Samantha Fox
Samantha Fox might be best known as a model today, but the ’80s proved that she was just as good at singing as she was at modeling. Yes, the glamorous songstress entered the charts in 1986 with the provocative hit “Touch Me.” And since then, she’s sold over 30 million records worldwide, bagged several film roles and appeared on numerous reality TV shows. Today she can still be found on stage and touring with her live band.
1. Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan dominated the ’80s with her hit album and song of the same name, “I Feel For You.” The popular tune earned the singer a Grammy, plus it was the first R&B tune to include a rap, cementing Khan’s place as an ’80s trailblazer. Khan has since enjoyed stints on the West End and Broadway, and she’s also launched a charity which works with vulnerable women and children.