Top 10 Decade Defining Musical Acts: 1980s

Script written by Jordan Ruimy. While rock was still popular, this decade was dominated by genres with electronic elements, like new wave, dance, synthpop, as well as the rise of hip hop and urban music. For our series on the Top 10 Musical Acts Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of an act’s success, popularity and overall musical legacy. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of music from the1950s to the 2000s. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining musical acts of the 1980s. Special thanks to our users Se7enNationArmy101, Grungeman23, SuperMonkeyGyrados, jimster95, Jack Morris, Nathaniel Jordon and billyfresh23 for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Jordan Ruimy.

While rock was still popular, this decade was dominated by genres with electronic elements, like new wave, dance and synthpop, as well as the rise of hip hop and urban music. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 musical acts of the 1980s.

For our series on the Top 10 Musical Acts Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of an act’s success, popularity and overall musical legacy. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of music from the 1950s to the 2000s.

#10: Guns N’ Roses

This California band stormed the music scene with their melodic hard rock – as heard on their blockbuster record Appetite for Destruction, which went on to become America’s biggest-selling debut album ever. With a rep that earned them the title of “the world’s most dangerous band,” Guns N’ Roses was one of the decade’s must-see live acts if you were looking for something other than the pop and dance. Meanwhile, songs like “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” defined a generation and created hard rock ecstasy all across the world.

#9: Whitney Houston

The late singer had an amazing time on the charts in the ‘90s but nothing beats the artistic freedom she had during the previous decade. After gradually winning people over with her debut, Whitney Houston’s 1987 sophomore effort made history when it became the first album by a female artist to debut at the top spot. It also churned out four number one hits, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” With a nickname like The Voice, it’s no wonder this talented artist made our list.

#8: Run-D.M.C.

Much like Public Enemy, this Queens, New York group drastically changed the direction of hip-hop and laid the foundation for rap music in the 1980s. With their hard-core beats and rhythms, they became known as rap rock pioneers, and their fusion of the two genres spawned hit after hit; most notably, their collaboration with Aerosmith “Walk This Way.” Run-D.M.C.’s chemistry and musical talents also placed prominence on the relationship between the MC and the DJ in hip hop.

#7: Bon Jovi

This New Jersey act continues to find success to this day, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the success they found in the ‘80s. Fronted by Jon Bon Jovi, the band began its worldwide domination with 1986’s Slippery When Wet. After spawning chart-topping smashes like “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer,” their third effort set them on a path of extensive touring and music-making that helped make Bon Jovi’s brand of hard rock and glam metal more accessible to the masses.

#6: Bruce Springsteen

This Jersey-born living legend is known for his marathon shows and hard working mannerisms. But The Boss was never more commercially appealing than in the mid-‘80s, which saw Born in the U.S.A rock the charts and produce seven top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Let’s not forget his artistically lauded ‘80s records The River and Nebraska though, which to this day continue to have an impact on younger artists.

#5: Def Leppard

While fellow hard rockers Van Halen also found success in the '80s, it's Def Leppard that makes our list. Def Leppard may’ve formed in the late ‘70s but it was during the next decade that they rose to fame. After making their hard rock style known with Pyromania, their fourth effort Hysteria slowly-but-surely became a massive success with the help of their-now famous anthem “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” And the album itself remained on the charts around the world for three years! With over 100 million albums sold since their 1977 formation, Def Leppard is one of the best-selling acts ever.

#4: Prince

Eclectic, stylish and a true original, this multi-talented singer-songwriter infiltrated the charts with his sexy, smooth sound in the ‘80s. And it was with Purple Rain that he really made his mark. That album didn’t only go on to sell more than 20 million units, but also earned an Oscar as the soundtrack to the film of the same name. But it wasn’t the only great album he made that decade: just listen to 1999 and Sign “O” the Times and you’re sure to be mesmerized by Prince’s soulful funk.

#3: U2

This Irish 4-piece is still creating beautiful music today. But it’s thanks to such career-defining albums as Boy, War, and The Joshua Tree that U2 became critical, commercial and live successes. The Joshua Tree was particularly important in the perfection of their rocking sound and also gave us songs for the ages with tracks like “With or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

#2: Madonna

The Material Girl was an ‘80s pop culture phenomenon. With her sexy lyrics and music videos, the provocative but highly successful artist also produced public discourse that would forever change music history. By constantly changing up her image, she defined the way other female pop artists would act in the coming years. Hit after hit, album after album, Madonna was a game-changing artist who mattered back then and still does today.

Before we unveil our pick for Top Musical Act of the 1980s, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Duran Duran
- Billy Joel
- The Police
- AC/DC
- Lionel Richie
- Tina Turner

#1: Michael Jackson

Did you really think anyone else could top this list? The success the King of Pop had this decade is rivalled only that of Elvis in the ‘50s and The Beatles in the ‘60s. His 1982 album Thriller became and remains the biggest selling album of all time. Michael Jackson also popularized the music video with his big budget short films, all while simultaneously helping to shatter racial barriers that existed within pop music. With his singing and song-writing abilities, dance moves, and so much more, MJ was one of a kind and our number one.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite musical act of the 1980s? For more Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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