Top 10 Iconic Female Singers of the 80s

Script written by Q.V. Hough The female superstars of the MTV era. Join MsMojo as we count down the top Female Singers of the 80s For this list, we’re counting down the most culturally relevant female artists from the 1980s. In other words, these are the women that set themselves part through originality, creativity and perseverance. Special thanks to our user Leo Logan, for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at

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Top 10 Female Singers of the 80s

The female superstars of the MTV era. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Female Singers of the 80s.

For this list, we’re counting down the most culturally relevant female artists from the 1980s. In other words, these are the women that set themselves part through originality, creativity and perseverance.

#10: Paula Abdul

With a long resume that includes cheerleading for the Los Angeles Lakers, choreography work for the legendary Janet Jackson, and judging American Idol, Paula may best be known by some for her singing career -which began in the late '80s. Incorporating her impressive choreography into videos for “Straight Up” and “Opposites Attract”, it’s not hard to see why Abdul was one of the most popular singers of her time. While she only released one album within the decade, 1988’s Forever Your Girl saw four number one singles. It also topped the Billboard 200 charts, though it took the album a staggering 64 weeks to reach that spot. Now that's something to dance about!

#9: Pat Benatar

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Pat Benatar emerged in 1979, and come into her own just as MTV provided a new platform for artists. With her second studio release, Pat Benatar released the landmark single “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”, which both highlighted an evolving sound while showcasing her strength as a female musician. Releasing a grand total of seven albums throughout the 80s, Benatar’s continuing relevance contrasted the more formulaic artists of the time and subsequently highlighted the edge that so many female musicians would build upon in the 1990s.

#8: Gloria Estefan

In their early 80s, the Miami Sound Machine was already known for party rocking in south Florida, but a massive 1985 single “Conga” took them worldwide. Led by Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan, the band thrived on the singer’s vibrant energy and fresh Latin American groove. She could hold down a poignant ballad, as evidenced by the #1 smash “Anything for You,” but it was the triple threat package of Gloria that appealed to all demographics. As a pop star, she was a natural, but it was Gloria Estefan the woman that pushed her genre forward leaps and bounds.

#7: Tina Turner

Throughout the 80s, the popularity of music videos changed how musicians performed, however the legendary Tina Turner somehow managed to keep her trademark style. With two rock-infused albums released in 1984 and 1986, respectively, Tina Turner essentially conducted a master class on musical performance to both women and men half her age. Of course, the anthemic “What’s Love Got to Do With It” ultimately became her signature track of the time and Turner’s follow-up studio album produced a full eight singles, proving the diva’s 80s dominance. The funk. The style. The physique. Don’t sweat the technique.

#6: Joan Jett

The Queen of Rock and Roll, and the Godmother of Punk. Enough said. Joan Jett first came up with The Runaways in in the late 70s, only to make a most impactful statement with her self-titled solo debut, which launched her into another level altogether. Given the emergence of MTV in the early 80s, and Jett’s unmistakable individuality, the public bought up anything she had to offer. Of course, after a full decade of setting new standards across the board, Joan upped the ante with an iconic 1988 single that remains a staple of primetime NFL football.

#5: Janet Jackson

While this pop culture icon wasn’t the most prolific of artists in the 80s, she undeniably brought the goods each time around. Kicking off the decade with “Young Love”, Janet Jackson evolved with the times, reinventing her sound and establishing herself as a top-level performer. From personal style to performance innovation to the music itself, each Janet record marked an event, most notably her 1986 album Control that produced hit after hit. Just as brother Michael grew up in the spotlight, the world marveled as Ms. Jackson grew from a young woman into a fully realized pop star.

#4: Cyndi Lauper

An artist in the purest sense of the word, this Queens native worked outside the conventional norms but still achieved massive commercial success. With her aptly titled debut album, She’s So Unusual, Cyndi Lauper came out swinging, releasing a collection of 80s classics. Armed with a wicked fashion sense and a passion for speaking out on societal issues, Cyndi touched listeners on a variety of levels, certainly with the lead single off her sophomore album. For ladies of the '80s, she provided the soundtrack to their lives, yet the humanity of the lyrics was accessible for all.

#3: Annie Lennox

As the lead singer of Eurythmics, Annie Lennox never failed to pierce the hearts of listeners with just her soulful voice alone. Of course, her fashion game was famously on point, which only heightened the experience of live performances. Above all, however, was the lyrical wizardry, as she and David Stewart composed some the decade’s most standout hits. Truly a timeless musician, Annie Lennox studied the world around her and tapped into a collective energy that she so brilliantly conveyed in her music.

#2: Whitney Houston

When Whitney Houston dropped her debut album in 1985, the vocal superiority left many speechless. But as a blossoming pop star, Whitney Houston needed the right set of songs, and luckily her label came through. Of course, Whitney’s personality set her apart from the pack, as her combination of elegance, sex appeal and pure talent established a new kind of female pop star. Although she only released two studio albums in the 80s, each is filled from top to bottom with timeless pop and R&B tracks that solidified Whitney as a pop culture icon for the ages.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Debbie Harry

Kate Bush


Bonnie Raitt

Chrissie Hynde

Paula Abdul

#1: Madonna

In a time when female artists of various genres were trying to find their way, Madonna ultimately set the tone, capitalizing to the fullest on sexuality, femininity and the paradox when contrasted with her own name. She didn’t have the voice of Whitney or the moves of Janet, but fortunately, Madonna had a visionary mind. As a result, she knew how to deliver a message, sometimes relying heavily on a certain aesthetic. And while she may have initially seemed like a passing trend, Madonna reinvented herself time and time again, inspiring a new generation of pop stars.

So, do you agree with our picks? Who do you think is the best female singer of the 80s? For more musical Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.

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