Madonna — Madonna changed everything; music, fashion, hair, attitudes, you name it. She exuded sex, which made her quite controversial. Her huge hit, “Like a Virgin,” didn’t help that image. Girls copied her messy, highlighted hair (and bows), her black rubber bracelets (the more the better), her rosary beads, and her clothes. Her impact on music, fashion, and women made her one of the most important 80s artists.
Bon Jovi — This New Jersey-based band arrived on the scene in 1983 but skyrocketed to the top of the charts three years later with their album Slippery When Wet (80s artists tended to make double entendres whenever possible). Their music has been hard to characterize, and has been referred to as hard rock (not even close), arena rock, and hair metal (they had the hair but not quite the metal). Front man Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora were both very popular with female fans due to their good looks.
Prince — While Prince was oddly androgynous (and short, at 5’2″) he was definitely a sex symbol of the 80s. He also exuded sex (especially in his lyrics). His songs “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” and “Purple Rain” (also his film debut) helped elevate him to icon status. There were reports of his romantic involvement with Madonna, Kim Basinger, and Carmen Electra, among others.
Cyndi Lauper — With hits like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “She Bop,” “Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper was one of the most influential 80s artists. Her style — both her fashion and her propensity for streaks of pink and blue in her hair — was quite popular. Lauper was strongly influenced by punk, which helped her mold a unique persona.
Journey — These 80s artists were responsible for “Open Arms,” “Faithfully,” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” (thank you, Sopranos, for the bump), and are actually the 28th best-selling band in the United States (they’ve sold more than 47 million records in the United States). A 2005 opinion poll named Journey the fifth best American band in history. Steve Perry was yet another front man whose good looks appealed to largely female audiences.
Motley Crue — As far as 80s artists go, the members of Motley Crue were, without question, the most outrageous. They started out as a “glam rock” band, wearing their hair heavily styled and hair-sprayed, faces plastered with makeup and clothing that was wildly flamboyant. They transformed their persona to that of a metal band but they were best known for their reputation as hard-core drinkers and drug users, as well as misbehaving bad boys. Motley Crue was notorious for their sexual exploits.
Duran Duran — Believe it or not, this British band was one of the most successful of the 80s artists, having sold more than 100 million records. Their overly sexualized videos helped cement MTV’s place in pop culture. The band members also became heartthrobs, often gracing the pages of teen girl magazines like Tiger Beat, Teen Beat, and Bop!
“Michael Jackson Reagan Pete Souza 1984” by Pete Souza, Official White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan – Official Pete Souza site http://www.petesouza.com/, Main page. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Michael Jackson — Michael owned the early ’80s with blow-out hits like “Billie Jean” (the first time we saw the moon walk), “Beat It,” and “Thriller.” He transformed music videos into an art form, helping MTV become a force in the music industry. “Thriller” reached mythical proportions, both as an album and a video. The album is the all-time bestseller worldwide. The 14-minute video was so anticipated, MTV first aired it as a premiere to millions of anxious viewers. The Library of Congress included the video in the National Film Registry as one of the “works of enduring importance to American culture.”