Music in the 1980s

1980s Music Collage by Paul Phipps

Music in the 1980s was one thing more than anything: heavily produced. Everyone knows the classic 80s sound: huge reverby snare drums, lots of delay on the vocals, electronic rhythms and synthesizers.

If anything, music engineers and songwriters had more tools at their disposal than ever before. That’s why a lot of music sounds like people playing with toys. They pretty much were.

But the new technology wasn’t always used for cheesy purposes. Unfortunately, the digital synthesizer took over for the analog synth in the early 80s and in my opinion a lot of good quality synths disappeared because of this.

Madonna, Michael Jackson, Def Leppard. These are just some of the iconic names that held the entire country’s intrigue for most of a decade.

Music in 1987

Technological advancements in audio and video recordings, record-breaking pop acts and high profiles for heavy metal and new age music highlighted 1987. Business boomed as sales of CD players encouraged record companies to reissue old albums on CD.

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Paul Simon and South African musicians played eight benefit concerts in 1987 to aid South African and American children.

Madonna also held an AIDS benefit concert on July 13.

Female artists burned up the charts in 1987. In June, Whitney Houston’s second album, Whitney, was the first album by a female to debut at number one.

In March, Janet Jackson’s album Control became the second album ever — after brother Michael Jackson’s Thriller — to produce five songs in the top five places on the chart of best-selling recordings.

Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” became her 10th straight top-five single, the longest series of top-five hits since The Beatles.

Michael Jackson’s album Bad debuted at number one. Jodi Watley, Smokey Robinson, LL Cool J and Freddie Jackson all experience great success in 1987.

Dance music grew musically and commercially. Among the most popular dance music artists were Kraftwerk, Mel & Kim, Company B and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. In February the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill became the first rap album to top the pop albums charts.

New Age music, described at the time as “impressionistic music designed to help create relaxation and a meditative spirit,” rose sharply in popularity in 1987. VH-1 even adding a programming block of new age videos called “New Visions.”

Mainstream rock also flourished in 1987, particularly in the heavy metal style. Pop metalists Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet, which topped the album charts for 7 weeks and the music video chart for 28. Bon Jovi helped pave the way for other top-10 metal acts like Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Cinderella and Whitesnake.

Oldies were big money makers in 1987. Four album reissued by The Beatles soared to the top of the Billboard CD charts in March.

Randy Travis hit it big in 1987 and won almost every country music award available. Other popular country artists in 1987 include George Strait, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Reba McEntire, Dwight Yoakim and Hank Williams, Jr.

Check out these songs and artists from the 1980s!

Music Equipment in the 1980s »

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Songs from the 1980s »

Music in the 1980s had its totally rad moments. However, sometimes '80s music knew how to suck worse than music has ever sucked in the history of sucking.

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Last modified: Apr 05, 2013 | Written by Paul Phipps