Eighties music is a brand all its own. Not surprisingly the decade that spawned Wham, Cyndi Lauper, and Madonna, also is most well remembered for its pop culture creation MTV. Music went video and fans across the country were glued to the unending wave of short films in a format never seen before. Oddball to downright artistically sublime characterized the new video genre.
In retrospect the 80s could be considered a type of gateway decade. Musically a lot happened. Disco outlived its final days and rock and roll spun out in a range of sub-genres. Alternative sounds began to be explored: heavy metal turned up the guitar amps, and sizzle, glam and hair bands won legions of fans that thought big man-hair was sexy. Music genres were all over the board and included newcomers Ska and reggae, British Pop, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, and most signature of all—New Romantic.
The New Romantic genre was epitomized by British pop/punk acts like David Bowie, Duran Duran, Culture Club, and Spandau Ballet, to name a few. Their look was nearly feminine, an androgyny that exemplified the cultural tremors taking place. Closely associated artists like Depeche Mode and the Eurythmics heralded a new era in the dance club scene that has barely waned since. The New Romantic genre allowed U.S. fans their first taste of British rock with its unique style and videographic sense of humor.
Live Aid was one of the most historically epic musical feats. Prior to 1985 this type of globally staged event would have been technologically unlikely. Live Aid spawned successive litters of follow-up rock fests, but it also shone a new light on an international tragedy-the starving in Ethiopia. Rock fans for maybe the first time since the 60s turned socially responsible.
Today the 80s get their own musical category. Websites pay homage to the decade and the musical canon is played and replayed across the FM and streaming digital globe. Depeche Mode still makes us dance, Wham still makes an impression, and Boy George’s signature style led to a more gay-friendly music scene. Madonna has reinvented herself at least a dozen times since her string of early 80s hit singles beginning with “Borderline.”
Some notable one-hit-wonders that managed to define the musical decade include: Sheena Easton, Corey Hart, Cutting Crew, and The Vapors.
Here’s a cool resource from the BBC that features video for different eighties music.