The 80s were amazing times for music. Just ask anyone who grew up during this decade. Or people who like nostalgia. There were a lot of great 80s female singers. So many of them that compiling a list of the best female singers of the 80s was a difficult task, but we succeeded. Let us go down our list of famous 80s female singers—in no particular order.
1. Annie Lennox
People were captivated by Annie Lennox from the first second she pounded the desk in the “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” video. It may have been her androgynous appearance, but her voice soon made them forget what she looked like. She has a vocal range that many people can only dream of. While she did make sweet music with Dave Stewart as the Eurythmics, she has also made her mark as a solo artist, with memorable songs like “A Thousand Beautiful Things” and “Into The West.”
2. Stevie Nicks
The ethereal Stevie Nicks, who always loved wearing frilly dresses, first became famous for being part of the group Fleetwood Mac, where she joined Christine McVie on vocals. Then she stepped away from the group to go solo and her soaring voice on songs like “Stand Back” and her duet with the late Tom Petty on “Don’t Go Dragging My Heart Around” sent her to another level of superstardom.
3. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston was one of music mogul Clive Davis’ greatest finds, if not the greatest one. Her voice and confidence were amazing to watch when she first arrived on the scene in 1985. Songs like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “The Greatest Love of All” became instant hits. Soon, she was one of the most well-known musicians in the world. When the 80s ended, it seemed like the sky was the limit for her.
4. Kate Bush
This musical genius was first discovered by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who footed her debut album in the late 70s. Kate Bush became famous in Britain, and later on, in America for songs like “Running Up That Hill.” The singer took some time off between albums to raise her son, but she found herself back in the spotlight in 2022 when the TV show “Stranger Things” used “Running Up That Hill.” That same year, she became the oldest woman to have a number 1 song in the United Kingdom.
5. Diana Ross
The former lead singer of The Supremes ruled the beginning of the 80s when she charted globally with songs like “Upside Down,” “Endless Love,” and “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” She was a household name throughout the course of the decade, and beyond. She even had a memorable moment in 1996, when, after singing at the Super Bowl halftime show, she departed in a helicopter. Talk about making your mark.
Madonna was far from just being a “Lucky Star,” which was her first hit song. She did love going over the “Borderline” as often as possible, though. That was apparent in her appearance at the MTV Video Awards in 1984 when she performed “Like a Virgin” in a wedding dress and writhed around on the ground. She demonstrated that she was a “Material Girl” and got us “Into The Groove.” While she was a marketing genius, she also had vocal chops to back her up.
7. Tina Turner
Tina Turner has always been more than just a pair of legs—she even had an expensive insurance policy on them. The highly-talented singer was a survivor of domestic abuse when she was married to Ike Turner. She drew from that situation when she sang “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and brought herself right back into the spotlight. She also showed off her Queen status when she appeared in “Mad Max: Thunderdome” and belted out the anthemic “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”
8. Olivia Newton-John
People of a certain age might have fond memories of watching Olivia Newton-John dancing in spandex while singing “Physical.” Ahem. We are in that category. They also remember her from the 70s movie “Grease.” But she also had hit songs like “Magic,” “Twist of “Fate,” and “Xanadu.” This proved that she was vocally talented and far from just being a very pretty face.
9. Gloria Estefan
Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine became immensely popular in the 80s due to their catchy music and Estefan’s excellent singing. But she didn’t just stick to one style of music—she could fuse several different genres within the confines of a single song. One example here is “Prisoner of Love,” which combines rock, bubble gum pop, and dance music. Here is a singer who knew what she was doing.
10. Bonnie Tyler
Bonnie Tyler is remembered by many people for her 80s hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but she built an impressive list of songs that rank right up there. “Holding Out For a Hero” and “It’s a Heartache” are others. Her soulful voice captivated people during the decade of the 80s.
11. Joan Jett
During the 60s and 70s, the ideal image of a female singer was for them to wear skirts and move their body along with the music. Joan Jett was far from that image. She wore a biker jacket and a scarf and snarled into the mic with songs like “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.” Jett helped change the idea of what a woman could look like and how they could grab rock by the throat and give it as much energy as any man. Her uniqueness in a relatively cookie-cutter business alone cements her on this list.
12. Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar was another singer who was unafraid of shattering what a female in rock and roll should be like. While other females of the 80s tended to sing about love and heartbreak, she was in people’s faces, declaring that “Love Is A Battlefield” and for them to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” She helped pave the way for other women to be unapologetically themselves and not conform to a rigid mold.
13. Chrissie Hynde
When people think of Chrissie Hynde and Pretenders, they might only think of “Back On The Chain Gang,” but that is far from the only good song that helped display her vocal range. “2000 Miles” is a great Christmas song from 1984, and “Brass in Pocket” and “Middle of the Road” were also two worthy hits. Hynde had a great voice… and who can forget her harmonica work?
14. Cyndi Lauper
When people think of Cyndi Lauper during the 80s, they might just remember the red-haired girl with unique hairstyles and clothes that goofed around with Captain Lou Albano in music videos and took part in the earliest versions of Wrestlemania. That would be doing her a disservice since she shows great vocals even in the silly “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” If you really want to hear her talents, listen to the heartbreaker “Time After Time.” Lauper was a musical force in the 80s.
15. Belinda Carlisle
People knew of Belinda Carlisle in the early 80s when she was in the all-girl band, The Go-Go’s, who had hit songs like “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Vacation.” She had already displayed great vocal talent back then. After, she hit the world with a big solo, the song “Heaven is A Place on Earth.” No wonder The Go-Go’s are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Carlisle is on this list of great 80s female singers.
16. Janet Jackson
The “Nasty” singer first became known for her work on “Diff’rent Strokes,” but she changed that image really fast in 1986 with the single from her “Control” album. The song had the famous line “It’s Janet… Ms. Jackson, if you’re nasty.” Along with Madonna, she helped bring in a new wave of female musical artists who were entirely comfortable with their own sexuality.
Next: Top 90s female singers
17. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin had already gotten a lot of respect for her work in earlier years. But she retained her standing as musical royalty with songs like “Freeway of Love” and doing a duet with the Eurythmics. Other standout songs included “Who’s Zooming Who?’ and “Get It Right.” When she passed away in 2018, she left a legacy that few people will be able to surpass.
18. Donna Summer
Donna Summer was a woman of many different musical talents. She could go from disco to rock while captivating people with her singing voice. While a lot of people mostly remember her from her 1983 hit “She Works Hard For The Money,” she had several other great 80s songs, like “Love is in Control,” “On the Radio,” and “Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?” The world mourned her death in 2012 from lung cancer.
Cher, who wowed people with her singing alongside her then-husband Sonny Bono, released the 1989 song “If I Could Turn Back Time,” which became a hit. She had also been singing through that decade too, with tunes like “I Paralyze” and “I Found Someone.”
20. Debbie Gibson
Some may have issues with Debbie Gibson being here, but she was such a fresh find when her 1987 debut song “Only In My Dreams” came out. For a while, she battled Tiffany for the title of Teen Queen. While she was only active for the last three years of the decade, her vocal talents alone put her here.
21. Grace Jones
The statuesque Grace Jones cut an imposing figure in the 80s—she was a James Bond villainess in “A View To A Kill”—and she was also a great musician. Songs like “Slave to the Rhythm,” “Private Life,” and “Pull Up to The Bumper” made her a must-listen. She did not just intimidate people with her scowl but her pipes are also a force to be reckoned with.
22. Chaka Khan
The “I Feel For You” singer had such a unique name and style that she grabbed attention immediately. Her voice and songs like “I’m Every Woman” helped cement her place.
23. Lita Ford
No, she’s not here just because she was once married to Ozzy Osbourne. Like Joan Jett, she proved herself to be a talented musical badass herself, showing that women could do metal.
24. Sade Adu
As soon as people heard her crooning “Smooth Operator,” they knew that Sade Adu was someone to listen to. Over the years, she has cemented herself as a musical legend. Other 80s songs like “When Am I Going to Make a Living?’ and “Love is Stronger Than Pride” also showcased her stunning vocals. Her band, Sade, had only done six albums up until the 2020s, but she is still someone who belongs here.
25. Patty Smyth
The lead singer of Scandal had a singing voice and presence that was fully capable of showing the side of scorned women (“Goodbye to You”) and a woman who was fully ready to kick butt (“The Warrior”) no matter what. Yes, the second song also featured some weird 80s fashion choices in both hairstyle and makeup, but the song itself was a tour de force. She battled her way onto this list.
We agonized over this list, constantly wondering if we were doing short shrift to people like Aimee Mann, whose powerhouse vocals in “Voices Carry” and guest vocals on Rush’s “Time Stand Still” merited consideration. That’s the beauty of music, though. You can create your own lists. Mann might make yours.
Have fun listening to these wonderful female voices of the 80s!
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.