The 1980s was a great time for music in general. We all know the ladies of the 80s were unmatched. But male vocalists of the 80s also had their time in the spotlight.
Whether you’re looking for hard rockers from so-called “hair bands” or ballad singers who belted powerful lyrics, we have you covered! Here are famous 80s male singers you will love to listen to.
1. Michael Jackson
Born in 1958, “the King of Pop” became the voice of the 80s with hit singles and popular MTV videos. His 30-plus platinum Thriller album hit shelves in 1982 and included the classics “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and, of course, “Thriller.” It went on to become the best-selling album of all time by the next year.
But Jackson wasn’t done yet. He followed that success up in 1987 with the release of Bad, which had no fewer than five number one Billboard titles. “Dirty Diana,” “The Man in the Mirror,” and “Bad” were among fan favorites from this album that still get plenty of radio play today. The song “Smooth Criminal” alone has been certified double platinum and reached number one on international charts.
2. Freddie Mercury
Lead singer for Queen, Freddie Mercury is undeniably one of the best male singers of the 80s. Possibly of all time. His operatic theatricality mixed with the rock sound of Queen resulted in a unique sound that fans couldn’t get enough of.
One of the band’s most memorable performances took place in 1985 at the Live Aid concert. Their twenty-one-minute set at this international fundraiser was later voted the greatest live performance in the history of rock. Part of Mercury’s allure was his charismatic way of interacting with the crowd. Fans loved to sing along with the man whose melodic voice range spanned a stunning four octaves.
3. Boy George
Boy George entered the scene at the start of the 80s after he teamed up with Bow Wow Wow (of “I Want Candy” fame). His style caught fans’ eyes. A man who could rock androgynous fashion and makeup was relatively new in the industry. Judging from the subsequent rise of hair bands and flamboyant male performers throughout the rest of the decade, the music world had found something it never knew it needed in Boy George.
Influenced by David Bowie and others from the 70s, Boy George led the way to the 80s with a subgenre of music known as New Romantic. Primarily a fashion movement, several bands—including Boy George’s Culture Club—expressed their eccentric lifestyle on stage through their songs. One of his most memorable hits is “Karma Chameleon.”
Prince was an epic performer and is still considered one of the greatest musicians of his time. In the 1980s, he embraced his own version of an androgynous style and paired that with his falsetto voice to create an unforgettable musical experience.
During that decade alone, he released nine albums, including “1999” and “Purple Rain.” His ability to work in a variety of musical styles and genres firmly solidified his dominance in the industry. From pop to R&B, from funk to rock, Prince continually branched out and expressed himself creatively in every musical way he could. Despite this fact worrying producers, fans found his frequent change of musical styles refreshing and exciting.
5. George Michael
Born in 1963, British pop rocker George Michael became an 80s star as a singer for Wham! and then later as a solo artist. In 1985, Wham! made headlines by being the first western pop music act to perform in China.
After Wham!, Michael released “Careless Whisper,” and he officially became a household name. This is a perfect slow dance song, and it reached the number one spot in more than 20 countries. He went on to give us “Faith,” “Father Figure,” “Monkey,” and more, all in the 80s. There was something about his soft voice and the energetic beats of his songs that encouraged fans to get up and dance.
6. Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel actually found fame starting in the 70s when he sang in Genesis. In 1986, he released his solo album So. It went triple platinum, and he became an icon of the 80s. The biggest hit of the album was “Sledgehammer,” which won nine MTV awards in 1987 and was the channel’s most played music video of all time. Gabriel has won six Grammy Awards and was named Best British Male in 1987.
He also solidified his place in the hearts of fans during the 80s when he took on several activist roles in the arts. In 1980, he co-founded WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance), a festival to celebrate art around the world.
7. Rick Astley
Look, it doesn’t count as a Rickroll if we tell you upfront. There’s simply no way to talk about the male voices of the 80s without mentioning Rick Astley, whose deep voice can be recognized anywhere.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” came out in 1987 and became the best-selling single in the UK for that year. Though that is his most memorable song today, thanks to internet memes, he actually released several hits and became a worldwide sensation in the late 80s. There was something intoxicating about his unique voice paired with the dance beats of the decade.
8. John Cougar Mellencamp
In the 80s, he went by John Cougar Mellencamp, though he’s also been known as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, and John Mellencamp. Whatever you called him, you knew him for his heartland rock sound, influenced by the greats from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
His album Scarecrow was released in 1985 and hit number two on the US charts. He then went on to collaborate with Willie Nelson and Neil Young on the first Farm Aid benefit concert. His sound and aesthetic appealed to fans who liked his rural, “earthy” style. A diversion from the synth dance beats of the time, Mellencamp offered sadder, more introspective rock sounds that told a story about the American landscape experience.
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner is a mouthful, so we’re grateful that he chose to go by just Sting. This musician and actor rose to fame as the songwriter and bassist for The Police in the 70s and 80s. When they released Synchronicity in 1983, the world finally fell head over heels for Sting with the song, “Every Breath You Take.”
In 1985, Sting set off on his successful solo career. His pop-jazz album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, went triple platinum within a year. And did you know? He’s also the voice singing the part “I want my MTV” in the 1985 Dire Straits song, “Money For Nothing.”
10. Paul Simon
Paul Simon is most famous for his role in the 60s folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Eventually, he had a successful solo career in the 80s with several hits.
During this decade, Simon explored African musical sounds and incorporated them into his work. The result was a kind of American-African fusion that fans absolutely loved. His album Graceland won the Album of the Year Grammy in 1987. The music video for “You Can Call Me Al” featured Chevy Chase and was an instant hit.
11. Don Henley
Don Henley is another superstar who’s most known for being in a band prior to his solo career. In Eagles, he made a name for himself as a singer and drummer.
It was only after the band broke up that Henley launched three solo albums in the 80s and closed out the decade with a Grammy for his 1989 song, “The End of the Innocence.” His voice is simultaneously smooth and raspy, adding to his working-class American appeal.
12. Phil Collins
By the time Genesis released Invisible Touch, the band already had twelve other albums to its name. Phil Collins, not the band’s original singer, became their recognizable voice in the 80s, and he also put out several solo hits during this time.
He kicked off the decade with “In the Air Tonight,” which came out in 1981 to critical acclaim. The gated reverb effect of Collins’s drums in this song grew popular in the 80s and eventually came to be associated with the sound of the era.
13. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder’s iconic smile, heartwarming voice, and unforgettable lyrics have given him a well-deserved place in the memories of music fans everywhere. Though his work has spanned many decades, he had a particularly prolific period during the 80s.
At this time, he focused on commercial work that helped grow his career. With several successful hits written for films, Wonder appeared on TV and radio regularly. “I Just Called To Say I Love You” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1985.
14. Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler and his band Aerosmith were big in the 70s, but they started to wane after that. Then they experienced a massive comeback in the 80s when Run-D.M.C. collaborated with them on a cover of “Walk This Way.”
One year later, Aerosmith released the multiplatinum 1987 album, Permanent Vacation. Several songs were instant hits. But it was in 1989, with Pump, that earned the band a Grammy for “Janie’s Got a Gun.” Tyler’s rock voice and overall style helped shape this genre for the decade.
15. Kenny Loggins
Kenny Loggins earned an Academy Award nomination for his song “Footloose” in 1985. This film was quintessentially 80s, in large part thanks to Loggins and his music.
He also performed on the fundraising single, “We Are the World,” a historic event that connected many of the top artists of the time. And then, in 1986, he sang “Danger Zone” for the blockbuster film Top Gun. With those few titles alone, Loggins has had a part in some of the most 80s of 80s culture.
16. Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams is another multi-decade success story. Some of his best work happened in the 80s. His soft rock style appealed to a wide range of fans around the world, and he was able to release several albums back-to-back.
In 1987, he released “Heat of the Night,” which won Song of the Year from the Canadian Music Publishers Association.
17. Rick Springfield
You may know him as an actor from General Hospital in the 80s, or you may know him as the singer of “Jessie’s Girl.” Either way, Rick Springfield earned his spot as a major influencer in the 1980s.
18. Billy Joel
Billy Joel has been a household name for decades. Before, during, and after the 80s, he managed to adapt to the changing styles of each era in order to maintain a flourishing musical career. In 1984, he released “The Longest Time,” which took the world by storm as a doo-wop throwback.
19. Eddie Money
The New York Times referred to this 80s star as a “working-class rocker.” Eddie Money sampled a hit from the 60s for his song “Take Me Home Tonight,” which became the 14th most played song of all time on American radio in 1986.
20. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s name should appear on lists of male singers for much of American history if we’re being honest. But it was 1984 when his most popular album came out: Born in the U.S.A. This sold 30 million copies worldwide and rocketed Springsteen to mainstream stardom. When he performed in East Germany in 1988, it was called “one of the most exciting and biggest rock concerts ever, anywhere.”
21. “Weird Al” Yankovic
He’s a parody singer, but he’s definitely a major part of 80s music. In 1984, “Weird Al” Yankovic released “Eat It,” his humorous play on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” from two years before. The music video portrayed a shot-for-shot spoof of Jackson’s video, and fans loved it. The joy of Yankovic’s music was that it managed to be funny without making fun of the original songs themselves. That style of humor allowed fans to enjoy both versions.
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.
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