The 30 Best Female Singers of the 80s

Female singers in the 80s were some of the most iconic and legendary figures in music history. From Whitney Houston to Madonna, these strong and accomplished women captivated audiences with their powerful voices, unforgettable performances, and songs.

Let’s take a look at the 30 best female singers of the 80s.

1. Tina Turner

The charismatic “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is the first on the list. Tina Turner’s career spanned over 50 years, with her most successful period being the 1980s. She was a multi-Grammy awardee and one of the best-selling artists of that time. 

With her hit album “Private Dancer,” Tina captured hearts worldwide with her beautiful throaty vocals, stunning legs, and her outspoken personality. She had hits such as “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, “Proud Mary”, and “The Best”.

2. Gloria Estefan

Bringing Cuban Culture to the world of pop music, Gloria Estefan is widely considered one of the most popular Latin american singers. Starting as a frontrunner of the band Miami Sound Machine, she shined as a singer in their songs “Conga” and “Anything For You.” 

From there, Gloria’s career has been extremely successful, with her being a solo artist in the late 80s, bagging multiple Grammys, and being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

3. Chaka Khan

High vocals and amazing range, that’s what Chaka Khan is known for. She started her career in the 70s with the group Rufus, but it was in the 80s when she made a name for herself as a solo R&B artist with her album “I Feel For You.”

Since then, she has been relentlessly active in releasing albums and touring, with many of her songs receiving critical acclaim. Her hit songs “Ain’t Nobody” and “Through the Fire” are still popular to this day.

4. Bonnie Tyler

Metallic music mixed with Bonnie Tyler’s husky voice perfectly blended in the 80s to create one of the most distinctive sounds of that decade. She first found success in 1976 with her song “Lost in France,” but it was her worldwide hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in 1983 that made her an international sensation as well as “Holding Out for a Hero”.

5. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s voice is often the standard by which other singers are judged! A six-time Grammy awardee, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists in the 1980s, with her album “Whitney” becoming the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart.

With hits such as “One Moment In Time,” “Saving All My Love,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?,” Whitney’s angelic voice and powerful vocal range were rarely matched.

6. Annie Lennox

A woman with a voice and a philanthropic mission,  Annie Lennox is the lead singer of the popular 80s band Eurythmics. She first found mainstream success with their album “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” which featured the titular hit song that helped propel them to stardom.

Throughout her career, Annie’s talented voice has been her greatest asset, making her one of the most popular female singers of the 80s and bagging multiple awards along the way.

7. Kate Bush

An english singer-songwriter and musician, Kate Bush found critical and commercial success in the 80s with her album “Hounds of Love,” which featured the hit single “Running Up That Hill.”

An unconventional artist, Kate’s style of music was a refreshing change of pace in the 80s pop scene. Her willingness to experiment with her sound and write songs on her own made her one of the most respected female singers of the decade.

8. Paula Abdul

Dancing, singing, and acting have always been Paula Abdul’s thing. Her career started as a choreographer for popular artists such as Janet Jackson and George Michael. However, it was in the late 80s when she shot to fame as a pop singer with her debut album “Forever Your Girl” which has sold nearly seven million copies.

9. Debbie Gibson

No one is too young to start creating music and take the world by storm. This was proven by Debbie Gibson when she released her debut album “Out of the Blue” at age 16, making her the youngest female artist to write, produce, and perform a number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Foolish Beat.”

Gibson continued to enjoy commercial success in the following years, with her album “Electric Youth” becoming a double-platinum success.

10. Diana Ross

The “Queen of Motown” and former lead singer of the Supremes, Diana Ross is a living legend in the world of music. It was in the 80s when she found a new level of success, with her album “Diana” becoming one of the best-selling albums of that decade.

Her hit songs  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’m Coming Out,” and “Upside Down” are still popular to this day, thanks to Diana’s powerful vocal performance.

11. Dolly Parton

Being known as a country-pop crossover pioneer, Dolly Parton has had a big impact on the music industry. She first found success as a partner of Porter Wagoner in the 60s and 70s, but it was in the 80s when she made a name for herself as a solo artist.

With her album “Heartbreaker” becoming a huge success, Dolly has since then released many more albums and starred in films, cementing her status as one of the most famous country singers of all time. Today, she is one of the richest musicians in the world.

12. Madonna

The queen figure in pop music, Madonna is one of the most successful female recording artists of all time. Her best-selling album is “Like a Virgin” which featured hit songs “Material Girl”, “Like a Virgin”, and “Angel”, hinting innuendos to romance.

Being a unique and liberated artist, Madonna has always been pushing the envelope and breaking boundaries. Her award-winning music played a crucial role in the sound of the 80s.

13. Grace Jones

The new wave in the 80s had become more popular and electronic music had slowly been taking over the industry. Fusing pop, reggae, and art rock Grace Jones found enormous success.

Her hits “Pull Up to the Bumper” and “Slave to the Rhythm” showed her musical versatility, which helped her stand out from other artists of that time.

14. Pat Benatar

New York City native Pat Benatar dominated the rock scene in the 80s. With her powerful vocal delivery and great songwriting skills, she released a string of hits that have become classics in the rock genre.

Songs like “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” and “We Belong” are still being played on radio stations today. As a multi-awarded artist, Pat Benatar definitely deserves a spot on this list.

15. Belinda Carlisle

There’s no doubt that girl power was big in the 80s new wave scene, and Belinda Carlisle was one artist who always embodied this. As the lead singer of The Go-Go’s, she found success with their debut album “Beauty and the Beat” which featured the hits “We Got the Beat” and “Vacation.”

Afterward, she began a solo career while still playing with the band and is now well-known for her soprano voice.

16. Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper is widely known for her catchy, feel-good pop songs. Her debut album “She’s So Unusual” was a huge success, with the lead single “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” becoming an anthem for female empowerment.

She also had other hits like “True Colors,” “Time After Time,” and “She Bop.” Her distinctive singing style has earned her numerous awards over the years.

17. Joan Jet

Rock music was at its peak in the 80s and Joan Jett was one of the most popular female rock singers of that time. She first found success as a member of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and the Runaways.

She is best known for her rendition of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. Joan Jett’s career as a rock singer and songwriter has been highly influential, due in part to her mezzo-soprano vocals.

18. Olivia Newton-John

Her gentle voice and infectious smile made Olivia Newton-John one of the most popular female singers of the 70s and 80s. She first found success in country music before venturing into country pop and pop.

Olivia is best known for her hits “Physical,” “Have You Never Been Mellow,” and “I Honestly Love You.” She has also starred in the musical film “Grease” which further boosted her popularity.

19. Celine Dion

Belting out high notes and delivering powerful ballads, Celine Dion has become one of the most successful female singers of all time. She is best known for her songs “My Heart Will Go On,” “Because You Loved Me,” and “The Power of Love.”

A multi-awarded, best-selling, and highly influential artist, Celine Dion has dominated not only the 80s, but the entire music industry because of her full, warm, and powerful voice that has a 5-octave range.

20. Sinéad O’Connor

Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor became popular in the 80s with her debut album “The Lion and the Cobra” and solidified her place among the most famous Irish singers of all time.

Her most successful single is a cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” which topped charts all over the world. Throughout her career, Sinéad O’Connor has shown her versatility as an artist, experimenting with different genres like rock, pop, and R&B.

21. Stevie Nicks

Stephanie Lynn Nicks is best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac. However, she did have an equally impressive solo career. She is the first woman to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice!

Early in the 80s, when she released her debut album “Bella Donna”, she topped the Billboard chart. With 8 Grammy awards to her name, and over 15 studio albums altogether, Nicks is still active and a legend in the music industry.

22. Chrissie Hynde

Christine Ellen Hynde or Chrissie Hynde is a powerhouse in the industry as the leading vocalist for the Pretenders. Another Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Hynde made a huge impact on the music scene during the 80s era of incredible music.

The British-American singer-songwriter and guitarist is still active and you can hear one of the best songs of the Pretenders “Back on the Chain Gang” to get a taste.

23. Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is a very popular American singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer, famously known as a member of the Jackson family. Her first solo album was released in 1982 when she stormed the gates of the music industry as a solo artist.

Recording and releasing 4 albums in the 80s alone, Janet was one of the most popular female singers during this era and is still active today, with multiple Grammy and Emmy awards to her name.

24. Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt is one of the most diverse female singers in history, with one of the most impressive discographies known to man. She was known for dabbling in rock, country, and even light opera and is hands down, one of the best to ever do it.

She recorded and released 7 albums in the 80s alone, with many more in total, and has received so many awards that it’s silly to count. A true legend of the 80s!

25. Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin is one of the best singers of all time. Even though she was more famously known from the ’60s and ’70s, she was still quite active and at the top during the 80s. The Queen Of Soul had almost 40 studio albums, seven of which were during the 80s.

During the disco era, Aretha Franklin was still making hits, solidifying her diversity and ability to stay on top time after time. Without a doubt, one of the most successful artists of all time!

26. Cher

The Goddess of Pop, Cher was a force to be reckoned with when she was at her peak. With four decades of making and releasing chart-topping songs and albums, her career has reached a whopping 60 years today.

Even though she is most famously known for songs like “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and “Believe”, during the 80s, she also released “If I Could Turn Back Time” to solidify her place as one of the best and most popular female singers during this era.

27. Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman needs no introduction whatsoever. This female powerhouse was responsible for some of the most memorable 80s hits like “Fast Car”, “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution”, and “Baby Can I Hold You”.

Even though she came on the scene in the late 80s, she is widely responsible for embellishing one of the best musical eras of all time. Still active today, Chapman has 8 albums, several Grammy awards, and various other awards to her name.

28. Barbra Streisand

Barbara Joan Streisand is one of the most successful entertainers in the world, achieving success in music and film, with a career spanning over 60 years now.

With 36 musical albums to her name, she has remained relevant decade after decade, releasing chart-topping work, two of which were during the 80s – “Guilty” (1980), and “The Broadway Album” (1985). She is among the few performers in the world to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony!

29. Donna Summer

Donna Summer was a legend during the 70s and 80s, famously known as the Queen Of Disco, releasing hits like “On the Radio”, “She Works Hard For The Money”, “This Time I Know It’s for Real”, and “Hot Stuff”, songs that are still relevant to this day.

She had 17 albums to her name, 6 of which came out in the 80s with multiple chart-topping hits that solidified her place among the best female singers during this era.

30. Sade

Helen Folasade Adu, known as Sade, was a dominant force during the 80s. With hits like “Smooth Operator”, “No Ordinary Love”, and “The Sweetest Taboo”, she continued to endure success even after the 80s and released a total of 6 albums.

Conclusion

These are just some of the female singers who made a huge impact in the music industry in the 80s. From pop to rock to R&B, these women have shown their great talent and have given us some of the most catchy and unforgettable songs of that decade.

With their amazing vocal abilities and great songwriting skills, they have carved out a place for themselves in music history and showed that women can indeed be successful in the male-dominated world of music.

Celine Dion Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Anirudh Koul, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Sinead O’Connor Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Pymouss, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Dolly Parton Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Curtis Hilbun, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brian Clark

I’ve been a writer with Musician Wave for six years, turning my 17-year journey as a multi-instrumentalist and music producer into insightful news, tutorials, reviews, and features.

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