Some of the most influential female artists in history emerged in the 1980s. Those of us fortunate enough to have experienced the music of this decade can still remember how iconic many of these ladies were. If you want brushing up on this period, or you simply want to discover these acts for the first time, here are the best 80s female singers.
Cher, also known as the “Goddess of Pop,” is a legendary figure in pop music. This American star first gained fame in the 60s as part of the folk-rock duo Sonny & Cher and then launched her incredibly successful solo career.
From “Believe” to “If I Could Turn Back Time,” she has scored several chart-topping hits in her career. Known for her distinctive singing voice, incredible versatility, and admirable embodiment of female autonomy, Cher is an absolute legend in the industry.
2. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston took the music world by storm in the 80s with her powerful vocals and unique style. She quickly became a bestselling R&B artist during this era, demonstrating an unrivaled musical prowess that still resonates with fans today.
Groundbreaking albums like Whitney Houston and Whitney were not only commercially successful but also highly influential. Her music marked a profound cultural shift and helped break barriers for many young women eager to enter the industry, ultimately symbolizing female empowerment.
3. Kate Bush
Kate Bush is an iconic English musician who has significantly impacted the industry. Her musical style is known for its creativity and innovation, making her stand out among other artists of her time.
With hits like “Running Up That Hill” and “Wuthering Heights” in her discography, Bush has continuously pushed the boundaries of traditional music, bringing a unique blend of artistry to her performances. Her contributions as both a vocalist and creative force have captivated audiences for several decades and solidified her status as an icon in the music world.
4. Diana Ross
The legendary Diana Ross first became a household name as the lead singer of The Supremes during the 60s. Her powerful and soulful voice made her stand out in the industry, and she soon began a highly successful solo career.
In the 80s, this American singer skyrocketed in popularity and dominated the charts with timeless hits like “Upside Down” and “Endless Love.” Her iconic performances showcased her incredible vocal range and successfully broke barriers in a male-dominated industry, paving the way for future generations of female artists.
Madonna is one of the most iconic, not to mention influential, pop singers ever. With the release of her debut album, Madonna, in the 80s, she skyrocketed to superstardom and became a cultural phenomenon.
Nicknamed the “Queen of Pop,” this American icon is known for her fascinating versatility and revolutionary approach to music. With boundary-pushing performances and catchy hits like “La Isla Bonita” and “Hung Up,” she continues to shape the world of music and remains an enduring symbol of female empowerment in popular culture.
6. Tina Turner
Tina Turner was a legendary musician who deserves to be on our list of the best 80s female singers. She first gained prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and then embarked on a successful solo career, solidifying her status as a music icon.
With her charismatic vocals, undeniable swagger, and unstoppable energy, Turner captivated countless individuals with her performances. Known as the “Queen of Rock ‘n' Roll,” she released several classics throughout her career, including “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “The Best.”
7. Celine Dion
Celine Dion is a vocal powerhouse that has enchanted audiences worldwide with her extraordinary range and expressive performances. This Canadian star’s big breakthrough came in the 80s with her Eurovision Song Contest victory, and from that point onward, she embarked on a journey to global superstardom.
Nicknamed the “Queen of Power Ballads,” Dion is one of the best-selling artists in history. Her music encompasses elements of pop, rock, and gospel, and some of her biggest hits include “That’s The Way It Is” and “My Heart Will Go On.”
8. Aretha Franklin
Nicknamed the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin was an outstanding American singer-songwriter. She gained fame with hits like “Ever Changing Times,” “Respect,” and “I Say A Little Prayer” and significantly changed the music landscape.
Thanks to her exceptional vocals, she is frequently regarded as one of the greatest singers ever. Throughout her career, she won an astonishing 18 Grammys and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
9. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson is an iconic American singer, songwriter, and dancer who has significantly impacted pop and R&B music. Known for her innovative style, powerful vocals, socially conscious lyrics, and dynamic performances, Jackson is one of the most successful female artists of her time.
Her career spans several decades and includes numerous chart-topping hits, including “Rhythm Nation” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.” She has received five Grammys and 11 Billboard Music Awards throughout her career, which speaks volumes about her artistry.
10. Dolly Parton
Simply put, Dolly Parton is the biggest country music legend. This American singer-songwriter’s vibrant personality and poignant storytelling have resonated with fans worldwide, establishing her as a force to be reckoned with in the country music sphere.
Throughout her decades-long career, Parton has continuously released music with personal anecdotes and heartfelt emotions that connect with listeners on a deeper level. Some of her top songs to date are “Jolene,” “9 to 5,” and “Here You Come Again.” Thanks to her impressive artistry, she has garnered 11 Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award.
11. Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox is a Scottish singer-songwriter and philanthropist who undoubtedly deserves your attention. Nicknamed the “Brits Champion of Champions” due to her remarkable six wins for Best British Female Artist at the Brit Awards, she is an absolute force to be reckoned with.
With hits like “Why” and “Walking on Broken Glass,” Lennox is one of the most successful artists in UK music history. She is globally renowned for her powerful vocals, distinctive style, and impressive humanitarian efforts. Thanks to her phenomenal contributions to music and society, she was honored with an Order of the British Empire.
12. Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks, one of the most respected names in the industry, has carved a name for herself both as part of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo act. This American singer-songwriter exhibits raw talent that has reshaped the music landscape time and time again.
Nicks’ daring vocals and expressive lyrics quickly garnered acclaim as she joined Fleetwood Mac and propelled the group to stardom. The group’s most famous project, Rumours, features hits like “Dreams” and is regarded as one of the greatest albums ever. Her solo career is also nothing short of extraordinary, thanks to stunning records like Bella Donna and The Wild Heart.
13. Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John was a Grammy-winning musician who captivated audiences with her incredible music. Thanks to her soothing vocals and impressive versatility, she became one of the best-selling artists ever.
Throughout her career, she released several successful albums that consistently topped charts worldwide due to their catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics. With memorable hits like “Physical” and “Magic,” she left an indelible mark on the music scene of that era. Interestingly enough, she even played Sandy in Grease, showcasing her immense range and talent.
14. Gloria Estefan
Gloria Estefan is a singer of Cuban-American decent, who has achieved international success—and rightfully so. With over 100 million records sold worldwide and eight Grammys, Estefan has left an extraordinary mark on the music industry.
In recognition of her contributions to music and culture, she even received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is just about the highest honor imaginable. With chart-topping hits like “Con Los Años Que Me Quedan” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” Estefan remains a cultural icon with an enduring legacy.
15. Bonnie Tyler
Bonnie Tyler is a talented Welsh singer with a husky voice that instantly grabs your attention. With timeless hits like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out For A Hero” in her discography, she has won millions of hearts worldwide.
Her distinctive musical style is a blend of country, pop, and rock, instantly setting her apart from other artists of her time. With powerful vocals and a captivating stage presence, Tyler leaves a lasting impression on music lovers everywhere.
16. Joan Jett
Joan Jett is an American guitarist, songwriter and singer. She’s best known for being the frontwoman of her band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Some of the group’s most iconic hits include “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” and the popular “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Jett has contributed significantly to rock and roll. Her powerful vocals, raw and unapologetic energy, and impressive guitar skills have earned her a dedicated fan base—and understandably so.
17. Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar is an American singer-songwriter who became an icon in the music industry during the 80s. This talented rock icon has four Grammys under her belt and is known for her breathtaking musical style and unparalleled energy.
Thanks to her undeniable talent, she has had two multi-platinum albums and five platinum albums in the United States alone. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, which is a significant feat for any artist.
18. Chrissie Hynde
Chrissie Hynde is an iconic singer-songwriter and the vocalist for the rock band The Pretenders. With an incredibly unique voice, she is widely addressed as one of the greatest female rock singers ever.
Hynde's strong vocals, coupled with her skilled songwriting abilities and powerful stage presence, have earned her respect from both peers and fans alike. Thanks to incredible tracks like “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “Back on the Chain Gang,” she has left an unforgettable mark on the music world.
19. Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper is an American singer-songwriter with an incredibly successful career that spans decades. Classics like “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” are among her biggest hits and remain beloved by millions today.
With her unique vocals and flamboyant style, Lauper instantly stood out among other female singers of the time. Thanks to her charismatic stage presence and infectious energy, she continues to captivate audiences today.
20. Belinda Carlisle
Belinda Carlisle is a notable American musician in the industry. She first gained fame as the lead singer of the Go-Go's, which is considered one of the best all-female rock bands of all time. After the group disbanded, she embarked on a successful solo career and made quite a name for herself.
Music lovers recognize Carlisle as one of the most influential female vocalists of the 80s—and for a good reason. Radio hits like “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” and “Leave a Light On” testify to her status as a legendary artist in the music world.
21. Donna Summer
Donna Summer, also known as the “Queen of Disco,” was an incredibly talented American singer-songwriter. With powerful vocals and chart-topping hits like “I Feel Love” and “Last Dance,” she successfully captivated audiences worldwide.
Summer played a vital role in popularizing disco music, essentially creating an infectious genre that would take over both radio stations and dance floors. With well over onehundred million records sold worldwide, her impact on music history is undeniable.
22. Debbie Gibson
Debbie Gibson is another iconic figure in the music industry. This American singer-songwriter rose to stardom in the 80s with the release of Out of the Blue, and ever since then, there has been no looking back. With her catchy pop melodies, youthful energy, and relatable lyrics, this prodigy quickly garnered critical acclaim.
Tracks like “Lost in Your Eyes” and “Foolish Beat” were chart-topping hits that remain loved by countless individuals today. Needless to say, Gibson has successfully paved the way for endless female artists who aspire to make their mark on the charts.
23. Grace Jones
Grace Jones is a multi-talented Jamaican-American artist who has made her mark as a model, singer, and actress. Known for her charming persona, fearless attitude, and unique artistic expression, Jones is an extraordinary musician who deserves your undivided attention.
She launched her music career in the 80s and released several stellar projects, including Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing, and Slave to the Rhythm. With a career spanning several decades, she has successfully captivated audiences and left a lasting impact on fans worldwide.
24. Chaka Khan
Widely known as the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka Khan is a legendary figure in the music industry. She first gained popularity as the lead vocalist of the funk band Rufus and later went on to have a successful solo career in the 80s.
With ten Grammys under her belt, it’s safe to say that Khan is an absolute star. Some of her most popular hits to date include “Like Sugar,” “Through the Fire,” and “I Feel for You.” Thanks to her powerful voice and unique style, she continues to influence generations of musicians today.
25. Lita Ford
Lita Ford is another skilled singer and songwriter who deserves to be on this list. She initially rose to fame as the lead guitarist for The Runaways and gained acclaim for her heavy guitar riffs before embarking on her successful metal solo career.
With songs like “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever,” Ford instantly gained popularity and showcased her impressive versatility as an artist. Her contributions have paved the way for future generations of women in rock bands, inspiring them to pursue their passions fearlessly.
26. Sade Adu
Sade Adu is a British singer who has tremendously impacted the contemporary music scene. Thanks to her powerful vocals, soulful songwriting, and captivating performances, Adu is a highly beloved figure in the industry.
Her music combines elements of soul, funk, and jazz to create something truly remarkable. Timeless melodies like “Smooth Operator” and “No Ordinary Love” have captivated audiences worldwide—and for good reason.
27. Patty Smyth
Patty Smyth is a songwriter and singer from America. She first gained national attention as the frontman of the rock band Scandal and then embarked on a successful solo career in the 80s.
One of Smyth's most widely recognized songs is “Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough,” which resonated deeply with audiences and solidified her status as a talented musician.
28. Sinéad O’Connor
Sinéad O'Connor was an Irish singer-songwriter who significantly impacted the industry with her strikingly emotional voice and unapologetic authenticity. Incredible albums like The Lion and the Cobra and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got catapulted her to global fame—and rightfully so.
O’Connor’s stunning vocals and enthralling stage presence have inspired millions of individuals worldwide. Beyond her musical talents, she has an outspoken stance on various social and political issues, making her an icon of individuality and expression.
29. Kim Wilde
English pop icon Kim Wilde first caught the world's attention with her debut single, “Kids in America.” Her unique blend of pop and new wave, coupled with her signature raspy vocals, left a lasting impression on the 80s music scene.
With 17 UK Top 40 hit singles, she is the most-charted British female solo act of the 80s. Beyond music, Wilde has also made significant contributions to television and radio, showcasing her versatile talent across different platforms.
30. Sheena Easton
Sheena Easton is a Scottish singer-songwriter that dominated the music scene in the 80s with hits like “9 to 5” and “For Your Eyes Only.” As one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful female recording artists of her time, Easton is a highly talented musician.
During her career, she has made music in various genres, including pop, country, and R&B. It is this very versatility and creativity that make her one of the most iconic female singers of the decade.
31. Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul is an American singer that emerged in the 80s as a fresh face in music. Her debut album, Forever Your Girl, produced hits like “Straight Up” and “Opposites Attract” and helped her carve her niche in the music industry.
Following the success of her debut, she released Spellbound, another acclaimed and commercially successful album. On top of being a talented singer, Abdul is also a phenomenal choreographer and a famous television personality, solidifying her status as an entertainment icon.
32. Joan Armatrading
Joan Armatrading is a Kittitian-English singer-songwriter who made waves in the industry with her blend of rock, folk, pop, and blues. Known for her soulful voice and introspective lyrics, Armatrading makes music that resonates with a broad audience.
She got an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection in 1996, which is a testament to her incredible talent. Some of her top songs include “Love and Affection” and “I Like It When We’re Together.” Beyond her musical accomplishments, she is recognized for her generous philanthropic work.
33. Laura Branigan
Laura Branigan was an American singer-songwriter who dominated the 80s pop scene. Her most well-known song, “Gloria,” held a spot in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 36 weeks and turned Branigan into a household name.
Her powerful voice and passionate performances resonated deeply with listeners, cementing her status as an influential pop icon. Beyond her musical endeavors, Branigan also ventured into acting, showcasing her talent across multiple mediums.
34. Taylor Dayne
Truth be told, Taylor Dayne's voice was one of the defining sounds of the 80s music scene. This American singer rose to fame with her debut single, “Tell It to My Heart,” and became an instant sensation in the music world.
What set Dayne apart from her contemporaries was her expressive voice and infectious energy. She was named one of the best female dance artists of all time by Rolling Stone, which is an incredible honor in every sense of the word.
Dalida was an extremely talented singer who significantly impacted the global music landscape. Known for her passionate performances, emotive vocals, and distinctive style, Dalida was an extraordinary star.
With iconic hits like “Paroles, paroles” and “Salma Ya Salama” in her discography, she demonstrated that music transcends all language barriers. Today, she remains an iconic figure in global pop culture, celebrated for her wide-reaching influence and unique sound.
36. CeCe Winans
CeCe Winans, an American gospel singer, made significant waves in the 80s with her soulful voice and uplifting music. As part of the duo BeBe & CeCe Winans, she brought contemporary gospel music to the forefront of the music industry and soon embarked on her successful solo career.
Winans' faith-driven music, marked by her strong vocals and passionate performances, has earned her numerous awards and accolades, making her one of the most celebrated gospel artists ever. Some of her top tracks to date include “Goodness of God,” “Believe For It,” and “Never Lost.”
Nena is a German singer and actress who became a global sensation in the 80s thanks to her hit song “99 Luftballons.” The song's catchy tune and thought-provoking lyrics caught the world's attention, making Nena a defining figure of the 80s music scene.
Marked by her distinctive voice and vibrant energy, her music transcended borders and turned her into an international star. Beyond her musical career, Nena has also worked as a coach on The Voice of Germany, which allowed her to inspire a new generation of musicians and demonstrate her profound expertise.
38. Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman is an American singer-songwriter who established a name for herself in the late 80s with her eponymous debut album. She has been a key figure in the folk music scene, with hits like “Fast Car” and “Talkin' About A Revolution” becoming cultural anthems.
Chapman is best known for her excellent vocal abilities and thought-provoking lyrics. Beyond her music, she is widely recognized for her social activism and often speaks out on issues of injustice and inequality.
39. Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt is an American singer known for her powerful and versatile voice. This critically acclaimed and commercially successful icon has dabbled in various music styles throughout her career, including pop, rock, and country. Some of her top tracks include “Long Long Time” and “Blue Bayou.”
Her extraordinary talent has earned her 11 Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. Additionally, she was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
40. Lydia Lunch
Lydia Lunch is a talented American singer, poet, and writer that emerged as a pivotal figure in the 80s music scene. She often explores dark themes and offers a raw and unfiltered look at reality, the essence of which can be found in albums like Queen of Siam and 13.13.
Lunch is widely known for her anti-commercial ethic and confrontational performances, which sets her apart from other artists of her time. Her influential work across different mediums has made her a key figure in the avant-garde art scene, inspiring countless artists to push the boundaries of their respective mediums.
41. Irene Cara
Irene Cara was an American singer and actress who rose to fame in the 80s, thanks to famous tracks like “Fame” and “Flashdance… What a Feeling.” The latter went on to win a Grammy and an Oscar and showcased her infectious energy, making her a standout star of the era.
Cara’s dynamic vocals and charismatic persona have influenced countless individuals—and understandably so. She also gained recognition for her roles in films like Fame and Sparkle. Overall, her multifaceted talent and enduring influence make her an unforgettable 80s icon.
Top 80s Female Singers, Final Thoughts
In conclusion, the 80s was an incredible decade for female singers. From Tina Turner to Madonna, the extraordinary artists on this list captivated the masses with their powerful voices and unforgettable performances.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the best 80s female singers! Be sure to give these talented icons a listen. We promise you won’t regret it.