In the 80s, girl bands produced sounds as varied as their artists. There were pop bands, rock bands, R&B bands, and more.
Some bands took inspiration from the 1960s girl bands before them, and others carved out their own unique sound. All are worth remembering. Here are some of the best girl bands of the 80s.
It’s impossible to talk about the best girl bands of the 80s without discussing Bananarama. The band had many hits, including:
- Cruel Summer
- Robert de Niro is Waiting
- Love in the First Degree
The group began when two high school friends reconnected and decided to collaborate musically. On their own, both women struggled to advance in their careers. Together they became a household name.
2. The Bangles
Few 80s girl bands are as synonymous with the decade as The Bangles.
Incredibly, they began life as the markedly less memorable ‘Bangs.’ Happily, a legal wrangle forced the group to change its name.
Susannah Hoffs, Vicky Peterson, Debbie Peterson, and Michael Steel, the group was enormously successful.
They had many hits to make the top of the Billboard charts. But they are best known for the endlessly singable, wonderfully playful ‘Walk Like An Egyptian.’
3. The Go-Gos
Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Shock, Kathy Valentine, and Jane Welding created The Go-Gos in 1978.
They had no way of anticipating the popularity heading their way. As the seventies turned into the eighties, the Go-Gos became one of the best girl bands of the 80s overnight.
Part of what distinguished the band from other all-female bands of the 80s was that they sang, wrote, and accompanied their compositions themselves.
While not strictly an all-girl band of the 80s, Heart nevertheless deserves mentioning. The band originated in 1967 when it was called The Army.
As time went on, it experienced several name changes, including:
- Hocus Pocus
- White Hart
It finally settled on Heart. It also introduced vocalist and flutist Amy Wilson to the ensemble, alongside her sister, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Nancy Wilson.
They brought familial harmony into the band’s repertoire, creating a richer, more resonant sound, their predilection for hard rock notwithstanding.
Members came and went, and Heart lost some popularity in the mid-80s. But it recovered and eventually entered the Rock and Roll hall of fame.
Another of the best 80s girl bands that is noteworthy is Seduction. Seduction began as one of the C+C Music Factory’s early projects. It featured a young Michelle Visage.
While the group struggled for success in Britain, they were immediately and unexpectedly popular in North America. It wasn’t long before they went from a shoestring project to a notorious 80s all-female band.
Initially, Expose was riddled with lineup changes. It proved difficult to form a cohesive collaboration, which may explain why this all-female band experienced most of its success in the 80s and 90s.
When they finally formed a creative collaboration that worked, it featured Ann Curless, Gioia Bruno, and Jeanette Jurado. The result was one of the
Their debut album landed an unprecedented four top-ten hits on the Billboard 100. No wonder they are remembered as one of the best girl bands of the 80s.
7. Vanity 6
Sisters Vanity and Susan Moonsie teamed up with Brenda Bennett for what arguably became one of the best all-girl bands of the 80s.
The impetus for this female band came from Prince, who thought a women-only band that sang while sporting lingerie and wasn’t squeamish about sporting revealing clothes had selling power.
But Vanity 6 wouldn’t be as memorable if it is if they were all about sex. They produced many excellent hits, ‘He’s So Dull’ is a standout.
Fuzzbox is another of the best girl bands from the 80s. They were a UK-based band that haled from the unlikely metropolis of Birmingham. Even more unlikely was the band’s mouthful of a full name: We’ve Got a Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It!
It was too much of a name for a band quickly becoming a household sensation, so it got colloquially and affectionately shortened to Fuzzbox, and the name stuck.
9. The Pretenders
The Pretenders is a female band from the 80s that has been through several permutations.
They started in 1978 with a cover of a song by The Kinks. They released their first album in 1980 and became an immediate critical and commercial hit.
The Pretenders have formed and reformed several times, often to fill the gap left by departing members. But their popularity remains a constant.
10. The Pointer Sisters
By the mid-seventies, The Pointer Sisters were already a household name. By the time the next decade rolled around, they had become one of the best girl bands of the 80s.
Like other bands on this list, there’s been some changeover in its members over the year. What makes The Pointer Sisters unique is that they have always had a familial focus.
When the band began, its members were three sisters. Later, when Ruth Pointer died prematurely, her daughter joined the group. Later, her granddaughter also joined the band.
Salt-N-Pepa is another of the best girl bands of the 80s. The band got its start from their hit song ‘Push It,’ though they were unconvinced the composition would be a success.
Neither was anyone else. Initially, Salt-N-Pepa's record company issued it as the B-side of a record. But the song exceeded expectations and carried Salt-N-Pepa in its wake.
Most notable of all was the success of Salt-N-Pepa as a female band at a time when Rap and Hip Hop didn’t feature many women. For many, this 80s girl band remains the first all-female band to break through that barrier.
12. The Mary Jane Girls
The Mary Jane Girls specialized in a combination of funk, R&B, and soul.
They were one of the best all-girl bands of the 80s, a fact that many attributes to their tutelage at the knee of Rick James.
They were a perennial musical favorite and enjoyed a musical resurgence in 2014, which led to their induction into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.
13. Babes in Toyland
Although they debuted late in the 80s, Babes in Toyland remain one of the best female bands of the 80s.
They appeared on the scene in 1987. Early members included:
- Kat Bjelland
- Lori Barbero
- Michelle Leon
Later, Maureen Herman replaced Leon.
Despite their success, the band eventually dissolved. But they reunited in 2014 and continued to perform live until 2020 when they again disbanded.
Another of the best female bands of the 80s is Vixen. They may not have enjoyed the high degree of popularity others on this list saw, but they consistently produced well-received albums.
Additionally, they helped shape the hard and glam rock landscape. To a certain degree, they helped anticipate the musical shift to grunge. The result was a tremendous degree of popularity that might not have lasted as long as other bands but was still considerable.
They often get compared to artists like:
One of their best-known songs is ‘Edge of a Broken Heart.’
15. Shakespeares Sister
Shakespeares Sister came about because Bananarama dissolved. Siobhan Fahey intended to launch a solo career. But she soon joined creative forces with Marcella Detroit.
The result was another of the best female bands of the 80s. Despite debuting late in the decade, their success was remarkable.
However, it’s worth noting that their heyday didn’t arrive until the early 90s. The band has since dissolved, but the artists continue to work in sporadic and effective collaboration.
16. Mai Tai
This popular female band of the 80s takes its name from a cocktail drink. Mai Tai began in 1983 with the single ‘Keep On Dancin’.’
Mai tai was a Dutch band, but that didn’t stop it from accruing international acclaim when it released ‘History’ in 1984.
Mai Tai had had previous success with songs like:
- Body and Soul
- Am I Losing You Forever
But from 1984 onwards, it was one of the best all-girl bands of the 80s. Their success spanned Dutch, British, and American charts. And while the lineup of artists changed over time, their popularity never wavered.
17. The Cover Girls
The Cover Girls is another of the best girl bands of the 80s to achieve success late in the decade.
They are best known for their hit ‘Show Me,’ though it is by no means their only successful song.
Other popular numbers include:
- Wishing on a Star
- Don’t Stop Now
- Because of You
When The Cover Girls first appeared on the musical scene, the band consisted of members:
- Angel Mercado
- Caroline Jackson
- Sunshine Wright
That was in 1986, and ‘Because of You’ was their first song to catch listeners’ attention.
The members changed over time, but their success was such that the original trio eventually participated in a documentary on freestyle music.
18. Company B
Company B got its start in 1986. It combines Latin music with freestyle, and the result is an always interesting, frequently innovative sound.
They took their musical inspiration from another best girl band of the 80s, Expose. It was a clever move, and they eventually got picked up by Atlantic Records.
They were distinctive, at least initially, for their platinum wigs. But in 1989, these disappeared, and so did their notorious Latin rhythms. Determined not to be limited by one style, Company B played around musically, running the gamut from ’Gotta Dance’ to a cover of the Andrews Sisters' classic, ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.’
Odd as it seems, the wartime staple was a tip of the hat to the song that gave the group its name. And proving their metal as one of the best female bands of the 80s, they were just as popular covering the Andrews Sisters as they were composing original melodies.
19. Shonen Knife
This Japanese pop-punk band took musical inspiration from the girl groups of the 1960s. But lest you think they’re outmoded, they became one of the best girl bands of the 80s.
Much about Shonen Knife I significant. Their signature blend of pared-down musicality with bilingual lyrics is immediately recognizable. More than that, they demonstrably impacted the international music scene.
Previously, the most popular bands felt confined to North America and Britain. Occasionally, as with Mai Tai, a European group was internationally successful.
Shonen Knife helped expand that international territory and put Asian and especially Japanese bands on the musical map in a way that hadn’t been done previously.
Klymaxx made its musical debut in 1981. But unlike other groups on this list, they did not become one of the best girl groups of the 80s overnight.
Instead, Klymaxx was enjoying modest success when in 1984 they became a sensation.
The group was on their fourth album, and it was transformative. Perhaps their best-known song was ‘The Men All Pause.’
Despite their success, the band didn’t last. By 1989, the six-member band was reduced to three. Not long after, the band broke up.
21. Pepsi & Shirlie
After beginning their career as backup singers, Pepsi and Shirlie debuted an album of their own. It was called ‘Heartache’ and it was hugely successful, especially in the UK.
However, while the band enjoyed popularity throughout the 80s, it didn’t last. By the 1990s, the group had disbanded.
22. Sweet Sensation
Sweet Sensation is a Bronx-based freestyle trio that began in 1986. Initially, it consisted of Betty Lebron, Margie Fernandez, and Mari Fernandez.
In 1989, Mari Fernandez left, and Sheila Vegas replaced her.
The group was best known for their hit singles:
- Take It While It’s Hot
- Never Let You Go
- Sincerely Yours
Of these, ‘Never Let You Go’ reached number one on the North American charts, significantly contributing to the band’s success.
L7 was instrumental in developing the grunge movement. They are a women’s rock band that began in 1985 and continued performing until 2001.
They took a 12-year hiatus but came back in 2014.
The members have changed over the years, but the band was the brainchild of Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardiner. They deliberately chose a gender-neutral band name to ease the band’s entry not only into grunge and rock but to appeal to more listeners.
Initially, they struggled to find a drummer, but that changed once they had their feet under them. While they are remembered as one of the best female bands of the 80s, their success didn’t end with the decade. They continue to be a favorite with listeners today.
24. Sister Sledge
Sister Sledge had their breakthrough hit in the late seventies with ‘We Are Family.’
From there, they quickly gained an audience. They continued recording original compositions but also made a name for themselves covering other artists, particularly Mary Wells’ ‘My Guy.’
By the mid-80s, they ranked highly on UK music charts and are remembered today as one of the best female bands of the 80s.
Girlschool isn’t just one of the best girl bands of the 80s. It’s one of the longest-running bands out there.
Girlschool was formed in 1978 and continues to perform in concerts.
But that’s not the only reason Girlschool stands out. The South London band anticipated glam rock by at least ten years. Though undeniably ahead of their time, this didn’t hurt their popularity. Instead, the innovative music drew listeners in.
By the 80s, the band had a dedicated and vocal UK fan base. It soon spread to America, and despite being riddled with internal problems, Girlschool continued to thrive.
Its members changed, and the songs people loved varied, but they kept making music, and people kept listening.
26. Girl Monstar
Girl Monster was another of the best girl bands of the 80s. They stand out not only for being an all-women’s rock band but because, unlike other artists on this list, they hale from Australia.
Despite only debuting in 1988, they remain one of the best female bands of the decade because of their instant success with their audience.
Despite this, band member Ritchie Hine left the band early on to join forces with The Screaming Tribesmen. This didn’t hurt Girl Monstars, whose distinctive blend of guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, and vocals matured.
As it came into its own, the band was able to replace members, and by the time the nineties were underway, they were a household name.
Some of their biggest hits include:
Surfing on a Wave/He’s Hell
27. Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane was an 80s-era, all-female country band. It had four members: Mary Fielder on guitar, Mary Ann Kennedy on drums, Linda Moore playing the bass guitar, and vocalist Pam Rose.
Like many all-female bands in the 80s, several members had enjoyed previous success as solo artists. But they are better remembered for their collaborative work.
Top Girl Bands Of The 80s, Final Thoughts
What stands out about the best girl bands of the 80s is their willingness to push boundaries.
Often they were seeking recognition in a male-dominated world, and it took enormous willpower and determination to be successful. The groups that succeeded didn’t always outlast the decade.
But to focus on that is to sell them short. They made a powerful impression on people during a period of momentous musical change, and that’s worth celebrating.