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'80s Music 101

This is the place to start to understand the sound and the look of '80s music. While unique and varied, the music of the era often shared certain characteristics. While there are exceptions to every rule, here you can learn why and how the term "So Eighties" has arrived at its current meaning.

An '80s Timeline to Scratch the Surface
Here's an introductory timeline of '80s music, covering one signature event from each year of the decade.

Best Songs of the '80s
An effort to count down the best and most memorable songs of the '80s can certainly begin with a short list of tunes covering the entire decade, but in order even to approach doing this chore justice it's necessary - at the very least - to break down the decade's songs by year. Here's an attempt to suss out the best the '80s had to offer musically, but of course it's just a start.

Top 8 Artists Of The '80s: The Essential Eight
The length and order could be debatable, but there's no doubt a core list of the most essential '80s artists serves as a fine place to start any exploration of the decade's music. The musicians on the list combined cultural clout with musical talent, image and good timing to shape all things that have come to be described with the adjective "eighties."

Top 8 Essential Albums of the '80s
The best albums of any decade are always about far more than hit songs, record sales and other stats that can be measured. Scope of influence and breadth of impact are really more about feel, a sense that can be perceived only by experiencing the music. In short, these albums reverberated throughout the decade and became classics, not only of their own time but of all time.

Top 10 Singles of the '80s
The greatest singles of any era possess the power to change the world in three minutes, or failing that, they at least share the ability to leave their stamp on a musical landscape already filled nearly to capacity.

Top 10 Songs of 1980
Here's a look at some of the best and most memorable songs from 1980, and not necessarily just the biggest hits. Many songs hit No. 1 or even the Top Ten this year, but few of them truly epitomize the exciting transitional period between the '70s and '80s.

Top 10 Albums of 1980
Here’s a look at 10 of the finest and most influential albums that made their most notable impact during the calendar year of 1980.

Most Memorable Pop Music Moments of 1980
With five prominent deaths of major rock music figures, 1980 can seem like a tragic and unfortunate year for pop and rock music. Here's a look at those somber events and a few others of note that took place that year.

Top 10 Songs of 1981
By 1981, remnants of the '70s began to fall away from the new decade's musical offerings, especially with the advent of MTV late in the year. In this way, '80s music began to fully embrace its own individual fashion and sound this year, and the results truly launched a new era of both making and experiencing music.

Top 10 Albums of 1981
Here's a look at some of 1981's finest full-length releases, with an eye toward capturing the great variety of music released that year in the ever-changing pop/rock landscape.

Top Music Moments of 1981
For some reason it always takes a year or two for a new decade to kick in musically, as vestiges of the previous decade cling for dear life before fading or morphing into something else. 1981, for example, maintained a bridge not only to the disco sounds of the late '70s but also some of music's biggest stars of the past.

Top 10 Songs of 1982
As MTV continued to extend its influence, artists began to emerge and thrive almost on image alone. Even so, much quality music was released in 1982, ranging from straight-ahead rock to synth pop to guitar-based new wave.

Top 10 Albums of 1982
Here's a look at 10 of the finest album releases that defined 1982, a year still driven by new wave but exhibiting a variety of rock and pop styles.

Top 10 Songs of 1983
1983 may have been the year of Michael Jackson, but it was also a year that embraced an array of pop music perhaps like never before. So many artists from disparate backgrounds who performed in various styles found success this year, and that was only one thing that increased the dynamism of the Top 40 charts.

Top 10 Albums of 1983
Thanks to Michael Jackson's Thriller and its unprecedented reign atop the pop charts, 1983 was an exhilarating and head-spinning year for music. Here's a look at some of the other great records that didn't always get their due during the year the King of Pop ruled.

Top 10 Songs of 1984
At least musically, 1984 was far from an Orwellian year of doom. Instead, it was the year major stars came out to shine, just in time to join the video revolution. At the same time, new wave and synth pop styles continued to evolve even as new paths began to emerge.

Top 10 Albums of 1984
While 1984 graced us with some of the strongest, most lasting albums of the '80s (Born in the USA, Like a Virgin, Purple Rain, and 1984, the year was so thick with important pop music that there's plenty of competition for the top 10 albums culled from the rest of the crop.

Top 10 Songs of 1985
Aside from being right in the middle of the '80s chronologically, 1985 was undoubtedly a central year in the decade’s musical offerings. Many of the most popular and highest-quality tunes this year stood as big, sweeping statements of both style and substance.

Top 10 Songs of 1986
Here's a look at 10 of the most memorable pop tunes from 1986, a diverse bunch of songs made up of familiar classics and tracks that were emblematic of the year.

Top 10 Songs of 1987
Kindly peruse my list of the top songs from 1987, in no particular order and certainly with no claim toward a collection that cannot be challenged. Here is simply a notable sampling of some of the year's most memorable songs.

Top 10 Songs of 1988
Here's a look at 10 of the most striking, singular tunes from 1988, a year dominated by some pretty lame pop hits and hair metal posturing but somehow still rich with delightful musical surprises.

Top 10 Songs of 1989
Here's a musical look at the last calendar year of the '80s, a time during which much pop music was already in the process of saying goodbye to the previous decade.

'80s Instrument Spotlight - the Saxophone
Among the instruments linked inextricably to '80s music, the saxophone stands out on any short list, though sometimes in dubious ways. Even so, its significance throughout the breadth of pop music history is undeniable and impressive. Here's a closer look at this unique instrument.

'80s Number Ones - Longest-Running Mainstream Rock Top Hits
Enjoy here another feature in a series focused on essential '80s music trivia, as this time we examine the single that enjoyed the longest run of the decade at number one on the U.S. Billboard mainstream rock singles chart.

What was the longest-running number one pop hit of the '80s?
Here's a look at some essential '80s music trivia, as we examine the single that enjoyed the longest run of the decade at number one on the pop charts.

What Were the Longest-Running Number One Country Hits of the '80s?
Unlike some of Billboard's other niche categories, the '80s country music charts displayed a remarkably egalitarian record when it comes to the duration of its number one hits. In fact, only four songs enjoyed as many as three weeks atop the chart.

What was the longest-running '80s No. 1 U.S. adult contemporary hit?
Here's another feature in a series focused on essential '80s music trivia, as this time we examine the single that enjoyed the longest run of the decade at number one on the U.S. Billboard adult contemporary singles chart.

What was the longest-running number one U.S. R&B hit of the '80s?
Here's another feature in a series focused on essential '80s music trivia, as this time we examine the single that enjoyed the longest run of the decade at number one on the U.S. Billboard R&B singles chart.

What was the longest-running number one U.K. pop hit of the '80s?
Here's a look at some essential '80s music trivia, as we examine the single that enjoyed the longest run of the decade at number one on the British pop charts.

Which '60s Band Inspired Consecutive Cover Version Top Hits in 1987?
I'm not sure if this makes a particular statement about the dearth of creativity on the late-'80s pop music scene, but 1987's Hot 100 singles chart had the distinction of featuring two consecutive '60s covers in the top spot.

Which '80s remakes of No. 1 pop songs also became top hits?
Only nine times have separate artists recorded versions of the same song that each reached the top of Billboard's pop charts. And just who are the groundbreaking '80s artists that matched this feat? Bananarama, Club Nouveau and Kim Wilde. Why, of course!

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