A number of pop/rock artists made the bulk of their impact during the '80s, but far fewer have also accomplished enough to warrant a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sometime during the upcoming decade. With all due respect to the many worthy pop music artists over the last half-century-plus, here's a short list of '80s artists that should be on the horizon for this honor. And although hard rock and arena rock may predominate among '80s acts with a fighting chance for enshrinement, it's inevitably true that more than a few representatives of less mainstream genres will be overlooked. Let the debate rage on.
1. Def Leppard
While British rockers Def Leppard embraced the mainstream pop scene to extract their greatest level of pop success, the group has always retained its throwback ties to '70s glam rock and straightforward hard rock of that earlier era. Impeccable production notwithstanding, the core '80s quintet has stood the test of time through formidable tragedy and struggle, always remaining a melodic guitar rock band capable of filling arenas and selling tons of records. Always more versatile and permanent than typical representatives of the pop metal scene the band helped create, Def Leppard ultimately owns a legacy well worthy protecting and preserving for rock music posterity.
Some will undoubtedly cringe at this assertion, but I fail to be deterred nonetheless. The pop-friendly, ballad-heavy sound of the Steve Perry-led '80s incarnation of Journey has in many ways earned its popularity through quality songs and a widely appealing arena rock interpretation. The band never enjoyed critical favor during the decade-long run of its classic lineup, but I'm constantly impressed by just how well the group's songs have stood the test of time. New generations of Journey fans may never get the chance to hear Perry live even as the group tours incessantly with a sound-alike vocalist, but "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Separate Ways" stand tall as genuine musical Americana for the ages.
3. Iron Maiden
One day thrash metal pioneers Slayer and Megadeth may have a shot at joining Metallica in the Hall, but for the time being, heavy metal fans may have to rest their next hopes on New Wave of British Heavy Metal champions Iron Maiden. Along with Judas Priest, this band helped solidify metal as a viable commercial and critical force, unleashing walls of precise guitar sound amid menacing mystical themes. Songs like "Run to the Hills" and "The Trooper" make a great case for Maiden through their timeless hard rock attack, and the Rock Hall can only ignore the band's influence and permanence for so long, one would hope. Bruce Dickinson may have short hair these days, but his vocals should still be able to rattle the cages of the establishment.
4. Pat Benatar
Female rockers may remain sparsely represented at the top of the charts or on rock and roll stages, but none of that can be blamed on Pat Benatar. Forging a signature blend of tough but feminine sex appeal with a powerhouse voice and clean guitar rock sound, Benatar paved the way for a new generation of female rock stars, even if few have followed through on her promise. This artist deserves the opportunity to stand alongside icons such as Blondie's Deborah Harry and solo punk poetess Patti Smith as appropriately honored rock legends, and one can only hope that the Rock Hall will make room for Benatar. It may never be fully certain that "we" belong, but she certainly does.