Greetings readers, Lex Jones here! The lovely Lennon Carlyle has been kind enough to let me write a guest post for her Women in Music series. And as luck would have it…I am writing about the 80’s. Where do I even begin? There were so many incredible artists that I could write a mini-series on this decade alone. So here goes…my top ten in no particular order, because they are all number one.
Pat Benatar: This little vixen started out as a classically trained opera singer and found her place in rock. I love her voice, her passion. My personal faves are “Shadows of the Night” and “We Belong.” But be warned, if I hear “Love is a Battlefield” I will still do the dance. I pretend I’m her, pointing my finger at the greasy pimp (played by her husband in the video) I just wish I had those pipes.
The Go-Go’s: The very first vinyl album I bought with my own money, was Beauty and the Beat. My favorite song by the band is, “Head Over Heels” and was on their next album (which I bought on cassette, remember those?). And to this day, regardless of what she says, I think Lennon and Belinda Carlisle could be sisters. But Lennon’s dance moves are far better!
Janet Jackson: That is Miss Jackson if you’re nasty. Janet Jackson is directly responsible for many of the choreographed numbers I spent hours mastering in front of my bedroom mirror. She came out strong with “What Have You Done for Me Lately” and “Nasty” but I think my favorite single from the Control album was “The Pleasure Principle”. In fact, if memory serves, Lennon and I tore up the floor trying to learn that dance! Those were the days. Janet followed that album up in 1989 with Rhythm Nation. I can’t don a baseball cap and a ponytail, without secretly singing the intro to Rhythm Nation, “5-4-3-2-1”
Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Ok, true confession time…I was obsessed with Chrissie Hynde. She was the coolest chic out there. I loved her voice. I loved her style. And I loved her black eyeliner. She was a badass in her own right fronting an all-male band. She could sing her skinny arse off and she could rock a guitar. She was tough like one of the guys, but had this underlying sex appeal that lured you in. There are so many hits by the Pretenders that I love, but my favorite is “Middle of the Road”
Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics: I can hear the first line of “Sweet Dreams” and I am transported to the video, where a gender-bending Annie Lennox intrigued us all with her tailored suit and shocking red hair. The song itself is prophetic and true with many subliminal themes running through the video. And personally, I think Scott Weiland, from Stone Temple Pilots, totally ripped off her hair-do Annie did it better. And she just keeps getting better with time.
Whitney Houston: She was the darling of the 80’s. Her voice was a powerhouse and she always presented herself as a class act with her squeaky clean image. I think “The Greatest Love of All” was the number one choice at every graduation and small town talent show for years because of her. My favorite Whitney songs are her remake of the Isley Brothers’ “For the Love of You” and “Saving All My Love”. Such a sad ending to her short life. RIP, Whitney. We will ALWAYS love you.
Tina Turner: You really could include Tina Turner in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. But she came into her own in the Eighties. The 80’s were when she finally dropped Ike’s sorry, wife-beatin’ ass and did her thang! And she owned it. It seemed that “What’s Love Got to Do With It” was on every time I tuned into MTV. And thanks to that video, I learned how to sashay in heels at the tender age of 12 (thanks, Tina). And although Private Dancer was her fifth solo studio album, it stands out as an icon of the 80’s. My personal favorite tracks are, “Better Be Good to Me” and her cover of “I Can’t Stand the Rain”
Madonna: All hail the reigning queen of the 80’s. I will never forget the first time I saw the video to “Borderline” I immediately wanted to go out and get a goofy striped beret and some spray paint. Instead, I invested in about 50 black rubber bracelets, fingerless gloves, blonde hair dye and tons of black eyeliner. Madonna was a constantly evolving enigma of an artist. She was always changing. Always pushing buttons. She should have an honorary degree in marketing because early on, you recognized her brand…you always knew she would change and morph into another version of herself in song and in film. She was everywhere. Personally I never felt that she was a particularly good singer, but she was the whole package. She was a performer. And still is. My favorite Madonna songs from the 80’s are “Lucky Star” and 1989’s “Express Yourself” (an anthem for my off-the-wall fashion choices that year)
The Bangles: Let me just say…I HATED, HATED “Walk Like an Egyptian” but other than that, I liked the Bangles. Prince had a crush on Susannah Hoffs (so did everyone else) and wrote “Manic Monday” for them, making it their biggest hit. Hoffs’ voice is unforgettable and unique. As you know I typically choose the obscure hits as my faves, and for them, it’s their cover version of the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Hazy Shade of Winter.” They rock in this song and I like their cover better than the original.
Salt n Pepa: You simply cannot talk about women of the 80’s without mentioning these trailblazers of rap. Not only were they pioneers as female rappers, but there were able to cross over to mainstream pop, commanding us all to “Push It REAL GOOD…” We were all under their spell each time this song came on and we found ourselves thrusting uncontrollably! They followed this up with many other hits in the 80’s. I still love “Push It” and “Shake Your Thang” which was on their next album.
I am running out of time, but here are a few of my honorable mentions: Sheila E., Sade and a bevy of one-hit wonders: Til Tuesday, Bonnie Tyler, Kim Carnes.
The 80’s were a time of empowerment for women. They were large and in charge, free to be themselves. Free to experiment. They were constantly pushing boundaries with sexuality as they ruled MTV and owned the airwaves. They were good. They were bad. They were ever-changing. And many of them are still making it happen thirty years later!
Now Push it REAL GOOD!!!!