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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Feb 2019 > TOP 40 POP Artists

TOP 40 POP Artists

IT’S THE ULTIMATE POP FACE OFF AS WE COUNT DOWN THE MOST IMPORTANT ACTS OF OUR FAVOURITE DECADE

It is, of course, the impossible task: distil music’s most creative and varied decade down to a mere 40 artists. The Classic Pop team has only just finished wiping the blood away caused by the fights creating such a list entails, but we reckon we’ve got the 1980s covered here.

Everyone has favourite artists that we couldn’t find room for. What do you mean, no Orange Juice, Nick Heyward or Kajagoogoo? But who from this selection could you possibly ignore? Our criteria was simple but strict: if you essentially broke through in the 70s – like Blondie, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello – you were out. However, we’ve briefly alluded to some established artists whose careers got a much-needed shot in the arm during the 80s thanks to some landmark albums. Acts more suited to a rockist publication are also out, so no Def Leppard or Guns N’ Roses. There are other magazines for that sort of thing. Instead, let’s celebrate the colourful, eccentric and varied world of the finest pop of the 80s. What an incredible playlist it makes…

40 KIM WILDE

Marty’s eldest daughter is such a friendly staple of daytime TV and (thanks to her other passion) gardening shows, it’s easy to overlook just how huge she was, with 19 Top 40 singles. Massive in America, too, Kim supported Michael Jackson on the Bad tour, while her recent Top 30 album Here Come The Aliens proved Kim is still no slouch at energetic power-pop.

39 DIRE STRAITS

When they weren’t popularising CDs thanks to the pristine sheen of Brothers In Arms, at the time Dire Straits seemed an austere and somewhat workmanlike presence among the 80s riot of colour. But their imperious yacht rock has aged better than many contemporaries. Of all the bands yet to reform, they’d probably sound the most dignified if they did.

38 A-HA

Morten Harket’s lethally sharp cheekbones and the glossy Take On Me video meant A-ha should have been as disposable as any boyband. Instead, they’re still creating stadium-sized melancholia over 30 years later. A precursor to 90s Scandipop, they’re still not given the credit their luxurious pop deserves – possibly because Morten is still so distressingly handsome, the swine.

37 JANET JACKSON

Janet could easily have been written off as Michael’s annoying kid sister, one Jackson too many. But if you’re fronting industrially-tooled R&B and promoting the deliciously filthy side of pop her brother was seemingly too asexual to convince with, who cares who your siblings are? Pretty much Britney Spears’ whole career was taken from the robofunk of Nasty.

“Janet Jackson could easily have been written off as Michael’s annoying kid sister, one Jackson too many”

TOP 5 ALBUMS – THE CAREER RENAISSANCE

01

DIANA ROSS

DIANA, 1980

In the fallout from the “Disco sucks!” movement, Nile Rodgers was out to prove himself again. It benefitted Ms Ross: Upside Down and I’m Coming Out were the opposite of suck.

02

QUEEN

THE WORKS, 1984

Lesser bands would have folded after the failure of synth experiment Hot Space. Freddie Mercury’s confidence instead meant Queen returned with a career high, just in time for Live Aid.

03

DAVID BOWIE

LET’S DANCE, 1983

Another Nile Rodgers production, giving Bowie his greatest pop hits. It made David bigger than ever, ensuring his career could absorb the relative failures of his subsequent 80s work.

04

THE STYLE COUNCIL

CAFÉ BLEU, 1984

The Jam split at their peak, which left the restless Paul Weller to return with one of pop’s most unexpected career changes. For a time, The Style Council were a soulful triumph.

05

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

BORN IN THE USA, 1984

Yes, many listeners misread the cautionary Born In The USA as unalloyed patriotism. If it meant someone as powerful as Bruce Springsteen graduated to stadiums then, frankly, who cares?

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About Classic Pop

Issue 49 is on sale now! For our first issue of 2019 we put our head in the lion’s mouth to count down the Top 40 most important pop artists of the 80s. Will your favourite come away with the spoils? As ever, this issue is packed with great interviews including a very rare chat with Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon and we catch up with Joe Jackson as he celebrates 40 years in music with a new album and tour. We meet Dido who is returning to the pop fray and we also feature must-read interviews with Tracey Thorn, Tanita Tikaram and Ladytron. Depeche Mode’s troubled masterpiece Songs Of Faith And Devotion is our classic album and we also serve up a buyer’s guide to punk-pop pioneers Squeeze. As well as our essential round-up of what to look forward to in the pop world in 2019, we take one last look back at 2018 with our second Classic Pop Reader Awards. Our packed reviews section features the remarkable comeback by The Specials alongside new albums by Ian Brown, The Beat featuring Ranking Roger, White Lies and UB40 plus a reissues section that includes Prince and David Sylvian on vinyl, a comprehensive Paul Young singles boxset, Buzzcocks, Bananarama and much more. On the live front, we review gigs by Adam Ant, All Saints, Lily Allen and more.