35 Best Female Singers of the 80s (Pop, Rock, & Country) 

The 1980s were a wonderful time for music. There were so many talented female singers that it was hard to keep track of them all. But who were the most famous female singers of the 80s?

One of the best female singers that dominated the ‘80s is Madonna. She is not only a singer but a total performer in her own right. She is regarded as the “Queen of Pop” and she continues to be the most popular pop icon today.

Many of these women are still famous today and continue to be musical inspirations for new generations.

While many of these ladies are still active today (and some even have decades-long careers), it’s important to look back at their best work from that decade.

So let’s take a look at the 35 best 80s female singers!

Best Female Pop Singers of the 80s

1. Madonna

Madonna is a singer, songwriter, and actress who was born in Bay City, Michigan, United States.

She moved to New York City at the age of 19 and started her career as a backup dancer for various artists before releasing her first album in 1983.

Madonna’s music and her music videos have been noted for their fusion of pop with elements of dance-pop and rock with futuristic beats and instrumentation.

She has also been praised by critics for pushing boundaries with unique style and lyrics that challenge gender norms and sexual identity while exploring love from different perspectives

2. Whitney Houston

When it comes to female singers, Whitney Houston was the best of the 80s.

She had a beautiful voice that could sing any style of music and she performed with passion and energy on stage.

She was also one of the most successful artists in history, selling over 170 million albums worldwide during her successful career.

Sadly, she is no longer here with us; however, her legacy still lives on today through her music!

3. Celine Dion

Celine Dion is a Canadian singer and songwriter who has won 5 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, 14 Juno Awards, and 7 Billboard Music Awards.

She has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, making her one of the best-selling artists of all time.

Celine’s music career began in 1982; she recorded her first album with her brother Daniel at that time. Her second album titled Celine Dion made her famous internationally with hits like “Love Can Move Mountains,” “When I Fall In Love,” and “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.”

Celine Dion has so many songs that will just remind you of someone you like. But if you want to learn more songs about a crush, a recent article I published on my site talks about just that!

4. Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson, the youngest Jackson sister, is a singer, songwriter, and actress.

She was born in Gary, Indiana. Janet started her career as a child star in the 1970s with her brothers Michael and Jermaine Jackson when they were known as The Jackson 5.

She has won six Grammy Awards including one for Best New Artist in 1986 and another for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance Female the following year.

Her famous tracks are “That’s The Way Love Goes” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately.”

5. Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper is an American singer, songwriter, and actress.

She was born Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper in Englewood, New Jersey. She has won two Grammy Awards and four MTV Video Music Awards.

Cyndi Lauper’s debut album She’s So Unusual has sold over 25 million copies worldwide since its release and yielded several hit singles including “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” and “She Bop”.

Since then she has released various studio albums including her latest Detour which came out in 2016.

6. Laura Branigan

The late Laura Branigan was born in New York City and raised in Tenafly, New Jersey.

She began her career as a singer and actress, appearing on Broadway before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a music career.

In 1981, she reached #1 on the Billboard 200 chart in the year of the release of her debut album; it featured the hit single “Gloria” which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Her second album received gold certification from RIAA after selling over 500,000 copies within its first year of release (1983). The single “Self Control” peaked at #2 on Billboard Hot 100 while its follow-up “Shattered Glass” reached number three too!

7. Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand is an American singer, actress, and filmmaker.

And of course, her career started in the 60s so she’s hardly just an 80s phenomenon! But she did have several hits in the 80s including:

  • Memory, from the Andrew Lloyd Webber feline musical, Cats
  • Tell Him (duet with Celine Dion)
  • I Finally Found Someone (duet with Bryan Adams)
  • Woman in Love (one of several collaborations with members of the Bee Gees)

She has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, and a Special Golden Globe Award.

Streisand is one of the female entertainers who has garnered the most commercial success in modern history.

Streisand began her career as a stage actress in New York City during the mid-1950s. In 1964, she starred opposite Omar Sharif in William Wyler’s musical drama Funny Girl; her performance earned her another Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

8. Belinda Carlisle

Belinda Carlisle is an American singer, songwriter, and actress best known for her work with the girl group the Go-Go’s.

She has released five solo best-selling albums and has also sung on many soundtracks.

Carlisle was born in Hollywood and raised in the Los Angeles area. She began her musical career at age 13 when she formed a folk music band called The Germs with guitarist Charlotte Caffey (later of The Go-Gos).

After leaving college to pursue a full-time music career, Carlisle joined forces with Jane Wiedlin to form another all-female group called The Beat.

9. Bonnie Tyler

Bonnie Tyler is a Welsh singer and songwriter known for her distinctive husky voice.

She has released several albums and singles, with her biggest hit being “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” She began singing at age 13 when she became part of a group called Voices of Hope which sang at local churches throughout South Wales.

In 1969, she moved to London where she met record producer Tony Hiller who helped manage her career for many years through their record deals.

During this time period, he also helped produce some of her most successful songs including “It’s A Heartache,” “Fool (If You Think It’s Over),” and  “Holding Out For A Hero.”

10. Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and musician.

She is best known for her ballads and mezzo-soprano vocal range. She released her first album in 1988, which was self-titled.

In addition to her four Grammy Awards, she has won eight Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) and has been nominated for 14 more throughout her career.

McLachlan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.

11. Annie Lenox

Annie Lennox was born in Scotland and moved to England at an early age.

She was the lead singer of Eurythmics, which was one of the best-selling bands in history. They had several hits in the 1980s including “Sweet Dreams” and “Here Comes The Rain Again.”

In 1987, Annie Lennox released her first solo album Diva, which won Album Of The Year at The Brit Awards. In 1992, she won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Little Bird”.

Annie has also worked as a model, actress, and activist.

12. Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan is a singer and songwriter who has been active in the music industry since the 1970s.

She is known for her Latin pop music, receiving multiple Grammy Awards throughout her career.

Estefan started singing professionally in 1974 as part of Miami Sound Machine, which also included Emilio Estefan Jr., who would later become her husband.

In 1980 they released their first album on Epic Records titled Gloria! which went platinum within ten months of its release and won them numerous awards including two Grammys: Best New Artist and Album of The Year.

13. Olivia Newton-John

The late, great, Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, to Scottish parents.

She moved to Melbourne at the age of 11 and started pursuing a career in music. Her first single “Trip Around the World” was released in 1967 when she was just 18 years old!

She started her career in soft-rock and pop country in the 70s. However, by 1980, thanks in part to her success in 1978’s Grease, she was firmly solidified as a pop star. In the ’80s, she had hits with:

  • Magic
  • Make a Move on Me
  • Let’s Get Physical
  • Xanadu

She has won four Grammy Awards and two Academy of Country Music Awards for her work as an actress and singer.

She has also sold over 100 million records worldwide!

14. Sheena Easton

Sheena Easton was a popular singer in the 1980s. She was born in Scotland and began her career as a singer-songwriter in 1979. Her first single, “Modern Girl,” was released in 1980 and quickly became a hit.

Easton’s popularity grew throughout the decade, with her music appearing on the charts in both the UK and US.

She had several top 10 hits, including “9 to 5” and “Morning Train (Nine to Five),” which both reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her other hits included “Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair),” “Sugar Walls,” and “Strut.”

Her work with Prince on “Sugar Walls” took her from innocent pop star to sultry, smoldering temptress.

Easton also had success as an actress, appearing in films such as The Wild Life and For Your Eyes Only. She also starred in her own television series, Sheena, which ran from 1984 to 1985.

Easton’s popularity during the 1980s made her an international star and she remains a beloved figure today. Her music is still enjoyed by fans of all ages, making her one of the most successful singers of that decade.

15. Debbie Gibson

Debbie Gibson was a pop star sensation in the 1980s. She was one of the most successful female singers of the decade, with her debut album Out of the Blue reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart.

Her music was a mix of dance-pop and bubblegum pop, and she wrote all her own songs. Her singles “Only in My Dreams,” “Foolish Beat,” and “Lost in Your Eyes” were all top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Gibson also had success as an actress, appearing in films such as Skateboard and Camp Cucamonga. She also starred in her own television special, Debbie Gibson: Electric Youth.

Gibson’s popularity extended beyond music and acting.

She was featured on magazine covers, including Rolling Stone, Seventeen, and Teen Beat. She also appeared on talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Arsenio Hall Show.

16. Susanna Hoffs

Susanna Hoffs was a popular singer and songwriter in the 1980s. She was the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the all-female band The Bangles.

The Bangles had several hit singles in the 1980s, including “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Manic Monday,” and “Eternal Flame.”

Manic Monday, of course, was written by Prince.

The Bangles were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s, selling millions of albums and singles worldwide. They also won several awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for their song “Eternal Flame.”

In addition to her music career, Susanna Hoffs has also appeared in several films and television shows throughout her career. She has had roles in films such as Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, The Allnighter, and That Thing You Do!

Susanna Hoffs is still active today as both a solo artist and with The Bangles. She continues to tour with The Bangles and has released several solo albums since 1991. Her music continues to be popular with fans around the world.

17. Cher

Cher is an American singer, actress, and entertainer.

She has won an Emmy and a Grammy Award. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists in history.

Of course, Cher’s career began long before the 80s. But she did have several hits in the 80s including:

  • If I Could Turn Back Time
  • I Found Someone
  • We All Sleep Alone

Cher has been nominated for 12 Grammy Awards (winning 6 times) and holds the record for the most consecutive Top 40 hits by a female artist.

She is also one of only four artists to have achieved number-one singles on a Billboard chart in each decade from 1960 to 2010.

Best Female Rock Singers of the 80s

18. Joan Jett

Joan Jett is an American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, and actress. She is the lead vocalist of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

In 2012, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jett began her musical career in 1975 as a founding member of The Runaways with drummer Sandy West and Lita Ford on guitar before going solo in 1979. Her first album Bad Reputation released by the independent record label Blue Sky Records.

She went on to form Blackheart Records with former bandmate Kenny Laguna where she signed bands such as Bang Tango and Poison Ivy.

19. Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar is an American singer-songwriter and a four-time Grammy Award winner. She is best known for an amazing catalog of hits created with her decades-long partnership with husband and guitarist Neil Giraldo.

She was definitely in the hard rock vein when she debuted in 1979. But by 1982 she was more firmly in pop territory thanks to hits like:

  • Shadows of the Night
  • Love Is a Battlefield
  • We Belong

She was famous for topping the charts in a male-dominated genre, making her a true legend of her time and paving the way for the mainstream rock we have today.

Benatar’s signature songs are “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” and “Love is a Battlefield.”

20. Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry was born in Miami, Florida.

She is the daughter of a Hungarian father and an Italian mother. She is an actress, singer, and songwriter best known as the lead singer of the American rock band Blondie.

Debbie started her career as a model but soon moved into acting where she appeared in several movies including “Flesh and Lingerie,” “Candy Says” alongside Candy Darling and Andy Warhol, and “I Shot Andy Warhol.”

She also appeared on Broadway in Cabaret in 1967.

21. Lita Ford

Lita Ford is a rock musician who was born in London, England. She is best known for her guitar playing and has been in the music business since 1975.

Lita began playing guitar at age 13 and started performing with her brother Jimmy in 1976 as part of The Runaways, which also featured Joan Jett and Sandy West (among others).

The group released three albums before breaking up in 1979; Lita subsequently signed with Polygram Records where she released her debut studio album Out For Blood.

This album included two top 10 hits: “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close Your Eyes Forever” which performed well on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that year! Her debut singles are unparalleled.

22. Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is an iconic singer, songwriter, and musician. She was the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac from 1975 to 1987 and has released several solo albums since then.

She collaborated in the 80s with many artists including Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Don Henley, Michael Jackson, and Bob Dylan, among others.

She has sold over 140 million records worldwide during her career as a solo artist and band member for Fleetwood Mac.

Nicks was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998 along with all other members of Fleetwood Mac.

23. Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde was a major force in the music industry during the 1980s. As the lead singer and songwriter of The Pretenders, she was one of the most popular female rockers of the decade.

Hynde’s unique style and powerful voice made her an instant hit with fans.

Her songs were often about strong female characters who refused to be taken advantage of, which resonated with many women in the 1980s. She also wrote about social issues such as poverty and racism, which further endeared her to her fans.

The Pretenders had several hit singles during this time, including “Brass in Pocket,” “Back on the Chain Gang,” and “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” These songs were all heavily played on radio stations across the country, helping to make Hynde a household name.

The band also released several successful albums during this time, including their self-titled debut album in 1980 and Learning to Crawl in 1984. These albums featured some of Hynde’s best work, including her signature song “Middle of the Road.”

Hynde’s popularity continued into the 1990s and beyond.

She has since released 3 solo albums and continues to tour with The Pretenders. Her influence on music is still felt today, as she is considered one of the most influential female rockers of all time.

Best Female Country Singers of the 80s

24. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is a country singer and songwriter.

She has won six Grammy Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, and one Academy of Country Music Award.

Of course, her career began in the 70s, but the 80s were kind to her also. She had several hits including:

  • 9 to 5
  • Island in the Stream (duet with Kenny Rogers)
  • I Will Always Love You (originally released in 1974, but the 1982 re-recorded version also went to #1 and was later covered by Whitney Houston)
  • Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That

She has released over 70 albums and sold more than 100 million records worldwide making her the best-selling female artist in country music history. Her debut album Dolly Parton was the best-selling album of 1967.

Her biggest hit is her song “Jolene.”

25. Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire is an American country music singer, songwriter, and actress.

She began her career in the 1970s as a country singer with two gold albums for her duets with Kenny Rogers and earned worldwide fame for her role as Barbra Jean in the television sitcom “Reba.”

Her first solo album spawned 12 consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a record for any artist (male or female) that still stands today.

In addition to being named Country Music Association’s Entertainer of Year four times, she has won seven Grammy Awards because she’s just that good!

26. Kathy Mattea

Kathy Mattea is an American country music singer.

She was born in Charleston, West Virginia. She has won the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year award three times and has been nominated for five Grammy Awards.

Mattea began performing with her family at age six; she played guitar as well as sang while her brother played fiddle, mandolin, and banjo.

By age 12 Kathy had started writing songs herself which would later become part of her repertoire when she started her professional career after graduating high school.

27. Tanya Tucker

Tanya Tucker is a country singer who has recorded over 30 albums.

She has won several awards including two Grammys and four Country Music Association Awards.

Tucker was born in Seminole, Texas to parents with musical backgrounds; her father was a professional folk musician who played with the popular western swing band Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys while her mother had been an operatic coloratura soprano singer before marrying him.

Her parents divorced when she was still at a young age but Tucker remained close with both of them throughout her life; she also grew up surrounded by music since her grandfather played the fiddle while her grandmother sang gospel tunes around the house.

28. Barbara Mandrell

Barbara Mandrell was a popular country music singer in the 1980s. She was born in 1948 and began her career as a child star, performing on the Grand Ole Opry at age 13.

Mandrell released her first album in 1969 and had her first hit single in 1971. She went on to have a successful career throughout the 1970s, but it was during the 1980s that she truly became a star.

Mandrell had several number one hits during this decade, including “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” and “One of a Kind Pair of Fools.” She also won numerous awards, including two Grammy Awards and two CMA Entertainer of the Year awards.

In addition to her success as a singer, Mandrell also starred in her own television variety show from 1980 to 1982.

The show featured musical performances by Mandrell and other country music stars, as well as comedy sketches and celebrity guests. It was very popular with viewers and helped to further increase Mandrell’s fame.

Mandrell’s popularity continued into the 1990s when she released several more albums and toured extensively. Her influence on country music is still felt today, with many modern artists citing her as an inspiration for their own work.

Best Female Alternative Singers of the 80s

29. Kate Bush

Kate Bush is an English singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer.

Her music is characterized by her distinctive ethereal vocal style. She has released ten albums; all of which reached the top 5 in the British charts.

She is known for her experimentalism and idiosyncratic musical style. The most famous song from this iconic artist is “Wuthering Heights.”

Her big hit from the 80s, “Running Up That Hill” was recently brought back to popularity thanks to the retro TV show Stranger Things.

30. Siouxsie Sioux

Siouxsie Sioux was born Susan Janet Ballion and is an English singer, songwriter, and musician.

She’s best known for her work with the band Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Creatures, a side project with Banshee drummer and one-time romantic partner Budgie.

Siouxsie has a distinctive vocal style; she sings in a deep contralto voice that has been described as “strikingly powerful.” Her music features elements of punk rock, new wave pop, gothic rock, and art rock.

And in 2023 she announced a series of performances; her first in many years!

If you want to find out more female goth singers just like Siouxie Sioux, check out this recent article I wrote!

31. Elizabeth Fraser

Elizabeth Fraser was the lead singer of the Cocteau Twins, a Scottish alternative rock band that rose to fame in the 1980s. Her unique vocal style and ethereal sound made her an icon of the era.

Fraser’s voice was described as “angelic” and “otherworldly”. She often made up words or sang words from other languages without actually knowing what it meant. Her lyrics were often abstract and dreamlike, making them difficult to interpret.

Fraser’s popularity was due in part to her stage presence. She often wore elaborate costumes and used props such as feathers, ribbons, and veils during performances. She also had a habit of improvising lyrics on stage, which added to her mystique.

The Cocteau Twins’ music was heavily influenced by Fraser’s vocals.

Their songs featured lush instrumentation and dreamy soundscapes that complemented her voice perfectly. The band’s albums were critically acclaimed for their innovative sound and unique approach to songwriting.

She later sang on and off with Massive Attack (I got to see her with them twice), and also had a minor hit with a cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” released as part of the “supergroup” This Mortal Coil.

Ironically, she later had a relationship with the late Jeff Buckley, son of Tim Buckley.

Best Female Soul Singers of the 80s

32. Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan is an American R&B/funk singer, songwriter, and actress.

She is best known for her work with the funk band Rufus, which had a number of hit songs including “Tell Me Something Good,” “Sweet Thing,” and “Do You Love What You Feel.”

Khan also had a successful solo career, winning ten Grammys with over 30 nominations.

In 1985 she won over 30 awards worldwide including six American Music Awards and five Grammy Awards largely driven by her cover of the Prince song “I Feel For You”.

33. Tina Turner

Tina Turner is a singer, dancer, actress, and author. She is one of the best-selling female artists of all time with more than 100 million records sold worldwide.

She has won eight Grammy Awards and sold out stadiums around the world while performing with her ex-husband Ike Turner as part of their musical duo The Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

In addition to being an accomplished musician in her own right, Turner has also acted in films including What’s Love Got To Do With It for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

In addition to being inducted into both The Rolling Stones’ The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Tina was awarded an Order Of The British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 for her services to music.

24. Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee.

She is a singer, songwriter, and pianist who has been dubbed “The Queen of Soul.” She has won three Grammy Awards and is known for her distinctive voice that has been compared to gospel great Mahalia Jackson.

While she, of course, had hits in the ’70s, she also dominated the 80’s with songs like:

  • Freeway of Love
  • I Knew You Were Waiting (duet with George Michael)
  • Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves (duet with Eurythmics)

Aretha Franklin began singing in her father’s choir at New Bethel Baptist Church as a child before beginning to sing solo at age 12.

In 1960, she signed with Columbia Records where she released several albums including I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You which earned her critical acclaim as well as two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance Female & Best Rhythm & Blues Recording Album Of The Year.

35. Sade

Sade was a British singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the 1980s. Her soulful, jazzy sound and her unique vocal style made her an instant hit with music fans.

Her debut album, Diamond Life, was released in 1984 and quickly became a commercial success. It featured the hit single “Smooth Operator” which reached number five on the UK Singles Chart and number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.

The follow-up album, Promise, was released in 1985 and was even more successful than its predecessor. It featured the hit singles “The Sweetest Taboo” and “Never as Good as the First Time”. Both songs reached number five on the UK Singles Chart and number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Sade’s third album, Stronger Than Pride, was released in 1988 and also achieved great success.

It featured the hit singles “Paradise”, “Love Is Stronger Than Pride” and “Nothing Can Come Between Us”. All three songs reached number five on the UK Singles Chart and number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Ironically before embarking on a solo career, she was the lead singer for a band called Pride. So no doubt her song and album are a dig at her former bandmates.

Sade’s popularity continued to grow throughout the 1980s as she released more albums such as Love Deluxe (1992) and Lovers Rock (2000). She has sold over 50 million albums worldwide making her one of the most successful female artists of all time.

Her music has been covered by many other artists including Beyoncé, John Legend, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna.

Top 80s Hits by Female Solo Singers


The 80s were a great time for music, and there were many talented musicians who helped shape the decade as we know it today.

Whether it was pop, rock, or country music that you were into, there was bound to be at least one artist on this list that caught your ear with their voice.

These women were at their peak during this decade and some continue to influence music today.

We hope our list has helped spark some nostalgia as well as introduce new listeners to some classic tunes they may not have known about before reading this article!

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