Top 5 Iconic Pop Divas Who Ruled the ’80s

Many people grew up with the idea that a diva was someone who was difficult—someone who was only concerned with themselves and not interested in anyone else. However, the origin of the word diva comes from opera. A diva was the female lead, while a divo was the male equivalent. What we are talking about here is a pop diva. The Oxford Dictionary simply defines it as “a famous female singer of popular music.” Here are the Top 5 pop divas from the ’80s.

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1. Madonna

The Material Girl had 17 Top 10 hits in the ’80s. “Like a Virgin,” “Crazy For You,” “Live To Tell,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Open Your Heart,” “Who’s That Girl,” and “Like a Prayer” all went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Madonna moved to New York in 1978 to pursue a dance career. She released a self-titled album in 1983 and hit the Top 10 with “Lucky Star.” She went on to appear in movies and started Maverick, an entertainment company that includes a record label, a film division, television production, book publishing, and music publishing. With worldwide record sales of more than 300 million, Madonna is the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

2. Whitney Houston

Her debut album, Whitney Houston, produced “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” and “Greatest Love of All,” all hitting No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. The follow-up album, Whitney topped her previous album with four songs hitting the top spot: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” Houston continued the same success rate through the ’90s and racked up worldwide record sales of more than 220 million, earning the nickname “the voice.”

3. Paula Abdul  

Forever Your Girl spawned four No. 1 hits: “Straight Up,” “Forever Your Girl,” “Cold Hearted,” and “Opposites Attract.” The lead single, “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me,” peaked at No. 3 for good measure. The Jacksons discovered Paula Abdul while she was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers. She was hired to do the choreography for the video for the song “Torture.” Abdul went on to work with Janet Jackson and even choreographed the dance sequence involving the giant keyboard in the Tom Hanks movie Big. She went on to have more big hits in the ’90s.

4. Janet Jackson

With hits like “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Nasty,” “Control,” “Let’s Wait Awhile,” and “Rhythm Nation,” Janet Jackson first found success on the charts in the ’80s. She started as a child actress and began releasing records in 1982. She reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “When I Think Of You” and “Miss You Much.” She continued to score big hits in the ’90s and ’00s. With worldwide album sales of more than 100 million, Jackson has compiled a list of awards that is too long to mention.

5. Cyndi Lauper 

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (1983) was the breakthrough hit for Cyndi Lauper, hitting No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up “Time After Time” went all the way to the top. “She Bop” and “All Through the Night” went Top 5. “True Colors” took her back to the top spot. Lauper scored a total of eight Top 10 hits in the ’80s. With worldwide album sales of more than 50 million, she has won Emmys, Grammys, and Tony Awards. Lauper was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014.

Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Billboard Magazine

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