Most Successful Female Artist Albums Of The 1980s

Most Successful Female Artist Albums Of The 1980s

whitney houston, tina turner
L:  Whitney Houston. Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images. R: Tina Turner. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

Music was a bit of a boys club in the 1980s – just look at the Live Aid line-up – but among all the testosterone that decade, some female superstars also emerged. These eight albums were all among the biggest releases of the 1980s, as ranked by the Australian Music Report in its wrap-up of the charts from 1980-89.

8. Melissa Etheridge | Melissa Etheridge 

Released: 1988

Peak: number 2

Biggest hit single: “Bring Me Some Water” (number 9)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 82

Australia was quick to embrace singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, who had two simultaneous hits
(“Similar Features” and “Bring Me Some Water”) on the top 50 in late 1988 and whose self-titled debut album had spent more than a year in the top 100 by the end of 1989. Signed to Island Records after being discovered playing in a Pasadena bar, Melissa’s first attempt at a debut album was rejected by her label who felt it was too slick. Melissa Etheridge was then recorded in four days.

7. Barbra Streisand | Guilty 

Released: 1980

Peak: number 1

Biggest hit single: “Woman In Love” (number 1)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 71

The most successful album in her lengthy career, Barbra Streisand’s 22nd studio effort, Guilty, was a collaboration with Barry Gibb, who co-produced it, co-wrote every track, performed co-lead vocals on two of the tracks (singles “Guilty” and “What Kind Of Fool”) and background vocals on others, and even appeared on the cover. As well as topping charts around the world (including Australia, for six weeks), Guilty gave Barbra her only number 1 single locally.

6. Tina Turner | Private Dancer 

Released: 1984

Peak: number 7

Biggest hit single: “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (number 1)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 69

She had previously enjoyed limited chart success in Australia with ex-husband Ike Turner and as a solo artist, but Tina Turner’s 1984 comeback propelled her into the superstar league. Recorded in the UK with a variety of producers, including Rupert Hine and Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, Private Dancer was a mix of cover versions (“Let’s Stay Together”, “I Can’t Stand The Rain”) and original songs, with seven of the album’s 10 tracks released as singles around the world.

5. Madonna | True Blue by

Released: 1986

Peak: number 1

Biggest hit single: “Papa Don’t Preach” (number 1)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 36

Accompanied by her first major image change, Madonna’s third studio album was co-produced by the singer with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard, who mostly worked with her separately. Of its nine tracks, five were lifted as singles: “Live To Tell”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, the title track, “Open Your Heart” and “La Isla Bonita” – arguably the finest run of releases from throughout her career and all top 20 hits in Australia. Globally, it was the highest-selling album by a female artist for the decade.

4. Tracy Chapman | Tracy Chapman 

Released: 1988

Peak: number 2

Biggest hit single: “Fast Car” (number 4)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 30

Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut album was given a boost by her performance at the tribute concert for Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday in June 1988, following which the album and lead single “Fast Car” began climbing the ARIA charts. While the political content of her lyrics had initially been a stumbling block given the prevailing dominance of pop, the fact her songs had something to say and, due to the album’s acoustic feel, sounded like nothing else ended up making her stand out.

3. Cyndi Lauper | She’s So Unusual 

Released: 1984

Peak: number 3

Biggest hit single: “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” (number 1)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 27

It may not have reached number 1, but it spent a whopping two years on the top 100 and spawned a string of hits – five top 20 singles – in the process. Kicked off by the career-establishing “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, She’s So Unusual featured Cyndi’s versions of songs originally performed by Prince (“When You Were Mine”), Jules Shear (“All Through The Night”) and The Brains (“Money Changes Everything”), as well as the controversy courting ode to self-pleasure, “She Bop”.

2. Madonna | Like A Virgin 

Released: 1984

Peak: number 2

Biggest hit single: “Like A Virgin” (number 1)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 18

The album that turned Madonna from just another pop star into a global icon, Like A Virgin was produced by Nile Rodgers, who she chose when Sire Records wouldn’t allow her to produce the follow-up to her self-titled debut herself. As well as the era-defining title track, the album contained top 10 hits “Material Girl”, “Angel” and “Dress You Up”, and, in some markets, had 1985’s number 1 single “Into The Groove” added in a reissue that year.

1. Whitney Houston | Whitney Houston 

Released: 1985

Peak: number 1

Weeks in top 100 during the 1980s: 125

Biggest hit single: “Greatest Love Of All” (number 1)

Position on decade-end albums chart: number 5

It took a while for Whitney Houston to take off in Australia, with early singles “You Give Good Love” and an initial release of “How Will I Know” failing to make the top 50. But when the singer’s debut album finally connected, it did not leave the top 100 for 125 weeks, with hits coming in the form of “Saving All My Love For You”, a re-release of “How Will I Know” and her (slightly renamed) remake of George Benson’s “The Greatest Love Of All”. The ballad-heavy debut was masterminded by Clive Davis, who would have a guiding hand in Whitney’s career until her passing in 2012.


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