1980s Song Meanings

By Ed Osborne

With the demise of disco’s domination of the Top 40, rock ’n’ roll enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, with veteran and new bands and solo artists competing for attention.

One of the most significant events in contemporary music history occurred in 1981 with the debut of MTV. Synth-driven records, often by international acts, provided a distinct contrast to more traditional rock and pop.

The resulting democratization of the music business also opened the door to mainstream superstar status for black artists and, as the decade wore on, solo female Singers.

This new emphasis on visuals meant that appearance and performance art became as important, and in some cases more so, than the audio recording: a shift that had permanent ramifications for the music business.

As for the alleged death of disco, it merely went on hiatus for a while, before returning in the form of dance rhythm records sans the trademark splashy high hats and whistles.

The decade closed out with hip-hop’s ascendance to platinum sales heights and the
beginning of the boy band craze.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.