21 Best 80s Boy Bands
Whether you remember your favourite 80s boy bands from the dazzling decade or weren’t even born when they were strutting their stuff on Top of the Pops (UK) or MTV (US), some of the biggest 80s pop bands in the UK and worldwide were all-male acts. This 80s pop bands list thus only includes groups of men – some barely grown and some a little older. So that’s the defining factor – or X factor if you like – that makes a male group a boy band?
A boy band is a pop group made up only of young men. They are usually in their teens or twenties. All members may be singers, or some may play instruments. What really sets a boy band apart is marketing – their image and music are tailored specifically to a teenage audience.
Endless crowds of screaming teenage girls are what might spring to mind when you think of the boy bands of the 80s. Indeed Bros – who were big here in the UK – featured in a 2018 documentary entitled Bros: When the Screaming Stops.
If you want to delve deeper into those bands with that pretty boy image, here are 21 of the 1980s boy bands you really need to know about. Some don’t quite fit into the mould, but were important 80s male groups nonetheless…
21 of the Best 80s Boy Bands
Adam and the Ants
Adam Ant is an iconic 80s figure known for his ‘dandy highwayman’ image. With razor-sharp cheekbones, dark tumbling curls and a brooding look, the frontman certainly looked the part. Adam and the Ants were active from 1977 and had some massive hits during the 80s. Stand and Deliver, for example, was number 14 in the top 20 hits from the entire decade here in the UK.
A-ha’s Take on Me was number 92 in the top 100 singles of the 80s in the UK. The video was also ground-breaking, and the cartoon-like video clip catapulted the band to stateside success. Any list of 80s boy groups would be incomplete without Morten Harket, Mags Furuholmen and Pal Waaktaar. Morten made number 7 on my list of the hottest male artists of the 80s and 90s.
Boyz II Men
Their biggest hits took the charts by storm during the early 90s rather than the 80s. Yet Boyz II Men first started making their mark during the 80s, and that’s why they’ve earned a place in this lineup.
Bros were the boy band who made me lose the plot completely, frankly. The pretty boys of pop were Matt and Luke Goss plus their pal Craig Logan, though the latter later departed, leaving the twins as a duo. Bros inspired some crazy, stalker-like behaviour, and for a short while had musical success too with hits like When Will I Be Famous?
While not such a big deal among boy bands of the eighties as others, Brother Beyond were fairly famous during the late 80s. The Harder I Try was probably their best-known track, and frontman Nathan Moore a popular poster-boy.
Boy George was a pretty boy alright, but perhaps not in the run-of-the-mill hetero boy band way of many. Lots of slap, floppy hats and colourful plaits contributed to his trademark look. Culture Club were responsible for two of the top 100 80s hits – Do You Really Want to Hurt Me at number 22, and Karma Chameleon at number 7.
You can take your pick of the pin-ups when it comes to Duran Duran. Frontman Simon Le Bon was my fave, but some preferred a Taylor – or two. None of whom are related, incidentally. The band were one of the frontrunners of New Wave and New Romantic movements, and had some serious songwriting cachet. Duran Duran even recorded a Bond theme, A View to a Kill. They were also one of the bands of the second British invasion, which hit the US during the early 80s.
Fine Young Cannibals
The Fine Young Cannibals date from 1984 and hail from Birmingham. They had several notable hits, namely She Drives Me Crazy, Good Thing and a cover of Elvis’s Suspicious Minds.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – aka FGTH – were one of the biggest male bands of the 80s. Only Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid was more successful, as a single, during the decade than Relax. Two Tribes also came in at number eight in the UK.
Kajagoogoo had a 1983 number one hit here in the UK with Too Shy. The New Wave band’s lead singer Limahl was later involved in theme tune for the The NeverEnding Story.
Not perhaps an obvious addition to an 80s boy bands list, but Madness also made it into the top 100 UK singles of the 80s with Baggy Trousers. The band from Camden Town are still going strong, now performing just one member short of the original seven-man lineup.
Pass the Dutchie was a big hit for Musical Youth in 1982, when it topped the charts in the UK, several other European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and more. The British-Jamaican band never repeated such a success, but it was a decade-defining song.
This band’s sound fuses hip hop, dance-pop, and R&B in a way typical of the New Jack Swing genre. Bobby Brown – who later had big solo success and married Whitney Houston – was at the forefront, and this boy band, in America, was one of the most groundbreaking of the time.
New Kids on the Block
After Bros began to fade into obscurity, New Kids on the Block were one of the boy bands of the 80s who drew the decade to a close. Movie star Mark Wahlberg has had the most success since, and his brother Donnie is also involved in acting and film-making.
Pet Shop Boys
The Pet Shop Boys comprise the former editor of pop magazine Smash Hits and keyboardist Chris Lowe. Neil Tennant and Lowe are UK music’s most successful duo ever, and have shifted over 50 million records globally. West End Girls is an absolute classic.
Not your average among the boy bands of the 1980s. The Smiths, for me, are most memorable as they trailblazed the way for the music of the 90s. Angst, indie beats and a dishevelled appearance might have defied the boy band norm, but all four members were indeed male.
From Islington to Eastenders, the New Wave and New Romantic band Spandau Ballet was inspired by London’s post-punk underground dance scene. Songs like Gold and True were some of the anthems of the early 80s. The name is variously associated with a Berlin borough, a kind of machine gun and even the convulsive movements of war prisoners of the Nazis as they were hanged at Spandau prison. Grim.
Tears for Fears
The mid-80s was the heyday of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith from Tears for Fears. A typical New Wave synth band, the duo’s 1986 hit Everybody Wants to Rule the World remains a perennial 80s classic.
A Tribe Called Quest
Queens in New York is the origin of A Tribe Called Quest, a hip-hop and rap act from the 80s who released Can I Kick It in 1990.
Not the most obvious choice, perhaps, but as rock bands of the 80s go, Irish act U2 is up there. And, of course, Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Junior are all male. Edgier than most other boy bands of the 80s and 90s, for sure, like their Australian contemporaries INXS.
Last but by no means least. Barring Bros, Wham are my favourite of all the boy bands in the 80s. They’re also the one I still listen to fairly frequently. Well who can resist a bit of Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go or Freedom?
80s Boy Bands FAQs
Who were the boy bands of the 80s?
Some of the biggest boy bands of the 90s were Adam and the Ants, A-ha, Bros, Duran Duran, New Kids on the Block, Pet Shop Boys, Spandau Ballet and Wham! Other all-male bands who enjoyed big 80s success include Culture Club, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Madness, The Smiths and U2.
Who was the first boy band of the 80s?
New Edition, a band from Boston fronted by Bobby Brown, were often seen as the forerunners of the boy band phenomenon. The band formed in 1978, and by the mid 80s, were very successful. Bobby Brown also had a number of solo hits. He is also seen as a pioneer of New Jack Swing, and was sometimes known as the Prince of Pop.
Which 80s boy bands do you listen to?
Maybe it’s not something you want to admit to. But I will readily hold my hands up and say – yep, I still listen to some of these 80s boy bands. And why not – with a couple of Bond themes between them, plus millions of records sold worldwide – many of the 80s pop bands made up only of men had a beauty that was more than skin deep.
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