• Stepping Stones Kottla

How did the music change from 1980 to 1990?

By Arvid Sjödin.


The 1980s were the golden years for Michael jackson. He released his top album called thriller 1982 which had a lot of number-one hits. But it was not only Micheal Jackson who became a superstar, there were other superstars who emerged during the 1980's. Prince, Whitney Huston and Madonna. All of these artists became so famous that they experienced the same fame as the Beatles and Elvis Presley. They weren't only superstars, they were influencers of fashion. Many trends were created by them. Madonna started a trend with cone bras which she took inspiration from the 1940s fashion.

It was not a surprise that these artists would be megastars and still are. They were genuinely talented artists but that wasn't everything. First of all, they contributed a lot to fashion and people had an obsession with pop. These artists delivered the music the people wanted. During the 1980s, a new wave of technology came. The CDs were created and the cassettes were developed. The portability of music improved drastically. The Walkman was created which became really popular. It's an old version of an Ipod. You had a cassette inside the machine playing the music and your headphones were connected to it. Now you could listen to music everywhere because this small machine was in your pocket. When more people could listen to music more often, the artists also became more famous. The correlation between Walkmans and artists getting famous was true. This isn't everything. The most important event to influence music during the 1980s was MTV. The Music Television. This was the first network to showcase music videos. The Buggles video was the first music video to be broadcast on MTV. This video was only available for the households in New Jersey. MTV didn't want to stop here. MTV became more popular and finally went on to revolutionize the music industry. They became a huge entertainment channel in many parts of the world. United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America. When MTV was so popular around the whole world, everyone wanted to be showcased in the program. This helped the careers of the performers, such as Micheal Jackson, Prince and Madonna whose music videos were showcased all the time. They played music videos every hour of the day, every day. This created a new type of pop stars because they were available to you all the time. Through your walkman or at your TV. These tech evolutions were why the artists became real superstars. That's why they are truly important for the 1980s and further on. The artists also became super rich. Nowadays you can listen to every song you like on Spotify, Soundcloud or Youtube. Artists right now also become rich by those platforms but in the 80s it was something else. They sold their albums. They didn't sell one or two they sold millions. Micheal Jackson sold 750 million albums, Madonna sold 300 million albums and Prince sold over 100 million albums. You can really understand how rich they became because nowadays there are very few artists who even get 100 million views.

When I was about 7 years old, the only music I listened to was Micheal Jackson. I loved him so much that I bought hats that he had, I bought the gloves he had and the shoes. I loved to dance to his music and also to research about it. I can see old videos of me doing Micheal Jackson moves in our living room. He was my idol. Now I am fifteen years old, soon sixteen and I am obsessed with Hip Hop. Especially the 1980s and 1990s but also some 2000s. I watch Hip Hop Evolution all the time and I really like the style of Hip Hop. The special message lyrics and the ability to combine different words in a smooth way. My dad has always listened to Hip Hop. He grew up on 80s and 90s Hip Hop and I have learned from him. It was my dad who made me listen to it. We listened a lot to Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J.

1980 and 1990 were Hip Hop's golden years but it had broken through during the 80s. There were many Platinum selling albums by famous artists like Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Beastie boys. Hip Hop wasn't a small little group no more. Rappers sold out world tours and got many endorsement deals. Rappers like LL Cool J and Run-DMC were style icons and they started trends when having these kangol bucket hats and track suits. Labels started to be on the musical map like the Def Jam label were LL Cool J and the Beastie boys produced their music. In the late 80s, the genre exploded into different sounds and styles of Hip Hop. Before that we had DJ Kool Herc who is the father of Hip Hop and he made rhythmic and rough music to dance and rap to. As mentioned earlier, hip hop was split up into different styles. There was KRS-One who was really rough and hardcore but we also had A Tribe Called Quest who used a lot of jazz and were more relaxed. My personal favorite.

Hip Hop became so special because it was something no one had ever heard before. The rappers sampled old jazz records and then rapped to it. The lyrics had special messages and there were electronic fun sounds and also beatboxing. It was so special and everyone liked it. MTV made a program called “Yo! MTV Raps” and this made rap music famous around the whole globe. As I said earlier, MTV was the program who showcased music videos 24/7 around the whole world. When they started to broadcast Hip Hop everybody listened to it and people loved it.

When listening to Hip Hop you always hear a rhythmic drum beat. That beat is created by a drum machine. A drum machine is an electronic instrument that creates percussion sounds. Rappers use the drum machines because they can create repeating patterns that they want to have through the whole song. You can also program different types of sounds in it so it sounds more special. There was a great producer called J Dilla who unfortunately died because of a heart disease. He is a 90s producer but I have to include him in this because he was a legend on the drum machine. He used this drum machine called MPC3000. It had the ability to produce Hip Hop, R&B and Techno. You could sample your beats and edit them on the MPC3000. On the MPC3000 you could shape and your beats or samples by the analog style functions on it. For J Dilla, the machine was an extension of him. It was great for him when making his music. This machine made him so famous in the producer world that it's now on the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington. Rappers also use samplers. A sampler is an electronic instrument that records sounds with its microphone. If you hear a song with a beat you like, you can sample that beat, loop it and then rap to it. The most famous hip hop instrument is a turntable. It's a machine where you put a record on to and then use your hands to manipulate the record. They turntables can make a sound that no other instrument can make which is scratching. It's when you move the record forward and backward and it's used in many Hip Hop songs. Rap producers also use synthesisers and keyboards. Keyboards are analog and create a more authentic old school sound. While the synthesizers create a more new and electronic sound.

Other genres during the 1980's were Hair Metal and New Wave. Both of them are rock and punk inspired. Hair metal has its name because the men who played it often had long and big hair and they had makeup and weird clothing. Every Hair Metal band had this outgoing and crazy lead singer. Hair Metal bands were connected to partying and drug use. Bands from Hair Metal are Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Aerosmith and Guns n Roses. New Wave is a genre that has more punk than Hair Metal and uses more electronic instruments. It's called New Wave because it allows many different artists to fit in the same category. Some Bands or artists used a more futuristic sound while others used punk. New Wave artists had unique clothing and hairstyles that had an impact on the young people's fashion. Bands and artists from New Wave were Duran Duran, Billy Idol and Blondie.


1990 was the decade of grunge. Grunge is the music style with dark and murky guitar bands that is in between rock and punk. Nirvana with Kurt Cobain is the most iconic and successful of all grunge bands. In the 90s, MTV was still huge and they showcased the video Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. By this the became huge. The music video was so dark and different which made everyone love it. Nirvana was related to everything. To Punk, Rock, Indie pop and even country. This made many to listen to them and they became the biggest band in the world. Other types of rock did not disappear because of grunge. Heavy metal didn't disappear. Metallica, Aerosmith and Guns N Roses were still big bands but most of the fans got their attention to grunge. The big bands were Nirvana and Pearl Jam. In these bands there was only males who played the instruments or sang. Grunge was a male dominated genre. Though, Kurt Cobain's wife was in a band called hole. They became quite famous.

Music wasn't only famous in the USA. The music from the UK became bigger and more popular. When grunge had taken over the charts people wanted something else. UK came with the Britpop where Blur was the most famous band. There was also another band emerging from the Britpop which was oasis. Blur and oasis didn't become best friends and it created the battle of Britpop. When both groups released a track on the same day. By this they would know which band the people liked the most. Blur won the fight but Oasis wasn't finished. After a year they got famous in America and then international fame. This made Blur disappear. Oasis then sold out two shows at Knebworth Park which created the largest outdoor concert ever in the UK. At this point, Spice girls were a little part of the Britpop and also achieved international fame. Their song Wannabe made them huge.

1990 was full of music, but one thing that really became popular was boybands. We had Boyz II Men which was a R&B group with many famous singles such as “End of the Road”. We had the pop boy band backstreet boys with their world famous single “I Want It That Way”. We also had NSYNC. Which was a Backstreet boys rival and they released their famous single “I Want You Back”. Backstreet boys first single was “We've Got It Goin on”. They had only a minor success in America by this single but other countries in Europe loved it and they became popular there. For america it wasn't until their second album they gained extreme popularity. The other boy band called NSYNC was created a few years later after the backstreet boys. NSYNC had many talented singers but especially Justin Timberlake who nowadays is a world famous solo artist. The first album they sold had more than 10 million copies when released on the american market making them really famous. These two were rivals and it has been a long argumentation of which one is the best. That can not be decided because it's your personal opinion that tells you who is the best, not another person. I have never listened to boy bands which means that I don't have any opinions which one is the best. I just know that I don't like the type of music they are singing, with their dance moves and lyrics about love. As I mentioned earlier, I love Hip Hop and their special meaning lyrics. I also love the 90s Hip Hop even more and you will hear about that next.

1990 had a great impact on R&B and Hip Hop. They are two genres growing on the same tree. Both of them got more soulful. On the R&B side we had Boys II Men and also artists who created a more groovy but soul sound. They were Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu and D'Angelo. They had though some competition on the other side. Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul added jazz and R&B to their beats and People loved it. There was also The Fugees who used reggae and soul to create their style. There was also political and social hip hop with jazz samples by Common and Mos Def. Hip Hop had so much and they grew bigger than R&B. Hip Hop just kept growing. It was then divided into three different parts. Hardcore, Gangsta and G-Funk. These were the most successful styles of the 90s. There was Gangsta rap and G-Funk on the west coast which is LA. There was hardcore rap in the east coast which is New York. The creators of hardcore was Wu-tang clan when they combined there gangster life of selling drugs and samples from martial-arts movies. It was something different and people loved it, it was hardcore. Wu-tang is one of my personal favorite bands. There was also a young rapper who emerged during the 90s in New York called Nas. He released his first album called Illmatic which was produced by the stars producers. DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and Q-tip who is part of A Tribe Called Quest. Nas was really talented and showed it in his first song ever being a part of “ Live at the Barbeque” by Main source. In his album Illmatic he used loose mid tempo beats and jazzy samples with poetic rapping. This resulted in one of the greatest Hip Hop albums ever. There were other popular hardcore rappers such as The Notorius B.I.G, Jay-Z and Puff Daddy. On the other side of America, the gangsta rap was developed by artists like Ice-T and N.W.A. Ice-T started to gangsta rap when he sampled funky rhythms and combined that with rapping about drugs and crimes. N.W.A came from Compton, which was La poorest and most violent cities. They rapped about the police violence against black people and about Compton. They used explicit language to express their anger. They got a lot of attention and became famous. The band included 6 members but the ones who were most famous were Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dr.Dre. Ice Cube went on with his solo career and it went really well for him, he also started with acting. Then Dr.Dre who also got solo and released his album The Chronic which is one of the most recognisable albums of all time. Here G-funk was heard for the first time. G-Funk is a sound with slow and relaxed beats with electronic effects and also some voices in the background, often women. G-Funk is focused more on drugs, partying and sexual life then crime and killing. Famous G-Funk rappers are Warren G, Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg. On the west coast there was Death Row Records created by Dr.Dre and Suge Knight where the world famous rapper 2Pac was part of. On the east coast there was Bad Boys Records created by Puff Daddy or Sean Combs where the world famous rapper notorious B.I.G was part of. This created a feud between the two coasts but both 2Pac and notorious B.I.G were killed. After this the Hip Hop community became more peaceful and they started to understand that the fight between the two coasts will only cause killing. It ended up that the rappers didn't hate each other no more, they became more peaceful which I think is beautiful.

When I was about 10 years old, my Dad played 2Pac for me. He played Dear Mama and I loved it. I listened to it everyday and it was the only rap song I liked, but It was also the only 90s rap song I had heard. I then wanted to hear more of 2Pacs songs but I only liked Dear Mama. It was a calm and heartwarming song while the other ones were totally different. I later found out about Notorious B.I.G when my Dad played his album Ready to Die. Every song in that album was fantastic, especially Juicy. It became my new Dear Mama. I started to listen more and more to East coast Hip Hop. On Wu-tang, A Tribe Called Quest, Redman, Nas and Big L. Nowadays I prefer East coast over West coast every day. That's just what I like, some people like West Coast more. I like East coast because of there connection to jazz, hardcore rhymes and beutiful samples. I also enjoy listening to the original songs that the rappers have sampled. I then learn more about Hip Hop.

The similarities between 1980s music and 1990s music is first of all the technologies emerging during the 80s. The walkman, boomboxes, MTV and the way to produce and record music. The 80s Hip Hop and the 90s Hip Hop both use drum machines, samplers and keyboards. I have mentioned all of these very clearly in my text. For Hip Hop both 1980 and 1990 were the golden years for it. The same artists in Hip Hop but also in Pop music were still famous or were still superstars during the 1990's. Because the decades are so close to each other, many things were kept the same in music. There are some differences. The main difference is the genres. During the 1980's it was mostly focused on the pop stars and Hip Hop, not much rock. During the 1990's it was mainly focused on rock and some Hip Hop. As mentioned earlier, the grunge was huge and Heavy metal was still famous. British music also emerged during the 1990s and became really big internationally, in the 80s it wasn't. During the 1990s the boy bands also became a huge thing that was affected by the boy bands in the 60s and 70s but the 90s boy bands were influential for the 20s boy bands. There weren't so many boy bands during the 80s.

There is a reason why I chose these two decades. It's because I love the music from both of them. I love the hip hop and the pop created during those years. But If I am going to be a bit critical, I am going to say that I really don't like rock music from the 90s. It's not my style. I don't understand what they are saying in their lyrics and I believe that the screaming and rough guitar playing is not my thing. I want the sound to be more relaxed but with a hardcore lyrics with special messages. That's the music that I love. If I could choose, I would pick the pop from the 80s and the hip hop from the 90s. But I prefer the 90s Hip Hop over everything.