Led by Chrissie Hynde’s powerful contralto voice, English rock band The Pretenders gained popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s with songs like “Brass in Pocket,” “I’ll Stand by You,” and many more.
Fans of theirs adored their new wave, pop rock sound, and if you’re here to add similar music to your playlist, then you’re in the right place.
Below you’ll find 13 incredible bands like The Pretenders to explore and enjoy. Read on to learn who they are!
We begin with a band also fronted by an amazing woman. Rock band Blondie, co-founded in 1974 by singer Debbie Harry and talented guitarist Chris Stein, pioneered the new wave music scene in America.
Blondie’s self-titled debut album was released in 1976 and received moderate success. However, it was their third album, Parallel Lines, in 1978 that propelled them to international stardom.
Since then, they produced several hit singles, including “Call Me,” “The Tide Is High,” and the smash hit “Heart of Glass.” With Harry’s easily recognizable vocals, the band achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success.
Blondie bridged the gap between punk and new wave. Their music has inspired countless artists and bands that followed, including The Pretenders, whom they also co-headlined in tours later in their career.
2. Talking Heads
Another band to pioneer the new wave sound and influence The Pretenders is Talking Heads. Emerging from New York City in 1975, the band became known for their eclectic sound, blending post-punk, art pop, avant-punk, new wave, and more.
With lead singer and guitarist David Byrne at the helm, Talking Heads gained attention not just through songs like “Burning Down the House,” “One in a Lifetime,” and “Life During Wartime” but also through their collaborations with prominent figures like producer Brian Eno.
Talking Heads disbanded in 2002, but their legacy continues today through various projects by its former members. For example, drummer Chris Frantz recently released a memoir titled Remain in Love, which chronicles his life within this iconic band.
3. The Cars
Formed just two years before The Pretenders, The Cars helped trailblaze new wave music alongside Talking Heads and Blondie. They gained significant popularity following their debut album in 1976.
The six-time Platinum album was followed by six more high-charting albums, like Candy-O in 1979 and Heartbeat City in 1984. Their most popular song, “Drive,” came from Heartbeat City. It topped Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary chart and took the #3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Cars’ contribution to music earned them a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Sadly, frontman Ric Ocasek passed the year after, marking the end of the band.
4. Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Across the pond, Elvis Costello and the Attractions started off as a backing band, but they soon gained a name for themselves as a leading band in the British new wave movement of the early 1980s.
Formed in London in late 1977, Elvis Costello and the Attractions were active until 1986 and then again from 1994 to 1996. During this time, they released 32 albums and 62 singles, with popular hits such as “Pump It Up,” “Oliver’s Army,” and “Watching the Detectives.”
Elvis Costello and the Attractions were renowned for their ability to incorporate a diverse range of musical genres, ranging from punky power pop to country and soul, into their eclectic sound.
This innovative approach to music was a hallmark of the new wave movement, which both Elvis Costello and the Attractions and The Pretenders were part of and which helped establish themselves as influential voices of their time.
5. The Clash
English band The Clash, formed in 1976, was often compared to The Pretenders. With their raw instrumentation and rebellious spirit, they made waves in the music industry during their time, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
Their breakthrough album, London Calling, is widely regarded as a seminal moment in the history of punk rock and new wave music. Released in 1979, it displayed the band’s evolution and growth as musicians and songwriters.
One of the album’s most notable tracks, the titular “London Calling,” featured socially conscious lyrics that spoke to larger issues such as war and starvation, demonstrating that The Clash’s music was more than just simple punk rock tunes, but rather a statement on society at large.
6. The Smiths
Hailing from the Manchester music scene of the 1980s, we have next The Smiths. Formed in 1982, they gained a strong following with their unique blend of alt rock and Morrissey’s distinctive vocals.
The Smiths released four studio albums during their career. However, it was their third album, The Queen Is Dead, that truly cemented their status in rock history. It features fan-favorite tracks such as “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again.”
After five years of success, The Smiths disbanded amidst much controversy due to personal conflicts within the band. Following the band’s breakup, guitarist Johnny Marr went on to collaborate with artists such as Talking Heads and Billy Bragg before eventually joining forces with Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.
7. The Police
Next up is English rock band The Police. Similar to The Pretenders, The Police emerged in the late 1970s, blending new wave styles to create something entirely exciting for listeners.
In a career that lasted about ten years, The Police released five studio albums, each of which showed the world the band’s musical prowess and artistic vision.
Some of the band’s most notable songs are “Roxanne,” “Every Breath You Take,” and “Message in a Bottle.” These tracks are still beloved by fans today and are considered classics of the rock genre.
In addition to their musical achievements, The Police were also recipients of numerous awards and accolades throughout their career. They won six Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” in 1980. Then in 2003, they were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
8. Generation X
Emerging from London in 1976, British punk rock band Generation X carved out a significant place in the music scene. Not only were they among the pioneering bands of the UK’s punk rock movement, but their unique sound also fused elements of new wave and power pop, similar to The Pretenders.
The band’s breakthrough came with their self-titled debut album in 1978. It was well-received, landing at #29 on the UK Albums Chart, and regarded as a classic punk rock record.
However, one of their most iconic songs, “Dancing with Myself,” which became a hit for lead singer Billy Idol in his solo career, was originally recorded by Generation X for the band’s final album, Kiss Me Deadly. This song’s success helped to cement the band’s legacy in the punk and new wave genres.
9. The Go-Go’s
The legendary all-female band The Go-Go’s emerged from the LA music scene the same year as The Pretenders, 1978. Known for their punk rock and new wave sound, The Go-Go’s were pioneers in breaking barriers for female musicians in the industry.
The Go-Go’s released their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, in 1981. It made history by becoming the first to top the Billboard charts by an all-female band who wrote and performed their own songs. It included the hits “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat.” The Go-Go’s followed this up with Vacation in 1982 and Talk Show in 1984.
Both The Go-Go’s and The Pretenders broke barriers for women in rock music. They proved that women could rock just as hard as men, and they paved the way for future female-led bands.
10. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Our next rock band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, has inspired countless musicians since their inception in the late 1970s. Led by the dynamic Joan Jett, famed for her raw vocals and electrifying guitar performances, the band has etched an unforgettable legacy in the annals of rock and roll history.
Their breakthrough came with their cover of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982 and quickly became an anthem for rock music. Their other hits include “Crimson and Clover,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Jett’s powerful vocals and rebellious image have made her a rock icon. She was one of the first women to front a hard rock band, and she has inspired countless female musicians. In 2015, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cementing their place in music history.
British pop duo Eurythmics was made up of two members, Annie Lennox, and Dave Stewart. They garnered international fame in the 1980s with their catchy blend of electronic, synth-pop, and new wave sounds.
Formed in 1980, Eurythmics achieved significant success with hits like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” “Here Comes the Rain Again,” and “Would I Lie to You?” Their innovative use of synthesizers and electronic music elements set them apart from many other acts of the era.
After Eurythmics disbanded in the early ’90s, both Lennox and Stewart went on to have successful solo careers. Lennox has won multiple Grammy Awards and an Academy Award for her solo work, while Stewart has produced albums for a variety of artists and composed scores for several films.
When we talk about the golden era of rock music, it’s impossible to overlook the Australian rock band Divinyls. Bursting onto the scene in 1980, they quickly became known for their dynamic live shows.
The band’s self-titled debut album, released in 1983, was a promising start, but it was their 1991 single “I Touch Myself” from the album Divinyls that catapulted them into international stardom.
The song was a bold declaration of female sexuality, a theme often overlooked in the male-dominated rock scene of the time. The track reached #1 on the Australian charts and made the top five in the US.
Divinyls has often been compared to The Pretenders. Both bands were fronted by strong, charismatic women (Chrissy Amphlett and Chrissie Hynde, respectively) who weren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, and both stood out as a beacon for women in rock, proving that they could rock just as hard, if not harder, than their male counterparts.
13. The B-52’s
Hailing from the vibrant town of Athens, Georgia, new wave band The B-52 emerged onto the music scene in 1976. With three sensational lead singers—Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, and Kate Pierson—their harmonies and individual styles became instantly recognizable.
The B-52’s has produced numerous hits that shaped the music industry. Their biggest hit, “Love Shack,” from their fifth studio album, Cosmic Thing, earned them a Grammy nomination in 1990. The same album also produced the hit “Roam,” celebrated for its catchy melody and empowering lyrics.
The B-52’s new wave–influenced sound has led to shared stages with The Pretenders. They have performed together at events, creating memorable experiences for their fans.
Summing Up Our List Of Bands Like The Pretenders
So there you have it, music lovers! We’ve explored bands that echo the distinct and unforgettable sounds of The Pretenders. From gritty guitar riffs to soul-stirring lyrics, each band brings their own unique flavor while resonating with that familiar Pretenders’ vibe.
We hope this article has opened up new avenues in your musical journey and added a few more favorites to your playlist. But as every music lover knows, the symphony of sound is endless and there are likely other bands out there that could’ve made this list. Let us know who we missed, and we’ll add them for you!