13 Of The Most Famous Boy Bands Of The 1980s

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

You might not believe it, but boy bands have existed since the 1800s. However, they were typically barbershop quartets with superb harmony, not the group of attractive young men you probably envision.

Yet it wasn’t until the 1980s that the true popularity of boy bands began, and they started to rule the global music industry.

Below are 13 of the most popular boy bands of the 1980s. They were chosen not just because of their overwhelming popularity during the time but also because they influenced the genre and helped shape the future of music for the next big craze. Read on to learn about them!

Related: For more like this, check out our list of the biggest boy band in the world.

1. New Kids On The Block (NKOTB)

A US boy band, New Kids On The Block, debuted in 1986. When NKOTB formed, the band consisted of five members: Danny Wood, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, and Donnie Wahlberg. However, only Wood, Joey, and the two Knight brothers would remain throughout the band’s duration.

Though it took them time to achieve recognition, NKOTB proved that they were one of the most famous boy bands of the 1980s with their hit song “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” which reached the coveted #1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1989.

Despite the band’s rough start, NKOTB sold over 80 million albums worldwide, won two American Music Awards, and is still active today. In further proof of their success as one of the most famous boy bands, in 2014, NKOTB received its very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2. New Edition

Considered the blueprint of a modern boy band, New Edition was formed in 1978. At the time of its creation, New Edition included Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, and Ralph Tresvant.

One of their most famous songs, “Mr. Telephone Man,” reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1984. To this day, it’s still remembered for its unique sound compared to the group’s other songs.

Despite being disbanded and assembled several times, the group sold over an estimated 20 million albums worldwide. New Edition, along with NKOTB, is believed to be the beginning of the boy band craze that extended into the 1990s and early 2000s.

3. A-ha

Norweigan boy band A-ha debuted in 1982. Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, Magne Furuholmen, and Morten Harket made up the band’s members.

Two of their biggest hits, “Take Me On” and “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.,” reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1985, thanks primarily to the song’s music video, which earned a lot of attention on MTV.

The band has disbanded and reassembled throughout the years, but that didn’t stop them from selling an estimated whopping 100 million records worldwide and earning the Spellemannprisen—Norwegian version of Grammy Awards—eight times.

4. Menudo

Formed in 1977, the Latin boy band Menudo was the most popular Latino boy band of the 1980s. Fernando and Nefty Sallaberry, and Oscar, Carlos, and Ricky Melendez initially made up Menudo.

Over their career, they released several moderately successful albums and songs, but their biggest hit was “Hold Me.” It reached the #62 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1985.

Menudo has had a number of lineup changes through the years, and although they didn’t get many of its songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, that didn’t stop them from selling an estimated 60 million albums worldwide.

5. Duran Duran

English rock band Duran Duran was formed in 1978, with Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, and Andy Taylor as the original band members.

Their debut album was released in 1981 with their first charting single, “Girls on Film,” which eventually peaked at#3 on the UK charts. Another well-known hit of theirs is “Is There Something I Should Know?” which took the #4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1983.

The band would go on to sell an astounding estimated 100 million albums worldwide, winning multiple awards (including two Grammys) and even earning a star on the Hollywood Hall of Fame.

6. Fine Young Cannibals

In 1984, the British pop rock band Fine Young Cannibals (FYC) was formed, and during the decade, they released only two albums. The first, an eponymous album, had moderate success, but their second album, The Raw & the Cooked, topped multiple charts in the UK.

Their biggest hits, “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing,” peaked at #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in 1989. Both songs also won the group three ASCAP Pop Music Awards.

The group would go on to sell over an estimated 4 million albums worldwide, and despite the boy band craze ending in the early 2000s, FYC have remained active on and off throughout the years, most recently in 2017.

7. Wham!

If you’ve ever danced to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” then undoubtedly you’ve heard of the English pop duo Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley got together in 1981 and gained popularity throughout the 1980s.

Aside from the song mentioned above, another of their hits was the 1984 “Everything She Wants.” The song reached the #1 spot on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart.

Despite hitting it big in the UK and the world, George Michael wanted to pursue a solo career. The two got together for one last chart-topping single, “Where Did Your Heart Go?” in 1986 before separating.

8. Tony! Toni! Toné!

Comprised of D’wayne Wiggins, Raphael Saadiq, and Timothy Christian, Tony! Toni! Toné! was formed in 1986. Their sound was primarily a blend of soul and R&B that called out to fans.

During the 1980s, the group is best known for the song “Little Walter.” It peaked at the top spot on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart in 1988. This was followed by “Born Not to Know,” which held the #4 spot.

Although the band’s popularity had waned, in 2003, they were asked to appear as guest artists for Alicia Key’s album, “The Diary of Alicia Keys”. This collaboration resulted in the band momentarily making it back onto the Billboard charts.

9. Bros

Matt Goss and Luke Goss made up the band Bros, along with their friend Craig Loga, in 1986. In their almost ten-year career, they only released one number-one single and a handful of number-twos.

One of their biggest hits, “When Will I Be Famous,” peaked at #2 on the UK Singles chart and #1 in Ireland. Other hits include “Drop the Boy” and “Too Much,” both certified Silver.

In 1989, during the Brit Awards, the Bros won the award for British Breakthrough Act, and they would go on to sell an estimated 16 million albums worldwide, an impressive feat for a band that didn’t experience much chart success.

10. Kajagoogoo

Initially known as Art Nouveau, Kajagoogoo was a UK boy band formed in 1981. Like Art Nouveau, the band didn’t attain much success. It wasn’t until the original members added Christopher Hamill as lead vocalist and became known as Kajagoogoo that they found success.

With the help of Colin Thurston, Duran Duran’s producer, Kajagoogoo’s released their biggest hit, “Too Shy.” It topped the UK Singles chart in 1983. They followed this up with other charting singles and a #5 hit debut album, White Feathers.

Despite the increasing success, the band would disband near the mid-1980s. Though they reunite throughout the years, they would never achieve the same success they experienced in the early 1980s.

11. Today

Drakeford, McCain, William McNeir, Ronald Scruggs, and Bernard Belle came together to form the R&B group Today. Though created in the late 1980s, they were still able to drop a couple of top-three singles before the turn of the decade.

Their biggest sensation, “Girl I Got My Eyes On You,” peaked at the #1 spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart in 1989. This song was Today’s only song to make it on the charts in the UK.

“Girl I Got My Eyes on You” was followed by “Him or Me,” which ranked #3. Both these songs came from Today’s eponymous debut album.

12. Brother Beyond

Penultimate on our list, we have the British boy pop band Brother Beyond, formed by Nathan Moore, David White, Carl Fysh, and Eg White in 1985.

For the first three years after its formation, Brother Beyond achieved little success. Then in 1988, the band and its label won an auction for the services of songwriters and producers Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman.

With their help, Brother Beyond created and released two songs that reached the top 10 of the UK Singles chart. One of their biggest hits from that collaboration, “He Ain’t No Competition,” reached the #6 spot on the UK Singles chart in 1988.

13. Big Fun

Lastly, we have another boy band that formed late in the 1980s but managed to achieve a bit of success during that decade. Big Fun was formed in 1988 with members Phil Creswick, Mark Gillespie, and Jason John.

Although they didn’t achieve as much success as the other bands on this list, one of their biggest hits, “Blame It On the Boogie,” reached the #4 spot on the UK Singles chart in 1989.

Unfortunately, after completing their initial album, Pocketful of Dreams, Big Fun would not create any more albums and disbanded six short years after its formation.

Summing Up Our List Of Popular 1980s Boy Bands

There you have it, some of the most popular boy bands to emerge and hit their peak during the 1980s. Some are well-known, while others are not quite so. Regardless, these groups have made their mark in music history.

Despite the decrease in popularity during the 2000s, it is unquestionable that without the influence of the 1980s boy bands, music could have been different than what we know now. So let us take a moment and appreciate the work these men have given us all those years ago.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.