by Alex Cosper (12/31/12)
The late 80s marked a period of uncertainty in the music industry. There were many mergers that changed the face of the industry and radio was becoming more fragmented. It was perhaps the last era when a wide cross-section of America listened to a lot of the same music before the mainstream was divided up by demographic-intensive formatting.
Rap music began to appear more frequently on the charts and became the vehicle for new stories as Run DMC teamed up with Aerosmith, demystifying the division between rap and rock. The Beastie Boys took that same concept to another level. Most of the rap hits were fun-spirited party songs while other rap artists incorporated social messages into their music.
By 1987 Whitney Houston began to roll a long list of hits as the pop charts clearly favored female artists. It was also a time when a growing number of people wanted an alternative to the repetitious formulas that were popping up in heavy rotation. One of the best selling artists of the period was U2, whose album The Joshua Tree was a timeless masterpiece that helped attract more fans to modern rock.
Modern rock continued to develop more beneath the radar in the late eighties while "hair band" rock was much bigger in the spotlight. Def Leppard's album Hysteria is an important time marker of the era. Other big rock artists of the time were Aerosmith, Poison, Motley Crew and Bon Jovi. Some say Guns N' Roses were different from the glam bands. But however you want to categorize it, by the end of the decade the "arena rock" acts had run their course.
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