We're Not Worthy: Celebrating Divas of the Totally '80s

Madonna, vocal performs at the Feijenoord Stadium with Blonde ambition tour in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 24th July 1990. (Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)
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(Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

Divas, divas everywhere! Whitney, Cyndi, Kylie--the queen divas of the Totally '80s are defined on a first-name basis. But when talk turns to the women who ruled the 1980s, all roads will eventually lead to just one diva: Madonna.

On the latest episode of the Totally '80s podcast, Hosts Lyndsey Parker and the other John Hughes welcome in special guest Bright Light Bright Light to dig deeply into the world of Totally '80s divas, discussing the merits of the fierce and ferocious women who ruled over the big decade. It's no surprise that the conversation started with a chat about the woman legendary Bond girl and trailblazing recording artist, Grace Jones. When pressed to choose just one diva of the decade as his #1, Bright Light Bright Light was quick to pump the brakes.

"I find the '80s divas really hard to whittle down to even a top five," he admitted. "It's just an excellent decade for strong female pop, disco, electro, fusion women. There are so many strong figures and so many incredibly inspiring solo artists and front women from that era that it's so difficult."

When asked what makes a diva a diva, Bright Light Bright Light boiled it down to those things we'll never forget: "For me, it's iconic moments. Whether that's a vocal performance or a song, something like a catwalk runway look. A collaboration, a cultural moment, which could be something from 'The Girlie Show,' or it could be Grace Jones appearing in a TV commercial, or it could be France Joli stepping in for Donna Summer on Fire Island. It could be Aretha Franklin recording a song with George Michael, and he never recorded anybody else's songs from scratch, and he did that, and it was a huge #1. It could be Janet Jackson just releasing an incredibly powerful social justice record, which also happened to be a gigantic pop record. I think it's like going beyond just the person, and going beyond just the song. It's something that flips the switch culturally."

When talk soon turns to Madonna, they go all the way back to the beginning when she was presented in a racially ambiguous manner to suggest to listeners that she was a black artist: "I don't know why I thought that. I don't know if it was the sound of her voice, or whatever local radio station was playing her, but I didn't know what she looked like until I saw the album cover," Parker remembered. "She was such a fashion icon from the very beginning." Tune into the video above for the full conversation.

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