Best '80s pop duo: Wham! or Hall & Oates?
via AP

Best '80s pop duo: Wham! or Hall & Oates?

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Wham! and Hall & Oates were dynamic duos who wrote brilliant hits that still get airplay over 30 years later. Both acts featured charismatic blonde lead singers, made some really ridiculous videos, and got little respect from the music critics of their day. But which is truly the greatest pop duo of the Reagan years? 🎤

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Formed in the U.K. by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in 1981, Wham! sold more than 28 million records worldwide during the five years of their existence from 1982 to 1987—and they were just kids at the time. Much like Hall & Oates across the pond, Wham! was derided by critics who didn't appreciate the difficulty of the feats they were accomplishing. 

Their debut LP, Fantastic, spent two weeks at No. 1 in the UK album charts in 1983. Though people ridiculed singles like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper" as silly and lightweight, the former was 1985's No. 3 song on the U.S. Billboard charts, and the latter was as the No. 1 song of the year—not bad for two teenage boys. 

"Last Christmas/Everything She Wants" was the highest-selling single ever to peak at No. 2 on the U.K. charts and remains the U.K.'s 24th best-selling single of all time. Rolling Stone noted that "Even after years of heavy play, the song still sounds fresh." And the duo donated all their royalties from the single to Ethiopian famine relief. They were just brilliant pop songwriters, and good people.

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Hall & Oates are the best-selling musical duo of all-time. Unlike Wham!'s straight-out-of-the-gate success, the pair labored in obscurity for nearly a decade and released numerous albums before achieving '80s pop stardom with 16 top ten singles. They also get major points for longevity; Hall & Oates have been together for more than 40 years and continue to perform to sold-out audiences.

Hall & Oates else came up in Philadephia's '60s soul scene. By the age of 17, Daryl Hall was already singing on street corners with the likes of the Delphonics and the Stylistics. The duo ran with Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, and many other top soul singers and producers of the '60s (Hall & Oates inducted the Temptations into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1985). 

Like Wham!, Hall & Oates were sneered at by critics (Daryl Hall is still super bitter about it) but they've been sampled by De La Soul, Heavy D, 2 Live Crew, Stereo MCs, and the Notorious B.I.G., and their 2014 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame finally brought them the acclaim they always deserved.

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New Music Express called for a Wham! reunion in 2012, saying "nothing could rival the return of Bushey’s finest," and that Wham! "showed just how neatly superior songwriting and plastic pop could mesh."

Want a primer on why Hall & Oates win? Check out "The Maneater Manifesto," a 10-point guide for handling Hall & Oates haters. Michael Jackson, Questlove, Don Cornelius, Smokey Robinson, Chromeo, and The Temptations all agreed on their brilliance.

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