The 1980s were an extremely transformational decade. It’s the decade when MTV first introduced the concept of music videos. It’s the decade when every top DJ used synthesizers and other neat digital sounds, and the decade when hip hop and rap made huge strides for the very first time.
So many of the songs on this list are truly timeless. They’ve been sampled, covered, referenced and praised multiple times. No matter how many years have gone by, the ’80s will always be remembered as a sweet, naïve, groovy, funky, dramatic, cheesy, beautiful mess of a decade.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and recall some of its best creations.
Master Blaster (Jammin’) by Stevie Wonder (1980)
A powerful ode to the late Bob Marley, Master Blaster is one of Stevie Wonder’s greatest songs. With a heavy reggae feel and profound political messages, it succeeds in moving the listener’s body and soul!
This iconic song strongly resembles Marley’s Jammin from his 1977 album Exodus. Over the years, it has inspired great covers done by the likes of Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, and even Ed Sheeran. Peaking at number one on several charts across the globe, Master Blaster surely deserves a spot on this list.
Super Trouper by Abba (1980)
Over-the-top and theatrical, the Swedish pop group ABBA has released a host of fun, dramatic songs, Super Trouper included. A romantic tale of the power of love, Super Trouper is an uplifting song about a loved one who has saved the the group from burnout.
“I was sick and tired of everything
When I called you last night from Glasgow
All I do is eat and sleep and sing…”
“I won’t feel blue
Like I always do
‘Cause somewhere in the crowd there’s you…”
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey (1981)
This song is cheesy and empowering, and we absolutely love it. Crowned as having “one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock,” Don’t Stop Believin’ is a tale of positivity and hope, despite life’s uncertainty and hardships.
“Took the midnight train goin’ anywhere” implies that none of us really know where we’re heading. But we’re all in search of something, whether it be a smile, a kind gesture, a heartwarming word. We long for something or someone to make us feel alive and loved. Did I say this song is cheesy as can be?
You Make My Dreams (Come True) by Hall & Oates (1981)
This song is the ultimate tap-your-foot, snap-your-finger kind of tune. There’s no way to stand still when this hit song booms from the speakers. Hall & Oates, the ’80s ultimate pop-rock duo released this song in the early ’80s, and it peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
John Oates once mentioned that the song came to life “through a happy accident, my guitar player friend of mine and myself were jamming in the dressing room, and I started playing a delta blues and he started playing a Texas swing, and we put them together, and all of a sudden into my head popped ‘you make my dreams.'”
Paul Revere by the Beastie Boys
The song Paul Revere is a made-up story of how the Beastie Boys met. The bizarre song evolved from an incident when the band suddenly spotted Joseph Simmons running down the road babbling incoherently as they stood outside their recording studio.
When he reached the Boys, he said, “Here’s a little story I got to tell,” and after many baffling words, he finally concluded, “THAT’s the song.” The band took his story and worked on it from there.
You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon (1986)
What do you get when you blend a ’60s folk-rocker with a group of South African musicians? A fun, groovy tune with a wild, tribe-like feel. Paul Simon’s solo album Graceland stemmed from his travels in South Africa, where he fell in love with the heart-warming beats and lively people.
Simon’s split from his musical partner, Art Garfunkel, could have led to his disappearance from the music scene. But instead, losing his other half gave way to a new and improved Simon − one who wasn’t afraid to experiment and blend tunes from all corners of the world.
I Love Rock ’n Roll by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (1981)
This song has the power to make you feel like an absolute savage, even though you’re really at home, in your pajamas, swinging one arm in the air and wriggling your fingers in the other, air-playing Joan Jett’s signed guitar or something.
Jett’s raspy voice, her no-f*cks-given attitude, and the catchy clap of the hands in the background, are what make this song so iconic. Originally released by The Arrows in 1975, Jett and the Blackhearts turned this piece into a brilliant ’80s staple.
Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks (1981)
That empowering guitar intro along with Stevie’s scratchy voice crooning, “Ooh! Baby ooh! said Ooh!” The release of this song really marked the moment Stevie finally stood out on her own. She had released two solo songs prior to this, but Edge of Seventeen really put her in the spotlight.
Speaking of the track, Stevie once said that “After the loss of John Lennon and my uncle at the same time…this song is sort of about how no amount of money or power could save them. I was angry, helpless, hurt, sad.”
West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys (1984)
The English Brit-pop duo Pet Shop Boys gave us some hip, funky and unique sounds. A song both mysterious and casual, dramatic and ordinary, West End Girls was their ode to life back in London. The song itself was actually recorded in New York.
The song earned the title of Best Single at the 1987 Brit Awards, and two decades after its release, in 2005, it snatched the Song of the Decade award between the years 1985 to 1994 by Britain’s Academy of Composers and Songwriters. In 2020, The Guardian chose West End Girls as one of U.K.’s greatest singles.
When Doves Cry by Prince (1984)
The lyrics to this song are painfully relatable. No matter how much we try to differ from our parents, more often than not, we find ourselves imitating their exact behavior, particularly in relationships. “Maybe I’m just too demanding, maybe I’m just like my father, too bold,” Prince sings.
“Maybe you’re just like my mother, she’s never satisfied. Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like when doves cry.” Ahhh… what a song. No ’80s list would be complete without it.
Purple Rain by Prince (1984)
In all honesty, Prince was such a prolific artist that half of this ’80s list could be dedicated to him. But we’ll hold ourselves from doing it, and instead, add just one more song – Purple Rain. This absolute masterpiece illustrates just why Prince was such a legend.
The unique melody, accompanied by his high, moving voice, shifting from low and guttural to ethereal and falsetto. As for the definition of Purple Rain, Prince explained: “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.”
“It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by R.E.M.
This song starts with an earthquake and…. keeps quaking until the very end. The rumbling and rambling persist throughout the whole song, and even though R.E.M. sings of the end of the world, you can’t help but “feel fine.”
The lyrics were described by the band as a stream of consciousness. “The words come from everywhere,” Stipe once explained, “whether I am in a sleeping state, awake, dream-state, or just in day-to-day life, so that ended up in the song along with a lot of stuff I’d seen when I was flipping TV channels.
Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners (1982)
Who was Eileen, you ask? After many rumors flew from here to there and back again, it was revealed that this so-called woman was actually a “composite, to make a point about Catholic repression.” Dexys Midnight Runners sure knew how to prove a point.
Dexy member Kevin Rowland was raised Catholic and recalled how sex was always a taboo subject. It was considered “dirty” – which made sex all the more fascinating. When writing the song, he expressed the feelings he had in his teen years, of wanting to free himself from the stiffness of a frightened society.
Forget Me Nots by Patrice Rushen (1982)
R&B ’80s icon Patrice Rushen created waves with her smooth voice and sensual lyrics. The bassline, the saxophone, every instrument on this record radiates lust. The song was well-received by critics when it first came out.
“There’s no better evidence of her refined style than on the album’s seminal lead single, Forget Me Nots,” said one critic. This steamy song has a magical feel to it and it’s one of the ’80s greatest gems. Surely, it’ll be many years before the world forgets this song.
Valerie by Steve Winwood (1982)
This heart-rending song deals with a longing, a longing to reunite with a loved one. Written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings, the lyrics are dedicated to musician Valerie Carter, whose career was crumbling apart due to her addictions.
In 2004, the song was sampled by Eric Prydz and was released as Call on Me that same year. Winwood was impressed by the new and unique house music track and had nothing but good things to say about it.
A Night to Remember by Shalamar (1982)
R*B group Shalamar released one of the grooviest tunes of the decade – A Night to Remember. It’s a song you can dance to on your own, as well as with your crush, as well as with your kid, your dog, and your neighbor. It’s just a feel-good song, like most of the hits from the ’80s.
Years later, this song would be covered by the English boy band 911, who released it as their debut album’s lead single in 1997. The cover peaked at No. 38 on the U.K. Singles Chart. But the original one by Shalamar will always be remembered.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper (1983)
Seriously, is there a song more fun and uplifting than Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? It’s the ultimate anthem for female energies all around the world. It’s a song for a sunny road trip, a day at the beach, or a spontaneous sleepover at a friend’s house.
Interestingly, this song was written by Robert Hazard, who wrote it from a man’s point of view. But he made sure to convey the point that women want to enjoy life just as men are allowed to. In a world that wants to hide us away, all we really want is to have fun and feel free.
Culture Club by Karma Chameleon (1983)
Led by George Boy, the English band Culture Club introduced us to one of the catchiest, fun songs of the decade – Karma Chameleon. It spent a whopping three weeks at the top of America’s Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 5 million copies around the world.
When asked about the song’s meaning, Boy George once explained: “The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing…It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”
La Isla Bonita by Madonna (1987)
Let’s be real, after Madonna released this song in 1987, we all dreamt of San Pedro. We dreamt of a beautiful island, of a young girl with eyes like the desert, of a passionate Latino to come and woo us away.
Originally, the initial composition was offered to Michael Jackson, who turned it down. Madonna eventually accepted the track herself, and good thing she did! Madonna would later state that her love for Spanish music is what drew her to the song.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart (1983)
One of the most thrilling pop songs ever created, Sweet Dreams is a timeless banger. Annie Lennox’s alluring voice, the slightly kinky lyrics, along with the song’s electronic beats makes it one of the ’80s best creations.
In some twisted way, the song is both depressing and optimistic. Lennox once explained: “The song was an expression of how I felt: hopeless and nihilistic…[Dave] Stewart, however, thought the lyrics were too depressing so he added ‘hold your head up, keep your head up.”
Let’s Dance by David Bowie (1983)
Dearest David Bowie…what would the music scene have looked like without him, right? While it’s virtually impossible to pick a Bowie favorite, Let’s Dance is a top contender for sure. With its infectious beat, the song makes us want to – you guessed it – dance.
Weirdly, while all of us went gaga for this song, David Bowie once called it “the start of his Phil Collin years,” and he didn’t mean it in a good way. He viewed it as a period of extremely low creativity. In any case, we loved it then and we love it today.
All Night Long (All Night) by Lionel Richie (1983)
This song has one of the most vibrant music videos in the history of music videos. Everyone’s sporting colorful outfits, ridiculously huge smiles, and salsa-ing their way from one side of the studio to the next. Even the security guard joins the fun at one point!
If this fun tune doesn’t scream ’80s, we don’t know what does. It has Lionel Richie’s soulful voice and an addictive Caribbean groove. Fun fact: the Tom bo li de say de moi ya” and “Jambo jumbo” bits in the song were, according to Richie, “a wonderful joke,” written when he found out he had no time to hire an actual translator.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston (1987)
The heat from this song is undeniable. Surely, it will remind some of you readers of sweaty, glittery, unforgettable nights on the dancefloor. “Don’t you want to dance?” Houston innocently asks. And I think we all know the answer to that.
This uplifting dance tune was an immediate success when it came out. It became a worldwide phenomenon, with nearly every dancefloor blasting it all night long. Lovers across the globe jumped up and down to this timeless classic.
The Power of Love by Huey Lewis & the News (1985)
Written for the 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future, The Power of Love carries one empowering and mysterious tune. Truer words have never been spoken: “The power of love is a curious thing. Make one man weep, make another man sing.”
While most of us believe that money makes the world go ’round, Huey Lewis & The News begs to differ. “You don’t need money, don’t need fame,” they sing. A strong, cruel, and sneaky little thing, love has the power to save your life!
Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper (1983)
Cyndi Lauper strikes again on this list with Time After Time, a truly timeless ballad. “Confusion is nothing new,” she sings of waiting for her long-lost lover. She carries a suitcase of memories around her, and in truth, don’t we all?
If you’re lost, Lauper will catch you, time after time. This song probably made you cry, smile, reminisce, hurt, and laugh. There’s nothing like a good session of self-wallowing and melancholic flashbacks with Lauper’s voice in the background.
Uptown Girl by Billy Joel (1983)
You’ve got to love that backstreet, working-class guy trying to woo a rich girl love story. In the video, even though Billy Joel can’t afford to buy her pearls, the blonde beauty ends up falling for his good heart and spicy attitude.
The song was originally written about his relationship with Elle Macpherson, an Australian model with pearly white teeth and a body to die for. As it turns out, Joel always felt a bit “beneath her.”
Of the song, Macpherson would later state: “I think it was all the uptown girls, put it that way…I don’t need to take ownership over that. He liked tall girls.”
“Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash (1982)
When this song first came out, people instantly assumed it was about Mick Jones’s dismissal from The Clash. And then, it became about his relationship with Ellen Foley. In reality, though, it was about neither.
“It wasn’t about anybody specific, and it wasn’t pre-empting my leaving The Clash,” Jones stated in a 1991 interview. “It was just a good rockin’ song, our attempt at writing a classic…When we were just playing, that was the kind of thing we used to like to play.”
Super Freak by Rick James
This song turned all of us into super freaks, men and women alike. A kinky, weird, and slightly cringy tune, Super Freak got us all moving and dancing somewhat awkwardly. Even if you hated this song, you still kind of liked it.
It became a worldwide hit in 1981, and it has certainly stood the test of time! In 1990, MC Hammer sampled it in “You Can’t Touch Us,” and to this day, it’s considered one of the ’80s most defining songs, and Rick James’ signature masterpiece.
Africa by Toto
Even though they had never been to Africa before releasing this song, Toto gained immense popularity by singing about the continent. In 2015, David Paich explained that contrary to popular belief, the song is about a love of Africa, not one about a personal romance.
After watching a documentary about the suffering on the continent, he felt moved to write about it. “The pictures just wouldn’t leave my head,” Paich explained; “I tried to imagine how I’d feel about it if I was there and what I’d do.”
Beat It by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was one prolific musician. From sleek and funky to rebellious and unruly, he glided through all areas across the musical spectrum. With that sneery guitar solo and Jackson’s powerful voice, Beat It became such a hit that we can’t picture the ’80s existing without it.
Without paying attention to the lyrics, this song might come off as a mean, lean fighting machine. But in fact, Jackson’s intention here is to say, “Walk away, don’t fight. It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right.” There’s a whole lot of pressure to fight back and not come off as a wimp, but Jackson reassures us that on the contrary, if you stand back, you’ll come out the bigger man.
The Glamorous Life by Sheila E. (1984)
Written by Prince and beautifully sung by Sheila E., The Glamorous Life is a classic and empowering jam. “She wants to lead the glamorous life / She don’t need a man’s touch,” Sheila sings, sounding more confident than Prince in heels.
The song cracked the top 10 on the U.S. pop charts, peaking at number seven, as well as earning the number one spot on the U.S. dance charts, AS WELL as earning two Grammy award nominations and three MTV award nominations.
Material Girl by Madonna (1984)
Madonna spoke for us all when she sang the words to this timeless tune. Aren’t we all just a bit materialistic? The genius of the song’s lyrics is revealed in the chorus, where Madonna reminds: “YOU know that we are living in a material world.”
In other words, it’s not Madonna who’s a superficial little brat. It’s society as a whole. She’s simply a product of social norms, and she knows how to work her magic to her benefit. Is she to blame? Nope. We’re all sailing in the same materialistic boat.
What’s Love Got to Do With It by Tina Turner (1984)
What’s Love Got to Do With It gave Tina Turner her one and only Billboard Hot 100 number one single. It became her most successful hit (although some would say Private Dancer is better). What’s special about this award-winning song is that it was Tina’s comeback single after years of abuse by her ex-husband and former musical partner, Ike.
Fun fact: the song was handed to around six artists before reaching Tina. Among them, Donna Summer, who kept it lying in her drawer collecting dust before she finally passed the torch to Turner.
Take On Me by A-ha (1985)
Take On Me has more than a billion views on YouTube. Clearly, it’s a timeless work of art. It’s perfect for a good party, a fun night out, a stroll around the park…In fact, it’s perfect for nearly every moment in life (except maybe a funeral, and even then, I’m sure it’ll somehow fit in).
It was the first hit for the Norwegian trio A-ha, and garnered worldwide success stretching across Europe and beyond! Not only is this song incredible, but so is its video, which is a mix of pencil-drawn animation and human performance.
Shake the Disease by Depeche Mode (1985)
English electro-pop legends Depeche Mode released a string of memorable music during their career. Among them, Shake the Disease, which according to band member Alan Wilder, perfectly captures the group’s essence.
“There’s a certain edge to what we do that can make people think twice about things,” he once explained. “If we’ve got a choice between calling a song ‘Understand Me’ or ‘Shake the Disease’, we’ll call it ‘Shake the Disease.’ There’s a lot of perversity and innuendo in our lyrics, but nothing direct.”
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley (1987)
Once Rick Astley’s mega jam pops up on the radio, there’s really no turning back. It’ll likely be stuck in your head for the rest of the day (or week…or month). This ’80s dance-pop smash ruled the airwaves when it first came out.
Astley’s debut single topped the charts worldwide (in 25 different countries!), reaching number one in the U.S., the U.K., and South Africa. We really don’t mind being “rickrolled.” In fact, let us be rickrolled all day every day. (Rickrolling refers to some silly prank where you send someone an enticing link, but it ends up redirecting them to this song.)
“The Sweetest Taboo” by Sade
Released as Sade’s debut single, The Sweetest Taboo is one sweet, sweet tune. It has a mellow flow that just makes you want to shimmy around with Sade next to that rain-spotted glass window. The hit song peaked at number five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
The Nigerian-born, U.K.-raised musician blew everyone away when she released this beautiful hit from her best-selling album, Promise. When you hear her voice, you really can’t help but sit back and drift along with her.
With or Without You by U2 (1987)
U2 has released some really cheesy, bombastic songs over the years. And With or Without You is no exception, yet it very well deserves a spot on this list! The song’s bittersweet lyrics are beautifully paired with the delicate yet powerful music accompanying it.
It’s somewhat classy, somewhat desperate, it’s really a mixture of everything. Kind of like how being in love feels. Laugh all you want, but U2 really know how to tug at our heartstrings. “With or without youuuuuu….” Sing it loud and proud my friends!
Just Like Honey by The Jesus and Mary Chain (1985)
The opening riff of Be My Baby (by the Ronettes) has been sampled repeatedly over the past 50 years. Among the sampling artists are some legendary names: Billy Joel, the Strokes, Amy Winehouse, Dan Deacon, and Gotye, to name a few.
But none come close to what The Jesus and Mary Chain did with it. The song has gained worldwide success, appearing in numerous films including Lost in Translation (2003), The Man Who Loved Yngve (2008), and on an episode of American Horror Story: Hotel.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going by Billy Ocean (1985)
This song has the power to lift your spirits without sugarcoating anything. When life becomes tough to handle, and it WILL get tough to handle at some point, you’ve got to keep your head up and grow tougher.
This pick-me-up song became a worldwide success, peaking at number one in the U.K., and staying there for four consecutive weeks. It reached number two on the U.S. charts, right behind Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears (1985)
The ’80s is known as the ultimate era of musical cheese. But Tears for Fears gave us something different. A song with heavy political themes, Everybody Wants to Rule the World was actually banned at one point during the first Gulf War in 1990.
This raw song made us contemplate how we live our lives here on Earth.” Acting on your best behavior / Turn your back on mother nature / Everybody wants to rule the world,” they sang. Sad? Yes. But important to hear nonetheless!
Every Breath You Take by the Police (1983)
Who could forget this stalk-ish anthem? Really, is there anything more comforting than knowing that the Police has always got your back? We don’t think so. That’s why this song is on our list. Written by Sting, this song was America’s greatest hit in 1983.
When the song came out, Sting had some explaining to do. This is what he said about his creepy lyrics: “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour… I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is.”
Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds (1985)
Whether you watched the Breakfast Club or somehow (God knows how) missed it, there’s no way you didn’t hear Don’t You (Forget About Me) blasting on the radio at one point or another.
If you did watch the movie, this song surely fills your mind with a picture of John Bender raising his fist high up in the air.” Hey hey hey hey….oooooooh ooohohhooo” – who knew such ordinary noises could create such an empowering sensation? Well done, Simple Minds!
Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran
Fun fact about this song: it was written in one day, with each band member adding a little bit. It was recorded in 1982, in the basement of EMI’s headquarters in London. As the day progressed, Duran Duran’s members gradually arrived at the studio.
Each arriving member suggested adding something new, and by the end of the day, they had their final product. This robust and powerful song put Duran Duran at the top of the Billboard charts, peaking at number three on the Hot 100.
Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi
Potentially the decade’s ultimate cheeseball – Livin’ on a Prayer is a song that will get you yelling at the top of your lungs, relating to the song’s protagonists, and praying with all your might that things get better.
Dockworker Tommy and diner girl Gina haven’t had it easy in life. And we’ve all been there, haven’t we? We likely still are! Pushing through life’s hardships, trying to make it work, failing tremendously yet getting up again because we can’t afford to forfeit. We’re all just living on a prayer…
Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard (1987)
Believe it or not, but it took a while for this song to gain recognition. But when it did, there was not one ’80s teen who didn’t make out to this snarky, sexy hit. It peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot 100 and is considered Def Leppard’s signature song.
In conversation with Billboard, guitarist Phil Collen revealed: “After we’d pretty much finished the album, Joe Elliot was playing around on the acoustic guitar singing “pour some sugar on me,” and (producer) Mutt said, What’s that? Within an hour or so, we formed a song.”
In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins
This suave, slightly eerie song was the lead single from Phil Collin’s debut solo album and is considered one of his best songs. The drummer wrote the song after the harsh divorce from his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli in 1980.
“I wrote the lyrics spontaneously. I’m not quite sure what the song is about, but there’s a lot of anger, a lot of despair, and a lot of frustration,” he revealed in a 2016 interview. Apparently, the divorce was terribly difficult and even played a role in his split from Genesis.
Push It by Salt-N-Pepa (1987)
Salt-N-Pepa gave us one of the grooviest songs of the decade – Push It. The music makes you want to move around like a robot while shimmying your butt from side to side (yes, we know that doesn’t make sense, but just listen to the song and you’ll get it).
The song peaked at number 19 on the U.S. Billboard HOT 100, and at number 41 in the U.K. It’s also been certified Platinum by the RIAA. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 500 greatest hits of all time, and VHI ranked it number nine on their 100 Greatest Hip Hop songs.
Whip It by Devo (1980)
The music video for Whip It has a cowboy-whipping weirdo flinging his whip around while being cheered on by his mates. At one point, he starts whipping the clothes off a woman, an act that garnered some criticism.
Some fans claimed that the video had misogynistic undertones, but, nonetheless, it did extremely well when it first came out in 1980. Fun fact: When the studio released it, they had very little faith it would do well!
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (1983)
Is there a better song for karaoke than Total Eclipse of the Heart? It’s such a joy to sing at the top of your lungs, “EVERY NOW AND THEN I FALL APAAAART….” The dramatic drums, Bonnie Tyler’s grandiose voice…everything falls into place beautifully!
This power ballad became Bonnie Tyler’s signature song, ranking high in numerous charts. It peaked at number one in South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. It sold a whopping 60,000 copies per at one point and about 6 million in total.
Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses (1988)
This song is the definition of timeless. Really, I doubt there’s a single person in this world who hasn’t heard this iconic guitar riff at least one in his\her life. Sweet Child o’ Mine ranked 37 on Guitar World’s chart of 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.
Axl Rose wrote the lyrics after listening to his bandmates play some music upstairs. The words are based on his then-girlfriend, Evin Everly.
Jump by Van Halen (1983)
Released in the winter of 1983, Jump became Van Halen’s best-selling single, peaking at number one of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. David Lee Roth dedicated this song to his teacher, martial artist Benny “The Jet” Urquidez.
VHI ranked Jump number 15 on their 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s, and Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Hall of Fame crowned it one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. With such impressive achievements, we simply had to add Jump to this list!
Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel (1986)
Sledgehammer’s video set a new record when it won nine MTV Video Music Awards at the 1987 ceremony. Gabriel was also nominated for three Grammy Awards for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year!
This funky song was Gabriel’s biggest hit in the U.S., peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. A blend of soul, funk, jazz, and dance-rock, this hit was a breath of fresh air when it came out. Like many other ’80s hits, this song immediately makes you want to dance!
The Breaks by Kurtis Blow (1980)
This fun rap song was Blow’s first single from his self-titled debut album. It didn’t do as well as other songs on this list (peaking at number 87 on Billboard’s Hot 100), but it still created some serious waves.
It was the first certified gold rap hit, and the second certified gold 12-inch single. Nearly three decades later, in 2008, it was ranked number 10 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs. In retrospect, this is such a naïve, sweet form of rap. No dirty words, but just a very clean, ’80s-like song.
Call Me by Blondie (1980)
Debbie Harry dominated the ’80s with her punk glam style. She wrote this timeless song for the film American Gigolo, and it did way better than anyone expected. It peaked at number one on the U.S. charts, remaining there for a whopping six consecutive weeks.
It took Harry just a few hours to write the lyrics to this hit. The lyrics were written from the perspective of the film’s protagonist, a male prostitute. “When I was writing it, I pictured the opening scene, driving on the coast of California,” she once explained.
We Got the Beat by the Go-Go’s (1981)
We Got the Beat was written by the band’s lead guitarist and keyboardist Charlotte Caffey. This fun tune peaked at number five on America’s Hot Dance Club Play. It was considered a new wave hit, and soon became the Go-Go’s signature song.
Rock and Roll’s Hall of Fame named it as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll – a huge honor! The Go-Go’s certainly had the beat in the ’80s, and the world was at their feet. A spunky pop-punk group, the girls sure knew how to work a crowd!
Tainted Love by Soft Cell (1981)
Both spooky and seducing, Tainted Love is, hands down, one of the coolest songs of the ’80s. After a memorable performance on BBC’s Top of the Pops show, the song charted the U.K. Singles Chart, peaking at number one, and became known as the best-selling single of 1981.
Soft Cell’s version of this song ranked number 5 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 1980s. Years later, in 2006, Rihanna sampled it for her single “SOS” and a year later, the Veronicas did the same with their single “Hook Me Up.”
Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies (1988)
Where Is My Mind is one of the Pixies greatest songs. The music, the words, his voice… it instantly gives you goosebumps. They ask a very reasonable question, one all of us have questioned at one point in our lives (if not every other day) – Where IS my mind?
The lyrics were written by Black Francis after he went scuba diving in the Caribbean. “This very small fish was trying to chase me. I don’t know why—I don’t know too much about fish behavior,” he once explained. This song rose to popularity once again years later when Fight Club came out.
Open Your Heart by Madonna (1986)
Madonna ruled the ’80s. She recorded four chart-topping albums throughout this memorable decade and made history while doing so. Each album has a unique flair to it, but for many, Open Your Heart is the ultimate ’80s track.
It’s hard not to sing along and sway dramatically from side to side while doing so. The song was well received by the public, cracking the top ten charts in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the U.K. and of course, the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.
Kiss by Prince (1986)
You know we had to add just one more Prince song! Written, composed, and produced by Prince, Kiss was a No. 1 hit around the globe, standing proud at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks.
You got to love the lyrics to this. Prince, always the gentleman, reassures that you don’t have to be anything in particular to be his girl. Talk dirty, be rude, do whatever…all he wants is a kiss from you.
Nasty by Janet Jackson (1986)
Released as the second single of her memorable album, this funk hit peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and was crowned number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
To this day, it remains one of Janet’s signature songs. The most memorable line of the song is: “My first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet – Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” and it’s been referenced in pop culture in all sorts of songs.
Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order (1986)
When it comes to cool dance songs, it really doesn’t get any better than New Order. Their songs are mysterious, moving, and profound. The music and the lyrics, combined together, create a truly unique feel.
Bizarre Love Triangle has been cited by Billboard as one of the greatest songs of all time: a “synth-pop masterpiece” and an “incandescent jewel of mid-‘80s computer love.” This song was praised by many as the band’s “finest pop moment.”