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60 Best Songs From The 1980s

The 80s introduced us to big hair, video games, and some of that electronic music that we know today.

This decade was dominated by power-pop icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna but also left with some classic rock favorites and the start of rap which dominates the charts today.

Here are 60 of the best songs from over 30 years ago.

Outstanding

Listen:
Artist:
  • The Gap Band
Album:
  • The Gap Band IV
Description

Outstanding took the #1 spot on the Billboard R&B Singles chart in 1982. The song lyrics are of a man infatuated with a woman, and he can’t get enough of her.

Forget Me Nots

Listen:
Artist:
  • Patrice Rushen
Album:
  • Straight From The Heart
Description

Patrice Rushen explains to us through song, that love can still exist even if its been a while. Sending a thoughtful reminder to your past love interest will help them to forget you not.

Take Your Time (Do It Right)

Listen:
Artist:
  • The S.O.S. Band
Album:
  • S.O.S.
Description

Take Your Time was able to capture the #1 position on three separate Billboard charts. The song is about a sexual encounter with lots of encouragement.

Your Love

Listen:
Artist:
  • The Outfield
Album:
  • Play Deep
Description

Your Love is also known as the song about the hopes of a one night stand. The Outfield achieved great success in the U.S. throughout the 1980’s, but sadly they never did in their native land.

Like a Virgin

Listen:
Artist:
  • Madonna
Album:
  • Like A Virgin
Description

Like a Virgin was a defining song for Madonna when is released on October 31, 1984. The video inspired people all over the world to copy Madonna’s famous “wedding looks” she so famously wore throughout the 80’s. This song has been covered by artists of all genres for decades.

Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)

Listen:
Artist:
  • Billy Ocean
Album:
  • Suddenly
Description

Caribbean Queen stole the 1984 Grammy for the Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performace category. The song is about a woman who captivates and seduces the vocal artist.

I Ran (So Far Away)

Listen:
Artist:
  • A Flock Of Seagulls
Album:
  • A Flock Of Seagulls
Description

The Song I Ran is a love song about a guy who is trying to run from the feelings he has for a woman. However, in the end, they both get abducted by aliens.

Just Like Heaven

Listen:
Artist:
  • The Cure
Album:
  • Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
Description

Just Like Heaven was the first U.S. Billboard hit from The Cure. The song draws inspiration from a vacation that lead singer Robert Smith went on with the love of his life Mary Theresa Poole.

Everything She Wants

Listen:
Artist:
  • Wham!
Album:
  • Make It Big
Description

Everything She Wants was a #1 smash hit from Wham! The song is about a man who feels trapped in a relationship where he has nothing else to give.

Raspberry Beret

Listen:
Artist:
  • Prince
Album:
  • Around The World In A Day
Description

The song tells the story of a young man working at a dead-end job with no appreciation. A girl with a Raspberry Beret walks in through the out-door on this day, and the boy gets swept away by her beauty.

P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

Listen:
Artist:
  • Michael Jackson
Album:
  • Thriller
Description

Michael Jackson doesn’t hold back any feelings on this Billboard hit. P.Y.T. is about his feelings towards a woman who he wants to give some T.L.C.

Just The Two Of Us

Listen:
Artist:
  • Grover Washington, Jr. & Bill Withers
Album:
  • Winelight
Description

Just The Two Of Us is a positive and uplifting song about love. Grover Washington, Jr. & Bill Withers are the perfect duo for this Billboard Hot 100 R&B tune.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Listen:
Artist:
  • Cher
Album:
  • Heart Of Stone
Description

This iconic song’s music video was shot on the USS Missouri to boost recruitment. The Navy did however have some concern when Cher filmed the video in a see through fishnet bathing suit.

The Longest Time

Listen:
Artist:
  • Billy Joel
Album:
  • An Innocent Man
Description

The Longest Time is a compliment to the Doo-Wop genre of the 1950s. Using only one instrument, the bass guitar, Billy Joel hits a home run with this 1983 finger snappin’ classic.

Get Down On It

Listen:
Artist:
  • Kool & The Gang
Album:
  • Something Special
Description

The song Get Down On It was written to encourage all of us to dance. What are you waiting for? Get your back up off the wall!

Owner of a Lonely Heart

Listen:
Artist:
  • Yes
Album:
  • 90125
Description

Owner of a Lonely Heart teaches us all that being lonely isn’t all that bad. At least it feels better than getting your heartbroken.

Like A Prayer

Listen:
Artist:
  • Madonna
Album:
  • Like A Prayer
Description

Like a Prayer is one of the best selling singles of all time. Madonna drew inspiration from her Catholic upbringing, her personal journals, and mixed it all with her Madonna style.

Tom Sawyer

Listen:
Artist:
  • Rush
Album:
  • Moving Pictures
Description

The song Tom Sawyer was written to pay homage to the story Mark Twain wrote in 1876. It tells the story of an adventurous boy who is a free-thinking, rebellious type with nothing to lose.

One

Listen:
Artist:
  • Metallica
Album:
  • …And Justice For All
Description

Metallica’s song One is based on the novel Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. The story is about a WWI vet who lost all of his limbs in battle and lives to tell about it.

Africa

Listen:
Artist:
  • Toto
Album:
  • Toto IV
Description

This song is about a man who travels to Africa. While he is there, his love interest gives him an ultimatum. He can either leave the country to be with her or stay and lose her.

Free Fallin'

Listen:
Artist:
  • Tom Petty
Album:
  • Full Moon Fever
Description

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit the jackpot with their hit ballad Free Fallin’. Unusual as it may seem, this song is one of the few singles the band has recorded without a guitar solo.

Livin' On a Prayer

Listen:
Artist:
  • Bon Jovi
Album:
  • Slippery When Wet
Description

Living On A Prayer was a chart-topper from the start. The song is about two teenage kids who work blue-collar jobs, trying to escape the hardships of a low income.

Broken Wings

Listen:
Artist:
  • Mr. Mister
Album:
  • Broken Wings
Description

Broken wings is a song about dealing with heartbreak. The lyrics suggest that the protagonist of the story wishes to have love mend the broken pieces.

Push It

Listen:
Artist:
  • Salt N Pepa
Album:
  • Hot, Cool, Vicious
Description

While many people believe this song is purely sexual, the ladies of Salt N Pepa would have to continuously explain it was about pushing it hard on the dance floor. They were told in interviews that many listeners heard “P**** Real Good”.

Papa Don't Preach

Listen:
Artist:
  • Madonna
Album:
  • True Blue
Description

One of Madonna’s most controversial songs, Papa Don’t Preach is about a teenage pregnancy. While Madonna was praised for taking a political stance, she claimed the song was more about standing up to male authority.

Juicy Fruit

Listen:
Artist:
  • Mtume
Album:
  • Juicy Fruit
Description

At the time of its release, the song Juicy Fruit was recorded with the lyrics you can lick me everywhere. However, due to censorship laws, the lyrics were changed to candy kisses everywhere.

Eminence Front

Listen:
Artist:
  • The Who
Album:
  • It's Hard
Description

The Who frontman Pete Townshend wrote the song Eminence front. He refers to in the lyrics that the front is just a put-on. Eminence is a word better known as a state of high praise or fame.

The Stroke

Listen:
Artist:
  • Billy Squier
Album:
  • Don't Say No
Description

The song The Stroke has some questioning the true meaning behind the lyrics. Some say that the song hints toward being about masturbation. Billy Squire, on the other hand, says his song is in reference to the music biz.

Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

Listen:
Artist:
  • Gloria Estefan
Album:
  • Let It Loose
Description

The Latina Queen of Pop released this hit in 1987 where it ranked on music charts worldwide. Gloria Estefan is still the highest selling latin cross over artist of all time.

Part-Time Lover

Listen:
Artist:
  • Stevie Wonder
Album:
  • In Square Circle
Description

Part-Time Lover is a song about a secret love affair. The couple knows it’s the wrong thing to do, but they can’t hide their feelings for one another.

Saturday Love (feat. Alexander O'Neal)

Listen:
Artist:
  • Cherrelle & Alexander O'Neal
Album:
  • Hight Priority
Description

Cherrelle & Alexander O’Neal show some serious range on the song Saturday Love. The duet exchanges the same verse throughout the song, making this a great choice to sing with a partner at your next karaoke party.

You Can Call Me Al

Listen:
Artist:
  • Paul Simon
Album:
  • Graceland
Description

Paul Simon’s wrote the song You Can Call Me Al with the inspiration he had from a trip he took to South Africa. The lyrics point to a man who is obsessed with himself and is starting to realize more about his spirituality.

Money For Nothing

Listen:
Artist:
  • Dire Straits
Album:
  • Brothers In Arms
Description

Sting, the vocal artist, can be heard at the beginning of this song saying “I want my MTV”! Money For Nothing is about two blue-collar men watching music videos, and talking to each other about their views on it.

Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Listen:
Artist:
  • Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson
Album:
  • Waylon & Willie
Description

Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys is a coming of age country classic. This song points out that being a cowboy isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Twilight Zone

Listen:
Artist:
  • Golden Earring
Album:
  • Cut
Description

The song Twilight Zone by Golden Earring is about a rogue spy who is on the run. The song and the music video mirror each other, with the agent getting caught in the end.

How Soon Is Now?

Listen:
Artist:
  • The Smiths
Album:
  • Hatful of Hallow
Description

The Smiths song, How Soon Is Now, was a huge success. It is one of their most popular singles they have ever released. However, the song was very difficult for the band to play live.

Paid In Full

Listen:
Artist:
  • Erick B. & Rakim
Album:
  • Paid In Full
Description

Paid in Full is one of the first hip-hop songs to talk about wealth. However, Rakim’s lyrics in this song do not suggest that he flaunts his riches. Rather, Paid In Full highlights the honest work he does and the money it creates.

Going Down / Love In an Elevator

Listen:
Artist:
  • Aerosmith
Album:
  • Pump
Description

This Aerosmith smash single was #5 on the Billboard chart in 1989. The lyrics to the song go hand in hand with the title, making love in an elevator.

Don't You (Forget About Me)

Listen:
Artist:
  • Simple Minds
Album:
  • The Breakfast Club (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Description

Don’t You (Forget About Me) became a cult classic song, thanks to the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. Simple minds were at the top of the charts with this 1985 single.

Straight Up

Listen:
Artist:
  • Paula Abdul
Album:
  • Forever Your Girl
Description

“Straight up” was a popular saying at the time and in this song, Paula is asking a new guy to be completely honest with her about his intentions. The Forever Your Girl album sold 1M copies within 10 days of it’s release.

Against The Wind

Listen:
Artist:
  • Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Album:
  • Against The Wind
Description

Bob Seger wrote Against The Wind with inspiration from a past relationship. The song references the difference between people who use you and the people who truly care for you.

Everybody Wants to Rule The World

Listen:
Artist:
  • Tears For Fears
Album:
  • Songs From The Big Chair
Description

Tears For Fears’ song Everybody Wants to Rule The World is a song about the desire for power. The song also leans toward power, having undesirable aftermath.

Take on Me

Listen:
Artist:
  • a-ha
Album:
  • Hunting High and Low
Description

Take on Me was a #1 Billboard chart-topper in 1985. The music video for the song was also a great success for the group, known for its sketchy, cartoon-like innovation.

Enjoy the Silence

Listen:
Artist:
  • Depeche Mode
Album:
  • Violator
Description

Enjoy the Silence is a subtle reminder that words can sometimes hurt a relationship more than benefit. Quiet emotions are sometimes more valuable, according to Depeche Mode.

Material Girl

Listen:
Artist:
  • Madonna
Album:
  • Like A Virgin
Description

A pop hit from Madonna’s 2nd album, this song focuses on a woman getting all the material things she wants from a man and not feeling bad about it. The music video was based on Marilyn Monroe’s scenes from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 

Where the Streets Have No Name

Listen:
Artist:
  • U2
Album:
  • The Joshua Tree
Description

Where the Streets Have No Name is a dramatic song about the divide of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Streets were segregated based on income and religious beliefs, hence the choice of the song title.

Gimme All Your Lovin'

Listen:
Artist:
  • ZZ Top
Album:
  • Eliminator
Description

The song Gimme All Your Lovin’ lyrically trends with band’s common theme, sex. This hit single was the first song by ZZ Top to land a music video. It was also the first-ever music video to get a sequel.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Listen:
Artist:
  • Eurythmics
Album:
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Description

The song Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) is about longing for fulfillment. Annie Lennox and Dave Steward wrote the song not long after a horrible argument.

Love Is a Battlefield

Listen:
Artist:
  • Pat Benatar
Album:
  • Live From Earth
Description

Pat Benatar secured a #5 spot on the Billboard charts with Love Is a Battlefield. The song lyrics are about the hardships that love can create, especially at a young age.

The Power of Love

Listen:
Artist:
  • Huey Lewis & The News
Album:
  • Huey Lewis & The News: Greatest Hits
Description

The Power of Love became the theme song to the cult classic film Back to the Future. The song sends a message about love and the powers that lie within.

Maneater

Listen:
Artist:
  • Daryl Hall & John Oates
Album:
  • H2O
Description

Maneater is a song about a woman who uses her expensive taste to seduce and appease men. Hall & Oates took this single to the top of the Billboard chart in 1982.

White Wedding

Listen:
Artist:
  • Billy Idol
Album:
  • Billy Idol
Description

This song is actually the anti-wedding song. Idol revealed that this song is about his ex-girlfriend who he called “little sister” getting married to another man and how he wanted to crash the wedding.

I Love Rock & Roll

Listen:
Artist:
  • Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Album:
  • I Love Rock & Roll
Description

Originally written and recorded by the band The Arrows in 1975 it failed to get much attention. Joan Jett resurrected the song in 1981 where it soared to the #1 spot on the US Billboard charts and worldwide.

Sweet Child O' Mine

Listen:
Artist:
  • Guns N' Roses
Album:
  • Appetite For Destruction
Description

Sweet Child O’Mine was written and inspired by a poem Axl Rose wrote about his ex-wife Erin Everly. The couple was only married for nine months after abuse allegations from Ms. Everly ended their marriage.

Hysteria

Listen:
Artist:
  • Def Leppard
Album:
  • Hysteria
Description

Love Bites is a song written by frontman Joe Elliott. The song hints toward a relationship that he was apart of where the woman of interest was not a loyal companion.

Voices Carry

Listen:
Artist:
  • Til Tuesday
Album:
  • Voices Carry
Description

Til Tuesday’s song Voices Carry is a dark love ballad written by lead singer Aimee Mann. The song hints to an abusive relationship between a man and a woman.

Keep On Loving You

Listen:
Artist:
  • REO Speedwagon
Album:
  • Hi Infidelity
Description

Frontman Kevin Cronin wrote this song as a response to his unfaithful girlfriend. The part that hurts the most is that she cheated on him the night before their wedding, and he decided to stay with her.

In the Air Tonight

Listen:
Artist:
  • Phil Collins
Album:
  • Face Value
Description

We know, you are expecting us to write about the guy that didn’t save the other guy from drowning, right? Well, sorry to burst your urban myth bubble, but this song is about Phil Collins and the bitter divorce with his wife.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Listen:
Artist:
  • Whitney Houston
Album:
  • Whitney
Description

This upbeat pop hit debuted in 1987 on the album Whitney. The song was #1 on the charts worldwide. Whitney added her own spin on the song while recording with the lines ” Don’t you wanna dance?, say you wanna dance.”

Rio

Listen:
Artist:
  • Duran Duran
Album:
  • Rio
Description

The song Rio was written to depict the vision of succeeding in America. Although somewhat deceiving, the lyrics that Duran Duran used for the song are actually quite clever.

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