The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (2022)

Table of Contents
Best ’80s songs, ranked 1.‘Purple Rain’ by Prince 2.‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson 3.‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ by Whitney Houston 4.‘Straight Outta Compton’ by NWA 5.‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy 6.‘Express Yourself’ by Madonna 7.‘Modern Love’ by David Bowie 8.‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five 9.‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’ by Talking Heads 10.‘Close to Me’ by the Cure 11.‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye 12.‘Free Fallin’’ by Tom Petty 13.‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen 14.‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ by Tina Turner 15.‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears 16.‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police 17.‘Take On Me’ by A-ha 18.‘Just Like Honey’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain 19.‘With or Without You’ by U2 20.‘The Sweetest Taboo’ by Sade 21.‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley 22.‘All Night Long’ by Lionel Richie 23.‘Africa’ by Toto 24.‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club 25.‘Super Freak’ by Rick James 26.‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by the Clash 27.‘Time After Time’ by Cyndi Lauper 28.‘Come on Eileen’ by Dexys Midnight Runners 29.‘West End Girls’ by Pet Shop Boys 30.‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ by R.E.M 31.‘Under Pressure’ by Queen & David Bowie 32.‘Don't You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds 33.‘Where Is My Mind?’ by the Pixies 34.‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell 35.‘We Got the Beat’ by the Go-Go’s 36.‘Push It’ by Salt-N-Pepa 37.‘Whip It’ by Devo 38.‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler 39.‘Call Me’ by Blondie 40.‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses 41.‘Jump’ by Van Halen 42.‘The Breaks’ by Kurtis Blow 43.‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel 44.‘I Can’t Go With That’ by Hall & Oates 45.‘Just a Friend’ by Biz Markie 46.‘You Can Call Me Al’ by Paul Simon 47.‘Paul Revere’ by the Beastie Boys 48.‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins 49.‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ by Duran Duran 50.‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi Looking for more classic tunes? FAQs Related content Videos
The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (1)

Fire up the boombox: These are the 50 best jams to come out of the ’80s, from hair-metal anthems to rap's first wave.

Edited by

Tim Lowery
Andy Kryza

’80s nostalgiausually focuses on the decade at its most outlandish: big hair, Day-glo shirts, scrunchies, New Coke… call it the Stranger Thingseffect. And that goes doubly for the music. Pop on most any ’80s playlist and you’re bound to hear the same cycle of kitchy, seemingly alien vintage pop: synthy goth songs, lite hip-hop, the occasional punk infusion and a whole lot of hair metal.

But the '80s sound was so much more than the sum of its eccentricities, and there's a huge difference between an ‘80s song’ and a ‘song from the 80s.’ This is the decade that gave us Prince and Madonna, MJ and NWA. New Wave stalwarts likeTalking Heads and Devo found new grooves while transcendent artists like Marvin Gaye and Paul Simon offered up some of the best work of their careers. And as the decade wore on, rap’s wave turned into a tsunami that changed the face of pop music.

In gathering our list of the ’80s very best, there was a lot to consider: Lasting impact, cultural relevance, actual musicianship, catchiness, coolness and, of course, nostalgia. But mostly, we curated with maximum enjoyment in mind while limiting the list to one song per artist. From genre-defining works of genius to ear-worm flights of fancy, these are the best songs of the 'Æ0s. And don’t get your scrunchies in a bunch: Some hair metal definite snuck in.

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Best ’80s songs, ranked

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1.‘Purple Rain’ by Prince

Prince was so prolific in the '80s that 90% of this list could be his and it would still be correct. But forced to pick one Prince song, ‘Purple Rain’ is the obvious choice. It’s a swelling, perfectly crafted masterpiece that spotlights everything that made Prince Rogers Nelson an absolute legend: his gift for unique melodies; his multinstrumentalism; his uncanny vocal ability to shift from guttural to falsetto, from aggrieved to ethereal; and his unmatched ability to absolutely slay a guitar solo. It's Prince at his best, a song that remains as impactful today as it was nearly 40 years ago.

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2.‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson

We get so used to the sleek, funky side of Michael Jacksonon the hit parade that wasThriller that it's easy to forget how hard ‘Beat It’ actually legitimately rocks. And it's not just Eddie Van Halen's famous finger-busting solo; it’s that perfectly formed sneer of a guitar riff – conceived by Jackson and played by session ace Steve Lukather – those exaggered downbeats that feel like medicine balls being slammed down on a concrete floor and the raw desperation in MJ’s voice as he chronicles the harsh truths of the street-fighting life. As much of a dance-floor killer as it is, ‘Beat It’ is a genuinely heavy song, psychologically as much as sonically.

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3.‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ by Whitney Houston

In 1987, Houston was still very much a fresh-faced siren with the crystal-clear voice and a world of possibilities at her feet. Her approach to this song – which, when you break it down, is more about loneliness than love – says a lot about her ability to radiate warmth and positivity through her singular sound. It's miles away from the struggles the singer would face later in her career. Always a party starter and roof-igniting karaoke jam, the song become a bittersweet rallying cry in the years since her death. You can practically hear 23-year-old smiling through the chorus, urging every last wallflower on to the dance floor.

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4.‘Straight Outta Compton’ by NWA

The title of the track of NWA's debut doesn't just announce the arrival of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren. It announced the arrival of west-coast rap in the most aggressive, game-changing way imaginable, leaving the dominant hair rockers of the time little choice but to get out of the way. There are only a few moments in musical history where you can feel a tectonic synced perfectly to the beat. This is one of them.

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5.‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy

‘Nineteen eighty-nine…’ The first five syllables of Public Enemy’s most zeitgeisty hit, made at the request of Spike Lee for his groundbreaking film Do the Right Thing, pack a ton of punch. And it only gets moreintense from there, building a manifesto of what to take swigs at, including this gem: ’Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me / You see, straight-up racist that sucker was / Simple and plain / Mother-fuck him and John Wayne / Cuz I'm black and I'm prou.’ And that’s the truth, Ruth.

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6.‘Express Yourself’ by Madonna

Madge spend the entirety of the ‘80s practicing what she preached on this career-defining smash, among the last of her ‘80s mega-hits and the crowning achievement of the Like a Prayer album. It’s a glorious encapsulation of a first act that included ‘Lucky Star,’ ‘Like a Virgin,’ ‘Material Girl,’ Borderline,’Papa Don’t Preach’ and ‘True Blue’ –any of which could easily hold their own on this list. But ‘Express Yourself’ wasn’t just a stadium-ready anthem for the queen of pop: It’s an eternal anthem for anyone looking for a song about their own embrace of individuality.

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7.‘Modern Love’ by David Bowie

Bowie was all over the place during the ’80s: duetting with Jagger, clambering into spandex for Labyrinth, getting buried alive for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrenceand ultimately embarking on a midlife crisis that resulted in a worrying beard and Tin Machine. But before all that, he managed to lay down some of the decade’s best tracks, including this nihilistic, Nile Rodgers–assisted soul boogie from 1983. We defy your feet to stay on the floor as that cyclical, cynical, irresistible chorus hurtles on.

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8.‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

With its synthed-out beat and terse ‘don't push me ‘cuz I'm close to the edge,’ Flash’s legendary contribution to the hip-hop era wasn't just a banger: It announced to the world that hip-hop wasn't an idle pastime. Here was a movement that had just as much to say as the protest-obsessed hippies of the ’60s… the very same music fans who inexplicably pushed back against the music of young, assertive and frustrated Black men looking to raise awareness andchange the world through music.

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9.‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’ by Talking Heads

David Byrne’s hugely influential Talking Heads had many songs that seem more definitively ’80s than this Speaking in Tongues standout, but few have endured across decades more seamlessly. With its sweetly tingling synth notes and Tina Weymouth'spulsing bassline, it's a lovely, dreamlike song, one that feels timeless because you can't quite tell whether it was gifted to us from the past or the future.

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10.‘Close to Me’ by the Cure

Robert Smith’s un-merry men spent roughly half of the ’80s making desperately sad goth rock, and the other half writing some of the best pop songs of all time. Naturally, there was a certain amount of leakage between the two – which is why 1985’s ‘Close to Me’ is a strong contender for the band’s best song, with its yearning lyrics matched by ultra perky brass riffs (inspired by a New Orleans funeral march, obvs). There’s also an album version of this without the trumpets, but why would you even want that?

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11.‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye

Gaye already gifted the world arguably the greatest song about sex ever, ‘Let’s Get It On,’ in 1973. Nine years later, though, he came awfully close to outdoing himself with ‘Sexual Healing,’ his first non-Motown single (released just two years before he was fatally shot by his father). The steamy track is decidedly more ’80s, with a drum-machine propulsion, busy guitars and a pleasing base of synths. It also boasts perhaps the most fitting last line in a sex song to date: ‘Please don't procrastinate / It’s not good to masturbate.’

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12.‘Free Fallin’’ by Tom Petty

Is there anyone who doesn't like this song? The famously cantankerous Lou Reed loved it, as did Tom Cruise's go-get-‘em titular character in Jerry Maguire(who, no disrespect, doesn’t seem like the mostscrutinizingmusic listener). And to this day, we’re betting the fanbase for the breezy sing-along fave (co-written by Jeff Lynne) still runs the gamut – from get-me-out-of-here teens to the dads they think are lame, and from snobs who wouldn’t be caught dead doing karaoke to people who live for it.

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13.‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen

The Boss pinched the title of an old crooners’ standard to write his own classic, the finest single from his massive Born in the USAalbum in 1984. Bursting with ambition, frustration and sex, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ is also Springsteen’s dance-floor peak, with a typically stunning sax solo by the late Clarence Clemons to top it all off. And there aren’t many songs from the era that come with an important warning about fire safety in the chorus.

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14.‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ by Tina Turner

In 1984, Tina Turner was 44 and on the comeback trail. Having finally split from her abusive husband and artistic Svengali, Ike, she’d spent years in a limbo of cameos, Vegas shows and dud solo albums. But the hit album Private Dancer and its chart-topping single, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ – her first top-10 song in more than a decade – made the tough soul icon a solo superstar. The video found her strutting around New York City in a jean jacket, leather miniskirt and feather-duster hair – a bruised but defiantly happy paragon of independence.

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15.‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears

We may dismiss the ’80s as an era of musical cheese, light on substance and heavy on excess. But the decade delivered some of music’s most emotional, teary moments, the more affecting for the fact that the vehicle is pop. This 1985 hit by Tears for Fears is one such song, an existential meditation of sorts, opening with the line, ‘Welcome to your life — there’s no turning back.’ It’s a serious pop song, as bassist-singer Curt Smith remarked: ‘It‘s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.’

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16.‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police

Too many people mock the '80s as an age of excess, yet loads of classic singles from the era are studies in cool restraint (see: Phil Collins – no, honestly). It’s just that they spent a butt-ton of money on everything. So though Stewart Copeland could be a florid, flashy drummer, and though Sting was known to dash a few extra flicks on his grooves, ‘Every Breath’ measures each note microscopically, as if arranged with OCD, which makes the stalking vibe that much subtly creepier.

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17.‘Take On Me’ by A-ha

The first and biggest hit by the Norwegian electropop trio A-ha, ‘Take On Me’ rose to international popularity in 1985 on the strength of its groundbreaking video, a mix of live-action and pencil-drawn animation that starred dreamy lead singer Morten Harket as the hero of an escapist romance between a lonely woman and a comic-book adventurer. (It won six MTV Video Awards.) The song’s masterfully infectious synth riff would be enough to secure it a spot on any list of ’80s classics. But ‘Take On Me’ is also distinguished by Harket’s improbably octave-spanning vocals, whose seeming effortlessness has inspired countless screeching karaoke wipeouts.

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18.‘Just Like Honey’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain

The first four iconicseconds of the Ronette’s ‘Be My Baby’ have been sampled again and again over the past 50 years: Billy Joel, the Magnetic Fields, the Strokes, Amy Winehouse, Dan Deacon, Gotye… the list goes on. But only one bandhadtransformed that groundbreaking phrase into a musical piece that defined an era (almost) as deeply as the Ronettes. The Jesus and Mary Chain's ‘Just Like Honey’ captures a certain proto-shoegazey, bittersweet longing that pristinely characterizes the hazy milieu of the ‘80s – not to mention gave Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translationa killer outro a few seconds before the credits roll.

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19.‘With or Without You’ by U2

Oh, it’s so easy to mock U2: the bombast, the shades, the pomp, the uninvited infiltration of your iTunes… But the band’s 1987 opus, The Joshua Tree, contains three of its mightiest songs in a row, of which ‘With or Without You’ is its most affecting. The song’s bittersweet sentiment is perfectly matched by the music — at turns delicate and yearning, then surging and desperate. Play it somewhere you can howl along, loudly. Preferably in the album’s namesake desert.

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20.‘The Sweetest Taboo’ by Sade

Sade is just so damned smooth. It would be easy to be consumed by envy if we weren't all being lulled into a dopey, two-stepping, love-drunk stupor. The Nigerian-born, U.K.-raised singer-songwriter is in top form on this hit single from her multi-platinum-selling second album, Promise. When it comes on, you've got no choice but to relax and drift off into the quiet storm.

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21.‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley

The meme known as Rickrolling – wherein someone baits you with an enticing link, which points instead to the video for this 1987 dance-pop smash – always seemed a little puzzling to us, mainly because, like, who wouldn't want to be surprised with another exposure to this suavely buoyant megajam? Those synthesized strings, that thumping boots-and-pants beat, Astley’s weirdly robust croon and his romantic-wooing-as-used-car-salesman-pitch come-on (‘You wouldn't get this from any other guy’)… It all adds up to three and a half of the most effervescent minutes in the ’80s canon.

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22.‘All Night Long’ by Lionel Richie

It’s impossible to feel bad when this tune’s Caribbean-inflected rhythms start pumping from a nearby speaker. The perma-coifed Commodores frontman’s 1983 single smashes any attempts to resist its groove. And that bit that sounds like made-up gibberish? It is. Richie attempted to find some suitable foreign phrases but got impatient and invented his own international party language.

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23.‘Africa’ by Toto

Toto was a collection of studio ringers with credits on Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs records. Wrapped in chest hair, sunglasses and terry cloth, these feathery dudes were too anonymous to be deserving of the term supergroup. ‘Africa’ was their contribution to the wave of telethon pop that clogged the Reagan era, another patronizing plea for charity like ‘We Are the World’ and Band Aid. A Yamaha GS1 synthesizer is made to sound like a mbira; there’s a gong in there somewhere, for some reason. It’s Heart of Darkness as told from the tanning deck of a luxury yacht. Thankfully, the lotion-slick groove reeks more of coconuts than crisp money. Oddly, it's become the unofficial theme of the New England Revolution MLS soccer club, and an unexpected mega-hit for Weezer to boot.

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24.‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club

There are few ’80s icons quite as evocative as Boy George, but the British singer is so much more than an icon of style and gender fluidity. There are plenty of mournful songs in Culture Club’s discography, but in many ways the band stands out as something of a sunny yin to The Cure’s goth yang, and ‘Karma Chameleon’ is perhaps the most upbeat of them all. It endures as a pick-me-up all these years later, a celebration of the vibrant colors of humanity and the power of a well-placed harmonica line.

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25.‘Super Freak’ by Rick James

Catchier than a flytrap, more sordid than your craziest night out, Rick James hit the summit of his career with the wild funk of ‘Super Freak.’ A global hit in 1981, the star’s signature song finds him joined by the mighty Temptations on backing vocals – including James’s uncle, Melvin Franklin. Even that sampling by MC Hammer can’t diminish its greatness.

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26.‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by the Clash

As the 1970s turned in the 1980s, punks and rockers (and there was a difference then) both became enamored with the sounds coming out of New York City. Even the Stones went disco and dabbled with rap. No guitar act better assimilated hip-hop than the Clash, probably because they had so much practice sponging up dub. This final single – or the last that matters, anyway – was a dry run for Mick Jones’s sampling-loving crew Big Audio Dynamite, a bit of Isley Brothers meets a Bronx boom box. Jones liked it so much he sampled the track a decade later in ‘The Globe.’

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27.‘Time After Time’ by Cyndi Lauper

Those who grew up in the '90s should know this from two awesome movie dance scenes: a sexy one in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroomand a silly one in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. But for the ’80s crowd, it’s a classic slow dance that stands up as one of the strongest songs of the decade. Cyndi’s mad orange hair might be dated like lukewarm milk, but ’Time After Time’ still smells fresh to us.

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28.‘Come on Eileen’ by Dexys Midnight Runners

Maybe not surprising, coming from a band named after an amphetamine, but the UK group propels the juddering rhythms of its classic 1982 single like a dynamo, chugging through tempo changes while picking up steam for the big finish. The lyrics, about songwriter Kevin Rowland's youth as a sexually repressed Catholic kid, verge on dirty while remaining innocuous enough for your work-party karaoke sing-along.

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29.‘West End Girls’ by Pet Shop Boys

No ’80s list would be complete without British synth-popsters the Pet Shop Boys. While the duo achieved its greatest success on home turf, this 1985 ode to London street life was written and recorded in New York, as the pair recalls in our interview, and bristles with urban seediness (note: It’s partly inspired by T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland). That’s thanks in no small part to Neil Tennant’s coolly annunciated delivery, a hypnotic take on the hip-hop flows of the era.

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30.‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ by R.E.M

‘That’s great, it starts with an earthquake,’ begins Michael Stipe – and the rumbling and rambling get crazier from there in R.E.M.’s ironic beat poem. The lyrics pour out in a nervy jumble of apocalyptic imagery, military danger and mass-media frenzy, with pointed name-drops of pop-culture figures (Lenny Bruce, Leonid Brezhnev, Leonard Bernstein and Lester Bangs) united only by their initials. Unlike its evil twin in 1980s rock, Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ the song was not a huge pop hit; on its 1987 album, Document, R.E.M. was still emerging from the niche of college rock. But its cut-through-the-chaos message still connects with anyone aiming to clear out a polluted stream of consciousness.

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31.‘Under Pressure’ by Queen & David Bowie

Oh, that ill-fated bassline. Before Vanilla Ice famously ripped off – er, was inspired by the work of Queen bassist John Deacon, that subtle, infectious plucking heralded the meeting of two wildly influential rock icons. Considering the titanic forces at work in this tune, it's relatively understated, but it does ultimately climb to the sparkling heights that both Bowie and Freddie Mercury inhabited with such ease.

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32.‘Don't You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds

Jim Kerr’s soulful yowl was never better than on this fist-raising banger, an earnestly overwrought piece of melancholic pop bliss. Whether you think of it as ‘the song from The Breakfast Club’or ‘the song that made The Breakfast Clubcool,’ it's one of the era’s definitive anthems.

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33.‘Where Is My Mind?’ by the Pixies

Has a drum introduction ever sounded this big? Those unforgettable snare snaps comes courtesy of producer Steve Albini, and it’s one of the many touches the band’s most popular song (one that wasn’t even released as a single in ’88) has going for it: Among the many others, there’s Kim Deal’' haunting, reverb drenched backing vocals that so many indie-rock groups would go on to ape, a cracked-voiced Black Francis spitting out cryptic-cool lyrics, and deceptively simple lead guitar and bass combo that still gives us goosebumps.

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34.‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell

Turning jaunty Motown influences into icy synth pop may sound like sacrilege, but that's exactly what English duo Soft Cell did when it covered Gloria Jones’s 1965 funky stomper in 1981. Ditching the original’s energy for Marc Almond's cut-glass tones and unashamedly machine-driven melodies, Soft Cell’s version soon became huge, paving the way for the ’80s synth-pop explosion that followed.

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35.‘We Got the Beat’ by the Go-Go’s

Looking back, it's hard to reallyrealize the impact of The Go-Go’s, the first studio-backed all-woman rock band that wrote itsown songs. That’s because the Go-Go's arrived fully formed, ready to shake the industry with songs like this pop-fueled post-punk anthem that changed rock history the minute the first DJ hit play.

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36.‘Push It’ by Salt-N-Pepa

Complexity, be damned! Sometimes all you really need for a truly memorable hit is economy, as proved by this stone-cold classic from 1988. On ‘Push It,’ all-gal Queens hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa made pop magic via a seemingly simple combination of Casio beats; a few big, dumb keyboard stabs; and a lot of impassioned, steamy cries of ‘Ooh, baby baby.’

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37.‘Whip It’ by Devo

Few bands rode the new wave-wave out of the ’70s punk/CBGB scene with the zany aplomb of Mark Mothersbaugh gang of weirdos, transitioning from the rollicking ‘Uncontrollable Urge’ era to the earworm that is ‘Whip It.’ Released in 1981, ‘Whip It’ was way ahead of its time, defining the mid-’80s sound years before everybody else realized the power of weird hats, quirky lyrics and a firm embrace of your inner dork. Hell, they’re still ahead of their time.

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38.‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler

Nobody writes grandiose heartbreak like Jim Steinman, and he’s never done it better than in this smash 1983 epic ballad for the raspy-voiced Welsh belter Bonnie Tyler. ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ was originally conceived as a song for a vampire – it even showed up later in Steinman’s 2002 Broadway fiasco, Dance of the Vampires –and its gothic underpinnings are front and center in the song’s lurid video. This is longing on a supernatural scale, and Tyler holds her own against the thundering arrangement as she roars out some of the least quiet desperation ever known to pop music.

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39.‘Call Me’ by Blondie

Debbie Harry roared into the ’80s with expected style, her punk/glam credentials firmly in-tact, with this shredder announcing that the New Wave icons of the ’70s were more than capable of holding their own in a new decade. The song served as the official theme for the Richard Gere filmAmerican Gigolo, outliving the movie in sheer relevance by a solid 40 years and counting.

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40.‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses

If you're in an ’80s cover band and you're not playing this song on a nightly basis — well, there's just absolutely no way you’re not. Of all of the iconic guitar riffs on this list, the opening line from ‘Sweet Child o' Mine’ takes the air-splitting cake. The third single from Guns N’ Roses’ shining debut, 1987’s Appetite for Destruction, it was the band’s first and only number one single. More than three decades on, it never fails to make us sing our fool hearts out on the dance floor.

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41.‘Jump’ by Van Halen

The Pasadena guitar heroes entered the synth (and cocaine!) era in a huge way with this powerhouse. Sure, it also might mark the band’s slow transition from raw rock gods to elder statesmen — a metamorphosis they would complete a few years later with Sammy Hagar — but even now, the combo of that simple synth riff and Eddie’s decimation of his guitarstrings manages to lift you every time you hear it.

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42.‘The Breaks’ by Kurtis Blow

The Sugarhill Gang is largely credited as hip-hop's breakthrough in 1979, but Kurtis Blow’s 1980 hit arguably laid more road, ditching the goofier side of Sugarhill’s opus in order to show a rawer, more visceral side of the genre mainstream America was still wrapping its head around.

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43.‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel

The former Genesis singer spent much of the ’80s coming off like a more self-serious version of David Byrne, walking a parallel path incorporating world sounds, polyrhythms and blaring horns to match his personal brand of funk (the other Genesis frontman would later walk thepath of... songs about how he walked). The singer’s iconic stop-motion videos may be remembered more than the music itself, and that's a shame. This is Gabriel at his most playfully groovy.

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44.‘I Can’t Go With That’ by Hall & Oates

Yacht rock gets a lot of flack from the hipper-than-thou, but Hall & Oates isn’t some laid-back,piña-colada swilling pair of finance bros. The bassline here is a stealthily funky ear-worm, and the sonic detrius that floats around in its wake is slinky, sexy and pure. What, precisely, H&O can't go for is one of those mysteries that’s never been definitively solved, which adds to the allure.

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45.‘Just a Friend’ by Biz Markie

Hip-hop hit its golden era in the ’80s. Biz Markie was both emblematic of the genre’s giddy charms and the man responsible for its ultimate downfall. As critics continued to peg rap as a passing novelty, this big, lisping teddy bear from Long Island thumbed his nose at such stuck-up stupidity. He overtly recycled refuse from pop’s past and amped up the humor, daring haters to resist his charms. His records were as much comedy albums and demonstrations of sampling as pretentious works of art, which made them even greater works of art. Eventually, he had the shit sued out of him, and hip-hop was forever changed. But the greater loss is Biz’s sense of self-deprecation. ‘Just A Friend’ is the opposite of the braggadocio that would become a hallmark of the art form.

The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (48)

46.‘You Can Call Me Al’ by Paul Simon

Paul Simon’s Graceland, in hindsight, seems like an ultra-square reaction to everything the ’80s stood for: Here was a ’60s folk rocker teaming up with a cadre of South African musicians for a folksy world-music pop album. But Gracelandslaps. Specifically, the lead single slaps, especially on the iconic slap-bass solo fired off nonchalantly by Bakithi Kumalo. What could have been a midlife-crisis misfire instead became a phenomenon.

(Video) 80s Music Hits - 80s Best Euro-Disco - 80s Disco Legend - Best Disco Songs of the 80s

The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (49)

47.‘Paul Revere’ by the Beastie Boys

The Beasties went out of the '80s with the genre-changingPaul's Boutique, the first step in distancing themselves from the shouty frat-pack obnoxiousness that made them household names. But while much of their landmark Licensed to Ill has aged poorly, ‘Paul Revere’ absolutely kills, from its sing-along cowboy lyrics to the innovative bass groove that would be aped for decades to come. The B-Boys spent their careers atoning for License to Ill. ‘Paul Revere’ endures because it still feels like talented musicians cosplaying as douchebags rather than the other way around.

The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (50)

48.‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins

You'd think that Mike Tyson air-drumming to Phil Collins’s 1981 signature hit in The Hangoverwould've somehow sapped ‘In the Air Tonight’ of its eerie potency. But no, the song – shot through with the Genesis-drummer–turned–solo-hit-maker’s post-divorce bitterness – still unfolds with a dramatic tension worthy of Stanley Kubrick, layering haunting guitar wisps, pillowy synth chords and Collins’s ghostly vocodered lead turn over a rudimentary Roland CR-78 beat. Oh, and there's also the little matter of the greatest drum fill in pop history at the 3:40 mark.

The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (51)

49.‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ by Duran Duran

With its driving beat and raw sexualtity, Duran Duran's signature hit remains a powerhouse in its simplicity and robust sound. It's also a sleeper hit on karaoke night… if you can pull it off. Which you absolutly can’t, no matter how hungry you are. But it’s still fun to try.

The 50 best songs of the ‘80s (52)

50.‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi

For a good decade there, it seemed as though ‘Born to Run’ was the absolute final word in blue-collar rock & roll mythmaking – but then along came the Boss's fellow Jerseyans Bon Jovi, who slathered the old story of two hard-luck dreamers longing for escape with a thick coat of glam-era bombast. Whether you take this 1986 hit as a cheesy relic or the apex of steroidal FM rawk, Bon Jovi’s tale of guitarist turned dock worker Tommy and his diner-waitress main squeeze, Gina, is essentially flawless, right down to guitarist Richie Sambora’s iconic talk-box–assisted opening hook and that vertigo-inducing key change after the bridge.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
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        Nelson recorded the song with his band in the middle of the night, before waking a sleeping Haggard to record his vocal part.. MCA Records | 1987 ?. The ideal wedding song, this heartfelt homage to eternal love, penned by veteran songwriters Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, became Travis’ third no.1 single and one of his most beloved signature songs.. Marie had always been pitched as the “Country Osmond”, and with her soft countrypolitan sound and hits like ‘Paper Roses’ and ‘Who’s Sorry Now’, she looked right at home in the country charts.. MCA Records | 1985 ?. Glen Campbell recorded it in 1979 but it took a dusky performance by outlaw country veterans Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings (who derived their collective moniker after the title) for it to become a belated classic.. A decidedly emphatic offering, Pride’s top 15 hit was a remake of a song originally recorded by David Allan Coe.. But it was Strait’s version that cemented the song as a country standard, pairing a sober vocal with understated production that perfectly balances polish and twang.. MCA Records | 1982 ?. Hailed by some as the greatest country song of all time, this tender ballad shares the story of a man who pines for his lover, only to be reunited when she attends his funeral.. 'Smoky Mountain Rain' became a signature song for Milsap, who borrowed elements of breezy ‘70s country and Elvis Presley-style rock ‘n’ roll to write this classic.. Oslin’s incredible skill as a songwriter and performer that 'Hold Me', a bracingly intimate story song with an irregular structure and nearly five-minute runtime, became a no.1 country hit in early 1989.. Oslin had moved to Nashville from New York only a few years prior, becoming one of the era's unlikeliest country stars (she was in her mid-40s at the time) and penning several of the decade's defining songs.

        Consider these 80s songs:. In the video, Michael Anthony plays a Samurai, Alex Van Halen plays Tarzen, Eddie Van Halen plays a cowboy and David Lee Roth plays Napoleon.. Lionel Richie says that he never set out to create a new musical style.. This producer had a long successful career producing many Motown artists who were creating songs in the vibe that the band wanted to achieve.. While people hated the film, the song became very popular after its release as a single.. The song inspired the music to the song.. The two instantly hit it off.. You can hear both songs in the Xanadu movie, but they are not on the movie’s soundtrack album.. The timing was great as MTV had just started when the song’s video was released.. She released the song on her 1980 album.. The music video to this song was the first one played more than once on MTV.

        Of course, like all the best songs created from samples, it stood alone as a brilliant disco-dance number.. And that message is “ Don’t look back/ You can never look back “.. Heavens, is that Morrissey being romantic?. The Jam were so unstoppable by early 1981 that this scraped the top 20 of the singles chart on import sales alone.. Quincy Jones didn’t want the song on the album, which shows what he knows.. And what a chorus.. The result was indie gold.. ‘Blue Monday’ – the best selling 12″ of all time – was New Order’s peak; a stunning explosion of drum machine beats, infectious hooks and Sumner’s deadpan vocals.

        To complement our 4th Annual Summer Music Issue, we’re counting down the 50 Greatest Pop Songs of the ’80s, 10 per day, with new installments daily at noon through Friday, July 10.. The epic third single off Toto IV , the band’s commercial pinnacle, “Africa” became their only No.. 1 hit.. With lofty vocal harmonies and a lush musical arrangement that captures an air of mystery, “Africa” remains one of the decade’s most revered singles.. With dark waves of synths fizzing with electricity and Numan’s oddly robotic vocals creating an unsettling mood, it was a radically unusual Top 40 hit at the time.. A soulful party song with a Caribbean flair, “All Night Long (All Night)” quickly shot to the top of the pop chart in 1983.. By the early ’80s, the band shifted in a mainstream direction.. As the first “freestyle” dance song to make a mainstream impact, “Let the Music Play” is widely regarded as groundbreaking.. Jones re-recorded it with a disco vibe in 1976, but it still failed to make an impact.

        “Lovesong” was released as the second single from The Cure’s 1989 masterpiece Disintegration, and became by far their biggest crossover pop hit in the U.S.. 2, remarkable for a band that had until that point received almost no airplay on mainstream radio in America.. Co-written and produced by the legendary Giorgio Moroder, “Call Me” is the biggest hit of Blondie’s career.. It spent five weeks at No.. 1 becoming Lennon’s biggest ever chart hit as a solo artist.. Weeks after the release of Double Fantasy John Lennon was murdered, an indescribable loss for the world.. For a brief period in 1987 and 1988 INXS was one of most popular bands in the world, and “Need You Tonight” was the song that shot them to the top.

        If some of these songs are unfamiliar, take a listen -- they might just change your life for the better as they did mine about 30 years ago.... This fresh as ever, electro-rap breakdancing opus (#56) about Superman and Cosmo D from outer space was the first 12-inch single this white boy from upstate New York ever bought, and it never left my turntable in the summer of '84.. One of the most infectious club hits of the post-disco era, but American pop radio turned a cold shoulder and it failed to chart in the Hot 100.. New Toy (1981) -- Lene Lovich. An alternative radio favorite, it charted in England, but not the U.S.. My favorite U2 single, the haunting New Years Day , was the band's first U.S. chart appearance.. Most remember Australia's The Divinyls for the 1990s smash, I Touch Myself , but for me, they'll always be best known for this underrated scorcher (#76) with one of the decade's definitive rock vocals by the late great Christina Amphlett.. Still sounding fresh as ever, Private Idaho (#74) should've given the B-52s Top 40 success a full decade before their actual first Top 40 hit, Loveshack ).. Despite its ubiquity on U.S. radio, Idol's signature hit surprisingly only made it to #46 in America.. Also, check out her great 2013 album, The Minutes .. It did do twice as well as Sade's first stateside single, the spectacular, Hang On To Your Love (#102).

        Paul McCartney And Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson And Paul McCartney. Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson. Band. Kenny Rogers And Sheena Easton


        From the advent of Black Sabbath 2.0 in 1980, right through to the MTV generation and glam metal's last gasp in 1989, heavy metal laid down the template for much of what made the 80s one of rock music's greatest ever decades.. To say it was a success would be a massive understatement; the album yielded no less than four hit singles, with What About Love?. The album marked a turning point in the band's career, but also a dark point, as what Nancy Wilson calls "the whole drug haze of the eighties" began to take hold.. 5150 , the first ‘Van Hagar’ album, was also the band’s first US number one.. With trusted producer Ted Templeman defecting to the Roth camp, VH enlisted Foreigner’s Mick Jones to put a fine gloss on the album’s three keyboard-driven hit singles, Why Can’t This Be Love, Dreams and Love Walks In .. This is an almost perfect summer rock album, and a sheer joy to listen to, even if fans of Roth would never really take to Sammy Hagar as the new (infinitely better and more successful) singer.. The Miracle was the first Queen album to be made in the shadow of Freddie Mercury’s secret fight against AIDS, and came after a three-year hiatus the group took following the band’s legendary 1986 tour.. Released in 1988, the album caught the band at a point when they had the world at their feet – so willing to eschew cool and so prolific with a killer pop chorus that they strode across the charts like a bouffant-haired colossus, and with the grunge party-extinguisher three years away, they ruled the roost.. The album cemented the band’s stadium-filling, chart-topping status impressively, and Jon Bon Jovi’s rock god status.. In reality it was down to the fact that the band were at the very top of their game on what remains the classic Scorpions album.. Love At First Sting is packed with high-quality songs that struck a chord with the US market but retained their European roots, and the party metal of Bad Boys Running Wild , fan tribute Coming Home and the heartfelt ballad Still Loving You proved to be winners not only on record but on stage as well.

        Tentpole genres like rock and pop produced a number of offshoots such as art-rock, post-punk, synth-pop, and more, while music from Africa boasted a wonderful blend of jazz ideas, local sounds, and funk rhythms.. There was the hard rock emergence of bands like AC/DC and Bon Jovi , who became superstars in New Jersey and around the world with singles like “Livin on a Prayer.” Ozzy Osbourne departed from Black Sabbath to establish his solo career, dropping an absolute hard rock anthem with “Crazy Train.” On the other end of the spectrum, metal acts of the 70s inspired the hair metal and glam metal genre, with Def Leppard inspiring a generation of dudes with long hair thanks to songs like “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Poison blended power ballads with arena-ready instrumentation on “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” while Megadeth and Metallica turned straight-ahead metal into one of the most popular music genres of the 80s.. Marley’s “Redemption Song” was one of the biggest hits in any genre, period, and an act like Junior Reid began to find an accepting audience with his hit “One Blood.” Across the world, acts were getting inspired by the cool, laid back vibes of reggae music, and artists such as Bobby McFerrin and his hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and UB40 began blending pop and reggae into something inviting yet distinctly new.. Folk music from Ali Farka Toure brought Malian folk music to the mainstream, and King Sunny Ade was a pioneer of Nigerian juju music, which blended funk, African highlife, and pop into a miraculously fun enterprise.. Japanese music in the 80s revolved around iconic stylists like Ryuichi Sakamoto, who helped lead the music in his country both as a solo artist and with Yellow Magic Orchestra.. In the family tree of rock music in the 80s, New Wave made a massive impact alongside post-punk, art rock, and the beginning of indie rock.. Somewhere between mainstream rock and pop emerged synth pop, a genre that found artists embracing the electronic music of the early 80s and applying it to traditional pop and rock structures.. Phil Collins used atmospheric synths and the concept of the ballad to turn in a classic song with “In the Air Tonight.” The Eurythmics utilized dance structures and house music to create the basis of “Sweet Dreams,” and Soft Cell embraced reggae-inspired pop music to create their seminal “Tainted Love,” a song that eventually gained the Rihanna stamp of approval.

        Written by Michael Chen, Brent DiCrescenzo, Andrew Frisicano, Sophie Harris, Oliver Keens, James Manning, Tristan Parker, Amy Plitt, Joshua Rothkopf, Hank Shteamer, Matthew Singer, Steve Smith, Sarah Theeboom and Kate Wertheimer.. A perfect musical representation of the plucky “Goonies never say die!” spirit, “Good Enough” also gave us a two-part gem of a video that stars a treasure trove of ’80s notables—Mikey, Chunk, Data and the rest of the Goonies gang; Lauper’s adopted WWF wrestling family (the Fabulous Moolah, the Iron Sheik, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper); Goonies creator and producer Steven Spielberg; and Lauper’s friends, a then-unknown all-girl band called the Bangles.. Thanks to Val Kilmer, indoor waterslides, laser-cooked popcorn, secret subdormitory lairs and this song, the movie showed that nerds can be cool and puckish.. Featuring the Bomb Squad’s cacophonous production and lyrics calling out white cultural heroes from Elvis to John Wayne, it exacerbates the simmering racial tension in Raheem’s Brooklyn neighborhood - and when those tensions finally boil over, his boombox, and thus the song, is the first victim.— Matthew Singer. Yet part of the song’s tremendous power is the way it keeps pulling away just as its excitement peaks: “Will you walk away?” murmurs Kerr as the song faux-fades, before its final climax.

        Of Patti LaBelle’s many legendary hits, don’t overlook this duet with Michael McDonald, which is a perfect post-breakup song about going solo.. I swear, every high school dance has wrapped the night by playing this song, and I am not complaining!!. With songs like "We Got the Beat," The Guardian 's Priya Elan writes , the Go-Go's became the "first all-female band to achieve chart success through writing their own songs and playing their own instruments," paving the road "for a generation of women in rock.". "It's Tricky" is one of those songs you can't start singing because you will actually never stop.. You might know this song from growing up in the '80s, but you also might know this song as the one Lorde covered for the Hunger Games soundtrack.. neither Queen nor David Bowie appear in the music video, the track is still a timeless rock song that stands out from the decade.

        The original single cover for Vienna by UltravoxThe song that spent an entire month at number two in the UK Singles Chart without ever reaching number one gets the top spot in our list!. Initially the band thought it too "pop" for their sound, but after 2 failed releases as a single it finally flew up the charts, in no small part thanks to its era-defining Rotoscoped video, which took an eye-watering 4 months to hand-draw!. A top ten of 80s songs wouldn't be complete without a cameo from Guns 'N' Roses and what a song you've voted as the 3rd best of the decade.. It peaked at the UK at number six but despite its success, Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash has been quoted as saying the success of the song "makes me sick.". One of the most instantly recognisable songs from his huge back catalogue, Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' beat his other huge 80s hit 'Thriller' to make it into the top 10 of our list.. The track remained on the Billboard chart for seven weeks and has sold over 10 million records worldwide making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.. At number 5 is our highest ranked Christmas song in the list, which is no mean feat for a decade that had its fair share of festive hits from the likes of Shakin' Stevens, Wham!. Written by Boomtown Rats star Bob Geldof and Ultravox frontman Midge Ure, the single was performed by a supergroup consisting of popular Irish and UK music acts, and was released in 1984 to raise money and awareness for the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia.. Famous faces that feature on the single include George Michael, Boy George, Paul Weller, Sting and many, many, more.. With a synth intro that seems to last forever but at the same time, isn't long enough... it's the huge 'Blue Monday' at number 6.. But the original synth-pop dance track that has become a defining track for the band's career unsurprisingly was popular from the off, peaking at number 9 in the UK charts.. This was their second number one in a row on the US Billboard chart after the smash hit, 'You Give Love A Bad Name'.. Originally released as a single in 1981, it later featured on Queen's 1982 album Hot Space and was the band's second number one following the success of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in 1975.. When it came to strange music videos, the 80s really couldn't be topped...

        This Chicago-area mainstream power rock band is known mostly for its power ballads that always had a knack for delivering some of the most bombastic lyrics of the decade.. Hulton Archive/Getty Images Foreigner enjoyed a number of hits in the '80s, but none reached as high a level of over-the-top romantic longing as this keyboard-heavy love ballad does.. Guitarist Mick Jones has always been an underrated songwriter, and his command was never on finer display than when the calmness of this tune's verses explode into a crescendo of a chorus perfectly suited for Lou Gramm's impressively high vocal range.. On this one occasion, the band wrote a nearly perfect pop song.. This hit was the highpoint of the band's career.. Lex van Rossen/Getty Images. Never has Rose revealed his versatility as a singer more completely than through the calm verses and fierce chorus sections of the tune.. It was a match made in heaven, as Steinman's gift for lyrical bombast and over-the-top arrangements to match helped him produce his finest musical moment.. George Rose/Getty Images. Speaking of ballads and the '80s, it's impossible to go too far without discussing duets pairing male and female singers.. The band's frontman, Peter Wolf, was tailor-made for the '80s with his Mick Jagger swagger and exuberance, even though he had more than paid his dues before the band went pop.. Each of these tunes, presented in no particular order, is simply impossible to ignore in the context of '80s music.

        King and – well – how much time have you got?. It made his legend.. This was the first version, and inspired no less than six covers within a month of its release.. However, Fats did it best, and it remained his biggest track.. A bluesy rock and roll number with a dour undercurrent, it was Elvis’ first number one.. Sometimes the best songs are the most simple.

        The 1980s was a time of hits.. The tune almost didn’t make the cut, twice!. More of a workout than a dance song, but still certainly one of the better dance songs from the 80s, this 1989 banger certainly gets you limbered up.. The groove on Prince’s 1999 is absolutely animalistic.. The handwritten lyrics to Billie Jean even sold for £24,984 at auction in 2012.

        The music is excellent to listen to and is one of the best 80s rock songs.. Bassist Francis Bucholz wrote the song, and it has become one of the most popular songs among fans.. The song has some great drum solos and is one of the best songs from AC/DC.. The song was the theme song for the hit movie Rocky III, and it became an instant hit with fans around the world.. The song has a very catchy beat and is one of those songs that will not get out of your head quickly.. The music is considered one of the band’s most popular songs and was released in 1980.. This song was released in 1982 and was one of the first songs to combine rock with rap.. This song is featured on Roxette’s debut studio album, “Look Sharp.” Before picking up in the US, the song was a hit in Roxette’s native home, Sweden.

        Song: "Don't It Make You Feel" Artist: Headpins. Every Canadian synth-pop band today owes a little bit of debt to Spoons, whose 1981 album, Stick Figure Neighbourhood, was, fun fact, one of the first new wave albums engineered by Daniel Lanois.. This could be said about a lot of the songs on this list but it really doesn't get any more '80s than this.. They made it work, and turned out a series of hit albums and singles.. A rare case: the chorus in English flows without a flaw for a French name such as Hélène: "Helen, the things you do make me crazy about you.". Mitsou's debut was a late '80s disco hit and probably the most fun of any song on this list.

        5 I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston, 1987. 23 Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses 1987. 35 Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship, 1986. 37 You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi, 1986. 60 Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes, 1981. 63 Is This Love – Whitesnake, 1987. 105 Love Bites – Def Leppard, 1987 (my all-time favorite song!)


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