The best 80s songs are the ones that changed popular culture by becoming a person’s own heart song. Some of the songs were just plain fun. Beats were hypnotic, musical personalities were over the top and the decade seemed to be one endless party. This music era was unique and produced some memorable musical trends.
With Thriller, Michael Jackson revolutionized what was expected from music videos, what music lovers wanted modern music to sound like, and what even fashion styles. A difficult feat for sure, but Michael made it look easy. Unfortunately, changing from the Gloved One, to the King of Pop, to Wacko-Jacko, Michael Jackson is looked upon as nothing more than a caricature of his former glory. But he’s remembered from a kinder, gentler time when he was so beloved that even teenagers’ parents liked him.
2. “Like A Virgin”
Like A Virgin
Madonna’s not one to shy away from controversy, and her 1984 smash hit, “Like A Virgin,” foreshadowed that in spades. Caught up in a crazed wave of “We love Madonna,” young girls and women alike wanted to look exactly like her. We bleached our hair, wore fingerless gloves, and crammed our poor lace-covered feet into neon-colored jelly shoes. “Like A Virgin” is such an iconic song, it’s even featured in a show-stopping scene from the Oscar-winning Moulin Rouge. Madonna, of course, has since gone on to produce a string of hits, but we like to remember when the blush was still on the bloom best.
3. “Live Aid”
Originally performed in 1985 by various artists
Released as a four-disc DVD set in 2004
If there is such a thing as magic, then this concert proved it. On July 13th, 1985, history was made as musician after talented musician sang to raise money to fight famine in Africa. From Tina Turner to Madonna, from Mick Jagger to David Bowie, all the great ones were there. Organizer and promoter Bob Geldof had created a concert for the ages. Never before, and not since, has one concert united the world. 2005’s Live 8 tried to recreate the magic but paled in comparison. This selection deviates from the rest of the list since it isn’t a single song, but the concert does feature many great 80s songs.
4. “Every Breath You Take”
“Every Breath You Take,” with its stark black-and-white video, and melancholy-infused lyrics, captured the attention of music lovers everywhere. Although the song has been parodied and likened to a stalker’s anthem, The Police’s masterpiece of unrequited love strikes a chord in us all that still resonates today.
5. “Walk This Way”
Aerosmith and Run DMC
Before Aerosmith and Run DMC sized each other up in “Walk This Way,” rap and rock had always seemed to stand on opposite ends of the musical aisle. “Walk This Way” united the two seemingly polar opposites, and the influence of this historic marriage still reverberates. Today, we see Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborating on soundtracks. The best-selling Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, to name a few, follow suit with albums equal parts rap and rock. To us it sounds fresh, original, and new. Peer closer and one can trace its roots directly back to a single that has the distinction of being the first rap song ever to hit the Top 5 on The Billboard 100 – “Walk This Way.”
6. “These Dreams”
The Heart sisters have been performing rock since the 70s, but “These Dreams” showcased their softer, more mystical side in a way that appealed to many. “These Dreams” put Heart on the adult contemporary map, and opened them up to a much wider audience. So what if they wore high-collared, vampire-inspired outfits? We still loved them.
7. “When Doves Cry”
The Purple One made his mark on the world with “When Doves Cry,” and Prince has garnered our respect and favor ever since. True, he has taken a few hits to his personal reputation from the press since this 1984 hit, but Prince’s musical genius and suggestive lyrics continue to light his name in the marquee lights.
8. “Endless Love”
Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
Diana Ross and Lionel Richie: Endless Love
Many have been gaga for Diana Ross for years, and when she paired her sultry style with the effervescent Lionel Richie, a power-house love ballad for the ages was born. Striking an endless chord with the public, “Endless Love” has been covered many times, most notably by the multitalented Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey. “Endless Love” captures a sense of devotion, compassion, and love that many aspire to feel for their soulmate. This is a song which has struck a chord with many people.
9. “Call Me”
Released on the soundtrack for American Gigolo
Has punk ever looked or sounded so good? Backlash against the disco-infused 70s left the door wide open for a new kind of rock, and Blondie filled that void. One can argue that there were more authentic punk groups of the day, namely the Sex Pistols, but as the opening track for American Gigolo, “Call Me” took flight. The song is still considered to be one of the best songs of all time, and certainly one of the best 80s songs.
J. Geils Band
“Centerfold” is fun, upbeat, and gives a lewd twist on high school. What could be better? Apparently nothing, as the song was number one on the charts in 1982. “Centerfold” enthusiastically waxed on a period of time we loathe to let go of, and people still love it.