Unquestionably, the 1980s were a decade marked by trendy hairstyles, significant fashion, and even bigger music, as the majority of the top genres of today had pioneers and leads who were still in the game then. Moreover, thanks to the Sony Walkman, which became available in the early 1980s, music enthusiasts could listen to music on the go -not forgetting the big radios. As a result, varying genres and rap music started to gain popularity, and the distinctive and edgier sound that came out of the end of the ’70s was made possible by new wave, soft rock, punk, and electronic music.
Let’s face it, millennials and Gen X, as all those things and more did occur at that time, and for the most part, they were wonderful. But most importantly, they contributed significantly to the evolution of enjoyment of listening to music from the decade, which has a blooming nostalgia industry linked nearly from the moment it ended till the present.
The 1980s were about much more than just their quirks, and a song from the 1980s is very different from “an 80s song.” The apex of Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson occurred during this decade, which also saw the emergence of Public Enemy and NWA. Veteran New Wave bands like Talking Heads and Devo discovered new rhythms, while transcendent performers like Marvin Gaye and Paul Simon produced some of their best work. Electronic pioneers like New Order rewrote musical conventions. Rap’s initial ripples grew into a tsunami that permanently altered pop music as the decade progressed.
There were many factors to consider while selecting these decade songs, including nostalgia, long-lasting effects, cultural relevance, musicianship, catchiness, ratings, and artistry. However, this article focused on making the selection enjoyable while keeping each artist to one song – except for the apparent unavoidables. As a result, these are the greatest songs of the 1980s, from magnificent works of genre-defining art to earworm flights of fantasy.
Table of Contents
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Two Grammy Awards were given to “Billie Jean” from the all-time best-selling album Thriller, which is frequently recognized as one of the finest songs ever composed. The renowned music clip debuted Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk and contributed to MTV’s cultural relevance throughout the decades. A short film that broke down racial barriers on MTV and his performance on Motown 25—where he debuted his “moonwalk”—were used to promote the song. It has that timeless quality that will never disappoint you and is still arguably the most fantastic pop song ever.
There are various interpretations of the lyrics to this well-known song. One claims they are based on a true story in which a female fan claimed Michael Jackson (or one of his siblings) was the father of her twins. Jackson, though, claimed that it was based on the groupies he had met.
Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
This song, released in 1982, was Marvin Gaye’s first after leaving Motown a year earlier. Marvin saw a significant return with this song, taken from the Midnight Love album, and a career revival. One of his most powerful and well-known songs, the sexually charged, included whispers from Harvey Fuqua.
In 1973, Gaye gave the world ‘Let’s Get It On,’ probably the best sex-related song ever written. With ‘Sexual Healing,’ his first non-Motown record (issued just two years before his father fatally shot him), he almost surpassed himself nine years later. With drum machines, noisy guitars, and a strong synth foundation, the hot music has a considerably more ’80s feel. It also features the most appropriate final lyric in a sex song: “Please don’t delay / It’s not good to masturbate.”
Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen
The best hit from The Boss’s enormous “Born in the USA” album in 1984 was written using the title of an old crooners’ standard as inspiration. ‘Dancing in the Dark’ is Bruce Springsteen’s dance-floor apex filled with ambition, angst, and sex. It also has a usually magnificent sax solo by the late Clarence Clemons. And there aren’t many songs from the period with a vital fire safety message in the chorus.
The Sweetest Taboo – Sade
Sade is so silky. If everyone weren’t lulled into a love-drunk, two-stepping haze, it would be simple to get obsessed with envy, especially with the grace she carried in the song. On this popular tune from her multi-platinum-selling second album, “Promise,” the Nigerian-born, U.K.-raised singer-songwriter is at the top of her game. You can’t help but unwind when it starts and drift into the quiet storm.
Push It – Salt-N-Pepa
Complexity is anathema! As this classic from 1988 demonstrates, sometimes all you need is economy to create a very unforgettable smash. A deceptively straightforward blend of Casio beats, a few loud, stupid keyboard stabs, and a lot of intense, scorching shouts of “Ooh, baby baby” let the all-female Queens hip-hop combo Salt-N-Pepa create pop magic on “Push It.”
Redemption Song – Bob Marley & the Wailers
Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Redemption Song” is one of the best records to come out of the 1980s and is a musical masterpiece. This song’s soothing tone creates an infectious sense of peace and makes you feel like your soul is being fed. The song’s acoustic music eases you into its message of ascent and prosperity and depicts a vulnerable Bob Marley who you can’t help but be moved by. It’s the ideal illustration of realizing one’s power, and it still can inspire any listener to embark on a personal journey toward liberation.
Let’s Groove – Earth, Wind & Fire
Until Earth, Wind & Fire released this song, “getting down” was never satisfying enough. The parties still needed more funk. However, the group’s soaring instrumental prowess and stellar vocals helped the world embrace its inner groove with this electrifying and explosive song. The song also demonstrated that disco could endure over the decade of the 1970s and enter the energetic decade of the 1980s. This rhythm has the adaptability to flourish and succeed in any period that recognizes the greatness of dancing, thanks to the group’s electrifying sounds and outspoken personalities.
Under Pressure – Queen
A song by two renowned performers brilliantly captured the typical sentiment brought on by life’s stress. A song by Queen and David Bowie perfectly encapsulated the exhausting feelings of life and how we overcome the minor setbacks it brings. The theme emphasizes the value of having a positive mindset and how keeping upbeat will always outweigh life’s pressures. The beat is instantly identifiable.
The Message – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” launched the golden era of hip-hop. Rapping, which has remained a lyrical representation method, was made more accessible to a broader audience because of the song’s innovative use of sound. Like many hip-hop songs that first gained popularity in the 1980s, this song reflected the daily struggles that people in impoverished regions experienced.
Grandmaster Flash’s contemplation of his current problem is the crux of the song, and in doing so, he gives listeners a chance to relate to his lyrics and wander toward a depiction they hadn’t previously encountered in music. Yet, it still concerns hip-hop’s power to shatter glass ceilings and reveal a different perspective than what is frequently portrayed in our nation. Fast forward to 2017, and hip-hop is now the most popular genre in America.
The Best – Tina Turner
Tina Turner became one of the greatest rock stars to grace the music industry stage in the 1980s. The vocalist could captivate listeners with her voice and energy, which elicited many emotions and let listeners connect her words to their own experiences. Her whole cosmic persona enhanced the integrity of her creativity and the breadth of her artistic expression. The song demonstrates the singer’s ability to rule any tone or subject matter with her extensive music collection.
The explosive symbiosis of an artist’s voice and the instruments in “The Best” resulted in a love song that still radiates the passion that draws listeners in. One of the biggest stars of the 1980s, Tina Turner proved that her brilliance knew no bounds; “The Best” is only one of her songs that exemplifies her importance when women’s empowerment was at its peak.
Sweet Dreams(Are Made Of This ) – Eurythmics
The British pop duet Eurythmics was comprised of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox. They were both formerly members of the Tourists band, which disbanded in 1980. “In the Garden,” the duo’s debut studio album, was released in 1981 to mixed reviews, but when Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), their follow-up record, was released in 1983, it received widespread acclaim. In addition to peaking at No. 6 in Australia and No. 2 in the UK, the title single peaked at No. 1 in Canada and the US Billboard Hot 100 before becoming a global smash. Several successful singles and albums were later released by the duo, including “Love Is a Stranger,” “There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart),” and “Here Comes the Rain Again” before they split up in 1990.
When Doves Cry – Prince
The most popular song of 1984 was “When Doves Cry,” and Prince himself filmed the music video, which generated controversy because of its explicit sexual content. After Prince’s passing in 2016, the song experienced a new surge in popularity. It is still one of Prince’s hallmark songs and a critical ’80s blockbuster hit.
Careless Whisper – George Michael
With the help of this song, George was recognized as a credible artist who wasn’t only making fun of Wham! When it was released while he and Andrew Ridgeley were still in their boyband, the song topped the charts worldwide. The song was co-written by Andrew and Michael when they were 17 and was inspired by tales of Michael’s first relationships with two separate girls.
“The whole idea of ‘Careless Whisper’ was the first finding out about the second, which she never did, remarked. “However, I didn’t end the relationship with Jane and instead began a new one with a woman named Alexis. Things became somewhat complex. Jane fired me after learning about her. Being a two-timer, I thought I was being cool the entire time, but there wasn’t much emotion present. The first girl inspired the song since I felt bad about her. We danced in “Careless Whisper” because we danced a lot, and the song’s theme was “We’re dancing, but she knows, and it’s over.”
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
The opening guitar riff and solo in “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are among the best of all time. It is the only number-one US single for the American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, and the original music video featured the girlfriends of every band member at the time.
This crowd-pleaser appeared on Guns N Roses’ debut album, “Appetite for Destruction,” and has one of rock’s most recognizable guitar riffs credited to Slash. Axl Rose, the band’s lead vocalist, was inspired to write lyrics while listening to the band upstairs in his room. He based them on his girlfriend Erin Everly (the daughter of Everly Brothers singer Don Everly and Venetia Stevenson).
Like A Virgin – Madonna
“Like a Virgin” became one of Madonna’s signature songs and her first number-one hit in several nations, catapulting her to pop cultural superstar. The song is renowned for its ambiguous, innuendo-filled lyrics allowing numerous interpretations. As a result, it has been extensively covered and featured in many movies and television series.
What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner
This song, from Tina Turner’s 1984 album Private Dancer, became her most famous song ever. Later, it was employed in the 1993 movie with the same name based on Tina’s life. Amazingly, Cliff Richard was the one who was first offered it, and he declined. Phyllis Hyman, Donna Summer, and even Bucks Fizz received it. The Fizz even recorded it, but it was shelved after Tina released hers first.
Woman In Love – Barbra Streisand
Thanks to her work with Barry Gibb, who penned this song with his brother Robin of the Bee Gees, Barbra Streisand was able to enter the mainstream music world. It was a major hit worldwide and is possibly her biggest hit song ever. She, though, is not a fan of the song. She rarely performs it live and has stated she doesn’t believe the words.
Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran
The defining song of the British new wave band Duran Duran was “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Although it wasn’t immediately successful commercially in the United States, MTV actively promoted the music video, and it ultimately gained traction and became one of the biggest smash songs of the 1980s.
Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi
Unquestionably, “Livin’ on a Prayer” is the pinnacle of Bon Jovi’s career and a rock anthem that defines a generation. In addition, it’s a popular karaoke song found in several video games. Bon Jovi gave an acoustic performance of it in New York as an homage following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The song, according to Jon Bon Jovi, “deals with how two kids, Tommy and Gina, face the challenges of life and how their love and aspirations get them through the difficult times.” Millions of copies of the song were sold, and as of 2023, it has just under a billion views on YouTube, making it the band’s unmistakable sound.
I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
In 1984, this became Stevie Wonder’s biggest-ever success and peaked at number one in 19 different nations. Written for the film “The Woman in Red,” the song went on to win a Grammy and an Oscar for Best Song.
You Win Again – Bee Gees
This song greatly aided the Bee Gees’ 1987 resurgence. They received an Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for it, and it also reached the top spot. While Maurice created the drum sounds in his garage, Barry Gibb composed the song. We were certain that ‘You Win Again’ would be a major smash, Robin added. We chopped it and got the proper combination in a month.
(I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
This is the ultimate 1980s movie song, written for the film “Dirty Dancing.” It’s a karaoke crowd favorite and the ideal spectacular ending moment. It is one of the all-time great duets and has received an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy.
Broken Wings – Mr. Mister
Kahlil Gibran’s book Broken Wings inspired this song’s lyrics, which John Lang co-wrote. Written in 1912, the book tells the tale of a love doomed by social convention. Take these broken wings and learn to fly is a phrase from The Beatles’ song “Blackbird,” inspired by Gibran’s writings by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In addition, an inside joke regarding a Weather Report album named Mr. Gone inspired the band’s moniker.
Against All Odds – Phil Collins
In this stunning ballad, Phil begs an ex-lover to “take a look at me now,” even though he knows that reconciliation is “against all odds” but thinks it’s worth a try. It was produced for the same-named film and peaked at number one in the US. Later, it reached number one in the UK for X Factor winner Steve Brookstein in 2005 and Mariah Carey with Westlife in 2000.
Hello – Lionel Richie
One of Lionel Richie’s biggest successes, this song peaked at number one in the UK and the US in 1984. When Lionel first heard the song, he thought it was “corny,” but “by the time I finished the verse, I fell in love with the song again.” And that music video has to be your favorite!
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
This is one of the biggest and most popular ballads from the 1980s, and in 1988, Tracy Chapman chose it as her signature tune. According to reports, the song tells the gritty, realistic tale of a working-class woman attempting to break the cycle of poverty. In an interview with Q magazine, Tracy Chapman stated, “It’s not really about a car at all.”Essentially, it’s about a relationship that fails because of the incorrect foundation.
Save A Prayer – Duran Duran
Their biggest hit at the time, this gentle pop classic from 1982, peaked at number two in the UK. Before Simon Le Bon composed the lyrics, Andy Taylor and Nick Rhodes jointly selected the song’s opening chords. The song tells the story of an accidental encounter between two individuals that results in a one-night stand. Le Bon called it “realistic and not romantic.”
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
This song, which Cyndi Lauper co-wrote with Rob Hyman of the band The Hooters, was one of her first songs. It has earned a reputation as one of the 1980s’ top love songs. Both of the song’s authors were going through comparable experiences in their relationships when they got the idea for the song: she was having problems with her then-boyfriend David Wolff, and he was ending a relationship.
I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – George Michael & Aretha Franklin
Simon Climie, of Climie Fisher fame, co-wrote this Grammy Award-winning duet, a blockbuster hit for Aretha and George Michael in 1987 and peaked at number one worldwide. George wanted to perform with Aretha, and producer Clive Davis connected the two. It was initially planned to be Tina Turner’s solo song.
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues – Elton John
Featuring none other than Stevie Wonder on harmonica, this was one of Elton John’s most significant songs of the 1980s. Since then, it has been covered by artists like James Blunt, Mary J. Blige, and Elton John in a duet. His “Sacrifice” song came after this and became one of his best works.
Thriller – Michael Jackson
The world’s best-selling album’s title tune, originally titled “Starlight,” was written by English disco pioneer Rod Temperton. Vincent Price, a horror genre legend, also performs a witty “rap” in the song. Temperton had composed it in the cab on the way to the studio, and Price recorded it on his second go! Jackson transforms into a zombie and dances in a 14-minute John Landis-directed music video for the song. It has frequently won awards for best music video ever filmed.
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – Hall & Oates
One of the biggest hits of the 1980s was “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by the American musical duo Hall & Oates; Michael Jackson even told Daryl Hall that he had stolen the bass line for his enormous success, “Billie Jean.” The song was commercially successful on the mainstream and R&B charts; many musicians have sampled it.
When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going – Billy Ocean
This song, likely Billy Ocean’s most significant and well-known success, peaked at number one in the UK and number two in the US. It served as the soundtrack for the Michael Douglas films The Jewel in the Crown and its follow-up, and Boyzone later made it to the top of the charts with it in support of Comic Relief in 1999.
Summer Of 69 – Bryan Adams
Despite being undoubtedly Bryan Adams’ best-known and most beloved song, the song’s original title, “Best Days of My Life,” and the fact that it only peaked at number 42 on the UK charts, this song was shockingly not a hit there! Later, Bryan remarked: “That song has had that much time to incubate—it’s been 25 years now. So many pieces, including that one, are popular in America but not elsewhere after its release. It took at least ten years to appear on any European lease. In my opinion, music may exist independently of its advertising.
Ain’t Nobody – Rufus & Chaka Khan
The R&B and funk song that made vocalist Chaka Khan famous was far ahead of its time. David ‘Hawk’ Wolinski, the keyboardist for Rufus, was so confident that it would be a hit that he threatened to give Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones the song for Thriller if it wasn’t the lead single.
Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) – Soul II Soul
This R&B dance music by Soul II Soul and singer Caron Wheeler there was one song that marked the end of the 1980s and showed what was to come. Jazzie B, the record’s producer, said: “This single was magical in every way. We were doing our own thing, not attempting to fit into one trend or category. Its shuffled beats were a mashup of breakbeats and electronic music, or what would later be called hip-hop. Caron Wheeler’s vocal was the cherry on top, which came over these intense bass beats.
Take My Breath Away – Berlin
This power ballad, the theme song of love in Tom Cruise’s Top Gun movie, was awarded an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Song in 1986. Berlin might have only had one song to be recognized all these years, but it was undoubtedly a hit.
The Power Of Love – Jennifer Rush
Many people don’t realize that Jennifer Rush, not Celine Dion, sang “The Power of Love” in its original version. This is especially true of 90s kids. Rush became the first female artist to have a single with a million sales thanks to this massive success in 1985, making it the UK’s biggest-selling song of the year. The ultimate power ballad inspired Celine Dion to record an enormous hit in the following decade.
Uptown Girl – Billy Joel
Uptown Girl, another song made famous to the youth of the 1990s by Westlife, was first performed and made well-known by Billy Joel. Billy Joel told Howard Stern that the song’s initial title, “Uptown Girls,” came to him while he was surrounded by Christie Brinkley, Whitney Houston, and his former lover Elle Macpherson. The music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons inspired the story, ultimately focusing on his future wife, Brinkley. Billy’s only UK number-one in 1983 came from the top hit song.
True – Spandau Ballet
With the help of this song, Spandau Ballet went from being a one-album wonder to a bonafide pop icon. One of the greatest love songs ever written, it quickly rose to the status of a standard. As a tribute to Motown and Marvin Gaye, Gary Kemp composed this love ballad in his parents’ house. “True” became a song about creating a love song, he claimed. So why is it challenging for me to write the following line? First, I desire to hear the truth. Because writing it down would be embarrassing, and I didn’t want to do that.
Another Day In Paradise – Phil Collins
Phil Collins sang this ballad in the third person, looking at a guy crossing the street while ignoring a homeless woman, pleading with listeners not to neglect people in need. It became Phil’s seventh and final number-one song in America, and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, and Nash provides backing vocals.
The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby & The Range
This song discusses several societal injustices, including racial segregation, wealth disparities, and how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 won the civil rights movement, but more work remains. Later, the 2Pac song “Changes” sampled its well-known piano rhythm. The music was Hornsby’s most popular and peaked at number one in the US.
Chain Reaction – Diana Ross
This timeless 1980s pop song by Motown legend Diana Ross was written by The Bee Gees, who also sang the backup vocals. Incredibly, it only reached number 95 in the US in 1985 despite being a number one hit in numerous nations, including the UK!
Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna
The young rumors Brian Elliot overheard outside his recording studio served as the inspiration for the lyrics of this song, which deal with teenage pregnancy and abortion. The song, which peaked at number one in the UK and the US, sparked contentious debates. While anti-abortion organizations challenged Madonna’s pro-life message, it was assailed by women’s organizations and others in the family planning industry for encouraging young pregnancy.
Beat It – Michael Jackson
The combination of this song and its accompanying music video made Thriller the best-selling album in history. Jackson had little prior interest in the rock genre, although producer Quincy Jones had wanted to add a song along the lines of The Knack’s “My Sharona.” Jackson was disengaged from gang involvement and street life, referenced in the lyrics. Eddie Van Halen’s only payment was two six-packs of beer for playing the guitar solo as a favor for Jones.
Every Breath You Take – The Police
It’s one of the most misunderstood songs in music history, sometimes mistaken for a love ballad when it’s actually about a misguided stalker who thinks the feelings he experiences are true love. Sting said at the time of the song’s release that “it’s a nasty little song, really rather evil.” The music was created amid internal strife within the band (who were physically beating each other in the studio) and was written after Sting separated from his first wife. It was the lead single from The Police’s final album, Synchronicity, and it made sure the band ended on a high note by winning Song of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards and spending eight weeks at the top of the US Billboard Charts.
Purple Rain – Prince
‘Purple Rain’ was initially supposed to collaborate with Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks and was written as a country tune. However, when Prince sang it at his Super Bowl halftime show in the rain, it became his signature song. According to Prince, Purple Rain refers to the end of the world, being with the person you love, and allowing your faith or god to guide you through the purple rain. When there is blood in the sky, red and blue equal purple.
All Night Long – Lionel Richie
In this song with Caribbean influences, Lionel acknowledged that the allegedly “African” words, including “Tom bo li de say de moi ya” and “Jambo jumbo,” were made-up nonsense. When he realized he didn’t have time to find a translator, he called these passages a “wonderful joke.” Bonus information: Young Richard Marx sang the song’s background vocals. “What I try to write about are real events,” stated Lionel. There will always be a simple day, like Sunday. Unending love will always exist. Every day there will be an all-night-long.
The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
According to Ulvaeus, the breakup of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog is not the subject of their tragic ballad. But according to what he has said, it is about divorce in general and the feelings that accompany it. Agnetha found herself in the peculiar position of being requested to sing a breakup song written by her ex-husband shortly after the song. Bjorn didn’t mean for it to turn out this way, though. Later, she admitted that it was her preferred ABBA song to perform.
I Want To Know What Love Is – Foreigner
This fantastic power ballad by Foreigner, their biggest-ever song, peaked at number one in the UK and the US. Tom Bailey, the lead singer of the Thompson Twins, plays keyboards in it. I don’t know where the song came from, the song’s author Mick Jones said. I think of it as a gift that was sent to me. I believe there was something more powerful than I was at work. I’d claim that a higher power or force wrote it all together.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston
This is one of the best feel-good songs ever, and it served as the second album’s lead single for Whitney. Unfortunately, boy Meetsgirll, also known as George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, who previously offered Whitney her hit song “Waiting for a Star to Fall,” declined to write it. Instead, it became one of Whitney’s recognizable songs and served as the premise for her official biopic, which debuted in 2022.
I Want To Break Free – Queen
Bassist John Deacon wrote the song from the perspective of the men in the women’s liberation movement. All four cast members of the parody of Coronation Street were prominently displayed in drag in the video, which resulted in its removal from MTV in the United States. According to Roger Taylor, they must have believed that guys appearing as women weren’t “rock” enough. The iconic electric guitar solo was initially not supported by Brian May because it was performed on a Fred Mandel synthesizer, not a guitar.
In The Air Tonight – Phil Collinshttps://youtu.be/YkADj0TPrJA
The song that became Phil Collins’ first solo hit and is known for its epic drum solo was composed as he was grieving the loss of his first wife, Simone. As a result, the song’s lyrics take the style of a melancholy monologue addressed to an unidentified individual. According to an urban tale, the incident involved a drowning victim who could have been saved but was not, and Collins, who was too far away to assist, watched. The song was prominently featured in a 2007 Dairy Milk commercial in which a gorilla played the drums.
Africa – Toto
When you hear the infamously catchy start to Toto’s “Africa,” let alone its rousing chorus, it’s nearly impossible to contain yourself from singing along at the top of your lungs. David Paich stated in 2015 that the song is not about a romantic relationship but rather a man’s love of the African continent. He based the lyrics on a late-night documentary highlighting Africans’ misery and plight. It deeply affected him: “I was both moved and horrified, and the images just wouldn’t leave my head. So I tried to picture my reaction and actions if I were there.
Straight Outta Compton – NWA
Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and MC Ren’s presence is not the only thing hinted at by the track’s title on NWA’s debut album. With no other option than to move out of the way, the preeminent hair rockers of the day were forced to proclaim the arrival of west-coast rap in the most forceful, game-changing manner imaginable. A tectonic movement precisely synchronized to the beat has only happened a few times in musical history. This is a prime example.
Fight The Power – Public Enemy
The year is “1989…” Public Enemy’s most iconic song, written at Spike Lee’s request for his ground-breaking movie Do the Right Thing, packs a powerful punch in its opening five consonants. The song only becomes more intense from there, creating a manifesto of things to drink 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 proud.” Ruth that is, in fact, the case.
Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is a pop song that defends the emancipation and freedom of girls. It was a popular, joyful song in the 1980s. The song’s message can still inspire self-assurance in any girl or woman, and it has quickly emerged as one of the anthems for the self-expression movement. Beyond the vibrant beats of the song, Cyndi Lauper’s assertive personality and sense of style provided it with an even stronger foundation to establish its message. This success marks a shift in the style and subject matter of music, so it quickly shows itself as one of the best songs of the 1980s. Never before had freedom felt so wonderful.
How Am I Supposed To Live Without You – Michael Bolton
The ballad has been covered by numerous musicians worldwide and in various languages, most notably by Bolton himself. It has since evolved into a contemporary pop standard. The song has also been recorded with numerous instrumental accompaniments, including piano, guitar, saxophone, pan flute, steel drum, and music box.
Air Supply, an Australian duo, was set to record “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” but Bolton refused to allow Arista President Clive Davis to change the chorus’s lyrics, and Davis let go of the song. Laura Branigan later recorded it, and it became the first big hit for the two songwriters. Then, early in 1990, Bolton’s interpretation became a smash worldwide. But, before they even go, this tender, melancholy love song will have you longing for the one who left before they did.
Express Yourself – Madonna
On this career-defining blockbuster, the last of her ’80s mega-hits and the pinnacle of the Like a Prayer album, Madge spent the whole decade of the ’80s living what she preached. ‘Lucky Star,’ ‘Like a Virgin,’ ‘Material Girl,’ ‘Borderline,’ ‘Papa Don’t Preach,’ and ‘True Blue’ were all highlights of the first act, and any of them might easily compete for a spot on this list. ‘Express Yourself’ is an enduring anthem for everyone seeking a song about embracing individuality. However, it wasn’t just a stadium-ready anthem for the pop queen.