Last weekend I was sitting around, enjoying an 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat when Madness’ classic 1983 tune “Our House” came on the radio. Being the reflective cat I am1, I savored my beer and considered that I very well could have been listening to the same song exactly 30 years before that moment. I also thought if you had to sum up the 80s, that would be a pretty solid song to do so. I jotted down some other songs that were “very 80s-ish” and tucked the list away in my virtual notebook.
So here is my list of the Most 80s Songs Of The 80s. What the hell does that mean? Well, these are not necessarily the best, or most played, or most memorable songs of that glorious decade. But rather these are the songs that sum up the decade the best. When you hear them, you are immediately transported back to some vague point in your youth when MTV was determining what pop music was for our generation.
A few disclaimers.
First, this is my list, thus reflects what I think of when I think of “80s Music”. Which is music that has a heavy New Wave influence, crashed the top half of American Top 40, got heavy MTV airplay, and was generally released between 1981 and 1985. Someone five years older or younger, or even someone my age who had different tastes back in the day would likely put a very different list together. This isn’t meant to be definitive.
Second, I did not put a ton of thought into it. I thought about the biggest songs and bands of the decade, did some quick filtering on that initial group, scanned a couple online lists, and mashed this together. I imagine if I spent more time considering it, it would be a little different. But I’m about to reconsider my 25 favorite songs of all time list and will put much more effort into that than I did to this.
So with far too much explanation for a silly music list, here goes.
The ↁ’s Notebook Ten Most 80s Songs Of The 80s.
(Year charted, peak position on US Top 40)
“Our House” – Madness. 1983, #7. I bet you can hear this song at least once a day in every radio market in America. Punchy horns, bouncy bass, a wonderful string backing track, and perfect sing-along chorus. A little ska, very British, and all pop.
“Don’t You Want Me” – Human League. 1982, #1.
“Tainted Love” – Soft Cell. 1982, #8.
“I Ran” – A Flock Of Seagulls. 1982, #9.
A healthy chunk of British New Wave bands were synth pop artists, and these three songs were the best of the bunch. “Don’t You Want Me” is an undeniable, timeless classic. “Tainted Love” is one of the greatest covers of all time and sounded like it came from 20 years in the future with its dark, erotic sound. And “I Ran” is the stereotypical 80s song, produced on synthesizers by bizarrely-coiffed performers with minimal music talent.
“Hungry Like The Wolf” – Duran Duran. 1983, #3. Bridging the gaps between disco, pop, and rock, “Wolf” seemed like it was everywhere for about nine months and signaled the arrival of one of the biggest bands of the decade.
“We Got The Beat” – The Go Gos. 1982, #2. Arguably the best girl group ever produced the prototypical American New Wave song, equal parts rock and pop.
“867-5309/Jenny” – Tommy Tutone. 1982, #1. In a decade loaded with one-hit wonders, there was no bigger one-hit wonder than this creepy theme song for stalkers everywhere.
“Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Def Leppard. 1987, #2. All hair metal, pop metal, and radio friendly hard rock led to this massive 1987 tune. And then it all came crashing down in an avalanche of acid washed denim and <a href=’http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drakkar_Noir’>Drakkar Noir</a>.
“Borderline” – Madonna. 1984, #10. Not necessarily her best song, but certainly her most 80s song. It’s sweet and simple and a reminder of how great pop music was in 1984.
“Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince. 1984, #1. Listen, I love Prince. But I debated a long time whether to include him here or not, as his songs are of their own age, regardless of release date. But “Purple Rain” was one of the two or three biggest albums of the decade, and no one represented the diverse pop sound of the decade better than he did.
“Billy Jean” – Michael Jackson. 1983, #1. This song is the 80s. A singular star. An amazing song made unforgettable by an endlessly played video. And from the biggest album of the decade, and one of the most essential albums of all time.
- I love when I get to call myself a reflective cat. ↩