My name is Shay and I'm a millennial. I've hand-picked 19 Christmas gifts that are sure to please the gals of my generation.
Top Songs From the '80s That Stand the Test of Time
This is my curated collection of the greatest '80s songs, with audio clips for each song. I have been building this collection for over 20 years. In this article, I have done my best to avoid the over-played songs that you'll find most "top music of the '80s" lists.
This is not an "obscure '80s songs" list either; I hope you'll recognize a good portion of them, and maybe rediscover a few you forgot about. As a bonus, if you have an Amazon Prime Membership, you'll be able to download well over half of these '80s songs for free. (!)
I am a child of the '80s and love all 1980s nostalgia, but as anyone who knows me personally could tell you, I am completely obsessed with '80s music. Something about the combination synthesizers, note swelling, and catchy melodies got me hooked at an early age. This collection includes 102 of the creme de la creme of '80s pop, '80s new wave, '80s dance music, '80s movie soundtrack songs, and '80s rock songs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Song Selection Criteria
I did not look at ANY 1980s lists anywhere to create this article. I generally avoid them, and I figure it's been done so much before; why wouldn't I do my own thing? Every song on this list was, in a sense, "collected" by me at some point in my life. These songs all live on my computer in a playlist simply titled "'80s."
So here they are...
Greatest '80s New Wave Songs and Synth Pop Songs (With Other Post-Punk Goodies)
1 Take On Me - a-ha
2 Nowhere Girl - B Movie
3 No More Words - Berlin
4 The Killing Moon - Echo & The Bunnymen
5 Lips Like Sugar - Echo & The Bunnymen
6 A Little Respect - Erasure
7 Always - Erasure
Read More From Spinditty
8 Oh L'Amour - Erasure
9 Great Southern Land - Icehouse
10 Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
11 Dead Souls - Joy Division
12 True Faith - New Order
13 Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
14 Just Another Day - Oingo Boingo
15 Major Tom (Voellig Losgeloest) - Peter Schilling
16 Kiss Them for Me (Single) - Siouxsie & The Banshees
17 Cities in Dust - Siouxsie & The Banshees
18 Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go - Soft Cell
19 Voices Carry - 'Til Tuesday
20 Road to Nowhere - Talking Heads
21 Psycho Killer - Talking Heads
22 Head Over Heels - Tears for Fears
23 Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears for Fears
24 Mad World - Tears for Fears
25 Break It Down Again - Tears for Fears
26 Town Called Malice - The Jam
27 Only You - Yaz
The Best of Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode was the first '80s band that I fell head over heels for. I really do believe they embody the quintessential "'80s sound," even into the early '90s, so please excuse me if some of the following songs bleed over the decade line:
28 Never Let Me Down Again - Depeche Mode
29 Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode
30 Strangelove - Depeche Mode
31 Enjoy the Silence - Depeche Mode
32 Policy of Truth - Depeche Mode
33 World In My Eyes - Depeche Mode
34 Stripped - Depeche Mode
The Best of The Cure
I Decided that The Cure needed its own category on my greatest '80s songs list. If you aren't familiar with The Cure but enjoy '80s music, you're in for a treat:
35 Close to Me - The Cure
36 Just Like Heaven - The Cure
37 Lovesong - The Cure
38 A Forest - The Cure
39 Lullaby - The Cure
40 In Between Days - The Cure
41 The Figurehead - The Cure
42 Six Different Ways - The Cure
Greatest '80s Dance Songs
So these may not all be in the dance genre—some are definitely new wave or synth-pop. I can tell you one thing: they are definitely all songs that you can dance to. HARD. DANCE LIKE IT'S YOUR JOB:
43 Obsession - Animotion
44 Come on Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners
45 Electric Avenue - Eddy Grant
46 Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics
47 Good Thing - Fine Young Cannibals
48 Cars - Gary Numan
49 Disappear - INXS
50 Escapade - Janet Jackson
51 Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
52 Raspberry Beret - Prince & The Revolution
53 U Got the Look - Prince
54 I Can't Wait - Nu Shooz
55 Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' - Michael Jackson
56 Situation - Yaz
57 Don't Go - Yaz
Yes, I realize a handful of the songs here are not actually '80s songs and are technically early-to-mid '90s (I'm looking at you INXS, Siouxsie, Erasure). I've had some songs in the '80s part of my brain for so long that I couldn't possibly leave them off this list. It would be like if I took my 100 children to Disneyland but decided to leave a few in the parking lot.
You Can Call Me Al
"You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon is one of the first music videos I can remember seeing as a child.
Greatest '80s "Slow Dance" Songs
For those times when you want to dance, just not very fast. Grab a partner and hold them awkwardly at arm's length, or fly solo, interpretive dance style. Just go with it.
58 Forever Young - Alphaville
59 All Through the Night - Cyndi Lauper
60 Drive - The Cars
61 Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac
62 One More Try - George Michael
63 Never Tear Us Apart - INXS
64 Human Nature - Michael Jackson
65 Man In the Mirror - Michael Jackson
66 I'll Stand By You - Pretenders
67 When Doves Cry - Prince
Greatest '80s Pop Songs
68 Caribbean Queen - Billy Ocean
69 I Can Dream About You - Dan Hartman
70 She Drives Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals
71 Things Can Only Get Better - Howard Jones
72 Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson
73 The Boy In the Bubble - Paul Simon
74 Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel
75 Big Time - Peter Gabriel
76 Somebody's Watching Me - Rockwell
77 Infatuation - Rod Stewart
78 Africa - Toto
My Favorite '80s Pop Album
Okay, I couldn't choose one . . . and they're both Michael Jackson. I couldn't help myself. Each of these albums is solid from start to finish. He is the King of Pop for a reason.
My Favorite '80s Music Video—I couldn't leave out Genesis!
Genesis's "Land of Confusion" is everything I love from the '80s rolled into one music video. The wonky puppets are awesomely terrifying.
Greatest '80s Songs from '80s Movies
Why yes, yes it is...
79 The Goonies 'R' Good Enough - Cyndi Lauper - "The Goonies"
80 Cry Little Sister - G Tom Mac - "The Lost Boys"
81 Weird Science - Oingo Boingo - "Weird Science"
82 In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel - "Say Anything"
83 Send Me an Angel - Real Life - "Teen Wolf"
84 Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now - Starship - "Mannequin"
85 Burning Down the House - Talking Heads - "Revenge of the Nerds'
86 A Million Miles Away - The Plimsouls - "Valley Girl"
87 Pretty In Pink - The Psychedelic Furs - "Pretty in Pink"
88 If You Were Here - Thompson Twins - "16 Candles"
My Favorite '80s Soundtrack
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun—The Dance Off!
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun has some ridiculous '80s music in at, as well as young Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt. The song at the beginning of this clip is called "Dancing in Heaven" by Q-Feel. It is one of my favorites, but sadly I couldn't find the original version on iTunes. It lives in the movie though!
Greatest '80s Rock Songs
You'll notice that my '80s rock song list is void of a lot of the huge rock bands of the era. I did this on purpose for one very simple reason: I HATE '80s Butt Rock. I really really hate it. I do have one Scorpions song on here—I promise you I am not the devil:
89 The Boys of Summer - Don Henley
90 Veronica - Elvis Costello
91 Man on the Corner - Genesis
92 Do You Wanna Touch Me - Joan Jett
93 Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil
94 Sister Christian - Night Ranger
95 Dumb Things - Paul Kelly
96 Back On the Chain Gang - Pretenders
97 Radio Free Europe - R.E.M.
98 Addicted to Love - Robert Palmer
99 Still Loving You - Scorpions
100 Moving In Stereo - The Cars
101 Don't Stand So Close to Me - The Police
102 Walking On the Moon - The Police
Young Einstein is a ridiculous '80s movie about a young Albert Einstein and how he invented The Theory of Relativity, beer, and Rock and Roll. Einstein, played by Yahoo Serious, also falls in love with Marie Curie and is Australian (somehow). The soundtrack is awesome and I've included a few songs in this article ("This Southern Man" in the New Wave section, and "Dumb Things" in the Rock section, directly above this blurb).
This is the best scene in the whole movie:
How I Fell in Love With the '80s
I grew up in a music-centric household. My father has a strange affinity for speakers and has always played music at the highest possible volume setting. My youth was chock full of Michael Jackson, Prince, U2, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, UB40, and a TON of Motown. Still, to this day, my mother refers to R&B music as "Motown" (it's so cute). I guess you could say that this is in my blood.
It wasn't until I was 16, at the dawn of digital downloading, that I developed a real thirst for collecting '80s songs. When I first got my license, I would listen to mostly classic rock stations (I still do) and I would hear songs from time to time that I instantly connected with and vaguely recognized, but was not able to name. I would go home and do an Internet search* for a few of the lyrics that I understood, to find the song to download.** From time to time, my lyric translation was so far off that I had to find the song via '80s music message boards. Thank you early adopters of social internet. You were my heroes.
As I got older, Napster turned into Morpheus, Kazaa, and Limewire (which maybe gave my first college computer a virus? Who knows!). Enter 1 dollar downloads from iTunes. I could buy my '80s songs individually and LEGALLY. Thank you iTunes. You saved my hell-bound soul.
*This was before the heyday of Google. The verb "to Google" hadn't been invented yet!
**This was WAY before the invention of Shazam (possibly the best smartphone app ever).
© 2013 Shay Marie
Comments - These are my favorite 80s songs. Did I leave out yours?
Josh on July 27, 2016:
Lol this is ossum, reminded me of a lot of songs I had forgotten about, thanks!
Shea on August 05, 2015:
How on Earth could you leave out The Smiths! How Soon Is Now, Panic, etc. ! Wow!!!
three rdworldman on January 25, 2014:
Well yes you did! Which ones you ask? I'll get back to you on that! But kudos for having the amazing PETER GABRIEL on the list, as well as the under-rated HOWARD JONES. As Arnie would say..."I'LL BE BACK!"
RestlessKnights on January 23, 2014:
Nice work, lots of good stuff here for sure.
Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on January 22, 2014:
Wow thanks for the trip back memory lane. I grew up listening to the 80s music. I love Depeche Mode and Major Tom is a gem!
Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on January 22, 2014:
My favorite music is from the 70's, of course I do like it all, the 80's also had great music. I do love your picture that is very cute!!! Thanks
David Edward Lynch from Port Elizabeth, South Africa on October 31, 2013:
I enjoyed/enjoy the 80's songs.
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on October 15, 2013:
I love that you did your own thing here. You are a true original. Enjoyed your compilations. That "You Can Call Me Al" video is too wild.
Meganhere on October 05, 2013:
I'm a Peter Gabriel fan so I was glad to see him here. "So" is awesome.
Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on October 04, 2013:
I'm from an earlier era -- 50s and 60s -- but do enjoy music from every era.
Enjoyed your list.
Diana Grant from United Kingdom on September 11, 2013:
Not my era (Elvis, Chirping Crickets,Bill Haley et al), but brings back happy memories of the loud (like "overwhelmingly loud") music which pervaded the house when my kids were young - I still play some of it
FloridaDino on May 14, 2013:
I listen to pretty much all of those now...still remain a huge Cure fan to this day.
Ben Reed from Redcar on April 21, 2013:
Mines in your list - A-ha
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on April 15, 2013:
@AdriatiX: Lady what? BiebWHO?
AdriatiX on April 15, 2013:
Great choices. These are the real songs and not that Lady Gaga and Bieber shi*t that we are hearing today. :)
Jack on April 13, 2013:
These songs were all great back then and they still are.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on April 13, 2013:
@thingz1: All these songs make me smile - I'm glad to see you enjoy them! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the tweet!
thingz1 on April 13, 2013:
Impressive list of 80s songs. Back in the day I was a fan of Talking Heads, XTC, Peter Gabriel, Genesis and Fine Young Cannibals, to name a few. Fun to see your compilation.
Nithya Venkat aka Vellur from Dubai on April 13, 2013:
Great song list!