Top 10 Best 80s Dance Songs: Ultimate Retro Playlist

The 1980s was a transformative decade for music, characterized by the rise of electronic dance music, new wave, and synth-pop. Energetic and vibrant, the dance hits of this era continue to fill dance floors and spark nostalgia in music lovers.

A neon-lit dance floor pulsates with colorful lights as music blares from a vintage boombox. Disco balls spin, casting shimmering reflections across the room

What makes the top dance songs from the 80s so unforgettable? With catchy beats, innovative production, and memorable lyrics, these tracks have earned their place as timeless classics. Whether you’re rediscovering old favorites or hearing them for the first time, the magic of 80s dance music is undeniable.

1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

“Billie Jean” is one of the most iconic songs from the 1980s. It was released by Michael Jackson on January 3, 1983, and quickly became a pop sensation.

  • Song Name: Billie Jean
  • Album: Thriller
  • Release Date: January 3, 1983

Why we included this song on the list

The song’s catchy rhythm and infectious bassline make it a timeless dance anthem. Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean,” especially during his moonwalk on Motown 25, is unforgettable. This song is widely recognized for its role in defining 80s pop music and dance.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

Michael Jackson wrote and composed “Billie Jean” himself. It blends post-disco, R&B, funk, and dance-pop. The track was produced by Quincy Jones and Jackson. The music video for “Billie Jean” was one of the first by a black artist to receive heavy rotation on MTV, breaking racial barriers in the music industry.

2. Like a Virgin – Madonna

“Like a Virgin” is an iconic song by Madonna. It appeared on her second studio album of the same name. The track has become one of Madonna’s signature songs and is often associated with her early career success.

  • Song name: Like a Virgin
  • Album name: Like a Virgin
  • Release date: November 12, 1984

Why we included this song on the list:

“Like a Virgin” defined the 80s dance scene with its catchy beat and memorable lyrics. It dominated dance floors and received heavy radio play. Its bold and provocative themes captured the spirit of the decade, making it a fundamental track in dance music history.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

The song was produced by Nile Rodgers, known for his work with David Bowie. The music video for “Like a Virgin” was shot in Venice, Italy, and features Madonna in a wedding dress, adding to its controversial image. It was Madonna’s first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

3. Take On Me – a-ha

  • Song name: Take On Me
  • Album: Hunting High and Low
  • Release date: 1985

Why we included this song on the list

“Take On Me” is an iconic 80s dance song known for its catchy melody and upbeat tempo. It quickly gained popularity due to its innovative music video, which combined pencil-sketch animation with live-action. This song has remained a favorite for dance parties.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The music video for “Take On Me” was groundbreaking when it was released. It featured a unique blend of live-action and rotoscope animation. The video has been watched over a billion times on YouTube.

This track helped propel a-ha into international fame. Many consider it one of the greatest songs from the 80s. “Take On Me” was also remastered in 4K resolution, giving it a new life for a modern audience.

4. Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

  • Song name: Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • Album name: She’s So Unusual
  • Release date: 1983

Why we included this song on the list

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is an iconic ’80s dance anthem. Cyndi Lauper’s energetic and playful performance made it a hit. The song’s catchy melody and empowering lyrics resonate with many people. It became a signature song for Lauper and a staple at dance parties.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was originally written by Robert Hazard in 1979. Lauper’s version reimagined it from a female perspective, turning it into a feminist anthem. The music video, featuring colorful and quirky visuals, helped establish Lauper’s unique style. The video won the first-ever Best Female Video award at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards.

5. Footloose – Kenny Loggins

  • Song name: Footloose
  • Album: Footloose: Original Soundtrack of the Paramount Motion Picture
  • Release date: January 1984

Why we included this song on the list

“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins is an iconic dance song from the 1980s. Its energetic beat and catchy lyrics make it a timeless favorite for dance enthusiasts of all ages. The song plays a key role in the success of the 1984 film Footloose and has remained a popular dance track ever since.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“Footloose” spent three weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1984. It is one of the most recognizable dance songs from the 80s. The soundtrack album also reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart.

6. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham!

  • Song Name: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  • Album: Make It Big
  • Release Date: May 14, 1984

Why we included this song on the list

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! is an iconic ’80s dance song. Its upbeat tempo and catchy chorus make it perfect for the dance floor. The song’s energy captures the vibrant spirit of the 1980s, making it a must-have track for any ’80s dance playlist.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was Wham!’s first UK and US number one hit.

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was inspired by a note left by George Michael’s bandmate, Andrew Ridgeley.

The song was ranked number 28 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s.

The music video features bright neon clothing and enthusiastic dancing, a hallmark of the decade’s style.

7. Super Freak – Rick James

  • Song Name: Super Freak
  • Album: Street Songs
  • Release Date: 1981

Why we included this song on the list

“Super Freak” is one of the quintessential dance tracks of the 1980s. Its infectious beat and catchy chorus made it a favorite on dance floors around the world. The song’s mix of funk and soul elements helped it stand out and become a must-have on any 80s dance playlist.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“Super Freak” was a major hit for Rick James, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has been widely sampled and referenced in music, most famously by MC Hammer in “U Can’t Touch This.” Rick James’ eccentric style and energetic performance in the official music video further solidified the song’s iconic status.

8. I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston

  • Song name: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)
  • Album: Whitney
  • Release date: May 2, 1987

Why we included this song on the list

This song stands out as one of the best 80s dance songs due to its upbeat tempo and catchy melody. Whitney Houston’s powerful voice paired with the vibrant music makes it a timeless dance hit. It’s a song that instantly gets people on the dance floor, making it a staple at parties and events.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • Produced by Narada Michael Walden, it was written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam.
  • It was released as the lead single from the album Whitney.
  • The official music video features lively choreography that matches the song’s energetic beat.
  • The song won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1988.

9. Push It – Salt-N-Pepa

“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa became an iconic dance hit in the late 1980s. The track features a catchy beat and memorable lyrics that continue to get people on the dance floor.

  • Song name: Push It
  • Name of the album: Hot, Cool & Vicious
  • Release date: 1987

Why we included this song on the list:

“Push It” is a defining song from the ’80s that brought Salt-N-Pepa significant fame. The energetic rhythm and commanding lyrics made it a dance anthem of the decade. It was a major part of the group’s success and helped break new ground for women in hip-hop.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

“Push It” was remixed and re-released, which helped it gain more popularity. The music video for Push It remains one of the most recognizable of the era. The song’s infectious hook has been sampled and referenced in numerous other tracks over the years.

10. Funky Town – Lipps Inc.

Lipps Inc. was a disco and funk group from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They released “Funky Town” in 1980, and it quickly became a worldwide hit. The song’s energetic beat and catchy lyrics make it a favorite on dance floors.

  • Song Name: Funky Town
  • Album: Mouth to Mouth
  • Release Date: March 1980

Why we included this song on the list

This song reached the top of the charts in the U.S. and many other countries. Its infectious rhythm and fun, upbeat vibe perfectly capture the essence of the disco era. It remains a staple at parties and events, ensuring its place on any list of the best ’80s dance songs.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

Steven Greenberg wrote and produced “Funky Town” while living in Minneapolis. He was inspired by the idea of moving to a more exciting city like New York. The song is known for being one of the ultimate one-hit wonders and has been used in numerous movies, TV shows, and commercials.

For more details, you can visit the Wikipedia page on “Funkytown”.

Cultural Impact of 80s Dance Songs

The dance songs of the 1980s didn’t just dominate the charts; they changed the landscape of music and social dancing forever. From shaping today’s music trends to creating memorable dance moves, these tracks left a lasting mark.

Influence on Modern Music

80s dance songs significantly impacted modern music. Artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson brought innovative sounds that influenced many contemporary musicians. The use of electronic instruments and synthesizers became popular.

Today, genres like synth-pop and electronic dance music (EDM) owe their origins to 80s hits. Many modern artists, from Lady Gaga to The Weeknd, incorporate 80s elements in their music to pay homage or bring a nostalgic twist.

Collaborations between 80s legends and new artists demonstrate the era’s lasting influence. Songs like “Dancing In The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen still resonate in today’s hits and remixes.

Iconic Dance Moves

The 80s were a golden era for dance, with many iconic moves born from the era’s popular songs. Michael Jackson introduced the moonwalk, an unforgettable part of the “Thriller” routine, cementing his place in dance history.

Madonna’s vogueing brought a unique style to mainstream music culture. Clubs and dance floors buzzed with these moves, becoming social phenomena.

Other dances like the “Running Man” gained popularity through songs like “Blister In The Sun” by Violent Femmes. These moves didn’t just stay in the 80s but were adapted by dance enthusiasts and incorporated into routines seen today.

The lasting appeal of these dances is evident in their continued appearance in media, dance competitions, and even everyday social events.

Prominent Artists and Bands of the 80s

The 1980s featured a diversity of musical talent, with artists and bands that significantly shaped music and culture. Here’s a look at some key figures who defined the era.

Artists Who Defined the Era

Prince was a major figure in the 1980s music scene. Known for hits like “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry,” he blended rock, R&B, and pop, creating a unique style. He was also known for his flamboyant stage presence and wide vocal range.

Whitney Houston rose to fame during this decade. Her powerful voice and chart-topping hits, like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “How Will I Know,” made her one of the best-selling music artists. Her influence extended beyond music into film and fashion.

Madonna became iconic with songs like “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl.” She constantly reinvented her image and sound, making her a lasting figure in pop culture. Madonna’s influence on fashion and music videos was also significant.

Bands That Made Waves

Guns N’ Roses quickly became one of the most noteworthy bands of the 1980s. Their raw sound and hits like “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” defined their place in rock history. The band’s lineup, with Axl Rose and Slash, created a memorable fusion of hard rock.

Metallica was another major player, revolutionizing the heavy metal genre. With albums like Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning, they introduced complex guitar riffs and intense performances. Their impact on metal music continues to be felt.

The Cure significantly shaped alternative and goth rock. Known for songs like “Just Like Heaven” and “Friday I’m in Love,” their sound mixed melancholy lyrics with upbeat tunes. The band’s unique style and Robert Smith’s distinct look left a lasting mark on the decade’s music scene.

Bon Jovi dominated the charts with anthems like “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Their blend of rock and pop made their music widely appealing, and their energetic performances drew massive crowds.

Def Leppard also saw huge success with their albums Pyromania and Hysteria. Known for a polished rock sound and catchy songs, they were a staple in the rock scene. Their resilience, especially after drummer Rick Allen lost his arm, was inspirational.

Evolution of Dance Music in the 80s

Dance music in the 1980s saw significant changes driven by technology and the emergence of diverse genres. These changes shaped the decade and influenced future music trends.

Technological Advancements

The 80s brought major technological shifts in music production. The rise of electronic instruments like synthesizers and drum machines revolutionized how music was created. Synthesizers, such as the Roland TR-808, became staples in dance music.

Digital recording also changed music production. Musicians could experiment with sampling and edit tracks with unprecedented precision. This led to innovative sounds that defined the decade.

Music videos gained prominence. Channels like MTV showcased dance hits with engaging visuals, helping songs reach a broader audience. The combination of technology and visual media played a huge role in the music industry.

Diversity of Genres

The 1980s saw a mix of genres, each bringing unique elements to dance music. Disco, which started in the late 70s, continued to be popular in the early 80s. Songs with infectious beats and soulful vocals ruled the dance floors.

New Wave incorporated electronic sounds and punk influences, offering a fresher vibe. Bands like Depeche Mode and The Human League pushed this movement forward.

Additionally, the decade witnessed the emergence of hip-hop and freestyle. Hip-hop artists like Run-D.M.C. and The Sugarhill Gang brought a new energy to dance music, focusing on rhythm and rhymes. Freestyle combined Latin beats with electronic music, creating catchy dance hits.

Various genres coexisted and flourished, making the dance music scene rich and varied in the 80s.

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