Top 10 Best 80s Pop Songs: Ultimate Hits

Musical trends of the 1980s introduced the world to some of the most unforgettable pop songs that continue to resonate today. This decade experienced a fusion of new sounds and technologies, creating an era of innovation and creativity in the music industry. Fans of 80s music often find themselves returning to the classic tracks that defined a generation.

Colorful neon lights flash around a cassette player with a mixtape of iconic 80s pop songs. A disco ball reflects the vibrant atmosphere

This article delves into the top 10 best 80s pop songs, celebrating the timeless hits that remain popular. These songs, performed by iconic artists, showcase the unique style of the 1980s and the era’s lasting influence on pop culture.

1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

“Billie Jean” is one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic songs. It was released on January 3, 1983, as part of his sixth studio album, Thriller.

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

Why we included this song on the list

“Billie Jean” has a distinct beat and catchy rhythm that made it an instant hit. Produced by Quincy Jones and co-produced by Jackson, it blends post-disco, R&B, funk, and dance-pop elements. Its universal appeal and innovative music video set a benchmark in the music industry.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks and is credited with boosting Thriller’s success. The music video introduced the famous “moonwalk” dance move, making Jackson a pop culture icon. “Billie Jean” remains a staple in pop music history and continues to influence artists worldwide.

2. Like a Virgin – Madonna

  • Song Name: Like a Virgin
  • Album Name: Like a Virgin
  • Release Date: November 12, 1984

Why we included this song on the list

Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is one of the most iconic pop songs of the 80s. It played a significant role in establishing her as a pop icon and redefining the boundaries of pop music. The song’s catchy melody and controversial lyrics captivated audiences worldwide, making it a staple in pop culture.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“Like a Virgin” was Madonna’s first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was produced by Nile Rodgers, a key figure in the music industry.

Madonna performed “Like a Virgin” during the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. Her performance, featuring a wedding dress and suggestive choreography, became one of the most talked-about moments in VMA history.

The song was also part of the “Desperately Seeking Susan” soundtrack, further cementing its place in 80s pop culture.

3. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

Song Details:

  • Song Name: Sweet Child O’ Mine
  • Album: Appetite for Destruction
  • Release Date: 1988

Why we included this song on the list:

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” stands out as one of the most iconic songs of the 80s. The track not only topped the US Billboard Hot 100 but also remains the band’s only US number-one single. Its inclusion is a testament to its widespread popularity and significant impact on rock and pop music.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

  • The song’s famous guitar riff began as a simple string-skipping exercise by Slash. It was never intended to be a song, but the distinct rhythm captured the band’s interest.
  • Featured in the film Thor: Love and Thunder, the song continues to reach new audiences.
  • Initially, the band didn’t think much of the song. Surprisingly, it became a massive hit, crossing over to pop charts and even earning admiration from non-rock fans worldwide.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” became a massive cultural milestone, bridging the gap between rock and mainstream music during the 80s. Its unique blend of raw guitar riffs and heartfelt lyrics contributes to its lasting legacy.

4. Take On Me – a-ha

  • Song Name: Take On Me
  • Album: Hunting High and Low
  • Release Date: 1984 (Original), 1985 (International Hit Version)

Why we included this song on the list

“Take On Me” by a-ha is an iconic song from the 1980s. Its catchy melody, memorable lyrics, and groundbreaking music video have made it timeless. The song is a blend of synth-pop and various instrumentation, resonating with audiences around the world. Its high-energy beats and engaging visuals set it apart as a music video pioneer.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • The music video features a mix of live-action and pencil-sketch animation, known as rotoscoping.
  • “Take On Me” reached one billion views on YouTube in February 2020.
  • The original version of the song, released in 1984, was not as successful. It was the 1985 version that propelled a-ha to international stardom.

The combination of innovative video techniques and a highly energetic song made “Take On Me” a defining piece of the 1980s music landscape. The band’s unique approach to their music and visuals contributed significantly to pop culture.

5. Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

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

Why we included this song on the list

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper is an iconic anthem from the 1980s. It captures the playful and rebellious spirit of the decade. The song became a feminist anthem, portraying women’s desire for independence and joy. Lauper’s unique voice and colorful fashion made a lasting impression in pop culture.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was originally written by Robert Hazard in 1979. Cyndi Lauper’s version, however, is what made it famous. Her music video was very popular on MTV, featuring quirky outfits and vibrant visuals. She earned a Grammy for her performance, solidifying the song’s place in music history.

More information can be found on the song’s background.

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

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is one of the most iconic songs from the 1980s. It was released in 1984 by the English pop duo Wham! and quickly became a massive hit.

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

Why we included this song on the list

The song’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus make it an unforgettable classic. Its lively beats and cheerful melody perfectly capture the fun and vibrant spirit of the ’80s. It also showcased George Michael’s talent as a songwriter and performer.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

George Michael wrote the song after being inspired by a miswritten note from his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley. The note had a typo that read “wake me up up before you go go,” which George found amusing. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and became synonymous with the energy of the decade.

The official music video features vibrant outfits, including shorts and bright T-shirts with slogans, and is widely recognized for its joyful and carefree vibe.

7. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

  • Song name: Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Album: Slippery When Wet
  • Release date: 1986

Why we included this song on the list:

“Livin’ on a Prayer” is one of Bon Jovi’s most iconic songs. It topped the charts when it was released and became an anthem for many. Its catchy chorus and relatable lyrics about overcoming struggles resonated with a wide audience. The song was pivotal in cementing Bon Jovi’s place in rock history.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

The song was co-written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child. The use of the talkbox by Sambora added a distinct sound that became instantly recognizable. “Livin’ on a Prayer” was not only popular in the U.S. but also saw international success, becoming a chart-topping hit in many countries.

8. Thriller – Michael Jackson

“Thriller” is one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic songs. It was released on November 30, 1982, as part of his album Thriller. The song is known for its catchy beat and memorable music video, which features a zombie dance sequence.

  • Song Name: Thriller
  • Album Name: Thriller
  • Release Date: November 30, 1982

Why we included this song on the list

“Thriller” is a defining moment in 80s pop music. Its groundbreaking music video pushed the boundaries of what was expected in the music industry. The song itself topped charts and remains a Halloween favorite due to its spooky theme.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The music video for “Thriller” was directed by John Landis and had a budget of around $500,000, which was exceptionally high at the time. Michael Jackson collaborated with horror film legend Vincent Price, who provided the eerie voiceover in the song.

9. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

  • Song Name: Eye of the Tiger
  • Album: Eye of the Tiger
  • Release Date: May 29, 1982

Why we included this song on the list

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor became an iconic song of the 1980s. Its strong beat and powerful lyrics made it an anthem for motivation and strength. The song gained fame as part of the soundtrack for the movie Rocky III, helping it to skyrocket to the top of the charts.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

“Eye of the Tiger” peaked at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 for six weeks. The song was specifically requested by Rocky III star Sylvester Stallone, who felt it would perfectly capture the film’s fighting spirit. The tune remained on the charts for an impressive 25 weeks, establishing its timeless appeal.

10. Every Breath You Take – The Police

  • Song name: Every Breath You Take
  • Name of the album: Synchronicity
  • Release date: 1983

Why we included this song on the list

“Every Breath You Take” is one of the most iconic songs of the 80s. It stood out for its haunting melody and powerful lyrics. The song topped charts worldwide, becoming the biggest hit of 1983 in the US and Canada. Its widespread appeal and lasting impact on pop culture make it an essential addition to any list of the best 80s pop songs.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • This song was written by Sting.
  • It was the band’s only number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, staying at the top for eight weeks.
  • The music video for the song, featuring the band performing in black and white, is a classic and has been viewed millions of times online.
  • The song has been covered and sampled by many artists in various genres, showing its broad influence.

The Cultural Impact of 80s Pop Music

The 1980s were a transformative decade for pop music, leaving a lasting mark on both fashion and modern music. Iconic artists and their vibrant styles defined the era and continue to influence contemporary culture.

Influence on Fashion

80s pop music had a significant influence on fashion. Bold colors, big hair, and eccentric outfits were part of the scene. Musicians like Madonna and Michael Jackson set trends that extended beyond their music.

Madonna’s lace gloves, layered necklaces, and mix of masculine and feminine clothing styles became youth fashion staples. Michael Jackson’s red leather jacket from the “Thriller” video and his single white glove became symbols of 80s style.

Music videos on MTV showcased these trends to a global audience, making fashion as important as the music itself. The decade’s fashion was about standing out, experimenting, and expressing individuality, which remains an influence today.

Legacy in Modern Music

The legacy of 80s pop music is evident in today’s music industry. Synthesizers and electronic beats popularized during this era are still key elements in modern pop. Artists like The Weeknd and Dua Lipa draw heavily from 80s sounds.

Songs like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics have been covered and sampled numerous times, showing the timeless appeal of 80s hits. Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls,” with its moody synthesizers, continues to inspire modern electronic music.

The 80s also introduced iconic music videos, which remain influential in how artists market themselves. The innovation and creativity in 80s pop music set a foundation that current artists build upon, making it a continually relevant genre.

Iconic 80s Pop Artists and Their Contributions

The 1980s was a transformative decade for pop music, marked by the profound influence of several key artists. Their innovative approaches and unique styles shaped the genre and left an indelible mark on the music industry.

Michael Jackson’s Innovations

Michael Jackson revolutionized pop music with his electrifying performances and groundbreaking music videos. His 1982 album Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time. The title track’s music video set new standards with its storytelling and dance choreography.

Billie Jean and Beat It further highlighted his ability to blend different genres like pop, rock, and funk. His signature dance move, the Moonwalk, dazzled audiences and became a cultural phenomenon. Jackson’s influence extended beyond music, impacting fashion and setting trends with his distinctive style, including his iconic sequined glove and military jackets.

Madonna’s Persona and Style

Madonna emerged as a pop icon with her provocative performances and fashion-forward style. Her 1984 album Like a Virgin catapulted her to stardom, with the title track becoming a massive hit. Madonna’s ability to reinvent herself kept her at the forefront of the music scene.

She pushed boundaries with her music videos, particularly for hits like Material Girl and Like a Prayer. Madonna’s bold fashion choices, such as her lace gloves and layered jewelry, influenced the decade’s fashion trends. Her unapologetic embrace of controversy and sexuality empowered many and challenged societal norms.

Prince’s Musical Genius

Prince was a multi-talented artist known for his vast musical abilities. His 1984 album Purple Rain showcased his talents as a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. The title track and other hits like When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy became anthems of the decade.

He combined elements of rock, funk, and R&B, creating a unique sound that set him apart. Prince’s flamboyant stage presence and fashion, including his use of bold colors and androgynous style, were distinctive. His willingness to challenge recording industry norms, such as changing his name to a symbol, underscored his creative defiance.

Characteristics of 80s Pop Music

80s pop music was defined by bold synthesizers, electronic beats, and unforgettable melodies. This distinct sound became iconic and dominated the charts throughout the decade.

Synthesizers and Electronic Sounds

Synthesizers were a major component of 80s pop music. These instruments created unique and versatile sounds that were new to the music scene. Bands like Depeche Mode and Eurythmics used synthesizers to craft songs that stood out with their electronic beats.

The use of drum machines and sequencers also became popular. This technology allowed for precise and repetitive beats that gave 80s pop its recognizable rhythm. Songs often incorporated looping patterns, which added to the catchy and danceable nature of the music.

Electronic sounds in 80s music often came with a futuristic and sometimes moody vibe. Tracks like “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys illustrate this blend of electronic and atmospheric elements, giving listeners a fresh and engaging experience.

Catchy Melodies and Hooks

Catchy melodies and hooks were essential to the success of 80s pop music. Artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna mastered the art of creating songs that fans couldn’t get out of their heads. The melodies were simple yet powerful, making them easy to sing along to.

One of the defining features of 80s pop songs was their memorable choruses. Tracks like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics had strong, repetitive hooks that made them stand out. These hooks often became the centerpiece of the songs, ensuring listeners would remember them.

Basic song structures with straightforward verses and choruses helped make these songs accessible. This approach made it easier for people to connect with the music instantly, which was key to their widespread appeal.

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