Top 10 Best 80s Summer Hits: Ultimate Playlist

The 1980s were a golden era for music, especially during the summer when some of the best hits were released. This article will explore a collection of the most iconic summer songs from that decade, perfect for any nostalgic music lover.

A colorful beach scene with palm trees, waves, and a vibrant sunset. Music notes float in the air, evoking a sense of nostalgia and carefree summer vibes

Whether you’re planning a beach day or just looking to relive some classic tunes, these songs capture the spirit and energy of 80s summers. By the end of this list, you’ll have a playlist that’s guaranteed to bring back great memories and add a bit of 80s flair to your summer festivities.

1. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

  • Song: Billie Jean
  • Album: Thriller
  • Release Date: January 2, 1983

Why we included this song on the list

“Billie Jean” is one of the most iconic songs of the 80s. Its catchy beat and unforgettable bassline make it a perfect summer hit. The song showcases Michael Jackson’s incredible talent and remains a popular track even today.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • “Billie Jean” was recorded in one take.
  • It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks.
  • The song’s music video was a major milestone, featuring Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk for the first time.

2. “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams

  • Song name: Summer of ’69
  • Album: Reckless
  • Release date: June 17, 1985

Why we included this song on the list

“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams is a quintessential summer anthem from the 1980s. Its upbeat tempo and nostalgic lyrics capture the essence of youthful freedom and carefree summer days. The song resonates with many due to its timeless theme of reminiscing about the past.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

Bryan Adams wrote “Summer of ’69” with his long-time collaborator Jim Vallance. Despite its title, the song is not literally about the summer of 1969. Instead, it reflects a blend of nostalgia and youthful experiences. The track reached significant popularity and remains a staple in summer playlists.

3. “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles

  • Song Name: Walk Like an Egyptian
  • Album: Different Light
  • Release Date: September 1986

Why we included this song on the list

“Walk Like an Egyptian” was a major hit in the ’80s and a staple of summer playlists. It stood out for its catchy beat and unique theme. Released in 1986, it quickly rose to the top of the charts and became The Bangles’ first number-one single. Its light, energetic feel makes it perfect for summertime.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was written by Liam Sternberg and came to him during a ferry ride on the English Channel. It features a mix of traditional rock instruments and unusual percussion that set it apart from other hits of the time. The line about cops in donut shops added a humorous touch, though not all listeners were amused.

4. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by 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 80s summer hit. Its upbeat tempo and catchy chorus make it a perfect anthem for summer fun and freedom. This song resonated with a generation and remains a popular choice for summer playlists today.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1984.
  • It became one of Cyndi Lauper’s signature songs and helped cement her status as a pop icon.
  • The music video features Cyndi’s quirky style and was a favorite on MTV, contributing to the channel’s golden era.

5. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!

  • Song name: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
  • Album: Make It Big
  • Release date: May 1984

Why we included this song on the list

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! is an iconic 80s anthem filled with upbeat energy. The catchy tune and vibrant lyrics make it a perfect summer song that can lift anyone’s spirits. Its lively beats and fun rhythm make it ideal for beach parties and summer road trips.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

George Michael wrote “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” after seeing a note left by his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley. The note read, “Wake me up up, before you go go.” This playful error inspired the song’s catchy chorus.

The official music video features the band in colorful outfits and neon lights, capturing the essence of 80s fashion.

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” reached number one on the charts in multiple countries, including the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

6. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

  • Song name: “Eye of the Tiger”
  • Album name: Eye of the Tiger
  • Release date: May 1982

Why we included this song on the list:

“Eye of the Tiger” is one of the most iconic songs of the 80s. Its strong beat and powerful lyrics made it a hit. It became even more famous as the theme song for the movie Rocky III. This song captures the energy and determination of the summer spirit, making it a perfect addition to any 80s playlist.

Interesting or fun facts about the song:

The song was written by guitarist Frankie Sullivan and keyboardist Jim Peterik. It was created specifically for Rocky III after Sylvester Stallone could not get the rights to use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” “Eye of the Tiger” quickly climbed the charts, topping both the US and UK singles charts in July 1982. The catchy riff and motivational lyrics have kept it relevant for decades.

7. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

  • Song Title: “Livin’ on a Prayer”
  • Album: Slippery When Wet
  • Release Date: 1986

Why we included this song on the list

“Livin’ on a Prayer” is an iconic 80s anthem that captures the spirit of hard work and resilience. Its catchy chorus and relatable lyrics have made it a staple in summer playlists. The song’s energetic vibe and powerful message resonate with listeners, making it a perfect addition to any 80s summer hits playlist.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • The song was co-written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child.
  • It became the band’s second chart-topping single and remains one of their most popular tracks.
  • Jon Bon Jovi has mentioned that the band’s 1988 single “Born to Be My Baby” is considered a sequel to “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Stereogum).

8. “Take on Me” by a-ha

  • Song Name: “Take on Me”
  • Album: Hunting High and Low
  • Release Date: October 19, 1984

Why we included this song on the list

“Take on Me” stands out as an iconic 80s summer hit due to its catchy melody and innovative music video. The song’s upbeat tempo and unique synth-pop sound make it a favorite for summer playlists. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, proving its wide-reaching appeal.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The music video for “Take on Me” was groundbreaking, using a combination of pencil-sketch animation and live-action. This style, called rotoscoping, helped the video win six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. The song’s high-pitched vocals and memorable keyboard riff are instantly recognizable.

9. “Like a Virgin” by Madonna

  • 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” is a defining track from the 80s that helped launch Madonna into superstardom. The song’s catchy melody and daring lyrics made it an instant hit and a must-have on any 80s summer playlist. It represents the bold and playful spirit of the decade.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

  • “Like a Virgin” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for six weeks.
  • The song was produced by Nile Rodgers, a famous musician and record producer.
  • The music video, shot in Venice, Italy, features iconic imagery including a lion and a gondola ride.

10. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

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

Why we included this song on the list

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” is a perfect summer hit from the 80s. Its catchy guitar riff and powerful vocals make it a timeless favorite. It topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and remains one of the most recognizable rock songs from that decade.

Interesting or fun facts about the song

The song was released in August 1988 in the United States and quickly climbed to number one. It features a distinctive guitar riff by Slash that started as a joke during practice sessions. The lyrics were inspired by Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend Erin Everly.

Influence of 80s Summer Hits on Modern Music

80s summer hits have left a lasting mark on today’s music. Artists have sampled and covered these iconic tracks, while contemporary genres continue to reflect the sound and energy of the 80s.

Sampling and Cover Versions

Many modern artists sample and cover 80s summer hits. For example, The Weeknd has incorporated elements from 80s pop songs into his music, capturing the decade’s vibe. Songs like “Blinding Lights” showcase the influence with pulsing synths and upbeat rhythms reminiscent of the 80s.

Cover versions also bring these classics to new audiences. Miley Cyrus covered “Heart of Glass” by Blondie, blending fresh vocals with the original’s energy. These adaptations show how 80s summer hits continue to inspire and shape modern music.

Reviving these songs keeps their legacy alive. By reintroducing these tracks, contemporary artists connect older generations with younger fans, ensuring the timeless appeal of 80s summer hits endures.

Impact on Contemporary Genres

The influence of 80s summer hits extends beyond simple covers. Genres like synthwave and retrowave owe much to the music of this era, incorporating the same electronic sounds and upbeat tempos. Artists like Daft Punk and Bruno Mars have nodded to this era in their work, bringing a modern twist to classic 80s styles.

Even mainstream pop reflects the 80s. Taylor Swift’s “1989” album channels the essence of 80s pop with catchy melodies and production techniques. Other artists blend rock, pop, and electronic elements, echoing the diverse sounds of 80s summer anthems.

The 80s also paved the way for high-energy, feel-good music trends today. The lively beats and infectious hooks found in current dance and pop music can trace their roots back to the summer hits of the 1980s.

Cultural Significance of 80s Summer Hits

The summer hits of the 1980s were more than just catchy tunes. They played crucial roles in shaping pop culture, influencing movies, TV shows, and even fashion and lifestyle trends.

Movies and TV Shows

Many summer hits from the 1980s were prominently featured in popular movies and TV shows. For example, “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins became iconic after being the theme song for the movie “Footloose” in 1984. These songs often set the tone for scenes and became synonymous with the films themselves.

Television shows of the era, like “Miami Vice” and “Family Ties,” also used chart-topping summer hits in their episodes. This helped cement songs like Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” in popular culture. Using popular music not only attracted viewers but also gave the scenes emotional weight.

Music videos from these songs were frequently played on MTV, a new channel that revolutionized how people consumed music. Artists such as Madonna and Michael Jackson became household names, and their summer hits became etched in the collective memory through their elaborate and visually stunning videos.

Fashion and Lifestyle Trends

The influence of 80s summer hits extended into fashion and lifestyle. The vibrant and eclectic fashion seen in music videos, like Madonna’s lace gloves and layered jewelry in “Like a Virgin,” inspired everyday clothing choices. Fans emulated their favorite stars, spurring trends like neon colors, big hair, and shoulder pads.

In addition, the carefree and rebellious spirit of summer hit songs like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper mirrored the era’s fashion ethos. This song not only became an anthem but also influenced the casual, fun-loving attitude of the decade.

Concerts and music festivals became significant social events. People often dressed in styles inspired by their favorite musicians, which further spread these trends. The combination of music and fashion spotlighted the broader cultural shifts happening during the 1980s.

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