The 80s were a time of substantial political changes, increased globalization, and technological development. Yet, the most significant change was in music, as evident from the best songs of that time. It went from an era dominated by disco to one that has been termed “the new wave revolution.”
Musical singles represent an essential part of this transformation, songs that have the power to influence their environment for better or worse. These are not just any singles, though. They’re the ones with staying power, those without which the industry is incomplete. The following list highlights the 10 best songs from the 80s the impact of which cannot be denied.
The Police – “Every Breath You Take”
Sting’s 1983 Synchronicity single “Every Breath You Take” is a timeless pop/rock perfection masterpiece. The song features not only one of the most iconic guitar riffs in music history. Moreover, it comprises an innovative and personal lyrical theme exploring obsession, heartbreak, and romantic doom. Sting has managed to create something highly original without compromising his ability to write about universal themes. Every Breath You Take is one of the finest moments of The Police anthology on the onsets of the 80s musical era.
Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
With the song “Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor gave us some arena rock to get behind. With lyrics like “I’ve been keeping my eye on you, I started out just watching now baby it’s turning into something more,” this song takes a power ballad and turns it up to 11 with its fist-pumping drums. Although sometimes cheesy at times, what really makes this song stand out is how catchy the melody is. It’s as if your ears got punched in by those powerful chords right from the start.
Foreigner – “I Want to Know What Love Is”
Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is’ ‘ is one of the most iconic love songs in history. It’s a perfect example of ’80s power ballads. Guitarist Mick Jones wrote the song, also responsible for penning the classic Foreigner tunes like “Hot Blooded.” It features an unbelievably smooth guitar line that transitions seamlessly into another sweet melody. It’s when Lou Gramm starts singing his heart out with unmatched emotion. It would be hard for any band to top this track from their final album together. However, it does finish off flawlessly thanks to its gospel chorus at the end.
Van Helsen – “Jump”
This song has many notable features, one of which is the synthesizer riff that fuels it. The other two are David Lee Roth’s exuberant leap and Eddie Van Halen’s infectious grin on this hit single from their album 1984-85: Volume I. The “Jump” track was a high point for the band in terms of popularity with listeners and critical success. Van Helen was rewarded with an MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video (1984) nomination.
U2 – “With or Without You”
U2’s track to stardom has been a fascinating one, with explorations of various music styles and artistic approaches. “With or Without You” has a catchy chorus that resonates long after it’s finished playing. It has a hauntingly beautiful sound combined with its signature pop style, making this track both timeless and iconic to listeners everywhere. This bass line also happens to be one of the easiest on record, so anyone can play along if they have any hint at all about what music really means. Hauntingly beautiful but timeless in its own right, this song features some great bass lines for those who love classic tunes.
Check out: 10 Best Albums From The 80s.
Guns N’ Roses – “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
From the guitar’s first notes to the final chord, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” stands out in Guns N Roses’s prolific career. The lyrics express an almost parental love for his partner while maintaining rock and roll’s edge-a-feat. Axl Rose never lets up from beginning to end with vocals ranging from calm verses where he sings about giving her everything she needs. No one seems more invested than Axl himself throughout this track. It becomes clear through listening how seamlessly the band can transition between these two vocal styles. The song’s extensive appeal took it to a mainstream music pinnacle which was entirely unexpected for many.
Whitney Houston – “So Emotional”
It’s undeniable that Whitney Houston had a knack for picking out the most amazing songs with infectious beats. The ’80s were an era of pluckiness, hence the startle when she released “So Emotional.” The singer was indisputably fine, precise in singing. She may have been at her finest when picking the perfect material for this song to be sung over. Even the rock fans found themselves subject to this infectious song.
Bonnie Tyler – “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
During the 80s, Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler famously paired with songwriter Jim Steinman of Meatloaf fame. The two artists’ musical talents matched as the dark intensity and over-the-top arrangements produced one of their finest songs, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” At concerts, fans would always hear that Bonnie’s gritty but sensitive voice perfectly conveyed heartache and longing for lost love across this great ballad.
Lionel Richie & Diana Ross – “Endless Love”
Talk about ballads, the duet between Lionel Richie and Diana Ross on “Endless Love” marks its position from our top 10 best 80s songs. It talks about the era when female singers were being taken more seriously than ever before by male artists. Compared to men, the audience valued their vocals as much or even more. “Endless Love” was particularly successful because it featured an excellent vocalist (Ross) trading lines with someone else equally talented (Richie).
J. Geils Band – “Centerfold”
Peter Wolf’s voice and Mick Jagger-esque swagger made “Centerfold” a highlight for the 80s best songs. However, it may be something else that really resonated with listeners. It was easy to hear some of their past influences in “The Purple People Eater,” which were more prevalent in earlier songs like “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo.” This song is an excellent example of why you can’t help but dance along with Peter in his “na na na” refrain, which sounds just like The Smurfs theme song.
Our list of the 10 best songs from the 80s ends here. Now, it’s time for you to comment below, telling us what your favorites are.