The 80s was a decade of decadence, excessiveness, and extravagance. You could be rocking a spandex mullet or leather jacket with devil fingers to Guns ‘N Roses. It still goes down as one of the most diverse eras in recent cultural history due to our great music like New Order, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, and Springsteen. Have a look! For now, we have whittled it down into 10 playlist-worthy songs that defined this era.
‘Paid In Full’
The rap-master behind this iconic track is Rakim, and he’s a legend for a good reason. This song by Soul II and Enigma serves as the foundation of the 80s musical era. It was Rakim’s humble yet brilliant classical lyric style that made “Paid in Full” legendary.
‘Bizarre Love Triangle’
With a voice like honey, Hooky’s bass was delicate and pounding in “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Bernard Sumner sang deceptively boyish with his vocal line. The track is pure pop goodness straight from the fab four. Like the yang to yin of Blue Monday, this song tripped out love for a strange relationship.
‘In Between Days’
One of the most notable tracks on The Cure’s second album was Robert Smith’s beautiful slice of pounding acoustic pop. It had a surging, multi-tracked work that continued the band’s streak over brilliant singles with ‘The Love Cats’ and earlier ‘Close To Me’.
The Buffalo Stance was an infectious dance track that came along at the height of hip-hop and pop experimentation with thrilling hybrids. It featured a punk survivor, Cherry, who delivered her raps effortlessly in control. Listeners would feel totally immersed in her world (based on the very real Buffalo crew). But what really made this song stand out is its empowering chorus: “We’re here to have some fun/don’t get mad because we will win.”
‘When Doves Cry’
‘When Doves Cry’ was the lead single from Purple Rain and one of Prince’s most iconic songs. Released with little bass to be more “graceful,” this song is a glimpse into what made him so great. Prince depicted his ability to combine complex music theory with emotion. This 80s song also cemented Prince’s place as a pop icon for generations who would come after him. They got something that everyone could enjoy without being totally different groups listening at once.
Check out: 10 Best Albums From The 80s.
The gloomy vocals and haunting production of ‘Ghost Town’ reflect the anger brewing in Britain at a politically febrile moment. The song discusses unemployment, social unrest, and racial tension common to many multi-cultural societies. More than just a pop song, it is an emotional commentary on reality for people living with cultural differences.
‘Once In A Lifetime’
The song “Once in a Lifetime” was created by Talking Heads and Brian Eno. These were two postmodernists who put their heads together to create this most sophisticated of tracks. The context had an existential crisis looming from David Byrne melting away into suburbia (and the world around him). This song needed something more than just his clever lyrics that would both get people talking and keep them singing along. Without question, it was a larger-than-life gospel chorus for everyone to join in.
‘How Soon Is Now’
As a singer-songwriter, Morrissey was often pained by the human condition and unable to find solace in love. That’s what makes ‘How Soon Is Now?’ so special. It manages to combine his worst thoughts with song writing genius from guitarist Johnny Marr into one of their most creative 80s songs yet. This song was one that would go on to become an indie gold.
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
The lyrics of this song are a grim foreshadowing of Ian Curtis’ suicide and the impending doom he would soon bring upon himself. This is evident in lines such as “There’s so much pressure for me, I’m living at high speed” (line 2). It represents his stress that may have led him to take his own life just one month after NME published their original review on Dec 18th, 1979. The chorus reflects both sides- there’s an intense amount of sadness when it sings ‘I can’t keep going…’ Yet, it then bounces back with defiance in the line ‘You’re not alone!’
The New Order era of the band kept consistency in tone but was far removed from Joy Division’s bleak nihilism. They utilized an effective and direct approach to both ventures that united Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris for two brilliant projects. Subsequently, “Blue Monday” remains one of their 80s best-selling songs yet it is still unbeatable even after 30 years.
Which of these top 80s songs are on your playlist? Tell us in the comments section below.