The 80s were a time of excess with big hair, big shoulder pads, and big recording artists. However, not all 80s songs were as over-the-top as the rest. In fact, many are some of the most beloved tracks that we still love to dance, party, and listen to today. There was a lot of noise this decade but plenty of artists managed to break through it!
We wanted to compile the ultimate list of 80s songs so we looked to Billboard charts from the decade as well as commentary from music critics to bring you the very best of the best. Some of these songs were hugely successful while others were not immediately appreciated and have only now become roundly favored. Let’s take a look back at one of the wildest decades to discover the music that fueled it! Make it to the end of this list and you will find a full playlist with every song!
These 80s Songs Cut Through The Noise & Stood the Test of Time!
Best Rock 80s Songs
Hard rock, heavy metal, and glam rock were all part of the rock scene in the 1980s. Here were some of the biggest rock hits of the decade.
- “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
- “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey
- “Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
- “With or Without You” – U2
- “Summer of ’69” – Bryan Adams
More of the Best Rock 80s Songs
Electronic dance music began to inform some rock music in new and exciting ways in the 1980s. We saw the introduction of synthesizers and other machines into rock mainstream during the decade.
- “Livin’ On a Prayer” – Bon Jovi
- “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” – Hall & Oates
- “Edge of Seventeen” – Stevie Knicks
- “The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis & the News
- “Come on Eileen” – Dexys Midnight Runners
Alternative 80s Songs
Punk, post-punk, and alternative were also emerging at the time finding new ways to make music sound both beautiful and chaotic. A lot of outfits in the UK pushed the boundaries of what rock could be. For instance, the Cocteau Twins pioneered what would be called Dream Pop, paving the way for bands like Mazzy Star and Beach House.
- “Just Like Honey” – The Jesus and Mary Chain
- “Lorelei” – Cocteau Twins
- “Blister in the Sun” – Violent Femmes
- “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division
- “The Killing Moon” – Echo & the Bunnymen
More Alternative 80s Songs
The goth movement began to fill a void left by punk music’s slow decline later on in the decade. There was plenty of great punk music in the 80s but we saw tastes shift to less bombastic and more moody bands.
- “How Soon Is Now?” – The Smiths
- “I Ran” – A Flock of Seagulls
- “Where Eagles Dare” – Misfits
- “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” – The Cramps
- “Whip It” – Devo
Best Pop 80s Songs
Pop 80s songs were huge! Chances are you know every word to many of the songs below. The recording industry saw monumental shifts in how they could create, market, and profit off of pop stars in the decade.
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham!
- “All Night Long” – Lionel Richie
- “Love Shack” – The B-52’s
- “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears
- “Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club
More of the Best Pop 80s Songs
Were the 80s the golden era of pop music? We think you could make a case for it. With heavy rock, R&B, and electronica all becoming mainstream, there were plenty of crossover hits that were roundly loved.
- “How Will I Know” – Whitney Houston
- “West End Girls” – Pet Shop Boys
- “Love Is a Battlefield” – Pat Benatar
- “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
- “You Spin Me Round” – Dead or Alive
Experimental 80s Songs
The post-punk landscape of music in the 1980s was vast and experimental bands gave rise to industrial, goth, synth, and other new ways of expressing themselves.
- “Your Silent Face” – New Order
- “Waiting Room” – Fugazi
- “Pop Life” – Prince
- “New Mind” – Swans
- “Surrender” – Suicide
Funky 80s Songs
Funk was alive and well in the 1980s with some of the best dance songs ever recorded in the decade. Chaka Khan, Kool & the Gang, and George Clinton dominated the decade and solidified their reputations as superstar talents.
- “Get Down On It” – Kool & the Gang
- “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” – Carl Carlton
- “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” – Indeep
- “Ain’t No Body” – Rufus & Chaka Khan
- “Atomic Dog” – George Clinton
Best Rap & Hip Hop 80s Songs
The Golden Age of Rap began in the middle part of the 1980s with some of the most iconic Rap and Hip Hop songs dropping in these years. From the clever rhymes of Run-D.M.C. to the feminist “Ladies First” from Queen Latifah there was so much to love.
- “The Message” – Grandmaster Flash
- “Just a Friend” – Biz Markie
- “Ladies First” – Queen Latifah & Monie Love
- “Push It” – Salt-N-Pepa
- “Sucker M.C.’s” – Run-D.M.C.
Best Country 80s Songs
The sound of country music really changed in the 80s from traditional to catchier songs that had pop-crossover potential. It was, without a doubt, Dolly Parton’s decade!
- “Islands In the Stream” – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
- “On the Road Again” – Willie Nelson
- “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” – George Strait
- “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – George Jones
- “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” – Barbara Mandrell
Soulful 80s Songs
Some of the most timeless and effective Soul and R&B 80s songs were released in the decade. With huge hits from Diana Ross, Anita Baker, and Marvin Gaye, there was no shortage of moving music.
- “Are You That Someone” – Millie Jackson
- “I Need Your Lovin'” – Teena Marie
- “The Sweetest Taboo” – Sade
- “Upside Down” – Diana Ross
- “Square Biz” – Teena Marie
More Soulful 80s Songs
Prince is a hard artist to pin down as so much of his genius music defies label. While one of his songs landed in the experimental category for this list, we find another, “When Doves Cry” at home among these other soulful sensations.
- “Sexual Healing” – Marvin Gaye
- “Sweet Love” – Anita Baker
- “When Doves Cry” – Prince
- “After the Love Has Gone” – Earth Wind & Fire
- “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” – Bobby Womack
Power Ballad 80s Songs
Love them or hate them, there were plenty of power ballad 80s songs, in fact, it might be the decade of the power ballad. Apparently, it was the only way to express heartache in the 1980s? We’re not huge fans but it would be a disservice not to recount some of these emotional tunes.
- “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison
- “Heaven” – Bryan Adams
- “Harden My Heart” – Quarterflash
- “I Found Someone” – Cher
- “The Flame” – Cheap Trick
Iconic 80s Songs
Every one of the 80s songs on this list could be considered “iconic” but we wanted to pull some mega-hits that still captivate us decades later for your consideration. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and so many others dominated the charts throughout the decade.
- “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
- “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
- “Like a Virgin” – Madonna
- “Beat It” – Michael Jackson
- “Like a Prayer” – Madonna
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More Iconic 80s Songs
Try not to dance when “Conga,” “Let’s Dance,” “It’s Tricky,” or “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” comes on at the party. It’s nearly impossible to stay still when one of these infectious 80s songs plays!
- “Conga” – Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound
- “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie
- “What’s Love Got to do With It” – Tina Turner
- “It’s Tricky” – Run-D.M.C.
- “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” – Whitney Houston
Check Out The Full Playlist of the Best 80s Songs Below!
There you go! Did you rediscover some 80s songs that really took you back? It’s easy to see that the 1980s were one of the best decades for pop music and beyond. Many artists paved the way for the sounds and performances we expect from performers today.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 These 80s Songs Cut Through The Noise & Stood the Test of Time!
- 1.1 Best Rock 80s Songs
- 1.2 More of the Best Rock 80s Songs
- 1.3 Alternative 80s Songs
- 1.4 More Alternative 80s Songs
- 1.5 Best Pop 80s Songs
- 1.6 More of the Best Pop 80s Songs
- 1.7 Experimental 80s Songs
- 1.8 Funky 80s Songs
- 1.9 Best Rap & Hip Hop 80s Songs
- 1.10 Best Country 80s Songs
- 1.11 Soulful 80s Songs
- 1.12 More Soulful 80s Songs
- 1.13 Power Ballad 80s Songs
- 1.14 Iconic 80s Songs
- 1.15 More Iconic 80s Songs
- 2 Check Out The Full Playlist of the Best 80s Songs Below!
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