‘80S MUSIC IS THE BEST
As an avid lover of ‘80s music, I’ve always wanted to compile THE definitive “Best Of ‘80s Pop Music” list. The ‘80s boasts a wide variety of popular songs and genres. Since the ‘80s, music has become more and more compartmentalized, and popular music now has a lot less variety. Furthermore, music is now categorized into genres to such an extreme degree that people are rarely exposed to different styles of music anymore.
Songs from the ‘80s are still very popular today. To compile this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S, what I primarily wanted to measure was staying power: Which songs have sustained in popularity since the ‘80s?
PLAY ALL OF THE BEST ‘80S SONGS!
Music from the ‘80s is much more than just the popular songs! For a comprehensive list of all the best songs from the ‘80s, check us out on Spotify. (Spotify is free!) Our list of THE BEST ‘80S SONGS FROM EVERY MUSIC GENRE features over 1,800 songs by more than 800 artists——over 130 hours of music from every genre: metal, country, hip-hop, rap, jazz, new age, R&B, dance, punk, reggae, blues, folk, gospel, and all of your favorite rock and pop songs. Everything!
From Iron Maiden to Eric B. & Rakim, from The Smiths to Dolly Parton, from Luther Vandross to 10,000 Maniacs, from Mötley Crüe to New Order, from Run-D.M.C. to Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, from Pink Floyd to Tracy Chapman, from Enya to The Stone Roses...
And of course, all of the prominent ‘80s pop artists: Madonna, Prince, Journey, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Def Leppard, Whitney Houston, Duran Duran, Richard Marx, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, Bryan Adams, Queen, George Michael, and Michael Jackson——all of the best artists from this decade of amazing music!
If you want to listen to a fun and complete playlist of all the great music from the ‘80s, THIS IS YOUR LIST!
HOW WERE THESE SONGS RANKED?
First, I had to set parameters, or there would have been well over 10,000 songs from the ‘80s to narrow to 500. For a song to be eligible for inclusion on this list, it must have entered the United States Billboard Top 40 between January 5, 1980 and December 30, 1989. (For the January 5, 1980 chart, all songs that were already on the chart and ascending were eligible.)
THE U.S. BILLBOARD TOP 40
The Top 40 is part of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which is the music industry standard by which a song’s popularity is measured in the United States. The Hot 100 has been published weekly by Billboard magazine since 1958. In the ‘80s, the Hot 100 was determined by radio airplay and retail sales data. Today the Hot 100 is determined using both retail and digital sales data, radio airplay data, and streaming activity data provided by online music sources.
20 CRITERIA FOR 2,198 SONGS
There are 2,210 songs that charted on the Billboard Top 40 in the ‘80s. Twelve of those songs are not eligible to be included on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S because even though they charted on the Billboard Top 40 in the ‘80s, these songs were actually hits in the ‘60s or ‘70s, and are therefore not ‘80s songs.
Eight of those 12 songs are ineligible because they were descending the first chart of 1980 after reaching their peak popularity in 1979. These are songs from the ‘70s that were decreasing in popularity on the January 5, 1980 chart:
Babe — Styx
Half the Way — Crystal Gayle
Heartache Tonight — Eagles
Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer
Pop Muzik — M
Still — The Commodores
Take the Long Way Home — Supertramp
You’re Only Lonely — J.D. Souther
(Click on a song title to go to a video on YouTube, if one is available.)
Four of those 12 ineligible songs entered the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in the ‘80s, but because they had been Top 40 hits in the ‘60s, they were deemed ineligible for inclusion on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S. These songs from the ‘60s are the exact same recordings that had been hits previously, not remakes or re-recordings:
Do You Love Me — The Contours
(a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit in 1962 and again in 1988)
Stand By Me — Ben E. King
(a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit in 1961 and again in 1986)
Twist and Shout — The Beatles
(a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit in 1964 and again in 1986)
What a Wonderful World — Louis Armstrong
(a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit in 1967 and again in 1988)
Excluding these 12 ineligible songs leaves 2,198 eligible songs for this list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S.
The 2,198 songs were scored and ranked based on the following 20 categories, using United States data gathered through April 30, 2019:
Awards and Nominations
Music Critics’ Lists
Music Industry “Best Of” Lists
Rankings On ‘80s Music Charts
Rankings On Music Charts Since the ‘80s
Uses and References In ‘80s Media
Uses and References In Media Since the ‘80s
Social Media Tracking of Song References
Web Monitoring of Song References
Video Hosting Website Views
Attested Influence On Other Artists
Music Video Plays
Backlash (This category represents negative points for songs that decreased in popularity.)
Each song was scored based on these criteria, and that is how they were ranked, which is why you can be sure that this is the definitive list of ‘80s pop music.
ARTISTS WHO HAVE THE MOST SONGS ON THE LIST OF 500
1. MICHAEL JACKSON* – 14 songs
Billie Jean (#6), Beat It (#31), Thriller (#55), Man In the Mirror (#81), Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (#167), The Way You Make Me Feel (#171), Rock With You (#214), P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (#223), Human Nature (#315), Bad (#322), Smooth Criminal (#409), Dirty Diana (#438), and his duet Paul McCartney, Say Say Say (#478); plus Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me (#402), on which he provides vocals
2. MADONNA – 14 songs
Like a Prayer (#12), Like a Virgin (#28), Borderline (#46), Holiday (#60), Crazy For You (#122), Material Girl (#158), La Isla Bonita (#233), Papa Don’t Preach (#235), Lucky Star (#248), Open Your Heart (#257), Live To Tell (#276), Express Yourself (#280), Cherish (#453), and Dress You Up (#483)
3. PRINCE – 11 songs
When Doves Cry (#2), Little Red Corvette (#27), Purple Rain (#30), Kiss (#40), 1999 (#62), Let’s Go Crazy (#66), Raspberry Beret (#212), Sign O’ the Times (#287), U Got the Look (#321), and I Would Die 4 U (#330); plus Stevie Nicks’ Stand Back, on which he plays synthesizers; but not including songs by other artists that Prince wrote: The Bangles’ Manic Monday (#128), Chaka Khan’s I Feel for You (#153), and Sheila E.’s The Glamorous Life (#390)
4. PHIL COLLINS** – 9 songs
In the Air Tonight (#48), Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now) (#189), Another Day In Paradise (#331), and Sussudio (#383); plus his duet with Philip Bailey, Easy Lover (#183); two songs with Genesis: Invisible Touch (#169) and That’s All (#199); and songs on which he provides backing vocals and drums: Howard Jones’ No One Is To Blame (#320) and Frida’s I Know There’s Something Going On (#430)
5. GEORGE MICHAEL** – 8 songs
Careless Whisper (#29), Faith (#51), Father Figure (#132), One More Try (#188), and I Want Your Sex (#498); plus two songs with Wham!: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (#42) and Everything She Wants (#165); and his duet with Aretha Franklin, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (#282)
6. LIONEL RICHIE* – 7 songs
7. RICHARD MARX – 7 songs
Right Here Waiting (#109) and Hold On To the Nights (#311); plus three songs on which he provides backing vocals: John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) (#133), and two of Lionel Richie’s songs: All Night Long (All Night) (#68) and You Are (#377); plus two of Whitney Houston’s songs on which he provides backing vocals and guitar: Saving All My Love For You (#120) and Greatest Love Of All (#138)
8. STEVE PERRY* – 6 songs
9. WHITNEY HOUSTON – 6 songs
10. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN* – 6 songs
11. DURAN DURAN** – 6 songs
12. TOTO – 6 songs
Africa (#34) and Rosanna (#388); plus songs on which most members of the band perform: Michael Jackson’s Beat It (#31), John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) (#133), Michael Jackson’s Human Nature (#315), and Michael McDonald’s I Keep Forgettin’ (#374)
13. DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES* – 6 songs
14. STEVIE WONDER* – 6 songs
I Just Called To Say I Love You (#100) and Part-Time Lover (#300); plus his duet with Paul McCartney, Ebony and Ivory (#267); and Dionne and Friends’ That’s What Friends Are For (#178); and songs on which he plays harmonica: Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You (#153) and Elton John’s I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues (#247)
15. ELTON JOHN – 6 songs
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues (#247), Candle In the Wind (Live 1986) (#356), Sad Songs (Say So Much) (#396), Little Jeannie (#408), and I’m Still Standing (#417); plus Dionne and Friends’ That’s What Friends Are For) (#178) [Note: This version of Candle In the Wind was recorded live in Australia in 1986, and entered the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1987. The original version, which was not released as a single, is on Elton John’s 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Elton John and his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin originally wrote this song about American singer/actress Marilyn Monroe (whose real name was Norma Jeane Mortenson). In 1997, they rewrote the lyrics and released a new version of Candle In the Wind as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, a member of the British royal family known for her charitable work, who died in 1997. Elton John performed the song at Princess Diana’s funeral (click here). The 1997 version is one of the best-selling singles of all time.]
16. JOURNEY – 5 songs
17. BON JOVI – 5 songs
18. CYNDI LAUPER* – 5 songs
19. U2** – 5 songs
20. AEROSMITH – 5 songs
Dude (Looks Like a Lady) (#237), Janie’s Got a Gun (#306), Love In an Elevator (#395), and Angel (#412); plus Walk This Way (#45) with Run-D.M.C. [Note: Aerosmith bandmembers Steven Tyler and Joe Perry perform with Run-D.M.C on this remake of Aerosmith’s original Walk This Way, which was a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit in 1977.]
21. STEVIE NICKS – 5 songs
22. BELINDA CARLISLE – 5 songs
23. PETER CETERA – 5 songs
Glory Of Love (#251) and his duet with Amy Grant, The Next Time I Fall (#342); plus three songs with Chicago: Hard To Say I’m Sorry / Get Away (#241), You’re the Inspiration (#354), and Hard Habit To Break (#451)
24. DEF LEPPARD – 4 songs
25. THE POLICE – 4 songs
26. GUNS N’ ROSES – 4 songs
27. TEARS FOR FEARS – 4 songs
28. JOHN (COUGAR) MELLENCAMP – 4 songs
29. BRYAN ADAMS – 4 songs
30. PAT BENATAR – 4 songs
31. TOM PETTY – 4 songs
Free Fallin’ (#86), I Won’t Back Down (#334), and Don’t Come Around Here No More (#209) with the Heartbreakers; plus Roy Orbison’s You Got It (#445), on which he provides backing vocals and acoustic guitar
32. THE POINTER SISTERS* – 4 songs
I’m So Excited (#131), Slow Hand (#397), Jump (For My Love), (#415), and Automatic (#486) [Note: I’m So Excited was a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit twice in the ‘80s. The original version entered the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1982. A slightly remixed 1984 version was the bigger hit.]
33. MICHAEL MCDONALD – 4 songs
I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You're Near) (#374); plus his duet with Patti LaBelle, On My Own (#268); and two songs on which he provides backing vocals: Christopher Cross’ Ride Like the Wind) (#164), and James Ingram and Patti Austin’s Baby, Come To Me (#217)
34. HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS* – 4 songs
35. BILLY JOEL* – 4 songs
36. CHICAGO – 4 songs
Hard To Say I’m Sorry / Get Away (#241), Look Away (#275), You’re the Inspiration (#354), and Hard Habit To Break (#451) [Note: Hard to Say I’m Sorry was released as a radio edit single that fades before the Get Away portion of the song starts. On the album Chicago 16, Hard to Say I’m Sorry segues into Get Away as one song. The full song was also featured in the 1982 film Summer Lovers, but the film’s soundtrack includes the radio edit, without the Get Away portion.]
37. JANET JACKSON – 4 songs
38. QUEEN – 3 songs
39. CULTURE CLUB** – 3 songs
40. WHAM! – 3 songs
41. VAN HALEN – 3 songs
42. DAVID BOWIE – 3 songs
43. EURYTHMICS – 3 songs
44. BLONDIE – 3 songs
45. REO SPEEDWAGON – 3 songs
46. KENNY LOGGINS* – 3 songs
47. THE BANGLES – 3 songs
48. TINA TURNER* – 3 songs
49. INXS – 3 songs
Need You Tonight / Mediate (#87), Never Tear Us Apart (#260), and What You Need (#386) [Note: Need You Tonight segues into Mediate on the album Kick, with no break between the songs. Need You Tonight was released separately as a single. The video features both songs, just like the album; the video is titled Need You Tonight / Mediate.]
50. HEART – 3 songs
51. DIANA ROSS* – 3 songs
52. POISON – 3 songs
53. THE GO-GO’S – 3 songs
54. DON HENLEY – 3 songs
55. THE CARS – 3 songs
56. CHAKA KHAN – 3 songs
57. THE PRETENDERS – 3 songs
58. CHRISTOPHER CROSS – 3 songs
59. BILLY IDOL – 3 songs
Eyes Without a Face (#166), White Wedding (#252), and Mony Mony (#266) [Note: White Wedding was originally released as a single in 1982, but it did not enter the U.S. Billboard Top 40. In 1983, it was re-released and became a Top 40 hit. It was again re-released in 1985, but failed to enter the Top 40.] [Note: Billy Idol’s original version of Mony Mony was released in 1981, but it did not enter the U.S. Billboard Top 40. In 1987, this live version of the song became a U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit.]
60. PHILIP BAILEY– 3 songs
61. THOMAS DOLBY – 3 songs
She Blinded Me With Science (#187); plus Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place On Earth (#84), on which he performs keyboards; and Foreigner’s Waiting For a Girl Like You (#240), on which he performs synthesizers
62. AIR SUPPLY – 3 songs
63. GLENN FREY – 3 songs
64. FLEETWOOD MAC – 3 songs
* These artists were a part of USA For Africa’s We Are the World (#112) which is not included in these song totals.
** These artists were a part of Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? (#236), which is not included in these song totals.
The ranking of the artists with the same number of songs is based on which artist has the highest-ranking song on the list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S.
ARTISTS WHO HAVE TWO SONGS ON THE LIST
Dire Straits: Money For Nothing (#150) and Tina Turner’s Private Dancer (#448)
The Alan Parsons Project: Sirius / Eye In the Sky (#348)
On this list of pop music from the ‘80s, not only do we have the artists you expect, such as Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna, but we also have artists you might not expect (listed below), who also had popular U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits in the ‘80s. You’ll find this kind of variety in popular music only in the ‘80s.
Guns N’ Roses
The Sugarhill Gang
The Rolling Stones
The Beach Boys
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
LL Cool J
De La Soul
Tom Tom Club
Earth, Wind & Fire
Steve Miller Band
Crosby, Stills, & Nash
FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK!
On our Facebook page 80spopanimals.com, songs from the list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S are posted periodically with very detailed descriptions, fun facts, and links to the original ‘80s videos. Occasionally, other songs from the ‘80s are posted, as well as ‘80s music trivia.
CRUCIALLY ICONIC ‘80S SONGS
Fight the Power by Public Enemy
This song by American hip-hop group Public Enemy was released in 1989 at the request of American film director Spike Lee, to serve at the musical theme for his film Do the Right Thing. This song has become an enduring anthem about opposition to abusive authority, especially as it pertains to the civil rights of African-Americans, and the United States’ ongoing struggle with systemic racism.
Fight the Power is Public Enemy’s best-known song, and is highly regarded as one of the greatest songs of all-time. Public Enemy (now called Public Enemy Radio) is known for socially-conscious, harsh critiques that reflect the frustrations of the African-American community with the government, the media, and other power structures.
I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow
This song by English new wave group Bow Wow Wow is a 1982 remake of a 1965 song by American band The Strangeloves (click here). Both versions are well-known for using the Bo Diddley beat, popularized by American musician Bo Diddley, who influenced the integration of the blues with rock and roll music in the ‘60s. The Bo Diddley beat is a syncopated musical rhythm that combines elements of Afro-Cuban and Latin music into a dynamic rock beat, making the music sound more energetic.
Bow Wow Wow’s version of I Want Candy was the first and only single from their debut EP The Last of the Mohicans (a reference to their Mohawk hairstyles). The video was played in heavy rotation on American television channel MTV, which launched in 1981, but the song did not enter the U.S. Billboard Top 40, peaking at #62. The song was a hit in the U.K., peaking at #9, and was also a hit in Belgium, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.
Bow Wow Wow formed in 1980, comprising former members of English post-punk band Adam and the Ants and 13-year-old Annabella Lwin on vocals. The band became popular for a danceable new wave sound, slightly risqué lyrics, and the unique banshee squeals of the teenage vocalist. In 2012, the band members split from Annabella Lwin, found a new singer, and continued to perform as Bow Wow Wow, all of which was done without the consent of Annabella Lwin. Since then, she has performed as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.
THE TOP 50 CRUCIALLY ICONIC ‘80S SONGS
Fight the Power and I Want Candy are not on the list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S because they did not enter the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and are therefore ineligible for inclusion on that list (explained in the HOW WERE THESE SONGS RANKED? section). However, because these songs have become enduring ‘80s classics, they are included on separate list: THE TOP 50 CRUCIALLY ICONIC ‘80S SONGS THAT WERE NOT POPULAR (IN THE UNITED STATES) IN THE ‘80S. The songs on this list are some of the most beloved ‘80s songs, despite the fact that they were not “popular” in the 1980s.
SONGS EXCLUDED FROM THE LIST
DUE TO EXCLUSION FROM THE BILLBOARD TOP 40
Unfortunately, due to the parameters set (explained in the HOW WERE THESE SONGS RANKED? section) many beloved ‘80s songs were not eligible for inclusion on this list. These songs have become some of the most popular and iconic ‘80s songs. They are not on the list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S because they did not enter the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and they are therefore ineligible.
Click on a song title to go to a video on YouTube (if one is available).
Fight the Power — Public Enemy
Into the Groove — Madonna
I Want Candy — Bow Wow Wow
How Soon Is Now? — The Smiths
I Melt With You — Modern English
Straight Outta Compton — N.W.A.
Home Sweet Home — Mötley Crüe
Sunday Bloody Sunday — U2
Crazy Train — Ozzy Osbourne
Comfortably Numb — Pink Floyd
Situation — Yazoo
Tempted — Squeeze
Closer To Fine — Indigo Girls
Blister In the Sun — Violent Femmes
Sharp Dressed Man — ZZ Top
New Year’s Day — U2
What I Like About You — The Romantics
London Calling — The Clash
Once In a Lifetime — Talking Heads
Dancing With Myself — Billy Idol
Hot For Teacher — Van Halen
Boys Don’t Cry — The Cure
Love Will Tear Us Apart — Joy Division
Tom Sawyer — Rush
Rockit — Herbie Hancock
And She Was — Talking Heads
Should I Stay Or Should I Go — The Clash
She Sells Sanctuary — The Cult
Trouble Me — 10,000 Maniacs
Jane Says — Jane’s Addiction
Meeting In the Ladies Room — Klymaxx
Handle With Care — The Traveling Wilburys
Peek-a-Boo — Siouxsie and the Banshees
Mr. Brownstone — Guns N’ Roses
Through the Fire — Chaka Khan
I Am What I Am — Gloria Gaynor
Rockin’ In the Free World — Neil Young
Girls On Film — Duran Duran
Last Christmas — Wham!
Learning To Fly — Pink Floyd
Goodbye To You — Scandal
Apache — The Sugarhill Gang
Burning Up — Madonna
I Want To Break Free — Queen
No One Like You - Scorpions
SONG TOTALS BY YEAR
Here is the breakdown of the number of songs from each year that are on the list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S:
1984 – 67 songs (13.4%)
1983 – 60 songs (12.0%)
1985 – 56 songs (11.2%)
1982 – 52 songs (10.4%)
1986 – 52 songs (10.4%)
1987 – 50 songs (10.0%)
1980 – 43 songs (8.6%)
1981 – 41 songs (8.2%)
1988 – 40 songs (8.0%)
1989 - 39 songs (7.8%)
THE 200 SONGS THAT ALMOST MADE THE LIST
Here are the 200 songs (ranked from 501 to 700) that almost made the list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S. Click on a song title to go to a video on YouTube (if one is available). Click the image above to play the Top 500 plus these 200 songs on Spotify!
503. She’s Like the Wind – Patrick Swayze
featuring Wendy Fraser
504. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car –
505. Wrapped Around Your Finger - The Police
506. You Give Good Love – Whitney Houston
507. Train In Vain (Stand By Me) - The Clash
508. Burnin’ For You – Blue Öyster Cult
509. Love Come Down - Evelyn Champagne King
510. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You -
Gloria Estafen & Miami Sound Machine
511. Talking In Your Sleep – The Romantics
512. Shining Star – The Manhattans
513. Too Hot – Kool & the Gang
514. Hysteria – Def Leppard
515. Amanda – Boston
516. Lost In Your Eyes – Debbie Gibson
517. I Hate Myself For Loving You –
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
518. Never Knew Love Like This Before –
519. Don’t Do Me Like That –
523. The Look – Roxette
524. Say It Isn’t So – Daryl Hall and John Oates
525. Ladies’ Night – Kool & the Gang
526. Wild Wild Life - Talking Heads
527. Holding Out For a Hero – Bonnie Tyler
528. I’ve Got a Rock N’ Roll Heart - Eric Clapton
529. Sara – Starship
530. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight - Genesis
531. Solid - Ashford and Simpson
532. Woman – John Lennon
533. He’s So Shy – The Pointer Sisters
534. Joanna – Kool & the Gang
535. Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones
536. Is There Something I Should Know? –
537. Let’s Go All the Way - Sly Fox
538. Ain’t Even Done With the Night – John Cougar
539. Who’s That Girl – Madonna
540. Cruisin’ – Smokey Robinson
541. On the Radio – Donna Summer
542. While You See a Chance – Steve Winwood
543. What About Love? – Heart
544. Land Of Confusion – Genesis
545. Walk Of Life – Dire Straits
546. She’s a Bad Mama Jama – Carl Carlton
547. Only the Lonely – The Motels
548. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves –
551. Tell Her About It – Billy Joel
552. Oh Sheila – Ready For the World
553. In Too Deep – Genesis
554. Sign Your Name – Terence Trent D’Arby
555. She’s a Beauty – The Tubes
557. Tomorrow People – Ziggy Marley &
The Melody Makers
558. Devil Inside – INXS
559. Giving You the Best That I Got – Anita Baker
560. Everyday I Write the Book – Elvis Costello
561. R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A. –
John Cougar Mellencamp
562. Don’t Know Much –
Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville
563. Rhythm Nation – Janet Jackson
564. Piano In the Dark – Brenda Russell
with Joe Esposito
566. That Girl – Stevie Wonder
567. Give Me the Night – George Benson
568. Heaven – Warrant
569. Runaway – Bon Jovi
570. Do That To Me One More Time –
Captain & Tennille
571. Armageddon It – Def Leppard
572. Woman In Love – Barbra Streisand
573. Poison – Alice Cooper
574. Together Forever – Rick Astley
575. Party All the Time – Eddie Murphy
576. Hands To Heaven – Breathe
577. I Love You – Climax Blues Band
578. Me So Horny – 2 Live Crew
579. Hold On Loosely – .38 Special
580. Notorious – Duran Duran
581. Tuff Enuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds
582. The Warrior – Scandal
The Greg Kihn Band
584. Hazy Shade Of Winter – The Bangles
585. Nikita – Elton John
586. Games People Play – The Alan Parsons Project
587. Turn Up the Radio – Autograph
588. Didn’t We Almost Have It All –
589. Tunnel Of Love – Bruce Springsteen
590. Forever Young – Rod Stewart
591. Wild Wild West – The Escape Club
592. Dancing On the Ceiling – Lionel Richie
593. Too Late For Goodbyes – Julian Lennon
594. Tarzan Boy – Baltimora
595. Tonight I Celebrate My Love –
Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack
596. Rock Steady – The Whispers
597. Come Go With Me – Exposé
598. Never Surrender – Corey Hart
599. I’ll Always Love You – Taylor Dayne
600. Don’t Mean Nothing – Richard Marx
601. Take Me Home – Phil Collins
602. Burning Heart – Survivor
603. You Are My Lady – Freddie Jackson
604. On the Road Again – Willie Nelson
605. Animal – Def Leppard
606. All Those Years Ago – George Harrison
607. New Sensation – INXS
608. Keep On Movin’ – Soul II Soul
609. Miss Me Blind – Culture Club
610. All I Need Is a Miracle –
Mike + the Mechanics
611. Shattered Dreams – Johnny Hates Jazz
613. On the Wings Of Love – Jeffrey Osbourne
614. Seventeen – Winger
615. Forever Your Girl – Paula Abdul
616. I Love a Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbit
617. Oh No – The Commodores
619. In a Big Country – Big Country
620. Cuts Like a Knife – Bryan Adams
621. Take Your Time (Do It Right) –
622. Simply Irresistible – Robert Palmer
623. Crush On You – The Jets
624. Steal Away – Robie Dupree
625. Will You Still Love Me? – Chicago
626. Control – Janet Jackson
627. Master Blaster (Jammin’) –
629. 18 and Life – Skid Row
630. Born To Be My Baby – Bon Jovi
631. True Blue – Madonna
632. So Alive – Love and Rockets
633. Heart and Soul – Huey Lewis and the News
634. Seasons Change – Exposé
635. When I See You Smile – Bad English
636. Always On My Mind – Pet Shop Boys
637. Shadows Of the Night – Pat Benatar
638. Guilty – Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb
639. Under the Milky Way – The Church
640. All I Need – Jack Wagner
641. Hip To Be Square –
Huey Lewis and the News
642. Somewhere Out There –
Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram
643. Perfect Way – Scritti Politti
644. Foolin’ – Def Leppard
645. Lost In Emotion – Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
646. Two Hearts – Phil Collins
647. I Miss You – Klymaxx
648. Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac
Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson
650. Mercedes Boy – Pebbles
651. Suddenly Last Summer – The Motels
652. Downtown Train – Rod Stewart
653. I Wanna Be Your Lover – Prince
654. In the Mood – Robert Plant
655. When Smokey Sings – ABC
658. Only Time Will Tell – Asia
659. One More Night – Phil Collins
660. Anything For You –
Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
661. Kiss Me Deadly – Lita Ford
662. Tender Love – Force MDs
663. Promises, Promises – Naked Eyes
664. Is This Love – Whitesnake
665. Turn Your Love Around – George Benson
666. Rocket – Def Leppard
667. Where Do Broken Hearts Go –
668. Hold Me – Fleetwood Mac
669. Who’s Crying Now – Journey
670. High On You – Survivor
671. Silent Running – Mike + the Mechanics
672. Don’t Wanna Lose You – Gloria Estefan
673. Double Dutch Bus – Frankie Smith
674. Coward Of the County – Kenny Rogers
675. Gimme All Your Lovin’ – ZZ Top
676. You Got Lucky –
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
677. Big Love – Fleetwood Mac
678. Please Don’t Go –
KC and the Sunshine Band
679. Two Of Hearts – Stacey Q
the Tough Get Going – Billy Ocean
681. When I’m With You – Sheriff
682. Wasted On the Way –
Crosby, Stills, and Nash
683. On the Dark Side –
John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
684. I Can’t Stand It – Eric Clapton
685. Supersonic – J.J. Fad
686. Lonely Ol’ Night – John Cougar Mellencamp
687. Never Gonna Let You Go – Sergio Mendes
688. Some Like It Hot – The Power Station
689. Be Near Me – ABC
690. Wait – White Lion
691. Dreams – Van Halen
692. Juke Box Hero – Foreigner
693. Satisfied – Richard Marx
694. The Search Is Over – Survivor
The Legend Of Billie Jean) – Pat Benatar
696. Foolish Beat – Debbie Gibson
697. Good Thing – Fine Young Cannibals
698. Somebody – Bryan Adams
699. I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar
700. Head Over Heels – The Go-Go’s
PLAY THE SONGS & VIDEOS!
Below is an alphabetical listing of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S.
Click on the title of a song to watch a video on YouTube!
(Some videos are not available due to copyright issues.)
In most cases, you will be directed to the original music video from the ‘80s. On our Facebook page, when a song is posted, a very detailed description about the song and artist with other interesting information is included, and then added to this list below. New facts and information will continue being added to the songs on this list!
Africa by Toto - Song #34
Right now, this song is playing on a never-ending loop somewhere in Africa. In 2019, a sound installation powered by solar batteries was set up by Namibian artist Max Siedentopf, in an undisclosed location in the Namib Desert (the world’s oldest desert, roughly 55 to 80 million years old), to play the song for eternity. Africa is a timeless pop staple that has surged in popularity in the past few years. If this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S measured popularity only since 2017, this song would probably be #1! Africa is the subject of many internet memes, entire Reddit pages, and relentless millennial pop culture references. It is one of the most streamed and digitally downloaded songs of the past few years. According to Billboard magazine, “Internet culture has kind of taken it and really shot it into the stratosphere...people started bonding over their love of this song.” Many recent pop culture moments (detailed below) have spiked Africa’s popularity to an astonishing degree.
When asked why the song is experiencing such a wild resurgence, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather said, “I haven’t a f*cking clue and you can quote me on that, but it’s got a great groove. I mean it’s a happy thing. The message of the song doesn’t have anything to do with, ‘Oo baby I love you,’ so there’s no depression there. It’s not political, so there’s no depression there. It’s a fantasy song. It’s like a Disneyland song or whatever. We just went in there and had fun and made this record... People latch onto it. It’s kitschy enough and the lyrics are weird enough that people will remember it.”
Africa was recorded by American rock band Toto, and is featured on the band’s fourth studio album Toto IV. Released as the album’s third single, Africa hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1983, displacing Australian rock band Men at Work’s Down Under (song #47 on this list), another ode to a continent. Africa was a major hit in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, South Africa, and Switzerland.
Toto formed in 1977. The band broke up in 2008, but then got back together in 2010, and disbanded again in 2019. Toto’s musical style combines elements of pop, jazz, soul, R&B, and rock. The original six members were reputable session musicians, hired for recording sessions and live performances for a variety of artists, which is how they met and decided to form their own band. Members of Toto worked with American jazz rock band Steely Dan (whose Hey Nineteen is song #298 on this list), American soft rock duo Seals and Crofts, American pop duo Sonny and Cher (Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time is song #263 on this list), and American blue-eyed soul singer Boz Scaggs. Four of the Toto guys are featured on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, including two songs on this list: Human Nature, song #315 [see the description of that song for details] and Beat It, song #31. Toto band members also perform on English singer John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion), song #133; American rock band Chicago’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry / Get Away, song #241; and American blue-eyed soul musician Michael McDonald’s I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near), song #374.
The six original Toto members were David Paich (keyboards and vocals); brothers Jeff Porcaro (drums) and Steve Porcaro (keyboards and vocals); Steve Lukather (guitars and vocals); David Hungate (bass guitar); and Bobby Kimball (lead vocals). Mike Porcaro (bass guitar) joined his brothers’ band in 1982. Six additional members were added over the years, as members left and re-joined, and a few of them died. Why the band is named “Toto” depends on which members of the band you ask. In the early ‘80s, some of them said that the band was named after Toto the dog from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. But Jeff Porcaro apparently wrote the word “Toto” on the band’s first demo tapes, in order to distinguish them from other bands who worked in the same studio. And some band members say that “Toto” came from the Latin phrase in toto, which means “all-encompassing” or “in total,” with the significance being that the band members brought together many different styles of music from their extensive experience with other musicians.
Africa was written by David Paich (who performs lead vocals on the song) and Jeff Porcaro, neither of whom had ever been to Africa when they wrote the song. According to Jeff Porcaro, the song is about “a white boy...trying to write a song on Africa, but since he’s never been there, he can only tell what he’s seen on TV or remembers in the past.” David Paich said, “At the beginning of the ‘80s I watched a late-night documentary on TV about all the terrible death and suffering of the people in Africa. It both moved and appalled me and the pictures just wouldn’t leave my head. I tried to imagine how I’d feel about if I [were] there and what I’d do.” Because he’d never been to the continent himself, he based the song’s landscape descriptions on an article in venerable American magazine National Geographic: “I was a big reader of National Geographic. I’ve just always kind of been fascinated with Africa. I just kind of romanticized this story about a social worker that was over there, that falls in love and...is having kind of a paradox, trying to tear himself away from Africa to actually have a life.” David Paich attended Catholic school as a child, where several of his teachers did missionary work in Africa. Their missionary work became the inspiration behind the famous line, “I bless the rains down in Africa.”
But some of the Toto guys were not fans of the song originally. Steve Lukather said, “I thought it was the worst song on the album. It didn’t fit, the lyrics made no sense, and I swore that if it was a hit record, I’d run naked down Hollywood Boulevard! That’s how good I am at picking singles! I mean, I love the song now but, to be honest with you, at the time I thought it was really the oddball song on the album. It almost didn’t make the record, and it was a #1 worldwide single, and still gets played everywhere today. No matter where I go in the world, people know that song. It’s bizarre!” Steve Porcaro described the song as a dumb experiment with goofy lyrics that were just temporary placeholders, particularly the line about the Serengeti: “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, located in Tanzania. The Serengeti is an ecosystem, a geographical region in Africa that spans both Tanzania and Kenya. The Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro are both located in the northern part of Tanzania, but you can’t actually see Kilimanjaro from the Serengeti, which is about 200 miles (320 km) away.
Toto has released 14 studio albums, seven live albums, one soundtrack album (for the 1984 film Dune, written and directed by David Lynch), 19 compilation albums, and 65 singles. Only 10 of those singles charted on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and all except one of those 10 are from the ‘80s. Africa is featured on Toto IV, the band’s fourth (and most commercially and critically successful) album, released in 1982. Rosanna (which is song #388 on this list), was the lead single from Toto IV, and peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. The second single was Make Believe, which peaked at #30. Africa was the third single, and the final single released from Toto IV was I Won’t Hold You Back, which peaked at #10 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. Toto’s other hit songs in the United States are 1978’s Hold the Line, 1980’s 99, 1984’s Stranger In Town, 1986’s I’ll Be Over You, 1986’s Without Your Love, and 1988’s Pamela.
Toto IV was the final album with the original Toto lineup, and it received seven Grammy nominations in 1983, winning five of them, including Album of the Year. The other nominees for Album of the Year were American rock musician John (Cougar) Mellencamp’s American Fool, which features two songs on this list: Hurts So Good at #101, and Jack and Diane at #24; American pop musician Billy Joel’s The Nylon Curtain; American jazz/rock musician Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly; and English pop musician Paul McCartney’s Tug of War, which features his duet with American R&B/pop musician Stevie Wonder, Ebony and Ivory, song #267 on this list. Toto also won 1983’s Record of the Year (which is awarded to the artist, producer, and others who were involved in the actual recording of the song), but not for Africa——The winner of Record of the Year was Rosanna. The other nominees were English jazz/pop musician Joe Jackson’s Steppin’ Out, song #455 on this list; Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s Ebony and Ivory; American country singer/guitarist Willie Nelson’s Always on My Mind, song #450; and Greek composer Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire, song #314. Rosanna was also nominated for Song of the Year (which is awarded to the songwriters), but lost to Willie Nelson’s Always on My Mind. The other nominees were Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s Ebony and Ivory, American rock band Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, song #13 on this list; and Donald Fagen’s I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World), which did not make this list, but came close. Toto was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1979, but lost to American disco group A Taste of Honey.
Africa has been covered by many artists. The most well-known cover is by American alternative rock band Weezer in 2018, after a teenager’s viral Twitter campaign (@WeezerAfrica) implored the band to do the cover for nearly six months with tweets like, “It’s about time you bless the rains down in Africa,” and the hashtag #WeezerCoverAfrica. Before covering Africa, Weezer covered Toto’s Rosanna (click here) as a way of trolling fans clamoring for Africa. Ultimately, the band gave in to fans’ demand, and Weezer’s version of Africa (click here) peaked at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Weezer’s video for Africa is a mirror-image parody of their 1994 debut single Undone – The Sweater Song. The parody features American musical comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic as Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo, with his band members replacing Weezer. “Weird Al” is known for his lampoons of hit songs. On January 1, 2019, Weezer performed Africa live on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (click here). In response to Weezer’s cover of Africa, Toto did a cover of Weezer’s 2001 song Hash Pipe (click here for Toto’s version).
Other artists who have covered Africa include experimental collaboration Zo! and Tigallo (featuring American rapper Phonte) in 2008 (click here); American musician Scott Bradlee’s jazz-oriented collective Postmodern Jukebox in 2011 (click here); American Christian rock band Relient K in 2011 (click here); English comedy lounge band The Lounge Kittens in 2016 (click here); American musical comedy duo Ninja Sex Party in 2017 (click here); American soul musician CeeLo Green in 2018 (click here); and jazz vocalist Robyn Adele Anderson, who did a bluegrass version in 2019 (click here).
Africa has been sampled and interpolated in many songs, including 1992’s Steady Me by German pop singer Sandra; 1999’s New World by American rapper Nas; 1999’s Tempo Critico by Italian rap group Sacre Scuole; 2002’s Heart of Man by American rapper Xzibit; 2003’s Murder Reigns by American rapper Ja Rule; 2007’s Anything by American pop singer JoJo; 2008’s Africa by Lebanese-Canadian pop singer Karl Wolf featuring Culture; 2009’s The 12 Days of Christmas by American a cappella group Straight No Chaser (which became one of the very first viral videos and made the group famous); 2010’s Huey Newton by American rapper Wiz Khalifa featuring Curren$y; 2010’s vaporwave-genre song A1 by experimental electronic musician Chuck Person, aka Oneohtrix Point Never; 2011’s Fight for You by American pop singer Jason Derulo; 2011’s How I Feel by American rapper Lil B; 2012’s Keep Ballin by American rapper Red Café; 2013’s Reloaded by American rapper Rich Homie Quan; 2016’s Africa by Swedish production duo Bacall & Malo featuring Nigerian singer Prince Osito; 2017’s Be Right Back! by American rapper Ezri; 2018’s Ocean To Ocean by American rapper Pitbull featuring Rhea; and 2019’s Selfish by Belgian DJ and record producer Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike with Kosovo-Albanian singer Era Istrefi.
Africa has been featured in quite a few television shows, including the very first episode of Stranger Things; Scrubs (click here); Family Guy (click here); Community (with American actress Betty White – click here); and South Park (in two episodes of its 20th season – click here and here). In 2013, American pop singer Justin Timberlake and American talk show host Jimmy Fallon performed it in a sketch on The Tonight Show (click here). In 2013, Africa was used by CBS during coverage of the funeral of South African president Nelson Mandela, which even the Toto guys thought was inappropriate: David Paich stated publicly that CBS should have used actual South African music instead.
Ain’t Nobody by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan - Song #372
Michael Jackson almost recorded this song for the Thriller album! Producer Quincy Jones wanted Ain’t Nobody, and he almost got it. Rufus keyboardist David Wolinski wrote the song, and the other members of the group didn’t like it, but they recorded it anyway, to be included as a bonus track on the band’s 1983 live album Stompin’ at the Savoy, which was to be the group’s final album because the band members had decided to split up. David Wolinski wanted the song to be released as the album’s first single, and threatened to pull the song from the album and give it to Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson if the band did not agree. Executives at Warner Bros. Records and the band ultimately agreed, and Ain’t Nobody was released in November 1983; it reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart and #22 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. The song was also included on the soundtrack for the 1984 breakdancing film Breakin’, and is featured in a sequence in the film (click here).
Rufus was an American funk band that formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1970. Rufus had 10 U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits, including 1974’s Tell Me Something Good (written by Stevie Wonder) and 1975’s Sweet Thing. Chaka Khan joined as lead vocalist in 1972, and quickly became the focus of the band’s image. Chaka Khan became so popular that Rufus became “Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan,” one of the most influential funk bands of the 1970s, with four consecutive #1 albums on the U.S. Billboard R&B album chart, and five #1 songs on the R&B singles chart. Chaka Khan signed a solo contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1978, but she remained part of the band until 1982. Chaka Khan’s real name is Yvette Marie Stevens. At the age of 14, she joined the Black Panthers, one of the most influential political organization of the 1960s. Known as the Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan has won 10 Grammy Awards, including two as a member of Rufus——both in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Tell Me Something Good and Ain’t Nobody.
Ain’t Nobody has been covered several times, and some of these versions became dance hits around the world. Examples include British singer Jaki Graham’s 1994 version (click here); Jamaican singer/songwriter Diana King’s 1995 version (click here); a 1996 interpolation of the song (click here) for the soundtrack of the film Beavis and Butt–Head Do America by American rapper LL Cool J (whose I Need Love is song #371 on this list); Richard X vs. Liberty X’s 2003 song Being Nobody, which combines the lyrics of Ain’t Nobody with the music of Being Boiled by The Human League (whose Human and Don’t You Want Me are songs #404 at #39, on this list, respectively); and the most successful cover of the song, German DJ Felix Jaehn’s 2015 worldwide hit Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better) featuring vocals by English singer Jasmine Thompson.
In 2018, Ain’t Nobody was adopted by fans of Nottingham Forest Football Club (a professional football club based in Nottinghamshire, England), and the song has previously been used by supporters of Arsenal Football Club, Wales national football team, and West Ham United Football Club. Chaka Khan has two more songs on this list of the TOP 500 SONGS OF THE 1980S: I Feel For You (written by Prince and featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica), is song #153, and she sings with Steve Winwood on Higher Love, song #130.
Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds - Song #494
All Night Long by Lionel Richie - Song #68
All Out Of Love by Air Supply - Song #253
All Through the Night by Cyndi Lauper - Song #181
Alone by Heart - Song #121
Always On My Mind by Willie Nelson- Song #450
Always Something There To Remind Me by Naked Eyes - Song #92
America by Neil Diamond - Song #461
Angel by Aerosmith - Song #412
Angel Of the Morning by Juice Newton – Song #370
Another Brick In the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd - Song #25
Another Day In Paradise by Phil Collins - Song #331
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen - Song #17
This song is Queen’s biggest hit in the United States, even though its funky disco sound was a major departure in style for this British hard rock band, and actually led to a dwindling of the band’s popularity in the U.S., as a part of the backlash toward disco in that genre’s dying days. Another One Bites the Dust hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1980, and was even a surprise crossover hit, peaking at #2 on two other U.S. Billboard charts: the Hot R&B/Soul Singles chart and the Hot Dance/Disco Club Play chart. Fans of the song who didn’t know the band were convinced that the singer was a black man. The song was also a hit in Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Austria, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Another One Bites the Dust is the highest ranking of three Queen songs on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S, and all three songs are in the Top 100. The other songs are Crazy Little Thing Called Love at #70, and Under Pressure with David Bowie at #44.
Queen is a British rock band that formed in London in 1970. The band’s music has always been difficult to classify. Queen’s earliest work is oriented toward hard rock and heavy metal, but the band’s sound evolved dramatically over the years, incorporating elements of symphonic rock, glam rock, operatic pop, arena rock, dance/disco, and rockabilly. The band is known for complex multi-layered vocal harmonies and elaborate, orchestral production values. The original lineup was Brian May (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals), Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, keyboards, piano, guitar), and John Deacon (bass, guitar, keyboards). Before forming Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor were in the band Smile, which formed in 1968 and disbanded in 1970. They met Freddie Mercury, who suggested forming a new band with the name Queen. John Deacon join the band in 1971. Freddie Mercury and Brian May wrote the bulk of the band’s material, but all four contributed to the songwriting. In 1991, at the age of 45, Freddie Mercury died of bronchopneumonia, a complication of HIV/AIDS. John Deacon retired from music in 1997. Brian May and Roger Taylor have continued to tour as Queen, with English-Canadian singer Paul Rodgers from 2004 to 2009, and American singer Adam Lambert from 2011 to present.
Another One Bites the Dust was written and composed by John Deacon. He plays most of the instruments: bass, lead and rhythm guitars, reversed piano, and extra percussion. “I listened to a lot of soul music when I was in school, and I’ve always been interested in that sort of music,” he told Bassist & Bass Techniques in 1996. “I’d been wanting to do a track like Another One Bites the Dust for a while, but originally all I had was the line and the bass riff. Gradually I filled it in and the band added ideas. I could hear it as a song for dancing but had no idea it would become as big as it did. The song got picked up off our album and some of the black radio stations in the U.S. started playing it...” Brian May contributed some of the sound effects, running his guitar through an Eventide Harmonizer processor. Surprisingly, there are no synthesizers in the song. All of the effects were created with piano, electric guitars, and drums. Sound effects were run through the harmonizer for extra processing. Subsequent tape playback of some of the sounds in reverse and at various speeds added to the song’s unique sound. And of course, Freddie Mercury’s vocals are over-the-top and irresistible. About Freddie Mercury’s vocals, Brian May said, “A fantastic bit of work from Freddie really... Fred just went in there and hammered and hammered until his throat bled... He really was inspired by it and took it to a new height, I think.”
According to Brian May, “John Deacon, being totally in his own world, came up with this thing, which was nothing like what we were doing. We were going for the big drum sound: you know, quite pompous in our usual way. And Deakey says, ‘No, I want this to be totally different: It’s going to be a very tight drum sound.’ It was originally done to a drum loop. This was before the days of drum machines. Roger did a loop, kind of under protest, because he didn’t like the sound of the drums recorded that way. And then Deakey put this groove down. Immediately Freddie became violently enthusiastic and said, ‘This is big! This is important! I’m going to spend a lot of time on this.’ It was the beginning of something quite big for us, because it was the first time that one of our records crossed over to the black community. We had no control over that; it just happened. Suddenly we were forced to put out this single because so many stations in New York were playing it. It changed that album from being a million-seller to being a three-million seller in a matter of three weeks or so.”
John Deacon’s bassline in Another One Bites the Dust was inspired by R&B group Chic’s #1 1979 hit song Good Times. In an interview with the New Musical Express, Chic bass player Bernard Edwards said, “Well, that Queen record came about because that bass player spent some time hanging out with us at our studio. But that’s okay. What isn’t okay is that the press started saying that we had ripped them off! Can you believe that? Good Times came out more than a year before, but it was inconceivable to these people that black musicians could possibly be innovative like that. It was just these dumb disco guys ripping off this rock ‘n roll song.” In 2014, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers told The Guardian, “John Deacon was with me in the studio when I wrote the damn thing.” Good Times was one of the biggest hits of the summer of 1979. The Sugar Hill Gang’s landmark hip-hop song Rapper’s Delight (song #195 on this list) uses the bassline of Good Times (and Chic members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards received songwriting credits on the song). Interestingly, when Another One Bites the Dust hit #1 in the U.S., it replaced Diana Ross’ Upside Down (song #160 on this list), which was written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.
Queen was reluctant to release Another One Bites the Dust as a single. It was the King of Pop himself Michael Jackson who convinced them that it would be a hit. After attending a Queen concert in Los Angeles, Michael Jackson came backstage. “I remember Michael and some of his brothers in the dressing room going on and on about Another One Bites the Dust. They kept saying we must release it as a single,” Roger Taylor told the magazine Q in 2009. Freddie Mercury said, “Credit for the song should go to Michael Jackson in many ways. He was a fan and friend of ours and kept telling me, ‘Freddie, you need a song the cats can dance to.’ John [Deacon] introduced this riff to us during rehearsal that we all immediately thought of disco, which was very popular at the time. We worked it out and once it was ready, played it for Michael. I knew we had a hit as he bobbed his head up and down. ‘That’s it, that’s the gravy. Release it and it will top the charts,’ he said. So we did and it did.”
Another One Bites the Dust is notable for other reasons. In the early ‘80s, it was one of the main songs that Christian evangelists alleged contained secret subliminal messages through a technique called backmasking. They claimed that the chorus, when played in reverse, is heard as, “It’s fun to smoke marijuana.” Listen for yourself here. Another One Bites the Dust was used to train medical professionals to provide the correct number of chest compressions per minute while performing CPR. The song was chosen because the bassline has close to 110 beats per minute, and 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute is the recommendation of the British Heart Foundation.
During an interview on In the Studio with Redbeard, Brian May said, “I always thought there was an instant where we were the biggest thing in the world. Another One Bites the Dust sort of clinched it because it suddenly crossed over to the black R&B market. Suddenly instead of a million albums, we were [selling] three or four million albums. And at that time, that was about as much as anyone had ever done...” Another One Bites the Dust won an American Music Award for Favorite Rock Single of 1981, beating nominees Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) (song #25 on this list), and Diana Ross’s Upside Down (song #160). Another One Bites the Dust was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, but lost to Bob Seger’s Against the Wind (song #436). The other nominees were Blondie’s Call Me (song #53), The Pretenders’ Brass in Pocket (song #162), and the Pink Floyd album The Wall, which features Another Brick in the Wall (Part II).
Another One Bites the Dust has been sampled and interpolated by many musicians, primarily comedic artists and rappers. The song is sampled in American musician Jam Master Jay’s 1980 song We Are People Too, American hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s 1981 song The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel, American hip-hop and R&B recording artist MC Shan’s 1987 song Down By Law, French musician Mr. Oizo’s 2008 song Positif, and American rapper Flying Lotus’ 2014 song Dead Man’s Tetris. Another One Bites the Dust is interpolated in American comedy musician “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1981 parody Another One Rides the Bus, American rapper B-Legit’s 1995 song Gotta Buy Your Dope From Us, American rappers JAY-Z and Sauce Money’s 1997 song Face Off, Italian comedy rock band Elio e le Storie Tese’s 1999 song Bacio, American singer Gwen Stefani’s huge 2005 hit Hollaback Girl, German rapper Nate57’s 2017 song Bei Uns, and American rapper U-God’s 2018 song Bit da Dust. Another One Bites the Dust was covered by German Eurodance group Captain Jack for the Queen tribute compilation album Queen Dance Traxx in 1996 (click here), Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean in 1998 (click here), Argentine music duo Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas in 2001 (click here), the cast of American TV show Glee in 2010 (click here), and underground group Hidden Citizens in 2016 (click here).
Another One Bites the Dust was used in a preliminary cut of the 1982 film Rocky III, in a pivotal scene in which Rocky is training for a fight, but because the producers could not get permission to use the song in the film, it was ultimately replaced with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (song #13 on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S. Another One Bites the Dust is featured in the following movies: 1981’s Modern Romance, 1989’s Sea of Love, 1998’s Small Soldiers, 1999’s 200 Cigarettes, 2000’s Circus, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, 2010’s Iron Man 2, 2011’s Skateland, 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!!, and of course, 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Another One Bites the Dust has been featured on many TV shows as well, including WKRP in Cincinnati, Fame, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Everybody Hates Chris, American Dad!, My Name is Earl, Cold Case, Family Guy, Lucifer, American Crime Story, and numerous sporting events and reality competition shows.
Queen is one of the world’s best-selling bands, with 72 singles, 15 studio albums, 11 live albums, two soundtrack albums, 16 compilation albums, and 19 box sets. Thirteen of Queen’s songs entered the U.S. Billboard Top 40 (although two pairs of those songs were “double side” singles, explained below). Queen’s first hit song in the U.K. was Seven Seas of Rhye, which peaked at #10 on the U.K. Singles Chart in 1974, but the band’s first hit in the U.S. and worldwide was 1974’s Killer Queen, which peaked at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40.
Queen’s biggest hit is 1975’s nearly six-minute rock epic Bohemian Rhapsody, which only got as high as #9 in the U.S., but 16 years later, it re-entered the Billboard chart and peaked at #2 in 1992, after its use in the film Wayne’s World (watch the film clip here). In 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody actually entered the U.S. Billboard Top 40 a third time and peaked at #33, due to the release of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (American actor Rami Malek won an Oscar for portraying Freddie Mercury in the film). For its original release, the song Bohemian Rhapsody stayed at #1 in the U.K. for nine weeks from November 1975 to January 1976, and then hit #1 again for another five weeks after Freddie Mercury died in 1991. Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most popular and best-selling songs of all time, and is widely considered one of the greatest rock songs, which is why it’s odd that originally, it only got as high at #9 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. (Incidentally, Journey’s 1981 song Don’t Stop Believin’, which is #1 on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 80S, also only got as high as #9. How did two of the most popular songs of all time barely enter the Top 10 in the U.S. when they were originally released?)
Queen’s next U.S. hits were 1976’s You’re My Best Friend and 1976’s Somebody To Love, both of which peaked at #16 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. In 1977, We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You together peaked at #3. We Are the Champions was the intended hit song, with We Will Rock You as the B-side of the single. During the time of vinyl records, songs were released as singles, issued as seven-inch discs that played at 45 revolutions per minute on a record player (they were called “45 rpm singles”). The singles were double-sided, but usually, the A-side was the intended side to be played on the radio. In this case, We Are the Champions was the A-side, and We Will Rock You was the B-side. But radio stations played both sides of the single (often one after the other) and both songs became huge hits, which led to them sometimes being referred to as a double A-side single. In 1978, Queen released Fat Bottomed Girls / Bicycle Race as a double A-side single, because both sides were designated A-sides, with no B-side; which meant that both songs were prospective hits and that neither song would be promoted over the other. Fat Bottomed Girls / Bicycle Race peaked at #24 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40.
Queen’s next hit was the band’s first #1 song in the U.S., Crazy Little Thing Called Love (song # 70 on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S), which was not like anything Queen had recorded before, a catchy, ‘50s rockabilly-flavored song in the vein of Elvis Presley. Crazy Little Thing Called Love was the first single released from the band’s eighth studio album The Game, which is Queen’s best-selling album in the U.S. and the band’s only album to reach #1 in the U.S. In October 1980, Queen hit #1 in the U.S. a second and final time with Another One Bites the Dust, also from The Game. After the huge success of the Another One Bites the Dust, Queen made a noticeable shift in music style, adding synthesizers and incorporating elements of disco, R&B, dance, and pop music on the band’s 1982 album Hot Space, in contrast to the traditional hard rock style that fans associated with the band. In fact, Queen had been well-known for a “no synths” rule, and Hot Space was the first Queen album to include synthesizers.
Under Pressure (song #44 on this list), was the band’s next hit, an impromptu jam session collaboration with English singer/songwriter David Bowie, who has two more songs on this list: Modern Love at #114 and Let’s Dance at #93. Under Pressure is featured on Hot Space, but it was released as a single seven months before the album was released; the song was a separate project and was recorded before the album and before the controversy over Queen’s new disco-oriented sound. Surprisingly, Under Pressure was not a big hit in the U.S., peaking at #29 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 (of course, since the ‘80s, Under Pressure has become one of the most popular songs of the ‘80s). Queen’s next U.S. hit was also from Hot Space: Body Language peaked at #11, but because of its dance/pop sound and more synthetic direction, Hot Space is widely considered by both fans and critics to be a disappointing album. In 1989, Brian May lamented, “We got heavily into funk and it was quite similar to what Michael Jackson did on Thriller. But the timing was wrong. Disco was a dirty word.”
According to AllMusic, the success of Another One Bites the Dust was responsible for a drastic change in the band’s musical style, because it “pushed the members of Queen into some questionable musical decisions in the near future. The most blatant and negative of these was their decision to commit the bulk of their next effort, 1982’s Hot Space, to experimental, dancey funk and electrified soul——a catastrophic move which alienated many longtime fans and effectively killed the band’s career in America. Lucky for them, the rest of the world wasn’t as unforgiving and quickly embraced Queen once again when they retreated to somewhat more familiar (though no less eclectic) hard rock territory with 1984’s The Works.”
Queen’s final hit in the U.S. was from The Works, Radio Gaga, which peaked at #16 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. A notable song from this album that was not popular in the U.S. but was popular around the world is I Want To Break Free, which is the #49 song on a separate list on this website: THE TOP 50 CRUCIALLY ICONIC ‘80S SONGS THAT WERE NOT POPULAR (IN THE UNITED STATES) IN THE ‘80S. The songs on this list are some of the most beloved ‘80s songs, despite the fact that they were not “popular” in the 1980s. I Want To Break Free was a big hit in the U.K. and several countries, but why wasn’t it a hit in the U.S.? American television channel MTV banned the video of the song because it features bandmembers dressed in drag, as a parody of the popular British soap opera Coronation Street. According to Brian May in a 2010 interview with National Public Radio, the video was understood as a lampoon in the U.K., but the U.S. audience didn’t get the soap-opera connection and probably interpreted the video as an affirmation of transvestism and Freddie Mercury’s sexual orientation.
In 1985, Queen performed at Live Aid, a benefit concert that raised funds for the people of Ethiopia during a devastating famine. The event was held simultaneously in London and in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985. Queen’s 21-minute performance is ranked among the greatest in rock history by various publications and music industry entities. The band’s six-song set includes abbreviated versions of Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, and We Are The Champions (but not Another One Bites the Dust!). Watch Queen’s full Live Aid performance here. The climax of the 2018 Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody depicts the Live Aid performance. Watch a side-by-side comparison of the actual Queen performance and the one in the film here.
Queen had many more hit songs that were not popular in the United States, including 1979’s Don’t Stop Me Now, 1980’s Play the Game, 1980’s Flash, 1986’s A Kind Of Magic, 1989’s I Want It All, 1991’s Innuendo, and 1995’s Heaven For Everyone, which was released four years after Freddie Mercury’s death but features vocals he had recorded in 1987.
Even though Queen’s popularity in the United States dwindled in the late ‘80s, the band sustained its popularity around the world. The renewal of Queen’s popularity in the U.S. began after Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991, prompted by the inclusion of Bohemian Rhapsody in the popular 1992 film Wayne’s World. Queen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2003, Queen became the first band to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Brian May and Roger Taylor toured the U.S. as Queen in 2005/2006 (with Paul Rodgers) and again in 2014 (with Adam Lambert). In 2018, Queen was presented a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
by Will To Power - Song #284
This song combines two rock songs from the 1970s: English-American rock musician Peter Frampton’s Baby, I Love Your Way (which peaked at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1976) and American Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird (which peaked at #19 in 1975; a live version peaked at #38 in 1977). Will To Power is known for dance-pop and freestyle music, which originated in South Florida in the ‘80s. The group’s name comes from a prominent concept of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first mentioned in his 1883 novel Thus Spake Zarathustra, in which Nietzsche describes the will to power as the unexhausted procreative will of life. Although Nietzsche never precisely defines the concept of the will to power in his work, leaving it open to subjective interpretation, the concept applies to the primary driving force of all life to transcend the self through creative power.
Baby, I Love Your Way / Freebird Medley hit #1 in December 1988, and Billboard ranked it the #9 song of 1989. Although sometimes considered a one-hit wonder, Will To Power had another hit song: a remake of 10cc’s I’m Not in Love, which peaked at #9 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1990; they also had three hits on the U.S. Billboard Dance Club chart, all of them in the ‘80s: Dreamin’, Say It’s Gonna Rain, and Fading Away.
Peter Frampton’s Baby, I Love Your Way first appeared on his 1975 album Frampton. A live version of the song (click here) was included on his 1976 multi-platinum album Frampton Comes Alive!, which is the version that became popular. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic rock anthem Free Bird is often considered the band’s signature song. It is consistently played as the finale of their live performances, and it is their longest song, sometimes surpassing 14 minutes in length when played live. Free Bird was first featured on the band’s 1973 debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh–’nérd ‘Skin–’nérd). Free Bird is ranked #3 on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Free Bird is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, and it is ranked #193 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2009, it was named the 26th best hard rock song of all time by VH1. Free Bird has been featured in numerous video games, television shows, and movies. Some of the movies are Soylent Green, The Towering Inferno, Sid and Nancy, This Is Spinal Tap, Time Bandits, Spaceballs, Wayne’s World, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, High Fidelity, Speed, Lethal Weapon 4, The Doors, The Last Boy Scout, Forrest Gump, Blood Diamond, Dude, Where’s My Car?, The Full Monty, Napoleon Dynamite, Toy Story 3, and Mad Max: Fury Road. In the Will To Power song, the Freebird lyrics are slightly different: The original line “and the bird you cannot change” was changed to “and this bird will never change.”
by Soul II Soul - Song #268
This song peaked at #4 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1989, and peaked at #1 for four weeks in the U.K. the same year. The British R&B group Soul II Soul has had over a dozen members over the years; DJ and producer Jazzie B is the only member who has been with the group since its inception in 1988. He said, “Everything about this single was magic. We weren’t trying to follow any trend or fit into any category. We were just doing our own thing... Its shuffling beats were a cross between reggae and what was to become known as hip-hop: breakbeats and electronic sound... [T]his was a moment that put British music back on the map. It also came out at a special time in the industry’s history——just before digital took over and everything seemed to fall apart.” The lead vocals on Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) are provided by guest singer Caron Wheeler, who embarked on a solo career the following year. The song also features the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. Soul II Soul’s first hit was Keep On Movin’, which peaked at #11 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in September 1989, but did not make this list. The beat for Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) (which is also used in Keep On Movin’) is based on hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim’s 1987 song Paid In Full. Several versions of Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) exist: the original album version is a capella (click here), the first single version adds instrumentation, and the second single version, which is the one that became popular (click here) includes new lyrics and the chorus. There are also various extended remixes and a club mix (click here).
Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) has been performed, covered, and sampled many times. In 1991, English pop singer George Michael performed the song with American singer Lynn Mabry at the Rock in Rio 2 music festival (click here), and he continued to perform it throughout his 1991 Cover to Cover tour; and a version of his hit song Freedom! ‘90 (Back to Reality Mix) features an interpolation of the song. Panamanian-American DJ Clue? produced a version featuring American R&B singer Mary J. Blige and American rapper Jadakiss, Back to Life 2001. The song is sampled in American rapper The Game’s However Do You Want It, and American rapper Big Boi’s Shutterbugg. In 2000, VH1 ranked Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) 50th on their list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs. In 2006, Slant magazine ranked the song 57th on a list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs. The song won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1990. Soul II Soul has been nominated for five BRIT Awards——twice for Best British Group. Billboard magazine ranked Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) the 42nd most popular song of 1989.
Bad by Michael Jackson - Song #322
This song was originally conceived as a duet between Michael Jackson and Prince by legendary producer Quincy Jones (who produced Michael Jackson’s albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad, as well as USA For Africa’s We Are the World, which is song #112 on this list). Quincy Jones said that he had pictured the pair battling it out in the video, but Prince declined and said that the song would be a hit without him. In 1997, Prince said, “The first line in that song is, ‘Your butt is mine,’ so I was saying, ‘Who gonna sing that to whom? Because you sure ain’t singing it to me, and I sure ain’t singing it to you.’ So right there we got a problem.”
Michael Jackson stated that Bad was based on a true story about a young man living in poverty who went to a private school hoping improve his life, but was murdered by his former friends when he returned home for Thanksgiving break. In his 1988 autobiography Moonwalk, he said, “Bad is a song about the street. It’s about this kid from a bad neighborhood who gets to go away to a private school. He comes back to the old neighborhood when he’s on a break from school and the kids from the neighborhood start giving him trouble. He sings, ‘I’m bad, you’re bad, who’s bad, who’s the best?’ He’s saying when you’re strong and good, then you’re bad.” The Bad video/short film, which is over 18 minutes long, was directed by Martin Scorsese (the renowned director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed, The Wolf Of Wall Street, and many more). It first aired on the CBS prime time TV special Michael Jackson: The Magic Returns in 1987. In the video, Michael Jackson’s mother is played by American soul singer Roberta Flack. In one of his first roles, American actor Wesley Snipes (who would later star in White Men Can’t Jump and the Blade film trilogy) plays the rival gang leader. In 2017, Wesley Snipes told Conan O’Brien that his role was intended for Prince, but that after Michael saw Wesley’s Snipes’ audition, he changed his mind; he said, “I blew Prince out of the water. Michael had told Prince that he had the role, and then he met me and kicked Prince to the curb. Imagine that.”
Martin Scorsese said that the video was a different directing experience for him: “Shooting the big dance scene was the allure of it. Michael was never a person who was overly enthusiastic. He was quiet. Accepting. How should I put it? He was very precise about what he wanted in the choreography. He was concerned, like with any great dancer-—they like to be seen full figure. But that wasn’t the case because I’d planned other things. The use of close-ups, and tracking him. Eventually he understood that. There was never any resistance, but questions. He was open to everything.” The video has similarities to the 1961 film West Side Story. According to dancer/choreographer Toni Basil (whose Mickey is song #196 on this list), “If you look at Bad, that’s taken straight out of West Side Story. If you interview any of those choreographers, you’ll see that Michael looked at West Side Story over and over and over again. If you put the song Cool from West Side Story up against that, you’ll see hunks taken. Not that it wasn’t great, but Michael would never say where he was inspired from.” To see the undeniable similarities, check out Cool from West Side Story here. At the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, the Bad video was nominated for Best Choreography, as was Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel (song #171 on this list), but the winner was his sister Janet Jackson’s video for The Pleasure Principle (which did not make this list, but came close). Watch Janet’s video here.
Bad was the second of a record five consecutive #1 songs on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 from one album. The other #1 songs from the album are I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (which did not make this list), The Way You Make Me Feel (#171 on this list), Man In The Mirror (#81), and Dirty Diana (#438). The Bad album has sold over 35 million copies worldwide. In 2009, on VH1’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time of the MTV Generation, Bad is ranked #43. On Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Bad is ranked #202. The Bad album was nominated for six Grammy awards: Album of the Year (losing to U2’s The Joshua Tree, which has three songs on this list: Where the Streets Have No Name at #137, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at #111, and With Or Without You at #16), Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male (losing to Sting for his album Bring On the Night), Best R&B Vocal Performance – Male (losing to Smokey Robinson for Just To See Her, which did not make this list), and Record of the Year for Man in the Mirror (losing to Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin, #394 on this list). Bad won Grammys for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical, and Best Music Video – Short Form for Leave Me Alone (watch it here). Internationally, the song Bad was a huge hit: It reached #1 in 11 countries, including Ireland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain, and it charted in the Top 10 in Australia, Austria, France, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, and the U.K.
Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi - Song #405
Beat It by Michael Jackson - Song #31
Beds Are Burning by Midnight Oil - Song #449
Being With You by Smokey Robinson - Song #490
Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes - Song #57
Better Be Good To Me by Tina Turner - Song #401
Billie Jean by Michael Jackson - Song #6
Blame It On the Rain by Milli Vanilli – Song #496
Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder - Song #297
This song peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and was ranked as the 27th most popular song of 1984. American musician Matthew Wilder said that the inspiration for this song was not a failed romantic relationship, but rather his failed professional relationship with music industry mogul Clive Davis, who was the head of Arista Records at the time. (Clive Davis is credited for making superstars of many artists, including Janis Joplin, Santana, Barry Manilow, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, and Whitney Houston.) According to Matthew Wilder, Clive Davis signed him in 1981, but didn’t like any of his work, which prompted him to write Break My Stride. He recorded the song on his own and submitted it to Arista, but Clive Davis’ reaction was, “Interesting song, but not a hit.” (Wrong!) Frustrated, Matthew Wilder then requested that Arista drop him, and he made a deal with Private I Records, and of course, Break My Stride became a huge hit. But Private I Records was involved in some dubious activity: The owner was the subject of a federal investigation (which lasted from 1986 until the charges were dropped in 1996); radio stations were being paid to play the label’s songs, including Break My Stride (in 2000, the owner was indicted for extortion and loan sharking).
American rapper and producer Puff Daddy interpolated Break My Stride on 1997’s Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down, with the lyrics, “Can’t nobody take my pride, can’t nobody hold me down, oh no, I got to keep on movin’.” This interpolation is one of the first instances of an artist using a popular song in this way, which became a trend in the late-’90s. Matthew Wilder has had success as a songwriter and producer. He produced American rock band No Doubt’s album Tragic Kingdom, he wrote the song Reflection for American singer Christina Aguilera, and he provided the singing voice of Ling in the 2009 animated movie Mulan (and was nominated for an Oscar for Original Music Score for his work on that film). Matthew Wilder is technically not a one-hit wonder because his follow-up to Break My Stride peaked at #33 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1984: The Kid’s American.
Brilliant Disguise by Bruce Springsteen - Song #418
Broken Wings by - Mr. Mister Song #126
Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry – Song #441
Burning Down the House by Talking Head - Song #230
Bust a Move by Young MC - Song #124
Call Me by Blondie - Song #53
Candle In the Wind (Live 1986) by Elton John – Song #356
Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon - Song #118
Careless Whisper by Wham! featuring George Michael - Song #29
Caribbean Queen (No More Love On the Run) by Billy Ocean - Song #224
Cars by Gary Numan - Song #176
Caught Up In You by .38 Special - Song #328
This song was written by American rock band .38 Special’s co-founder and guitarist Jeff Carlisi and lead vocalist Don Barnes, with Jim Peterik, who was a member of American rock band Survivor (Survivor’s only song on this list is the huge hit Eye Of the Tiger, at #13). This association became a source of contention. The first U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit song for .38 Special was 1981’s Hold On Loosely (which did not make this list, but came close), which Jim Peterik originally wrote for his band Survivor. When Hold On Loosely wasn’t chosen for Survivor’s album, it was offered to .38 Special, and it became their first hit song, and led to Carlisi, Barnes, and Peterik collaborating and writing more songs for .38 Special.
Jim Peterik stated, “There was a lot of resentment that I was writing songs not only for Survivor, but I was writing them with .38 Special too. I’m talking about resentment from my own band, Survivor. What I tried to explain to them, which fell on deaf ears, was that the .38 songs would never have been right for Survivor. They came from another place in me and were very much a product of the synergy of Don Barnes, Jim Peterik, and Jeff Carlisi. All they could see was competition on the charts from someone who wrote the songs for both bands. He explained that he had to meet with the .38 Special guys secretly so that his Survivor band members would not know: “We had to find places to write songs. We couldn’t go to the band house, and at my house, what if one of the guys stopped over? So we went to my mother’s house and wrote in the basement. We were writing Caught Up In You in this gloomy room in my mother’s basement all dark and dank, and we’re writing this hit song. I was feeling like the bad kid playing hooky or something.”
Survivor’s lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan is also a credited writer for Caught Up In You, because, according to Jim Peterik, he demanded credit for the use of a chord progression in the song, which was intended to be used in a Survivor song. Jim Peterik stated, “Even though there was no solid evidence to the similarity, I got .38 to agree to cut him in to the copyright just to avoid a lawsuit.” The highest charting hit for .38 Special is the lostly forgotten Second Chance, which reached #6 in 1989 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. (Caught Up In You peaked at #10, and Hold On Loosely peaked at #28.) In 2009, Jeff Carlisi said, “To this day when the name .38 Special comes up, nobody says Second Chance! It was our biggest hit but people always think of Hold On Loosely or Caught Up in You first.”
Chariots Of Fire - Titles by Vangelis - Song #314
This electronic piano piece is one of only two instrumental songs on this list (the other is Kenny G’s Songbird at #491). When it was originally released as a single in December 1981, the title was simply “Titles,” but within two months, the title was changed to Chariots of Fire – Titles for easier identification with the 1981 British historical film that it is from, Chariots Of Fire. The film is based on actual events about two religious athletes (a Christian and a Jew) in the 1924 Olympics. In a very well-known scene from the film, the song plays while the athletes run in slow motion. It is also the film’s opening titles sequence, which is why it was originally named “Titles” on the film’s soundtrack. Listen to the full soundtrack here.
The film’s title is a reference to a line in the William Blake poem “Jerusalem” (“Bring me my chariot of fire”), which was adapted into the hymn Jerusalem for the film’s soundtrack. The original phrase chariots of fire is found in the 12th book of the Hebrew Bible/Christian Old Testament: 2 Kings 2:11 (“As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven”) and 2 Kings 6:17 (“Then Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha”). Chariots Of Fire – Titles peaked at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in May 1982, and Billboard ranked it the 12th most popular song of 1982.
The real name of Greek composer Vangelis is Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou. He is a significant figure in electronic music, notable for adding ambient, jazz, and orchestral elements to his music. The decision for Vangelis to compose a synthesizer-heavy score for a historical film was unheard of at the time because most period films featured traditional orchestral music. Chariots Of Fire won the Academy Award for Original Music Score; the film was nominated for seven Oscars, and won four: Original Screenplay, Costume Design, and Best Picture (beating Atlantic City, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Reds). Vangelis also composed the synthesizer-based score for Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner (click here).
Chariots Of Fire – Titles is often associated with the Olympic Games. It was used prominently at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Chariots Of Fire – Titles has often been used for comedic effect in movies, television shows, and advertisements, in which characters are running in slow-motion. A notable example is the 1983 film National Lampoon’s Vacation, in a scene in which the Griswold family finally arrives at the fictional theme park Walley World and runs toward the entrance (click here). Other similar uses occur in the films Mr. Mom, Happy Gilmore, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Bruce Almighty, Old School, Kicking & Screaming, and Madagascar.
Cherish by Kool & the Gang - Song #307
This song is the #1 U.S. Adult Contemporary hit of the ‘80s. (The Billboard Adult Contemporary chart was created in 1961 for radio stations that wanted to distinguish themselves from “rock and roll” stations.) Cherish is the third single released from Kool & the Gang’s 16th studio album Emergency, and it quickly became (and still is) a wedding song staple. The first two songs released from the album were Top 10 hits, but they did not make this list: Misled and Fresh.
Kool & the Gang is an American band formed in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1964 by brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell when they were teenagers; the group originated as a traditional jazz group called The Jazziacs. Kool & the Gang had 20 songs on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 from 1973 to 1987. Cherish peaked at #2 and stayed there for three weeks in 1985, kept from the #1 position by Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing (song #150 on this list). The band’s commercial breakthrough came in 1973 with their fourth album Wild and Peaceful and their first big hit Jungle Boogie, which was later featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction. The band’s biggest hit is 1980’s Celebration (#54 on this list), which has become the worldwide quintessential song for any kind of celebration. (It was even played to celebrate the return of the 52 American hostages on January 27, 1981 during the Iran Hostage Crisis.) Celebration and Cherish are the band’s only songs on this list, but three of their songs came close to being in the Top 500: Too Hot, Ladies’ Night, and Joanna. Additionally, three members of Kool & the Gang (Robert “Kool” Bell, James J.T. Taylor, and Dennis Thomas) perform with Band Aid on Do They Know It’s Christmas? (#236 on this list); they and Jody Watley (whose Looking For a New Love is song #340 on this list) are the only Americans to be a part of Band Aid.
Kool & the Gang was the opening act for American hard rock band Van Halen’s 2012 U.S. tour. Yes, that is an odd combination, but it was the idea of Van Halen’s lead singer David Lee Roth. Van Halen has three songs on this list: Jump at #43, Panama at #141 (both with David Lee Roth as lead singer), and Why Can’t This Be Love? at #352 (with Sammy Hagar as lead singer). According to Robert “Kool” Bell, “People said, ‘How the hell is that going to work? The rock bad boys of the 1980s and Kool & the Gang?’ We surprised them all. David Lee Roth——he had a vision. He came to me and said: ‘We were hot in the ‘80s with Jump when you had Ladies’ Night. Our fan base is 60 percent ladies. Come on, Kool, let’s go have a party.’ And that’s what we did, and we shocked everybody.”
Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen - Song #70
Cruel Summer by Bananarama - Song #250
Cult Of Personality by Living Colour - Song #262
Cum On Feel the Noize by Quiet Riot - Song #305
Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung - Song #447
Dancing In the Dark by Bruce Springsteen - Song #76
Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins - Song #182
Der Kommissar by After the Fire - Song #215
Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid – Song #236
This song was a response to the severe famine that ravaged Ethiopa in the mid-’80s. Artists who perform include Sting (The Police); Bono and Adam Clayton (U2); all of the Duran Duran guys (Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Andy Taylor, John Taylor [who plays bass guitar on the song], and Roger Taylor); George Michael; Boy George and Jon Moss (Culture Club); Robert “Kool” Bell, James “J.T.” Taylor, and Dennis Thomas (Kool & the Gang); Phil Collins [who plays drums on the song]; the Spandau Ballet guys; Bob Geldof [who wrote the song] and the other guys from The Boomtown Rats; Paul Young; the Bananarama ladies; and Jody Watley (she and the Kool & the Gang guys are the only Americans). Because David Bowie and Paul McCartney were not available when the song was recorded, they added spoken messages that are included on the alternate extended version of the song (click here).
by Huey Lewis and the News - Song #324
This song is the first hit for American rock band Huey Lewis and the News. It peaked at #7 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in May 1982. Because their first album (which was self-titled) did not do well commercially, Chrysalis Records informed Huey Lewis and the News that they would be dropped if their second album did not produce a hit; it was strongly suggested that Do You Believe In Love be included on their next album Picture This. The band resisted, but eventually gave in, and this song became their breakthrough hit, which can largely be attributed to American television channel MTV for putting the video in heavy rotation during its first year, when there weren’t a lot of videos available.
Do You Believe In Love was written by Robert John Mutt Lange, who has produced albums for AC/DC, Foreigner, The Cars, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Michael Bolton, Britney Spears, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Nickelback, and his ex-wife Shania Twain. When he wrote the song and submitted it to Huey Lewis and the News, it was titled We Both Believe In Love, but Huey Lewis revised the lyrics and changed the title. Apparently, Robert John Mutt Lange inadvertently ripped off the 1978 song Sweet Talkin’ Woman by Electric Light Orchestra when he wrote Do You Believe In Love. The songs have the same melody and similar opening lyrics (“I was walking down a one way street; Just a looking for someone to meet...” compared to “I was searching on a one-way street; I was hoping for a chance to meet...”) Check out the comparison of the two songs here. Huey Lewis and the News have three other songs on this list: Stuck With You (#407), I Want a New Drug (#376), and The Power Of Love (#170).
Don’t Get Me Wrong by The Pretenders - Song #440
Don’t Stand So Close To Me by The Police - Song #379
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey - Song #1
Don’t Talk To Strangers by Rick Springfield - Song #472
Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin – Song #394
Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds - Song #4
Don’t You Want Me by The Human League - Song #39
This song by British synth-pop group The Human League was designated by Rolling Stone magazine the “breakthrough song of the Second British Invasion of the U.S.,” which refers to the period of mid-1982 to mid-1986 when a wide variety of music artists from the U.K. became popular in the U.S., primarily due to the American television channel MTV, which launched in 1981. Don’t You Want Me was a worldwide hit, peaking at #1 in the U.K., and becoming 1981’s best-selling single and the 5th best-selling single of the ‘80s in the U.K. In the U.S., Don’t You Want Me also reached #1, and Billboard magazine ranked it the 6th most popular song of 1982. It also hit #1 in Norway, New Zealand, Belgium, Ireland, and Canada. Ironically, the group’s frontman Philip Oakey did not want the song to be released as a single because he considered it the worst song on the group’s third album Dare, and called it a “poor-quality filler track.” He fought the release of the song, describing it as “a nasty song about sexual power politics,” but he was overruled by executives at the group’s record company Virgin Records.
The Human League is an English synth-pop group formed in Sheffield, England in 1977. Originally named The Future, when some founding members left the group in 1980 due to recurring conflicts (and then formed the new wave band Heaven 17), the group changed its name to The Human League, which was inspired by the science fiction board game Starforce: Alpha Centauri. In this wargame, “The Human League” is an empire that wants more independence from Earth. Frontman Philip Oakey, who provides lead vocals and keyboards, is the only member who has been in the group since 1977. In 1980, he saw two 17-year-old girls, Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall, at a nightclub and recruited them to be background singers and dancers, even though neither of them had any experience singing or dancing professionally. Various musicians were hired to work on Dare and subsequent albums. Since 1987, The Human League has remained a trio composed of Oakey, Sulley and Catherall.
Don’t You Want Me is notable for being the first #1 song in the U.S. and the U.K. to use the revolutionary Linn LM-1 drum computer, the first programmable drum machine that sampled real drums rather than creating sounds synthetically. Introduced in 1980, the LM-1 became a staple of ‘80s pop music, and was used in many ‘80s hits, including Stevie Wonder’s Part-Time Lover (song #300 on this list), Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax (#213), Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (#167), Don Henley’s The Boys Of Summer (#116), Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me (#97), Pat Benatar’s Love Is a Battlefield (#38), Irene Cara’s Flashdance...What a Feeling (#26), A-ha’s Take On Me (#11), and Prince’s I Would Die 4 U (#330), Little Red Corvette (#27) and When Doves Cry (#2).
The video for Don’t You Want Me was one of the most expensive at that time. Rather than using cheap video tape, which was standard then, it was shot on 35mm film, which gives the video a cinematic look. Philip Oakey credited the video and MTV for making the song a hit: “I don’t think we would have had a #1 if it weren’t for the video and MTV. Trying to interpret songs with video is a real problem, but at the same time, we know that we wouldn’t be here without video.” The video was directed by Steve Barron, who directed many renowned ‘80s videos, including Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing (song #150 on this list) and A-ha’s Take On Me (#11). The video depicts the filming and editing of a murder mystery, with members of the group playing the roles of actors and production staff. In the original video, some of the characters are shot with pistols, but these shootings were later omitted from the video and replaced with slow-motion montages.
In 1995, a remix of Don’t You Want Me (click here) by German-American electronic group Snap! was released to coincided with the group’s repackaged “Greatest Hits” compilation (which was originally released in 1988), and this remix was a hit in the U.K. In 2014, the original version of Don’t You Want Me was a hit again in the U.K., peaking at #19 on the U.K. Singles Chart (and hitting #1 in Scotland), due to a social media campaign by fans of Aberdeen Football Club in Scotland, after winning the 2014 Scottish League Cup. The song was routinely chanted at games, with the lyrics changed to “Peter Pawlett baby,” referencing their midfielder. Don’t You Want Me has been covered by many artists over the years, including British rock band The Farm in 1992 (click here), Swedish dance/pop group Alcazar in 2002 (click here), American rock band Neon Trees in 2012 (click here), and American synth-pop group Information Society featuring American pop singer Vitamin C in 2016 (click here).
After the worldwide success of Don’t You Want Me, The Human League had five more U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits: 1982’s Mirror Man, 1983’s (Keep Feeling) Fascination, 1986’s Human (which was also a #1 song in the U.S. and is song #404 on this list), 1990’s Heart Like a Wheel and 1995’s Tell Me When. Prior to the release of Don’t You Want Me, three songs from the 1981 Dare album were hits in the U.K.: The Sound of the Crowd, Love Action (I Believe in Love), and Open Your Heart. Although not a Top 40 hit in the U.S., the group’s 1984 song The Lebanon is noteworthy for its politically-charged lyrics about the Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, and had been exacerbated by an Israeli invasion in 1982. The Lebanon was a hit in the U.K. and is considered a radical departure from The Human League’s synth-pop sound, with its heavy use of bass and rock guitars; in fact, some critics pointed out that the group was violating its “no guitars rule” that they had publicly announced in 1981.
The Human League was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1983, but lost to Men At Work, who have two songs on this list: Who Can It Be Now? (#302) and Down Under (#47). The other nominees were Jennifer Holliday (who provides vocals on Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is, song #35 on this list), Stray Cats (whose Rock This Town is song #413), and Asia (whose Heat Of the Moment is song #197). The Human League is still touring. In 2012, the group went on a 35th anniversary tour across Europe and the U.K.
Dr. Feelgood by Mötley Crüe - Song #281
In 2018, Mötley Crüe announced that the band had reunited to work on new music, but don’t expect the band to tour. Mötley Crüe’s final performance was on December 31, 2015, and because the band members signed a “cessation of touring agreement,” they are prevented from touring under the name Mötley Crüe. Dr. Feelgood is Mötley Crüe’s biggest hit; released in 1989 as the first single from the band’s fifth studio album of the same name, Dr. Feelgood peaked at #6 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. In 2009, Dr. Feelgood was ranked the 15th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. Lead singer Vince Neil said, “I knew it was a classic from the time I heard that very first ‘bomp bomp bomp bomp.’ That intro just kind of grabs you. This song has been popular for 20 years. It was funny because I was watching VH1 and they had the greatest hard rock songs and Feelgood was 15 or something. I was like, ‘Wow, of all time.’ Then you have Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and AC/DC and Feelgood. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ It’s our signature song in some ways.” Bassist Nikki Sixx said that the song was inspired by drug dealers.
Mötley Crüe is an American heavy metal band that formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California. The band’s original lineup was Vince Neil (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Mick Mars (lead guitar), Nikki Sixx (bass and keyboards), and Tommy Lee (drums, percussion, and keyboards). Vince Neil left the group from 1992 to 1996, and Tommy Lee left the group from 1999 to 2004. Other than those gaps, the original lineup has remained the same. Nikki Sixx said, “I wanted a band that would be like David Bowie and the Sex Pistols thrown in a blender with Black Sabbath.” He wanted to call the band “Christmas,” but the other band members did not like that name. Mick Mars remembered being called a “a motley looking crew” when he was with a previous band, and with a modified spelling (including two sets of metal umlauts inspired by the German beer Löwenbräu, which the members were drinking at the time), the band decided on the name Mötley Crüe.
In the ‘80s, the band members were known for outlandish clothing, high-heeled boots, and heavy make-up, and they were notorious for their decadent lifestyles fueled by alcohol and other drugs, with many widely-publicized incidents, sexual escapades, arrests, and lawsuits, some of which were later revealed to be publicity stunts. In 1984, Vince Neil was charged with a DUI and vehicular manslaughter, and he was sentenced to 30 days in jail (but he only served 18 days) and paid a $2 million fine. In 1987, Nikki Sixx overdosed on heroin and was declared legally dead on the way to the hospital, but he was revived with two shots of adrenaline. By 1989, all of the band members entered drug rehabilitation, except for Mick Mars, who cleaned up on his own. They were all reportedly sober at the peak of the band’s popularity in late-1989, when the Dr. Feelgood album hit #1 and stayed on the U.S. Billboard album chart for 114 weeks. In 1998, Mötley Crüe’s contract with Elektra Records expired, which put the band in total control of its publishing and music catalog; very few music artists own the master license to their material.
In 2011, Mötley Crüe toured with Poison for the band’s 30th anniversary and Poison’s 25th anniversary (Poison has three songs on this list: Nothin’ But a Good Time at #399, Talk Dirty To Me at #336, and Every Rose Has Its Thorn at #96). In late-2011, Mötley Crüe toured the U.K. with Def Leppard (Def Leppard has four songs on this list: Love Bites at #288, Rock Of Ages at #157, Photograph at #52, and Pour Some Sugar On Me at #7). Dr Feelgood is Mötley Crüe’s only song on this list, but the band did have six more U.S. Billboard Top 40 songs: Smokin’ in the Boys Room, Girls, Girls, Girls, Kickstart My Heart (which was inspired by Nikki Sixx’ almost-fatal heroin overdose in 1987), Without You, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), and Home Sweet Home ‘91. Home Sweet Home was originally released in 1985, and the original video (click here) was a huge hit on MTV, but the original version of the song did not enter the U.S. Billboard Top 40, peaking only at #89, which is why it was not eligible for this list.
In 1990, the song Dr. Feelgood was nominated for a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, but lost to Living Colour’s Cult of Personality (song #262 on this list). Mötley Crüe was nominated for an American Music Award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist in 1990 (but lost to Guns N’ Roses) and nominated again in the same category in 1991 (but lost to Aerosmith). Mötley Crüe’s album Dr. Feelgood was nominated for an American Music Award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album in 1990 (but lost to Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction); in 1991 the album was nominated again in the same category, and won. Mötley Crüe was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. The band made a guest appearance and performed Dr. Feelgood on an episode of the American TV show Bones in 2009 (watch the clip here). In 2006, Mötley Crüe was ranked 10th on MTV’s list of the Top 10 Heavy Metal Bands of All-Time, and in 2014 Mötley Crüe was ranked 29th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder - Song #267
Edge Of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks - Song #135
Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant - Song #271
Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie - Song #91
Eternal Flame by The Bangles - Song #406
Every Breath You Take by The Police - Song #8
Every Little Step by Bobby Brown - Song #459
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police - Song #147
Express Yourself by Madonna - Song #280
This song is the second single released from Madonna’s 4th studio album, 1989’s Like a Prayer. Two other songs from that album are on this list: Cherish at #453, and Like a Prayer at #12; Madonna has a total of 14 songs on this list (more than any other artist, except that she’s tied with Michael Jackson). Express Yourself was very well-received by music critics for its message about gender equality and equality for oppressed minorities. It was a hit song around the world, peaking at #2 in the U.S., #5 in the U.K, and #1 in Canada, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. In her 1997 book Madonna in Her Own Words, she says, “The ultimate thing behind the song is that if you don’t express yourself, if you don’t say what you want, then you’re not going to get it. And in effect you are chained down by your inability to say what you feel or go after what you want.” Madonna later explained further: “The message of the song is that people should always say what it is they want. The reason relationships don’t work is because they are afraid. That’s been my problem in all my relationships. I’m sure people see me as an outspoken person, and for the most part, if I want something I ask for it. But sometimes you feel that if you ask for too much or ask for the wrong thing from someone you care about that that person won’t like you. And so you censor yourself. I’ve been guilty of that in every meaningful relationship I’ve ever had. The time I learn how not to edit myself will be the time I consider myself a complete adult.”
Express Yourself is a tribute to the American band Sly and the Family Stone, which had a major influence on funk and psychedelic music in the late-’60s. Sly and the Family Stone is the first major American rock group with a lineup that reflected both racial and gender diversity. Two of the band’s biggest hits are Dance to the Music and Everyday People; both were Billboard Top 10 hits in 1968. In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Sly and the Family Stone 43rd on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and three Sly and the Family Stone albums are included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
The Express Yourself video was directed by David Fincher, who also directed the films Alien 3, Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and Gone Girl. David Fincher also directed the videos for Steve Winwood’s Roll With It (#344 on this list), and Paula Abdul’s Straight Up (#117) and Cold Hearted (#319). David Fincher directed the video for Madonna’s Vogue (which is not on this list because it was released in 1990. In 1989, with a budget of $5 million, Express Yourself was the most expensive music video made up until that time, and it is currently the third most expensive video of all time, behind Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s Scream at #1, and Madonna’s Die Another Day at #2. The Express Yourself video is an homage to the 1927 Fritz Lang classic silent film Metropolis, and even features an epigraph from the film at the end of the video: “Without the Heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind.” Metropolis is a German film that is widely lauded as a pioneering work of science fiction. Express Yourself premiered on MTV on May 17, 1989, and was aired every hour on MTV for three weeks. At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, Express Yourself was nominated for Best Female Video, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Direction, and Best Art Direction, winning the last three categories. Billboard named it the Best Music Video of 1989, and it continues to be ranked among the greatest videos ever made.
Express Yourself was written and produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray, whom Madonna met when she studied dance at the University of Michigan; in 1979, Madonna was briefly the drummer for his band The Breakfast Club (whose song Right On Track was a Top 10 hit in 1987, but did not make this list). She and Stephen Bray formed the group Emmy and the Emmys, but Madonna left the rock-oriented band to pursue music that was more dance-oriented. They still collaborated over the years, most notably on the 1986 song True Blue, which did not make this list; and Into the Groove, which was ineligible for this list because it was never released as a single in the U.S. and therefore didn’t enter the Billboard Top 40——but Into the Groove is the #2 song on a separate list of the TOP 50 CRUCIALLY ICONIC ‘80S SONGS that were NOT popular in the U.S. in the ‘80s, featured on this website. In 2010, Express Yourself was performed by the female characters on the TV show Glee (click here) on an episode devoted to Madonna’s music, titled “The Power of Madonna.” In 2016, Express Yourself was featured in a Pepsi commercial for Super Bowl 50; Pepsi had signed her to a $5 million deal in 1989, but then dropped her because of her controversial video for Like A Prayer, song #12 on this list.
Father Figure by George Michael - Song #132
The Final Countdown by Europe - Song #145
The Flame by Cheap Trick - Song #272
Flashdance...What a Feeling by Irene Cara - Song #26
Fool In the Rain by Led Zeppelin - Song #134
Footloose by Kenny Loggins - Song #72
Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty - Song #84
Freeway Of Love by Aretha Franklin – Song #295
This song became American music legend Aretha Franklin’s 15th Top 10 hit on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and earned her an 11th Grammy win for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Yes, she won in that category 11 times, including for the songs Respect, Chain Of Fools, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing. She won in that category eight years in a row, from 1968 to 1975. She won a total of 18 Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987——She is the first female performer to be inducted. She received the Grammy Legend Award in 1992, a special award that has only been given to 15 artists (other artists on this list who have received the award are Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, and Elton John).
Freeway Of Love revitalized Aretha Franklin’s career. She hadn’t had a Top 10 hit since 1973’s Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do). Randy Jackson, best known as a judge on the singing competition television show American Idol, plays electric and synthesized bass on Freeway Of Love. The song also features saxophone by Clarence Clemons, who is a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Clarence Clemons performs saxophone, percussion, and background vocals on Bruce Springsteen’s album Born In the U.S.A., which has four songs on this list: Glory Days at #225, I’m On Fire at #228, Dancing In the Dark at #76, and Born In the U.S.A. at #32.
Aretha Franklin has another song on this list: her duet with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) at #282. See the description of that song for more details of her life. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves, which she performs with Eurythmics, came close, but did not make this list of 500.
Freeze-Frame by J. Geils Band - Song #492
Funkytown by Lipps, Inc. - Song #63
Genius Of Love by Tom Tom Club - Song #477
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. - Song #200
Girl You Know It’s True by Milli Vanilli - Song #392
Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper - Song #10
Give It To Me Baby by Rick James - Song #381
The Glamorous Life by Sheila E. - Song #390
Gloria by Laura Branigan - Song #108
Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen - Song #225
Glory Of Love by Peter Cetera - Song #251
Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant - Song #289
When this song was released in 1982, Adam Ant had given up cigarettes and alcohol, and he was never a drug user. Goody Two Shoes is about Adam Ant’s frustration with the media, which is depicted in the video. Often interviewers would be shocked that such a flamboyant personality abstained from the typical indulgences of rock stars, and they would ask him, if he didn’t drink or smoke, then what exactly did he do? He said, “Goody Two Shoes was a sort of ‘answer back’ manifesto and just trying to keep things level-headed because I felt that, and still do, to a degree, that going on stage is creating an illusion. It’s magical and it’s wonderful and I love doing it, but off stage there has to be time out.” Adam Ant (whose real name is Stuart Leslie Goddard) did have one vice, which he spoke about openly: sex. He gained popularity in the U.K. as the lead singer of new wave group Adam and the Ants during the burgeoning punk rock movement in the late-’70s. He and the band developed a cult following when punk rock was transitioning to the post-punk and new wave era, and they were notorious for campy and explicitly sexualized stage performances.
Adam and the Ants scored more than a dozen hits in the U.K., including the #1 songs Stand and Deliver and Prince Charming. When the group broke up in 1982, Adam Ant embarked on a solo career and had a few hits in the U.K. Throughout the early ‘80s, he was one of the most popular celebrities in England, known for his outlandish costumes and charisma, but in the U.S., his only ‘80s hit was Goody Two Shoes, which peaked at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, largely because MTV put the video in heavy rotation. Goody Two Shoes peaked at #1 in both the U.K. and Australia.
Adam Ant later had two minor hits in the U.S. in the ‘90s: Room At the Top and Wonderful. Adam Ant also worked as an actor in over two dozen films and television shows from 1985 to 2003. There are two different versions of Goody Two Shoes, and two different videos: the single version has a more reverberating drum track, and its accompanying video features Adam Ant dancing alone on a stage (watch it here); the version of the song on his album Friend or Foe sounds notably different, and its accompanying video shows a typical day in the life of Adam Ant, from when he wakes up and gets dressed, to being hounded by the press, to bringing a woman to his bedroom at the end of the day.
by George Harrison - Song #291
This song is the last #1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 for any member of The Beatles. As a solo artist, George Harrison (who died of lung cancer in 2001) had 13 U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits, including two more #1 songs: 1970’s My Sweet Lord and 1973’s Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth). In 1981, All Those Years Ago peaked at #2, but did not make this list. George Harrison’s final solo hit was When We Was Fab, which peaked at #23 in 1988. George Harrison was the lead guitarist of The Beatles, and he was sometimes referred to as “the quiet Beatle.” He broadened the scope of The Beatles’ music by incorporating Indian instrumentation and elements of Hinduism. After the band’s breakup in 1970, he released the triple album All Things Must Pass, which received critical acclaim and includes his most successful hit single My Sweet Lord.
Billboard ranked Got My Mind Set On You as the 3rd most popular song of 1988. It was written and composed by Rudy Clark, and originally recorded by James Ray in 1962 (click here). George Harrison had released his commercially unsuccessful album Gone Troppo in 1987, and this simple cover song proved later that year that he could still release a popular mainstream song. (Notably, many of his fans hate this song.) Until The Beach Boys’ 1988 release of Kokomo (song #218 on this list), George Harrison held the record for longest span between #1 hits (14 years). Other members of The Beatles have songs on this list: Paul McCartney’s duet with Stevie Wonder Ebony and Ivory is song #267, and his duet with Michael Jackson Say Say Say is #478; John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over is #347, and Watching the Wheels is #487. George Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: as a solo artist in 2004, and as a member of The Beatles in 1988, when Got My Mind Set On You was #1, making him one of the few inductees to have an active single on a U.S. Billboard chart at the time of induction.
Harden My Heart by Quarterflash - Song #308
American rock group Quarterflash’s lead singer Rindy Ross is also a saxophonist. She plays the sax on this hit song, which peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1981. Harden My Heart was originally released as a single (click here) in early-1980 by a band named Seafood Mama, and it was a regional success on radio stations in Portland, Oregon. When the band changed its name to Quarterflash the next year and released a different version of the song, it became a huge hit. The name Quarterflash comes from an Australian slang description of new immigrants as “a quarter flash, three quarters foolish.” The band was originally made up of the married couple Rindy Ross (lead vocals and saxophone) and Marv Ross (guitars), with other members. Having a lead singer who also played saxophone made Quarterflash noteworthy. Rindy Ross said that the saxophone was as an extension of her voice, which helped her express things that she could not express with her voice alone.
Harden My Heart was released the same year that MTV went on the air, and the video contains bizarre, random images that have nothing to do with the song: jugglers, flamethrowers, bulldozers, and children in bathrobes at a large makeup vanity table in the desert. Rindy Ross also wears a bathrobe, as well as a leotard and a tuxedo, and the band performs in a water puddle in a warehouse, while dressed-up guys on motorcycles drive around them. It was common in the early days of MTV for artists to put peculiar images in their videos so that they would be memorable. Billboard ranked Harden My Heart the #13 most popular song of 1982. Quarterflash had two other U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits (which did not make this list of 500): 1982’s Find Another Fool and 1983’s Take Me To Heart.
The Heat Is On by Glenn Frey – Song #367
This song, featured in the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop, was co-written by German composer Harold Faltermeyer (who also plays keyboards and bass on the song). He himself had a hit song from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, Axel F, which did not make this list, despite being a #1 song. Axel F is the electronic instrumental theme song of Eddie Murphy’s main character Axel Foley. The music video for The Heat Is On was the first one to use clips from a movie interspersed with performance footage.
American singer/songwriter Glenn Frey died in 2016. He was a founding member, lead singer, and frontman of American rock band the Eagles. Eagles band member Don Henley (who also has solo songs on this list: Dirty Laundry at #414, and The Boys Of Summer at #116) also sang lead on many Eagles songs, and wrote most of their songs with Glenn Frey. One song by the Eagles made this list: I Can’t Tell You Why, at #489, on which neither Don Henley nor Glenn Frey sing lead; it is the first single to feature Timothy B. Schmit on lead vocals. After the Eagles broke up in 1980, Glenn Frey had a successful solo career that includes the U.S. Billboard Top 40 ‘80s hits The One You Love, Smuggler’s Blues, You Belong to the City, and True Love. The Heat Is On is the highest charting solo single on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 by any member of the Eagles.
Hey Nineteen by Steely Dan - Song #298
This song is the ninth of 10 U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits by American jazz rock band Steely Dan, all between 1972 and 1981, which include Do It Again, Reelin’ In the Years, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, and Peg. Steely Dan’s only other ‘80s hit is Time Out Of Mind. Hey Nineteen peaked at #10 in 1981. Steely Dan is the duo of Walter Becker (guitars, bass, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (piano, keyboards, lead vocals) who recorded with a variety of different musicians. For example, Jeff Porcaro was a drummer for Steely Dan who later formed Toto; Toto has two songs on this list: Rosanna at #388 and Africa at #34. Also, Michael McDonald played keyboards and provided background vocals for Steely Dan; he has two songs on this list: I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) at #374 and his duet with Patti LaBelle, On My Own, at #279.
Steely Dan is named after a dildo from the William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch. Donald Fagen said, “We had to come up with a name in a hurry, and Walter and I were both Burroughs fans, though he was not known at the time. It was an in-joke. Who’s going to know what Steely Dan was? And we figured that, like most of our bands in the past, it would fall apart after three months, so we didn’t think much about it.” Steely Dan’s style includes elements of jazz, pop, and R&B, with cryptic and satirical lyrics. Donald Fagen said that his hope was that songs like Hey Nineteen would be enjoyed by soccer moms in dentist chairs bobbing their heads, unaware of the filthy lyrics. The point of view of Hey Nineteen is of an older man unable to relate to a 19-year-old who doesn’t even know who Aretha Franklin is (“Hey Nineteen, that’s ‘Retha Franklin; She don’t remember the Queen of Soul...”). (Aretha Franklin has two songs on this list: Freeway Of Love at #295, and her duet with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), at #282.) Steely Dan broke up in 1981, shortly after Hey Nineteen was a hit, but they reunited for a tour in 1993, and then recorded an album in 2000, Two Against Nature, which won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Steely Dan released a final album in 2003, and continued to tour until Walter Becker died of cancer in 2017. Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001.
Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins - Song #288
This song was an international hit for British pop band Thompson Twins, and reached #3 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. Billboard ranked Hold Me Now as the 24th most popular song of 1984. The song was a big hit in Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, and the U.K.
Initially a new wave group when formed in 1977, Thompson Twins switched to a more mainstream pop sound in 1982. The lineup changed, but the band is most well-known as the trio of Tom Bailey (guitars, keyboards, and vocals), Alannah Currie (drums, percussion, and vocals), and Joe Leeway (keyboards, percussion, and vocals), which was the lineup from 1982 to 1986. Joe Bailey left the band in 1986; the remaining duo of Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie continued to record until 1993——and got married in 1991, but divorced in 2003. The band was named after two bumbling detectives (Thomson and Thompson) from the Belgian comic strip The Adventures of Tintin, a series of 24 comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé; this series of comics was one of the most popular in Europe in the 20th century.
Hold Me Now was written by Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie after a heated argument: “Emotionally, it was written as the result of some argument that was resolved between Alannah and myself,” explained Tom Bailey. “We actually decided, well, this is an interesting emotional subject. What it feels like to get back together again after separation and the kind of ideas that come up and the way that emotion and physicality somehow are brought together.”
Thompson Twins’ sound typically relied on electronic instruments, but Alannah Currie said that Hold Me Now was different: “It’s such an emotional song [that] we wanted to have that warmth you often can’t get from synthesizers.” Hold Me Now features guitars, xylophones, piano, and Latin percussion. Tom Bailey explained the unusual structure of the song: “Musically, one thing I notice about this song is that the bass line and the chord sequence are the same in the verse as they are in the chorus. There’s no change. The only change is in the amount of instrumentation that goes on top of that. So you could play the same four chord trick around the verse and the chorus continuously. The only time it diverts from that is in the middle eight immediately after the second chorus. So, it’s very repetitive. And of course, although it’s a medium-tempo emotional song, because of its repetition and its groovy-ness, it has one foot in the dance department, as well.” In fact, Hold Me Now was a #1 song on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club Play chart. The extended dance version of the song, which is almost 10 minutes long, accentuates the intricate song structure (click here).
The percussion in Hold Me Now is particularly distinctive. According to Tom Bailey, “Well, that was a trick we discovered. Because when we first started making music with machines, with drum computers and synthesizers, the drum computers made a very robotic, repetitive, machine-like rhythm that’s very impressive and very insistent, but it’s not quite happy enough. It doesn’t give the impression of a party going on. But as soon as you add the tambourines, as soon as you add the cowbells, the cymbals, the marimbas, the tympanies and things, it feels like there’s a human party going on around that very insistent, machine-like rhythm. So that became one of our secrets of technique: Write the drums for the record with the machine, but play the percussion sometimes quite loosely and not in the most accurate sense. Play it loosely around those rhythms and it feels great.”
Hold Me Now is Thompson Twins’ only song on this list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S, and it is the biggest hit of the group’s seven U.S. Billboard Top 40 songs. In 1982, prior to their pop hits, the band hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Dance/Club Play chart with In the Name Of Love. At that time the group had seven members; they then scaled down to a trio and achieved international success. Their other hits in the U.S. were 1982’s Lies, 1984’s Doctor! Doctor!, 1985’s Lay Your Hands On Me, 1985’s King For a Day, 1987’s Get That Love, and 1989’s Sugar Daddy. Thompson Twins had additional ‘80s hits in the U.K. and other countries including Love On Your Side, We Are Detective, You Take Me Up, Sister Of Mercy, and Don’t Mess With Doctor Dream.
Hold Me Now is featured in the following films: 1998’s The Wedding Singer, 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You, and 2014’s Better Living Through Chemistry. The song has been featured in many TV shows, including Cold Case, Everybody Hates Chris, The Simpsons, EastEnders, The Blacklist, Scream Queens, New Girl, and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Thompson Twins performed Hold Me Now on July 13, 1985 at Live Aid (watch it here), a huge benefit concert that raised funds to help people who were experiencing severe famine in Ethiopia, held simultaneously on stages in Philadelphia and London. After performing Hold me Now on the Philadelphia stage, Thompson Twins performed The Beatles’ Revolution with Madonna on backup vocals and tambourine, and producer Nile Rodgers on guitar (watch it here). According to Rolling Stone magazine, “Forget Queen, U2 and whoever else: This song was the true star of Live Aid. The startling zenith of the follically resplendent U.K. trio’s career, Hold Me Now is an all-timer, the lovers-quarrel lyrics just a shade darker than the gossamer, arpeggiated synth-pop splendor swirling around them. He doesn’t assert himself until the final chorus, but the yelping backing vocals from synth/percussion specialist Joe Leeway——a former Thompson Twins roadie and current uncertified hypnotherapist——steal the show. The sneak-attack MVP of the Wedding Singer soundtrack, too.” Rolling Stone ranked Hold Me Now the #26 song on its list of 100 Best Singles of 1984: Pop’s Greatest Year.
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