For anyone who was born in the ’70s, the music of that era is most likely some of your favorites. If you’re anything like me, then you were just old enough to enjoy most of this music without really understanding what was happening with all those disco beats.
The ’80s brought about a major change in popular music. This also coincided with my younger years when I spent less time listening to history lectures and more time jamming out to the latest pop songs on the radio.
The game-changer hit right at the close of 1979 when Blondie released their song Heart Of Glass, which included elements of disco blended seamlessly into new wave rock for an entirely new genre to sweep across America.
In the next five years, mega pop stars such as Madonna and Prince would rise to prominence. Not only were they releasing hit songs that topped the charts but they were also breaking new ground by showing risqué footage for music videos on MTV. The rest, as they say, is history! Or at least a brief overview of why I picked the following songs to represent my favorite tunes from this era.
Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood:
Released in 1983, this song was banned almost immediately by the BBC due to the somewhat sexual lyrics. The video for this song was also pretty risqué with lead singer Holly Johnson appearing naked within it under a large blue sheet.
Relax ended up being number one on the UK Singles Chart for five weeks and also reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 making Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s only entry into America’s top 40 list. So if you want to know what good dance music is all about, look no further than Relax!
Call Me by Blondie:
Another song from 1983, this one hit number 1 on the UK Singles Chart and made it to number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Call Me was Blondie’s second-biggest US single behind Heart of Glass. Even though there were a lot of disco elements going into this song, it still represented a clear shift away from that genre to something new and exciting.
Take On Me by A-Ha:
This is another perfect example of how things changed in music during the ’80s as well as an indication as to where my musical tastes lie; synth-pop! I love everything about this tune whether it be the lyrics or those fantastic video effects.
It didn’t hurt that A-Ha was a Norwegian band either. If you’re a bit of a geek like me, who grew up watching MTV and VH1, then you probably have memories of this video being played on just about every music-themed show at the time. Well, I do anyway!
Born In The U.S.A by Bruce Springsteen:
This is one of those songs that no matter what mood I am in it always helps to pick me up and put a smile on my face! It’s also very indicative of how things were changing for America during this time as well as for its people too.
Born In The USA sold more copies than any other album released in 1984 including Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It reached #9 on the UK Singles Chart and topped the Billboard Hot 100 list as well. Talk about fantastic music!
Photograph by Def Leppard:
This is a song that just seems made to be played live. From the fantastic guitar riffs to its catchy lyrics and beat, Photograph has been a mainstay of Def Leppard shows for years! And this from a band who has been together since 1978?
I think it’s fair to say they have found the formula for success as well as longevity in an industry not known for either one of those things. If you want even more proof that Def Leppard rocks check out their album Hysteria which features seven top forty singles on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
Don’t You Want Me by The Human League:
From the synthesizer intro to Philip Oakey’s amazing singing voice, this song is a winner all the way around! The video for this song was also pretty cool and helped it get airplay on MTV. Not only that but The Human League has continued releasing new material over the years and remains popular with fans old and new. I also kind of like how Phil looks like Sloth from The Goonies.
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley:
I don’t know anyone who can listen to this song without breaking into their rendition of Rick-Rolling every time they played it on the radio or somewhere else for that matter. Granted Rick Astley didn’t write this song but he had the most success with it.
And since no one was expecting his first video to be a lip-synced version of what looked like an old 60’s clip-on someone’s home VHS collection, people were caught off guard. But don’t you worry young grasshopper, for this prankster strikes again with yet another rickroll!
I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston:
It didn’t matter that her vocal range wasn’t all that great or that she needed way more work on her dancing skills because despite all of those things I loved every minute of Whitney Houston growing up. She was just so cute and when she released this song it became a must-play on the radio. In fact, I remember being so excited when she sang it live at the 1989 Grammy Awards!
In addition, Whitney Houston went on to have many more hits throughout her career including one of my favorite songs from her debut album titled How Will I Know.
I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany:
It seemed for a while there that every other song you heard playing was either by Madonna or Tiffany and in 1988 Ms. Ciccone got bumped off top Billboard Hot 100 list by a newcomer named Tiffany.
She kind of reminds me a lot of N’Sync in the fact that they were very 80s looking but still managed to pull it off rather well. As for the song, I have to admit it is pretty catchy and I can still remember just about every word verbatim when it comes on!
Another One Bites The Dust by Queen:
This is without a doubt one of my favorite Queen songs. Not only are the lyrics perfect but the music itself was great for dancing around. I also enjoyed how they paid homage to some classic rock legends with this video by including snippets of other musicians in their own clips as well, which definitely helps make this one epic music video in my book!
Other hit songs from Queen include Under Pressure which reached #1 in both UK and USA, Another One Bites The Dust, and Bohemian Rhapsody both of which were number one hits in the UK.
Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees:
I know I might get some slack for including another song from the Bee Gees but this track is an all-time classic! It has everything that makes a great party song; interesting lyrics, catchy beat, small vocal parts to sing along with other people, etc.
And despite the fact that they are considered to be one of the first disco bands I would not consider them to be overrated because their music sounds good no matter what time period it was released in. Then again, maybe I’m biased because you can never go wrong when it comes to a disco!
Tainted Love by Soft Cell:
This is kind of a slow-tempo track but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to listen to. I think my favorite thing about this song is the piano riff which only turns up now and then as a backup for the main singer.
Other songs from Soft Cell include Say Hello Wave Goodbye, Torch, and What! So overall they have a pretty good discography… even if they are on some top 10 worst singers list somewhere on the Internet.
Word Up by Cameo:
Cameo first began playing music together in 1976 but didn’t hit their stride until 1986 when they entered the R&B scene with their brand new sound. Not only did they have a few hit songs but they were also known to put on one heck of a live show which made them an even bigger tour-de-force in music!
I’m not sure why this group isn’t still around because I would definitely love to see them play again someday. My favorite song by Cameo is definitely Word Up!
So that concludes another article for our website Clapway, and if you enjoyed reading about the top best ’80s songs on the radio then make sure to check back next week for another update! Until then, thank you again for stopping by, and happy clapping!