Do these 80s songs ever die?
These were some of the favorite tunes of older Gen Xers, and now, 40 years since the decade began, we are still hearing this 80s music… All. The. Time.
How have these 80s songs stood the test of time after others have faded into obscurity? It took a combination of stellar songwriting, musical ingenuity, and pop culture appropriation.
Here are 10 songs from the 80s that we still hear constantly. (Have another one or ten that you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!)
10. “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie (1983)
Rock god David Bowie was a prolific songwriter, releasing 21 studio albums prior to his death in 2016. Though already well-known in rock circles, the iconic 80s song “Let’s Dance” lifted him to global superstardom.
In addition to the airplay it still gets, you can hear it in the movies Zoolander, Eagle vs Shark, The Boat That Rocked, Gia, Let Me In, and Shall We Dance, as well as in the video games Elite Beat Agents, Band Hero, LEGO Rock Band and two editions of Dance Dance Revolution.
9. “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey (1981)
If you want to get literally everyone around you singing together at the top of their lungs, all you have to do is play “Don’t Stop Believin'” — Journey’s perfect rock anthem from 1981.
Opening with that instantly-recognizable piano riff, and soon accompanied by the voice of the brilliant and legendary Steve Perry, this is another one that has a good reason to still be hanging around with us more than forty years later.
Good thing, because the song is still played everywhere from Detroit Red Wings hockey games to the Broadway show Rock of Ages, and became permanently ingrained in TV culture when used in the series premiere of Glee and the series finale of The Sopranos.
8. “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie (1981)
Imagine a Gen X parent’s delight when they turn on a kids’ movie and hear the iconic bass line of this duet by two of the kings of rock. The phenomenal way the voices of of Bowie and Mercury combined was epic.
Memorably featured during the turning point in the movie Sing, this masterpiece is rated as one of the best songs of all time.
You can also hear it in the 2010 film It’s Kind of a Funny Story, 2011’s Happy Feet Two, 2015’s Take Me to the River, the 2019 miniseries Good Omens, and a season three episode of Sex Education.
7. “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure (1987)
Previously known as a post-punk/Goth rock band, the Cure’s 1987 album “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” was pure pop, and gave them their first American no. 1 hit, “Just Like Heaven.”
This 80s song still gets frequent airplay on alt rock stations and can be used as an awesome wedding recessional — ask me how I know.
Also: A film of the same name came out in 2005, and starred Reese Witherspoon and a pre-Hulk Mark Ruffalo.
6. “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty (1989)
You can’t spend half an hour in a grocery store without Tom Petty’s 1989 hit “Free Fallin'” wafting overhead.
But it doesn’t end there. The tune has been covered by Coldplay and John Mayer, and featured in Jerry Maguire and The Sopranos.
5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police (1983)
This creepy tune about a stalker was often mistaken for a love song when it was first released on the album “Synchronicity” in 1983, with some couples even using it as their wedding song — yikes!
If you feel like you still hear Sting’s voice constantly, you actually do. As of 2019, it had received the most airplay of any song in history, garnering 15 million spins on FM radio alone.
4. “Africa” by Toto (1982)
You will still find the anthem “Africa” in the most random of places: first of all, the website ibless.therains.downin.africa , which plays the Toto video on an endless loop.
This 80s song is also the subject of the Twitter account @africabytotobot, which has tweeted the lyrics to the song, line by line, 24 hours a day since 2016, episodes of Stranger Things, Saturday Night Live and South Park, a vacation video compilation by Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, and sampled by Nas, Xzibit, Ja Rule, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Derulo, and JoJo.
3. “When Doves Cry” by Prince (1984)
Honestly, it is difficult to narrow down the most played song from Prince’s legendary album (and movie) “Purple Rain” to just one, because the hits just kept coming from that one — and, rightfully, still get frequent airplay today.
What makes “When Doves Cry” unique is its distinct lack of a bass line and that incredible, instantly recognizable guitar riff right at the beginning, before the drums kick in.
2. “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins (1981)
The mysterious nature of the lyrics have lent themselves to multiple urban legends throughout the years, but what makes this particular 80s song a classic is the unique reverb to the vocals, and the game-changing — and super iconic — drum break prior to the second chorus.
What is the #1 80s song? The envelope please…
Our number one 80s song that you still hear all the time is perhaps best known for its angst-filled lyrics and haunting melody.
The tune was written by a seldom-seen trio from foggy London, who worked in a building on a street that was 300 years old, so there’s definitely a feeling of timelessness here.
For any number of factors, a feeling of disappointment often lingers after this song is played — which isn’t always a bad thing.
Click here or scroll down for the final song from the 80s you still hear all the time, as well as a few more that almost made our top 10 list!
You’ve been RICKROLLED!
1. “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley (1987)
And this, friends, is why you will continue to hear this song (from 1987) for the rest of your natural life. (PS: What we wrote above about this song is all true!)
6 other 80s songs that almost made this list:
- Sweet Child o’ Mine, by Guns N’ Roses
- Livin’ on a Prayer, by Bon Jovi
- Melt with You, by Modern English
- Tainted Love, by Soft Cell
- You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), by Dead or Alive
- Last Christmas, by Wham
ALSO SEE… Misheard lyrics from hit songs: Mondegreens from the 60s, 70s and 80s