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The 200 Best Songs of The 1980s

The greatest hits of music’s wildest decade – hip-hop, synth-pop, indie rock, metal, Chicago house, Miami freestyle, ska, goth, reggae, acid house, and more

200 best songs of the 1980s


WELCOME TO THE jungle. We got fun and games. The Eighties are one of the weirdest eras ever for music. It’s a decade of excess. It’s also a decade of INXS. It’s got big hair, big drums, big shoulder pads. Not to mention massive stars: Prince, Madonna, Michael, Bruce, Janet, Sade, Cher. New sounds and beats explode everywhere. Hip-hop takes over as the voice of young America. Glam-metal rocks the Sunset Strip. New Romantic synth-pop invades MTV. Thriller becomes history’s biggest hit. Music gets louder, crazier, messier. Do you know where you are? You’re in the Eighties, baby.

So let’s break it down: the 200 best songs of the Eighties, music’s most insane decade. The hits, the deep cuts, the fan favorites. A mix tape of pop classics, rockers, rappers, soul divas, new wavers, disco jams, country twangers, punk ragers, dance-floor anthems, smooth operators, and karaoke room-clearers. There’s all-time legends and one-hit wonders. There’s new rebel voices that expoded out of nowhere. There’s cheese. There’s sleaze. Axl meets Slash. Salt meets Pepa. Echo meets the Bunnymen. Frankie goes to Hollywood. Public Enemy brings the noise. Madonna brings the sex. There’s Chicago house, Detroit techno, Miami freestyle, D.C. go-go. There’s ska, goth, reggae, acid house. But just one song per artist, or half the list would be Prince.

Some of these Eighties songs remain famous around the world. You hear them at weddings, parties, clubs, the karaoke bar. Others make people run and scream in terror. Many are songs you remember; some you desperately try to forget. But every one is a brilliant tune, and each one is part of the unsolvable Rubik’s Cube that is Hair Decade pop.

So welcome to the Eighties. Put this mix tape in the boombox, pump up the volume, and hit play. Push it. Push it real good.

From Rolling Stone US


Rosanne Cash, ‘Seven Year Ache’

“Face down in a memory, but feelin’ alright”—you’ve probably had a few nights like that. Roseanne Cash claims her crown with a country-rock tale eviscerating a smooth-talking ladies’ man as he prowls all over L.A., ripping him to shreds. (“Heartaches are heroes when their pockets are full”—true that.) I will never understand why this song isn’t as famous as “You’re So Vain,” but it’s an absolute Casanova-killer, and the best L.A. singles-bar song of a very L.A. singles-bar era. What a chorus: “The boys say, ‘When is he gonna give us some room?’/The girls say, ‘God, I hope he comes back soon.’”


Eddy Grant, ‘Electric Avenue’

Eddy Grant wrote “Electric Avenue” after the 1981 Brixton riots, where African-Caribbean youth battled the police. But it became a global smash, a radical mix mashing up reggae, synth-pop, punk and funk, with a drum loop distorted to roar like a revving motorcycle. His voice hits home with a no-bullshit adult style of working-class anger, growling, “Can’t get food for the kid—good gaaaawd!”