Greatest songs of the 1980s

Over 44 years ago, the 1980s ushered in a new era of music with genres such as hip-hop, new wave, synth-pop and the popularization of metal. This era played a huge role in what music is today.

The introduction of Music Television, MTV, on Aug. 1, 1981 changed how the world listened to music. The idea of music videos was not widely known until it aired on American cable television.

The ’80s also introduced the term known as a “one-hit wonder.” Songs from the ’80s such as “Take On Me” by a-ha, “I Melt With You” by Modern English and “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell are all regarded as some of the greatest one-hit wonders of all time.

Besides these one-hit wonders, what are the greatest songs to come out of the decade? The Jambar has listened to numerous tracks and put together a top-five list of the greatest songs from the ’80s.

At No. 5 on the list is singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper’s first major single, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” The hit was released on Lauper’s debut 1983 album “She’s So Unusual,” with Portrait Records. The album also featured hits such as “Time After Time.”

“Girls Just Want To Have Fun” reached No. 2 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been covered by over 30 prominent artists as a studio recording or live performance. The synthesizer-backed track implemented a fun and playful attitude that became an anthem for girls growing up in the ’80s.

The music video to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” won Best Female Performance at the American Video Awards in 1983 and Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.

Tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union gave inspiration to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by English pop-rock band Tears For Fears. This song, released March 22, 1985, crashes its way to No. 4 on the list.

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the third track on Tears For Fears’s second studio album “Songs from the Big Chair.” The song peaked at No. 2 in Ireland, Australia and the U.K. while it reached No. 1 in Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.

This song is highly regarded as the “decade’s best” by several critics and is certified gold by Music Canada and the British Phonographic Industry.

Phil Collins’s 1981 track, “In the Air Tonight” lands at No. 3 on The Jambar’s list. The song’s drum fill is regarded by Ozzy Osbourne as “the best ever.”

“In the Air Tonight” appeared on Collins’s debut solo album, “Face Value,” which reached No. 2 on the U.K. Singles Chart and No. 1 in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. In 2021, Rolling Stones Magazine ranked it No. 291 in the publication’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Moonwalking its way to No. 2 is “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Released in 1982, Jackson’s sixth studio album “Thriller” had other hits such as “Beat It,” but “Billie Jean” stands out from the rest of the tracks.

The album sold over 70 million copies worldwide, and with the help of producer Quincy Jones, it blended several different genres together. “Billie Jean” features a mix of R&B, funk and disco with a groovy, melodic bassline.

The track spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and quickly became one of the best-selling singles of 1983.

Rounding out the list at No. 1 is “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. Originally released as a single from Wham!’s sophomore album “Make It Big” in 1984, the song was written and sung by Michael.

During the song’s recording process, Michael auditioned 11 saxophonists before reaching the ionic sound on the track. “Careless Whisper” went on to reach commercial success and topped the record charts in ten countries with six million copies sold world wide.

Although the ’80s are gone, the musical influence is still around and can be heard almost everyday in modern pop-culture.