As we turn back the clock to the 1980s, we are reminded of a uniquely exceptional era of rock music. A time when the world was torn between the ups and downs of Reaganomics, the threat of communism in Eastern Europe, and a famous fictional boxer named Rocky Balboa. Amidst all the chaos, the one constant was the playlist filled with the best rock songs ever recorded.
These tunes had everything: impressive guitar solos, provocative lyrics, and anthemic choruses that we sang along to with our friends. Join me on a journey through a musical time machine as we revisit some of the biggest 80s rock songs ever recorded.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” – Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a bona fide 80s rock anthem that still resonates with listeners today. With its fast-paced guitar riffs, catchy choruses, and powerful vocals, this smash hit tells the story of a young couple struggling to make ends meet in tough times. It’s a song that captures the energy and urgency of the decade while also touching on timeless themes of love, hope, and perseverance.
From the iconic “whoa-ohs” to the anthemic chorus, “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a song that continues to stand the test of time as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses
This 80s rock classic is a perfect example of the flashy, guitar-driven anthems that defined the era. With its iconic opening riff that’s immediately recognizable, it’s a song that gets stuck in your head and doesn’t let go. The power and passion of the vocals, combined with the raw energy of the instrumentation, makes you want to crank the volume up to eleven and rock out like it’s 1987 all over again.
It’s a true masterpiece of the genre, and even decades later, it remains one of the decade’s most beloved hits.
“Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
The opus “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson is an emblematic song of the 80s rock era. With its electric beat and sultry instrumentals, it tells a tale of a woman who claims that Michael is the father of her child. The enthralling rhythm and mesmerizing melody capture the excitement of the 80s, leaving a lasting impact on the music industry even today.
Jackson’s powerful vocals and thrilling dance moves, combined with the catchy tune, make “Billie Jean” one of the most famous rock anthems of the era, perpetuating its legacy for decades to come.
“Take on Me” – A-ha
“Take on Me” by A-ha is an emblematic song of 80s rock music. The infectious beat and catchy synthesizer hooks immediately grab the listener’s attention. The vocal style is characterized by an earnest, soaring tenor that perfectly captures the song’s yearning and romantic spirit.
The video for the song, with its blend of live-action and rotoscoping animation, is an unforgettable visual experience that cemented the song’s place in pop culture history. With its effervescent energy and infectious melody, “Take on Me” remains an enduring classic that is sure to get any party started.
“Every Breath You Take” – The Police
This 80s rock classic packs a punch with its infectious beat and hauntingly beautiful melody. Its lyrics exude an air of uncertainty and trepidation, as the singer grapples with the complexities of a tumultuous relationship. With intricate use of guitar and drums, this song is a must-listen for anyone looking for the ultimate 80s rock experience.
“Like a Virgin” – Madonna
Madonna’s upbeat and controversial hit “Like a Virgin” was a significant moment in 80s rock music. It features a catchy tune with an infectious dance beat that any 80s rock lover would enjoy. The lyrics of the song are somewhat ambiguous, but they add to its allure.
Madonna’s revealing outfit and bold performances contributed to her iconic status in the 80s. This song was significant in breaking boundaries and pushing the limits in the world of 80s rock music.
“Purple Rain” – Prince
One of the most emblematic songs of the 80s rock era, “Purple Rain” by Prince, is an amalgamation of sheer musicianship and poignant lyricism. The scintillating guitar solos, punctuated by heart-rending screams from the artist, blend seamlessly with the haunting piano melody to evoke an aura of melancholy.
The song’s slow-burning intensity builds up to a crescendo, with a series of gut-punching soulful wails that leave an indelible imprint on the listener’s mind. Prince’s vocal prowess, coupled with his proficient guitar playing and immaculate songwriting skills, make “Purple Rain” an anthemic tribute to the music of the 80s.
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” – Whitney Houston
Ranking high amongst the greatest 80s rock songs is Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” A buoyant, synth-heavy dance-pop track that epitomizes the decade’s eager, carefree spirit, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” radiates effervescence.
Its catchy chorus, infused with Houston’s powerful vocals, urges listeners to cast aside their reservations and embrace the thrill of dancing with that special someone. Even three decades later, the song remains just as infectious and irresistible as it was when it first topped the charts in 1987.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey is a quintessential 80s rock anthem, known for its uplifting chorus and unforgettable keyboard intro. From the first notes of the song, listeners are transported to a world of hope and possibilities, where anything is possible if you just keep the faith.
With its distinctive sound and relatable lyrics, this song has stood the test of time as a beloved classic that still resonates with audiences today.
“Jump” – Van Halen
“Jump” is an exultant ’80s rock song that features David Lee Roth’s signature screams and the iconic synth hook. The song’s catchy chorus and upbeat instrumentation make it impossible not to dance along. The lyrics describe the desire to break free from conformity and take a leap of faith into the unknown.
Fans of hard rock and heavy metal will appreciate the song’s guitar solo and driving rhythm. “Jump” is a quintessential song of the ’80s that perfectly captures the spirit of the era’s music.
“When Doves Cry” – Prince
Prince graces us with his presence on this chart with “When Doves Cry.” A synth-heavy, rhythmically intricate number with an arresting vocal performance from the Purple One himself, it’s a quintessential 80s rock song that still sounds fresh and urgent today. The single stands as one of his most enduring hits, marking Prince’s first #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The emotional depth, musical complexity, and cross-genre appeal make “When Doves Cry” an iconic track that still resonates with listeners today.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
The 80s were a time to be alive and Cyndi Lauper’s upbeat anthem “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was the perfect representation of the era. With its catchy melody and infectious lyrics, the song quickly became a hit and remains a classic 80s rock song to this day. Lauper’s unique voice and quirky style added to the song’s appeal, making it a must-have on any 80s playlist.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is the ultimate feel-good song that will get you up and dancing, no matter your age.
“With or Without You” – U2
One of the most alluring and atmospheric songs of the 80s rock genre, “With or Without You” by U2 showcases the legendary vocal prowess of Bono and the experimental instrumentation style of the band. With its expertly crafted lyrics, the song seamlessly melds elements of rock and pop to create a sound that long remains in the listener’s heart and mind.
Whether you’re an avid fan of 80s rock or simply in the mood for something unconventional, “With or Without You” is a must-listen.
“Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor
At number 14, we have the anthem of champions, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. This explosive 80s rock song offers the perfect adrenaline rush for those in need of motivation. With its electrifying guitar riffs and pounding drums, “Eye of the Tiger” is a perfect representation of the 80s rock scene.
It’s an undeniably powerful track, and its opening beats alone are enough to get anyone’s heart racing. Listen to this gem and feel that your energy level rise to the top of the charts.
“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts is an iconic 80s rock song that combines powerful guitar riffs with punchy, yet melodic vocals. With its catchy chorus and confident attitude, this song was a hit on the charts and remains a favorite of rock fans today. Jett’s rebellious spirit and raw energy make this song a must-listen for those who love 80s rock music.
It’s a song that’s full of swagger and swagger with a touch of edginess that screams “rockstar.”
“The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis and the News
“The Power of Love,” a hit song by Huey Lewis and the News, reigns as one of the quintessential 80s rock anthems that can still move even the blankest listener today. With its up-tempo beats, infectious guitar riffs, and soulful vocal performances, it epitomizes the decade’s sound and spirit.
It’s an ever-green song that managed to transcend the era in which it was created, and remains a staple of classic rock stations to this day. With influences ranging from rock to blues and even pop music, “The Power of Love” is an energetic ode to the enduring strength of love and passion.
“Beat It” – Michael Jackson
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson is a legendary 80s rock song that showcases Jackson’s musical prowess and electrifying dance moves. The song is a masterclass in pop rock rhythm, with catchy guitar chords, heavy drums, and an infectious bass line. It also features a fiery guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen.
The lyrics are a reflection on gang violence, with Jackson urging listeners to stand up to their oppressors. “Beat It” has become an iconic song of the 80s rock scene and continues to be a favorite among music fans today.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler is an iconic 80s power ballad that captures the essence of a tumultuous relationship. The song is characterized by its epic instrumentals and Tyler’s soaring vocals, which create a sense of urgency and passion that can only be described as a “total eclipse” of emotions.
With its memorable chorus and passionate lyrics, this song has endured as a quintessential 80s rock anthem that continues to captivate audiences to this day.
“Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is an iconic and timeless rock song from the 80s that still slaps today. With its groovy bassline, intense percussion, and catchy lyrics, this song is a must-have addition to any rock playlist. Queen was known for their ability to blend different genres of music together, and this song showcases their talent perfectly.
Whether you’re a fan of classic rock or just looking for some new music to enjoy, you can’t go wrong with “Another One Bites the Dust.”
“Africa” – Toto
Toto’s “Africa” is a quintessential example of 80s rock. The synth-heavy sound, soaring chorus, and distinct keyboard hook have made it a popular choice for movie soundtracks, TV commercials, and cover versions. While the lyrics are somewhat abstract and open to interpretation, the evocative imagery of the African continent and imagery of rain and deserts combine to create a haunting backdrop for the yearning vocals and guitar work.
The song’s enduring popularity is a testament to its enduring hooks and its timeless appeal to listeners of all ages.
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” – Eurythmics
Released in 1983, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by British duo Eurythmics became a massive hit, quickly climbing to the top of international charts. Combining pop, rock, and synthpop, the song features Annie Lennox’s powerful vocals and sweeping synthesizer melodies by Dave Stewart. Lennox’s androgynous style and dramatic performance in the accompanying music video added to the song’s edgy and innovative appeal.
A true icon of 80s rock, “Sweet Dreams” remains an enduring favorite for its catchy melody, soaring vocals, and evocative lyrics about the mystery of dreams and the subconscious mind.
“Hungry Like the Wolf” – Duran Duran
Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” is a quintessential 80s rock song that captivated audiences with its vibrant synth-pop sound and catchy chorus. The pulsing bass line and syncopated beat drive the song forward, creating an infectious energy that’s impossible to resist.
With lyrics that describe a hunt for love as if it were prey, “Hungry Like the Wolf” captures the intense passion and desire of youth in a way that only 80s rock could. It’s a song that stands the test of time and continues to captivate audiences today with its unique blend of new wave and rock.
“Thriller” – Michael Jackson
“At number 24 is the unforgettable ‘Thriller’ by the legendary Michael Jackson. This genre-bending track left its mark on 80s rock, bringing elements of funk, pop, and disco into the mix. With its iconic music video and haunting lyrics, ‘Thriller’ cemented itself as a cultural touchstone.”
“You Give Love a Bad Name” – Bon Jovi
” You Give Love a Bad Name” is an electrifying rock song that will surely get your blood pumping. This quintessential 80s jam offers a potent mix of driving guitar riffs, thumping drums, and soaring vocals that will make you want to sing along. The track’s bold instrumentation perfectly complements the song’s rebellious attitude and themes of heartbreak and betrayal.
With its infectious energy and catchy chorus, this explosive hit from Bon Jovi remains a timeless anthem of 80s rock music that has captivated listeners for decades.
“Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen
“Dancing in the Dark” is a quintessential 80s rock song that amazes with the sheer boisterous excitement generated by Bruce Springsteen’s electrifying vocals backed by dizzying guitar riffs and energetic drums. The exquisite lyrics give an insight into the frustration and yearning felt by young people for approval and recognition.
The captivating rhythms, catchy melody, and an infectious chorus that invites the audience to dance their hearts out, make “Dancing in the Dark” a timeless classic that continues to pump up the adrenaline of listeners even after three decades.
“Careless Whisper” – George Michael
“Careless Whisper”, by George Michael, is an 80s rock classic that combined pop and soul influences to create a smooth and sultry sound. The song’s signature sax riff, along with Michael’s powerful vocals, made it an instant hit that still resonates today.
The lyrics, which explore the pain of infidelity and the guilt that follows, are as poignant as ever, making “Careless Whisper” a timeless classic of the era.
“Money for Nothing” – Dire Straits
The 28th hit of the 80s rock era is a sonic masterpiece known as “Money for Nothing” by the formidable Dire Straits. Its electrifying guitar riffs, pounding percussion and pulsating rhythm make the track a true rock gem. Its lyrics evoke a sense of frustration towards a pop-star cliche, exposing the shallow nature of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.
This tune rightfully earned its spot in rock history with its experimental use of digital music production and lyrical themes that were way ahead of its time.
“Footloose” – Kenny Loggins
“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins is an energizing and exuberant up-tempo 80s rock classic with a driving beat and catchy lyrics. With its combination of upbeat guitar riff and popping percussion, the song effortlessly captures the youthful and carefree spirit of the era.
Propelled by Loggins’s unbridled vocals and supported by an infectious infectious chorus, “Footloose” was a huge hit upon its release and remains a beloved anthem to this day, which surely fills us with wonder and stimulation.
“Heaven” – Bryan Adams
“Heaven” by Bryan Adams is an iconic 80s rock ballad that will take you on a romantic journey back in time. This song beautifully captures the essence of pure love with its emotional lyrics and melodic guitar riffs. With its catchy chorus and heartfelt vocals, this track is a timeless masterpiece that will leave you feeling nostalgic and yearning for the simplicity and innocence of the past.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of 80s rock or a newbie to the genre, “Heaven” is a must-listen that will leave you breathless and longing for more.
“The Final Countdown” – Europe
“The Final Countdown” by Europe is one of the definitive 80s rock songs. With its synths, soaring vocals, and stadium-sized chorus, this track is a prime example of the epic sounds that defined the decade’s biggest hits. The guitar solo, in particular, is a masterclass in shredding, showcasing the kind of technical proficiency that was a hallmark of the era’s guitar heroes.
If you’re a fan of 80s music, this one is a must-listen – it’s like the ultimate time capsule of a time when everything was big, bold, and designed to make an impact.”
“Material Girl” – Madonna
The frenzied keyboard intro of “The Final Countdown” by Europe is hard to miss. The Swedish band’s 1986 hit only climbed to #8 on the US charts, but its enduring popularity has made it a staple of 80s rock.
Featuring a soaring guitar solo and a distinct synth-heavy sound, “The Final Countdown” is a quintessential example of the era’s arena rock anthems. It’s a song that’s impossible not to sing along to, and its larger-than-life sound cements its status as a beloved gem of 80s rock.
“Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and the Waves
“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves is an upbeat, vibrant track that epitomizes the lively spirit of 80s rock. The catchy melody and infectious rhythm of the song invite listeners to sing along and dance, making it a timeless classic that continues to resonate with audiences today.
The pulsating beat of the drums and bass, combined with the electric guitar riffs and bright vocal harmonies, create a vivacious musical whirlwind that is impossible to resist. It’s a perfect track to kick-start any party or lift anyone’s mood with a burst of 80s energy.
“We Built This City” – Starship
“We Built This City” by Starship is an electrifying 80s rock hit that combines the energy of synth-pop with hard-driving guitar riffs. Featuring a catchy chorus and powerful vocals, this song channels the rebellious spirit of rock music while also incorporating the emerging sounds of the era.
Filled with pulsating rhythms and explosive hooks, “We Built This City” captures the essence of 80s rock and is sure to get your heart pumping and your feet moving.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds
This track is a like, totally rad bringing together some like, super sick guitar riffs and upbeat, high-energy vocals. It’s like the perfect embodiment of those classic 80s rock tunes that make you want to like, roll down your car windows and blast the volume.
It’s straight up feel-good rock n’ roll from start to finish, with a massive sing-along chorus that’ll stick in your mind for days. No wonder it’s a timeless classic that still rocks the party to this day.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley
This epic track combines ultimate 80s power pop with contagious beats, making it perfect for any rock party. Its catchy tune and upbeat melody are sure to get you hyped up and dancing all night long. From the explosive riffs to the electrifying vocals, this song has it all.
It’s no surprise that it became an instant classic, and a must-have for anyone’s 80s rock playlist. With its timeless energy and infectious sound, it’s no wonder that this tune still resonates with audiences today.
“Love Shack” – The B-52’s
“Love Shack” by The B-52’s is the perfect blend of 80s rock and roll with a pinch of funk and soul. This groovy track will transport you back to the era of big hair, neon colours, and wild parties. With quirky lyrics and a catchy tune, it’s impossible not to dance along to Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider’s playful vocals.
The song’s unique sound is thanks in part to the band’s unconventional use of instruments, like the cowbell and toy piano. Truly a fun and infectious song that is sure to get any party started!
“Sweet Dreams” – Marilyn Manson
“Careless Whisper” is a song by the British band Wham! and the solo project of vocalist George Michael. Written and produced by Michael himself, the song features a smooth saxophone riff that contrasts with the emotional lyrics of a lover who has been caught cheating. The smooth jazz-influenced sound was a departure from Wham!’s usual pop sound and became one of the most iconic songs of the ’80s.
The song is often associated with the saxophone melody, which has been covered numerous times, but the lyrics themselves make the song stand out as one of the most emotional ballads of the era.
“I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner
Amidst the troves of 80s rock tunes, one iconic track that emerges to the profound enjoyment of a diverse audience is a bona fide hit known as “Man in the Mirror.” This inspirational masterpiece from Michael Jackson urges listeners to take an introspective look into oneself and make a change for the betterment of society and oneself.
It features a compelling vocally driven melody intertwined with an entrancing gospel-tinged rhythm section. The song radiates positivity and depth, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking to get lost in the vibe of 80s rock and pop classics.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen
This track from Queen’s 1980 album “The Game” showcases the band’s ability to blend the classic rock sounds of 70s with the upbeat, pop-infused vibes of the 80s. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” features Freddie Mercury’s signature vocals and Brian May’s distinctive guitar riffs, creating an infectious, danceable tune that has stood the test of time.
With its catchy chorus and infectious energy, it’s no surprise that this song became one of Queen’s biggest hits and a beloved classic of 80s rock.
“Careless Whisper” – Wham!
This 80s rock anthem from George Michael’s former band Wham! has stood the test of time, resonating with multiple generations. The silky smooth saxophone solo and the soulful vocals paint a picture of heartache and longing.
“Careless Whisper” is a timeless classic that captures the essence of love’s complexities and the painful emotions that come with it. It’s a song that speaks to the power of music to touch our souls in ways that transcend time and space.
“Heaven Is a Place on Earth” – Belinda Carlisle
“Heaven Is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle is an exhilarating rock song that epitomizes the fast-paced, energetic vibe of the 80s. The track boasts an explosive combination of electrifying guitar riffs, bolstered by the singer’s commanding vocals that create a sense of euphoria and bliss.
Carlisle’s charismatic performance and the song’s catchy melody make “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” an iconic tune that still resonates with rock music lovers today. Unquestionably, this song embodies the thrilling and dynamic musical arrangements of 80s rock songs, making it a must-listen for rock enthusiasts.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – U2
This iconic rock ballad by U2 is a prime example of the band’s ability to blend soaring guitar riffs with powerful, emotional lyrics. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” captures the essence of 80s rock, with its themes of longing and hope set against a backdrop of driving drums and bright, shimmering chords.
From Bono’s impassioned vocals to the song’s cathartic, sing-along chorus, this track remains a beloved classic that never fails to move audiences.
“Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield
“Jessie’s Girl” is an 80s rock classic by Australian singer-songwriter Rick Springfield, known for its catchy guitar riff and relatable lyrics about lusting over someone else’s partner. The upbeat tempo, energetic vocals, and lively chorus make it a favorite among fans of the era.
Despite its seemingly simple premise, the song has endured as a beloved staple of 80s rock music due to its infectious melody and timeless appeal.
“Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” – Michael Jackson
This song is a total jam, one of the best of the 80s in my humble opinion. It’s got a groovy beat that just makes you want to get up and dance, and Michael Jackson’s iconic voice is on point as always. The bassline is super funky and the guitar riff is just killer.
It’s one of those songs that stands the test of time and is still played on the radio today. If you’re a fan of 80s rock songs, you definitely need to have this one in your playlist.
“Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top
“Sharp Dressed Man” is a groovy track about a well-dressed man by the American rock band ZZ Top. Released in 1983, the song features a catchy guitar riff, upbeat tempo, and catchy lyrics about a man with a fashionable style that gets the attention of women everywhere he goes.
As one of their biggest hits, “Sharp Dressed Man” represents ZZ Top’s signature sound of bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with a touch of Southern charm, making it an essential addition to any 80s rock playlist.
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison
The hard rock ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison is one of the definitive songs of the 1980s. With its catchy guitar riff and emotive lyrics about the pain of lost love, the song perfectly captures the spirit of the era.
Lead singer Bret Michaels delivers a powerful performance, his gritty voice perfectly conveying the raw emotion of the song. It’s a timeless classic that still resonates with fans today, and one that truly embodies the spirit of 80s rock.