Music is a culture all its own. In fact, it’s like a language. If we stop using it, it will disappear and be forgotten. So here is a small attempt to keep it alive.
We’ve already given you 40 Songs From the ’60s and ’70s That Your Kids Should Know By Heart; so now, here are twenty songs from the 1980′s. What’s great about this decade is the variety of music, you might think of Madonna and Michael Jackson but there are so many other amazing songs and artists to remember.
Now it’s up to you to teach these to your children and make sure they appreciate them too. After all, who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for some yourself!
Kiss On My List, Hall & Oates (1981)
This song is so ’80s! The slow tempo but hip-hop beat kind of draws you in right off the bat. And not to mention this is one of those romantic love songs, unlike in the ’70s when they were romantic sex songs. Really, the only part anybody knows from this Hall & Oates song is the chorus, “Because your kiss, your kiss, is on my list/Because your kiss, your kiss, is on my list/Your kiss on my list of the best things in life.” It’s sweet.
Jessie’s Girl, Rick Springfield (1981)
One of the things that makes this song so good is that it’s a jealousy song – and who can’t relate to that?! It’s kind of sweet, but really the whole song makes you feel bad for Rick because he wants Jessie’s girl so bad that it hurts and he can’t do anything about it because Jessie’s his friend. The main lyrics, “Jessie’s got himself a girl/And I want to make her mine/And she’s watching him with those eyes/And she’s lovin’ him with that body, I just know it,” are romantic and cute – but the jealousy is flowing out of his voice. Any age group can relate to this song.
Jack and Diane, John Cougar Mellencamp (1982)
This was John Mellencamp‘s biggest single and we really like it, but we’re not exactly sure why. It’s a classic love song, from a third person perspective. The bass and clapping are what really make it musical and easy to sing to. But it’s more-so the kind of song that you sing in the car, with the windows down in the summer, alongside a bunch of friends.
Eye of the Tiger, Survivor (1982)
Eye of the Tiger is one of the original pump-up songs. Everything about it is preparing you to fight the fight, win that game or crush your opponent. It’s motivational and bad-ass. That’s it. Your kids really should already know this one, unless you raised them under a rock.
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1982)
This song never gets old. This was a great rock song that came after its prime and thrived. Anybody who has heard this song before knows the words and can’t help but sing along when they hear it. There isn’t one specific thing that makes this song worth mentioning. It’s the beat, the words, the way it makes you feel that gets you excited and happy.
Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler (1983)
Something about this slow rock song makes you want to scream it in the shower with a soap mic. The single sold well over nine million copies making Bonnie the first and only welsh singer to make one of the top spots on Billboards Top 100. It’s a little bit sad but when you’re singing it, it just seems like everything you’ve felt after a breakup is somehow in words.
Sweet Dreams, The Eurythmics (1983)
Well, we aren’t the only ones who think this Eurythmics song is worth the mention. It topped charts in more than ten countries and has been covered by a handful of people. One of the weirdest, but strangely popular covers, was by Marilyn Manson and one of the more upbeat and happier covers came from Stereo Express. In fact, the band actually remixed it themselves and re-released the song in 1991. Pretty much everybody today has some version of this song to use in dance clubs – and with good reason.
Every Breath You Take, The Police (1983)
This song was nominated for three GRAMMYs, which in itself is pretty impressive, and won one of them. This was also the song that held off “Sweet Dreams” from usurping the Number 1 spot for four weeks. It’s a great example of one of the great things about the ’80s. The two songs, “Every Breath You Take” and “Sweet Dreams” were released around the same time but they have completely different vibes and were both incredibly popular. This song is definitely a favorite though, just for Sting‘s lyrics. It’s an interesting song that sounds mellow and sweet but the lyrics are a little darker and kind of intense: “Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.”
Maniac, Michael Sembello (1983)
This song got it’s start from the film Flashdance (which is why the video is from the scene that includes the song). It’s a good pairing too; the song screams ’80s workout music. It’s motivational, upbeat and it has an intensity…but the best/worst part is that it’s one of those songs that stays in your head for hours, even though you only know the chorus.
Down Under, Men At Work (1981)
This song topped the charts in Australia nearly overnight after its debut, but didn’t even reach the US until late 1982. We think it is such a fun song because it’s about Australia and what do we know about the outback? Plus nobody knows what they’re talking about when they say Vegemite (eew!), but it sounds good in the song.
Africa, Toto (1982)
Toto keyboardist, David Paich was inspired because he was unhappy with what he was seeing on TV and in the news about Africa, so even though he had never been to the dark continent, he wrote this song. One of the cool things about it is the underlying drum beat that stays constant throughout the entire song. It sounds a little boring but it gives it a real African chant kind of feel. The instrumentation in this track is what makes the song worth more than a few listens.
Superfreak, Rick James (1981)
Let’s just start by saying that this song is not necessarily one that your kids need to know by heart, but YOU definitely should. It’s a classic. It’s only good because it’s so dirty – and it has a cool sax part – but mostly because of lyrics like, “She’s a very kinky girl, the kind you don’t take home to mother.” It’s far more scandalous than most songs of the ’60s and ’70s and I would even venture to say that this was one of the songs that paved the way for many of today’s rap songs that are, to put it nicely, much more salacious.
Bizarre Love Triangle, New Order (1986)
We had to mention this one because everything about it screams ’80s. The music video is trippy, the song is absolute club music and the eclectic use of instruments is what makes it catchy too. It barely made the Billboard Hot 100 list, coming in at 98 but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. It was just a little different…again that’s what made the ’80s great, the variety of music. The band’s name is quite fitting; after the suicide of their lead vocalist Ian Curtis in Manchester’s answer to The Doors, Joy Division, the remaining three members (Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris) continued their music as New Order and became much more dance music oriented.
Red Red Wine, UB40 (1988)
A timeless hit. This song is amazing because it has that slow, chill vibe but also makes you want to dance a little. Maybe it’s the fact that they say “Red Red Wine” so much but it kind of makes you want to dance with a group of friends while polishing off a few bottles of vino. Though the song was originally recorded by Neil Diamond, this rendition is much more appealing for its reggae feel. Diamond’s version (BAH DAH DAAAH!) is a little bit sadder and slower but UB40 turned this song into a Number 1 hit with their smooth soulful singing.
Push It, Salt-N-Pepa (1987)
We’d be surprised if anyone knew any lyrics from this song except for “Push it” and “Oooo Baby, Baby.” But I mean really, there’s no need to know any of the other lyrics. It’s not a karaoke song, it’s a club song that probably inspired the transition from grooving to grinding on the dance floor. Just watch the two girls in the video dance, that is ’80s prime promiscuity right there, and we love it! Dancing got fun and crazy around this time and there were no rules. Break Dancing was a real thing that people practiced and got great at! Salt-N-Pepa did the dance world a favor with this one.
Billie Jean, Michael Jackson (1982)
Well we certainly couldn’t leave MJ off the list. This was an international hit, certainly for its driving, underlying beat and MJ’s smooth voice. This is one of the songs where he has very clear vocal hiccups that are unique and appealing. The lyrics raised questions about his ‘interesting’ lifestyle but he insisted it’s simply about groupies.
Livin’ On a Prayer, Bon Jovi (1986)
This song should be, and probably already is, engraved in your child’s mind. It’s been covered and recovered, referenced in TV shows and played on movie soundtracks. It’s Bon Jovi’s most recognizable hit and one of the most sung love songs around the world. It topped out at Number 1 in five different countries and came in in the Top 5 in another six countries. A love story during poverty. Everyone likes the underdog. When this Jersey boy put it to a song that you can sing along to… it was bound to be a hit.
Like a Prayer, Madonna (1989)
Madonna, the ultimate ’80s icon. We needed to include her and the best way we knew how was by mentioning this song solely for the music video. Madge was always pushing her limits (and society’s) but this one was way over the line for many people and it stirred up quite the controversy. Good for her! There is so much going on in the video: Madonna first witnesses a murder and sees the wrong man arrested; she goes to church and kisses a statue that comes to life (which is either Jesus or a Saint); then she’s dancing in front of burning crosses. The racist confrontation in the video is the backtrack for the religious blasphemy that people condemned her for. Either way, it’s a great song, by a great artist and should be commended not condemned.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Whitney Houston (1987)
Everybody loves a diva. There was Whitney in the ’80s, Toni Braxton in the ’90s, then Beyonce in the ’00s and beyond. They attract an audience like flies to honey. It’s a little noticeable in Whitney’s voice, but you don’t get the full diva-effect until you watch the video. A wardrobe change in every scene, her hair flips, her clear attitude… all diva characteristics, which makes it that much better because she’s singing about needing somebody and being lonely. But both her singing and the video are what make this song incredible; it’s fun, energetic and timeless.
Take On Me, Aha (1984)
Here is one more song made famous by its music video. The video was featured on MTV in 1986 and won six awards out of the eight it was nominated for at the MTV Video Music Awards. Sure the music video is interesting and was a pretty original idea at the time – but the song should not be overshadowed by its visuals. It’s an easy listen and fun to sing along to, even if you’re mostly singing the keyboard part.
Are there any songs you think we missed (of COURSE there are!)? Let us know which songs YOU’VE taught to your kids in the comments section below!
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