10 greatest songs of the 1980s, ranked - USA Trending Blog

10 greatest songs of the 1980s, ranked - USA Trending Blog

 10 greatest songs of the 1980s, ranked - USA Trending Blog

The 1980s may have been the decade of questionable fashion choices, but we'll probably say the same about the 2020s in a few years...

It was also the decade of great movies, the rise of video games and downright fantastic music.

Greatest songs of the 1980s

We've attempted the ridiculously hard (but not in any way a chore) task of picking the very best 1980s songs ever. Here are our 10 picks - are your favourites in there?

  1. Prince - 'Purple Rain'

    Prince - Purple Rain (Official Video)

    'Purple Rain' was originally written as a country song, and was intended to be a collaboration with Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks

    • Prince explained the meaning of 'Purple Rain' as: "When there's blood in the sky – red and blue = purple... purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain."

    The song became something of a singature song for Prince, and he famously performed it in the rain during his Super Bowl halftime show.

  2. Lionel Richie - 'All Night Long'

    Lionel Richie - All Night Long (All Night)

    In this Caribbean-influenced song, Lionel admitted that the ‘African’ lyrics, such as ‘Tom bo li de say de moi ya’ and ‘Jambo jumbo’, were in fact made-up gibberish. He described these portions as a “wonderful joke”, after he discovered that he lacked the time to hire a translator.

    Lionel said: “What I try to write about are real events. There will always be an easy like Sunday morning. There will always be an endless love. There will always be an all night long.”

    Bonus fact: A young Richard Marx recorded backing vocals for this song.

  3. ABBA - 'The Winner Takes it All'

    ABBA - The Winner Takes It All (Video)

    Bjorn Ulvaeu has denied that his heartbreaking ballad is about his and Agnetha Faltskog's divorce. However, he has said that is about divorce in general and the emotions that come with it.

    The song put Agnetha in the strange situation of being asked to sing a breakup song, written by her ex-husband, just a short period afterwards.

    However, Bjorn didn't intend it to happen this way. She later said it was her favourite ABBA song to perform.

    1. Whitney Houston - 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'

      Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Official 4K Video)

      This is one of the ultimate feel good songs ever released, and was the lead single from Whitney's second album.

      It was written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, aka Boy Meets Girl, who had previously offered their hit 'Waiting for a Star to Fall' to Whitney, but she turned it down.

      It became one of Whitney's signature tunes, and was the title to her official biopic in 2022.

    2. Queen - 'I Want to Break Free'

      Queen - I Want To Break Free (Official Video)

      Written by bassist John Deacon, the song is from the male perspective of the women’s liberation movement. The video parodied Coronation Street, and famously showed all four members in drag, a move which saw the video banned on MTV in the States.

      “They must’ve thought men dressing up in drag wasn’t ‘rock’ enough,” said Roger Taylor. The famous electric guitar solo is not actually a guitar, but rather a synth by Fred Mandel, something Brian May wasn’t on board with at first.

    3. Phil Collins - 'In the Air Tonight'

      Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight (Official Music Video)

      Famous for its epic drum solo, Phil Collins’ debut solo single was written during the grief he felt after divorcing his first wife, Simone.

      The lyrics take the form of a dark monologue directed towards an unnamed person. An urban legend has claimed that it's about a drowning incident in which someone who was close enough to save the victim did not, while Collins, who was too far away to help, looked on.

      The song was famously used in a Dairy Milk advert in 2007, in which a gorilla drummed along to it, because why not?

  4. Toto - 'Africa'

    Toto - Africa (Official HD Video)

    It's almost impossible to not burst into song at the top of your lungs as soon as you hear the famous catchy intro of Toto's 'Africa', let alone its epic chorus.

    In 2015, David Paich said that the song is about a man's love of the continent Africa, rather than a personal romance.

    He based the lyrics around a late night documentary with depictions of African plight and suffering. It had a lasting impact on him: "It both moved and appalled me, and the pictures just wouldn't leave my head. I tried to imagine how I'd feel about it if I was there and what I'd do."

  5. George Michael - 'Careless Whisper'

    George Michael - Careless Whisper (Official HD Video)

    This was the song that made people stand up and take notice of George as a credible artist outside the pop fun of Wham!

    Released when he still in the boyband with Andrew Ridgeley, the song topped the charts around the world. Co-written with Andrew when they were 17, the song took inspiration from stories from Michael’s early romantic experiences with two different girls.

    He later said: "The whole idea of 'Careless Whisper' was the first girl finding out about the second which she never did. But I started another relationship with a girl called Alexis without finishing the one with Jane. It all got a bit complicated."

    Jane found out about her and got rid of me. The whole time I thought I was being cool, being this two-timer, but there really wasn't that much emotion involved.

    "I did feel guilty about the first girl – and I have seen her since – and the idea of the song was about her. 'Careless Whisper' was us dancing, because we danced a lot, and the idea was – we are dancing...but she knows...and it's finished."

  6. Michael Jackson - 'Billie Jean'

    Michael Jackson - Billie Jean (Official Video)

    There are several claims on the meaning behind this classic song’s lyrics. One suggests that they came from a real-life experience, in which a female fan claimed that Michael Jackson (or one of his brothers) had fathered her twins. However, Jackson stated that it was actually based on groupies he had encountered.

    The song was promoted with a short film that broke down MTV’s racial barrier, and his performance on Motown 25, in which he premiered his ‘moonwalk’.

    It remains perhaps the greatest pop song of all time, and has that timeless quality that will never disappoint.

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