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The ’80s were a transformative time for music from the launch of MTV to seeing the rise of pop and rock icons like Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and many more.

With the 80 Essential Hits from the ’80s, we explore some of the biggest songs from the aforementioned artists and take a look at the decade’s biggest one-hit wonders, greatest duets and collaborations and see just how much film and film soundtracks had an impact on the culture. (Spoiler: It’s a lot!)

So, what are you waiting for? Scroll through the list below and see which 80 songs are among the most quintessential from the decade of excess, in the order that the 105.7 WROR listeners ranked them according to their votes!

 

(EB)= Written by Erica Banas
(BI)= Written by Brian Ives


 

  • #80. 'Venus' - Bananarama

    Yet another cover on this list, Bananarama released “Venus” nearly 17 years after Dutch rock band Shocking Blue released the original version. Both versions of the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 proving that regardless of the generation, “Venus” had it. Yeah, baby…the song had it. (EB)

  • #79. 'The Power of Love' - Huey Lewis and the News

    Every summer blockbuster film needs a hit song, and when director Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg went searching for one for Back to the Future, they reached out to Huey Lewis, who wasn’t immediately sold on writing a song for a movie. However, he was persuaded to submit a song, and he delivered with “The Power of Love.” The track would become Huey Lewis and the News’ first number one hit, and Lewis even got to make a funny cameo in the film. (EB)

  • #78. 'Say Say Say' - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson

    Fun fact: “Say Say Say” was recorded about a year before McCartney and Jackson’s “That Girl Is Mine” duet, but was released about a year after ‘Thriller.’ And while the megastars seemed to have fun hamming it up on “That Girl Is Mine,” “Say Say Say” is clearly the better song. It also had a video that kept McCartney in front of MTV audiences, along with the channel’s biggest star at the time. (BI)

  • #77. 'I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For' - U2

    The second single from ‘The Joshua Tree,’ “I Still Haven’t found What I’m Looking For” blends elements of pop, rock and gospel that are beyond uplifting. For an album that reflected U2’s journey into America, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is perhaps the most uniquely American song on the album. (EB)

  • #76. 'Straight Up' - Paula Abdul

    Long before a generation knew Paula Abdul as an American Idol judge, the generation before got to know the choreographer turned singer via her debut album Forever Your GirlThe album would go on to generate four number-one singles with the first being “Straight Up.” The single helped pave the way for Abdul to become a household name thanks in part to the stunning black-and-white music video directed by David Fincher and choreographed by, who else, Abdul. (EB)

  • #75. 'Shout' - Tears for Fears

    Guitarist/singer Roland Orzabal said that it was a protest song, but bassist/singer Curt Smith clarifies that “it encourages people not to do things without actually questioning them. People act without thinking because that’s just the way things go in society. So it’s a general song, about the way the public accepts any old grief which is thrown at them.” An odd topic for a #1 hit, but there you go. (BI)

  • #74. 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)' - Eurythmics

    The fact that the Eurythmics still aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is absurd, especially when you consider singles like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Annie Lennox has one of the most unique and distinct voices in music history, and David Stewart might just be one of the most underrated songwriters/producers/multi-instrumentalists ever. The Eurythmics had a number of hits, but “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” was their breakthrough and their biggest. With that synth beat and great music video, it’s understandable why. (EB)

  • #73. 'Take Me Home Tonight' - Eddie Money

    Simply put: The Money Man hit the jackpot on “Take Me Home Tonight.” Not only did the track reinvigorate his career, it got Ronnie Spector out of retirement to sing the hook, a call back to the Ronnette’s classic “Be My Baby.” (EB) 

  • #72. 'Maneater' - Daryl Hall and John Oates

    As John Oates recently told us, “I was in a restaurant in Greenwich Village where we used to go for late-night hangouts, and it was a very hip ’80s place to gather with musicians and actors, models and the groovy ’80s Wall Street tycoons. Just watch ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and you can kind of imagine what it was like. I’ll leave it at that. But anyway, I was sitting at a table with some friends and this gal came into the room and she was just breathtakingly gorgeous. And she sat down at our table and began to tell these dirty jokes. She had this incredible, beautiful, beautiful, incredibly beautiful face, an incredibly foul mouth, which I thought was really kind of cool. And I thought to myself, ‘Man, she’d chew you up and spit you out.” I was walking home that night and, I just started singing. “She’ll chew you up and spit you out. She’s a maneater.” And I just thought, “Oh, wait a minute, I think I’ve got something here.” He was right about that. (BI)

  • #71. 'Mickey' - Toni Basil

    Basil was a new face to many in 1982 when “Mickey” dominated MTV; in fact, her first single had been released in 1966; as an actress she’d appeared in the ‘60s classic film Easy Rider. But “Mickey” made her a massive pop star for a while. She’s remained active as a choreographer, having worked on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. (BI) 

  • #70. 'Mony Mony' - Billy Idol

    When you think of the ‘80s, you don’t really think about ‘60s rock and rollers Tommy James and the Shondells. But they were the guys who did “Crimson and Clover” before Joan Jett, “I Think We’re Alone Now” before Tiffany and “Mony Mony” before Billy Idol. Of course, people weren’t adding the “Get laid!” chant when Mr. James did it back in the day. Idol and his fans definitely updated the song for younger generations who were thrilled at the idea of cursing on dance floors at bar mitzvahs, sweet sixteens and weddings. (BI)

     

  • #69. 'We Got The Beat' - The Go-Go's

    The Go-Go’s, after years of eligibility, are finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 2021 class, and their greatness is due, in part, to songs like “We Got The Beat.” It’s unapologetically fun and embraces youth in the most celebratory way possible thanks to one killer rhythm track. Frankly, it’s the type of unapologetic fun that never goes out of style and will always win the day. (EB)

  • #68. 'Private Eyes' - Daryl Hall and John Oates

    Paranoid lovers make for great pop/rock songs. Just ask Hall and Oates!  “Private Eyes” netted the duo their third number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and it birthed one of the greatest recorded claps in music history. (EB) 

  • #67. 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' - Yes

    Older rock bands often talk about “finding a new audience with our new music” but more often than not, it isn’t true. However, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” did accomplish that for ‘70s prog-rockers Yes. It was ubiquitous on MTV and found fans with millions of kids who didn’t know about, or care about, their multi-section epics from the previous decade. (BI)

  • #66. 'Bette Davis Eyes' - Kim Carnes

    Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” is actually a cover; it was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon, who co-wrote the song with Donna Weiss, in 1974. In addition to being number one in the United States, “Bette Davis Eyes” topped singles charts in 20 other countries. The track would also go on to win Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. (EB)

  • #65. 'Need You Tonight' - INXS

    INXS had been a new wave band with a few mainstream hits, but “Need You Tonight” changed all that. The funky song was the band’s first (and only) #1 hit in the U.S. and it also made frontman Michael Hutchence into a sex symbol.  (BI)

  • #64. 'Never Gonna Give You Up' - Rick Astley

    Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” has had such an interesting life span. First and foremost, it was a number one hit in 15 countries. Then literal decades later, it became a viral sensation thanks to the whole Rickrolling phenomenon. While the concept of Rickrolling isn’t as prevalent as it was in the late aughts, now most people have just come to accept the tune as just a really great pop song, which it is. (EB)

  • #63. 'Sledgehammer' - Peter Gabriel

    When Peter Gabriel left his former band Genesis, he became obsessed with weirder, darker and less commercial music. With his ‘So’ album, however, he was clearly looking for mainstream success, but on his own terms (and was probably more influenced by David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ comeback than by his former mates, who he kept his distance from). “Sledgehammer” was the funkiest Peter Gabriel song we’d heard at that point, partially because of the horn section, which featured Wayne Jackson, the trumpet player who’d played on classics by soul legends Otis Redding and Sam & Dave, among others. Of course, you can’t talk about the song without the iconic music video, which dominated MTV for about a year. It was Gabriel’s only #1 hit in the U.S… and funny enough, it got there by bumping “Invisible Touch” — by Genesis — out of the top slot. (BI)

  • #62. 'Keep On Loving You' - REO Speedwagon

    The lead single from REO Speedwagon’s ninth studio album Hi Infidelity, “Keep On Loving You” was a massive power ballad that helped the Illinois-based band achieve a new level of stardom. ‘Hi Infidelity’ would go on to be the biggest selling album of 1981. (EB)

  • #61. 'Faith' - George Michael

    When former Wham! frontman George Michael kicked off his solo career, the last thing anyone expected from him was a tribute to early ‘50s rock and roll. Most rockers had moved on from that era of rock, but Buddy Holly and (especially) Bo Diddley’s influence were all over “Faith,” one of Michael’s biggest hits. (BI) 

  • #60. 'How Will I Know' - Whitney Houston

    Whitney Houston’s self-titled 1985 debut boasted three number one hits with “How Will I Know” being the second from the LP. The pop/R&B tune was written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam who actually wrote the tune for Janet Jackson, but she passed on the track. All due respect to Ms. Jackson, but it’s hard to imagine anyone singing “How Will I Know” except for Whitney. (EB) 

  • #59. 'Love Bites' - Def Leppard

    This power ballad is Def Leppard’s only #1 hit single in the U.S. When producer “Mutt” Lange brought the band the demo, it was more like a country song, but the boys turned it into a huge rock ballad. Lange would of course experience great success in country music in subsequent years when he collaborated with Shania Twain. (BI)

  • #58. 'Missing You' - John Waite

    Musically, it was really easy to listen to. Until you paid attention to the lyrics, about someone in total denial about actually missing an ex-. Who hasn’t been there? (BI)

  • #57. 'West End Girls' - Pet Shop Boys

    Two versions of Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” exist: The first one was release in 1984, and then the second version was re-recorded and included on their 1985 debut album PleaseThe latter is the one that most are familiar with, and it’s understandable why. That driving synth rhythm track is just so infectious. (EB)

     

  • #56. 'Where The Streets Have No Name' - U2

    U2 is a band that makes you want more and inspires you to dream bigger. They make you feel like nothing is out of reach, and “Where the Streets Have No Name” is the best example of that. What can you say about a song so magical, whose longing is felt for the entirety of its 5:36 runtime, including an intro that just builds and builds only to culminate in Bono exclaiming “I wanna run”? What can you say about The Edge’s undeniable and transcending guitar playing? What can you say about Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. laying down a rhythm track that you can feel pulse through your body?  You can say that all of these pieces add up to a quintessential song. (EB)  

  • #55. 'Time After Time' - Cyndi Lauper

    In the nearly 40 years since its release, “Time After Time” remains one of the most beautiful, poignant ballads of all time thanks to the ever so unique vocals of Lauper and the backing vocals of Rob Hyman, who co-wrote the song with Lauper for her debut album She’s So UnusualOf course, we’d be remiss in mentioning its use in Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion soundtracking one of the funniest dance scenes in film history. (EB)

  • #54. 'Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now' - Starship

    There is surprisingly a lot to talk about when it comes to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, besides how Grace Slick, who shares vocal duties with Mickey Thomas, is also the same woman who once wailed “Feed Your Head!” on “White Rabbit” 20 years prior. To begin with, the tune was a soft rock smash topping the charts in five countries. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for being featured in the less-than-stellar Mannequin starring Andrew McCarthy and a pre-Sex and The City Kim Cattrall. Lastly, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” was written by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, both of whom have so many songwriting credits it would be exhausting to list them. Just Google them both and be amazing at how many hits they’ve written. (EB)

  • #53. 'Relax' - Frankie Goes to Hollywood

    It was a hell of a kick off to a career: Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s debut single hit number 1 in a number of countries (although it only made it to #10 here); it also set off a fashion craze. If you were around in the ‘80s, you couldn’t avoid the “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirts. (BI)

  • #52. 'Walk Like An Egyptian' - The Bangles

    The third single from The Bangles’s breakthrough album Different Light, “Walk Like An Egyptian” would give the group their first number one hit thanks in part from its music video being in heavy rotation on MTV, which likely caused a lot of young people to hit puberty due to the close up shot of Susanna Hoffs looking from side to side. Great singer, great guitarist and a total babe? Iconic! (EB)

  • #51. 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' - Scorpions

    Well, it ain’t the most romantic song on this list. “The bitch is hungry, she needs to tell/So give her inches and feed her well/More days to come, new places to go/I’ve got to leave, it’s time for a show.” If it isn’t the best use of a metaphor, at least they’re not leading anyone on. (BI)

  • #50. 'Listen to Your Heart' - Roxette

    In the liner notes of Roxette’s 1995 greatest hits compilation Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus! Roxette’s Per Gessle called  “Listen To Your Heart,” “The Big Bad Ballad.” He explained, This is us trying to recreate that overblown American FM-rock sound to the point where it almost becomes absurd. We really wanted to see how far we could take it.” They took it to the top of the pop charts. (BI) 

  • #49. 'Like a Virgin' - Madonna

    “Like a Virgin” was originally written as a ballad… by two dudes. Co-writer Billy Steinberg wrote it for himself (it wasn’t written with Madonna or any other singer in mind), and it was based on his own story: he had gotten out of bad relationship and had just met someone new. But when Madonna heard the demo, she loved it. As she told Rolling Stone, “I certainly wasn’t a virgin, and, by the way, how can you be ‘like’ a virgin? I liked the play on words.” (BI)

  • #48. 'Invisible Touch' - Genesis

    The band’s long-time progressive rock fans may not have loved the song, but that didn’t matter: it went straight to #1 on the singles chart (the band’s only #1 in America) and kicked off a year of singles from the band’s ‘Invisible Touch’ album dominating the charts, MTV and radio. Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford have both cited it as one of their favorite Genesis songs. (BI)

  • #47. 'Addicted to Love' - Robert Palmer

    Robert Palmer had been making albums for a decade when he released “Addicted To Love,” which quickly became his biggest hit. And yeah, the instantly iconic video had a lot to do with that: MTV couldn’t get enough of it. But it’s also an insanely catchy song, and you’ll note that it sounds great on the radio, even without the visuals. Fun fact: the guitars on the album came courtesy of two big-name six-stringers: Palmer’s Power Station bandmate, Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and Eddie Martinez, the guy who played the metal guitars on Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box.” (BI)

  • #46. 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song)' - Rupert Holmes

    Sure, the unhappy couple that is the subject of this classic one-hit-wonder is essentially trash, but the iconic chorus of this tune practically cancels all of that out. What you’re left with is a timeless sing-a-long regardless of whether you’ve been sipping pina coladas or not. (EB)

  • #45. 'Don’t You Want Me' - The Human League

    It’s a fun song to sing along too, but those lyrics… ouch. A man and woman singing about their breakup from their own perspectives, and they seem to disagree on one specific point. The bro is like, “It’s me who put you where you are now,” while the woman corrects him: “I knew I’d find a much better place either with or without you!” (BI)

  • #44. 'Money For Nothing' - Dire Straits

    Aside from that verse, “Money for Nothing” is the epitome of pop/rock greatness. Based on an actual conversation he overheard at a hardware store, Mark Knopfler perfectly captured a working-class vs. wealthy celebrity frustration. (“Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it/You play the guitar on the MTV/That ain’t workin‘, that’s the way you do it” and “We got to install microwave ovens/Custom kitchen deliveries/We got to move these refrigerators/We got to move these color TVs.”) Add in one outstanding riff and Sting singing the “I want my MTV” hook, and you have Dire Straits’ lone number one hit.  (EB)

  • #43. 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' - Wham!

    If you’re the lead single off an album titled Make It Big, you kind of need to deliver. Fortunately for Wham!, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” more than delivered and became the duo’s first number-one hit in the United States and their native U.K. Also, ORANGE MOCHA FRAPPUCCINO! (If you know, you know.) (EB)

  • #42. 'Red Red Wine' - UB40

    A light reggae version of a Neil Diamond song from the ‘60s turned out to be pop music gold in the ‘80s. But UB40 didn’t know they were covering a Neil Diamond song; they thought the original artist was reggae act Tony Tribe (who covered Diamond’s original). The band said that even when they saw that the writer was “N. Diamond,” “We thought it was a Jamaican artist called Negus Diamond.” Neil Diamond loved their version so much that he would add some reggae flair to the song when he performed it live in the following decades. (BI)

  • #41. 'Alone' - Heart

    Funny story: this song isn’t a Heart original, although we forgive you if you didn’t know that. It was originally by a band called I-Ten; the songwriters went on to write some other big hits for other artists, including the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” And Heart wasn’t even the first act to cover it: John Stamos actually recorded with his Dreams sitcom co-star Valarie Stevenson. It’s safe to say that Heart’s version is and will always be the best version (and yes, we know that Celine Dion has covered it too). (BI)

  • #40. 'Manic Monday' - The Bangles

    Most fans by now know that the song was written by Prince, under then pseudonym “Christopher.” He originally wrote it for his protegees Apollonia 6, but decided to give it to the Bangles instead; he was a big fan of their earlier single, “Hero Takes A Fall.” (You can hear Prince’s demo on his 2019 collection Originals.)  (BI)

  • #39. 'Karma Chameleon' - Culture Club

    It was Culture Club’s only #1 hit in the U.S. — “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” peaked at number two. And oddly enough, the members of the group were not sure about recording the song, as they felt it sounded too much like country music. (BI)

  • #38. 'Jump' - Van Halen

    Van Halen, a band that boasts one of the most iconic guitarists of all time, has just one number one hit. That hit is the synth-heavy “Jump,” because irony is just funny like that sometimes. (EB) 

  • #37. 'I Ran' - A Flock of Seagulls

    Few one-hit-wonders are as quintessentially ‘80s than A Flock of Seagulls. Between Mike Score’s haircut, that music video (which received heavy rotation on MTV) and an undeniably catchy synth hook, it’s not too surprising “I Ran” was a hit. While A Flock of Seagulls never managed to capture the same success with subsequent singles, the allure of “I Ran” has endured as a sort of loving time capsule for the decade. (EB) 

  • #36. 'Edge of Seventeen' - Stevie Nicks

    “Edge of Seventeen” may have been Nicks’ third solo single, but it was the first single she released where she was truly solo. (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” featured Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, while “Leather and Lace” featured Don Henley.) Between Waddy Wachtel’s riff throughout the entire song to the catchy chorus, “Edge of Seventeen” proved Nicks could more than handle being her own artist and not have to rely on Fleetwood Mac. (EB)

     

  • #35. 'We Are The World' - USA for Africa

    Charity singles were a massive trend in the ‘80s, and “We Are The World” was definitely one of the biggest in terms of its lineup and the money it raised. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian “We Are The World” was a who’s-who of music’s biggest stars of the day from Tina Turner to Diana Ross to Bruce Springsteen to Hall & Oates. Even Bob Dylan was on the trackwhose confused face during the recording sessions in the song’s music video has now gone on to become a memeThe song raised $44.5 million for the USA for Africa relief fund in its first year of release, and it would go on to win Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1986 Grammy Awards. (EB)

  • #34. 'It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me' - Billy Joel

    More than a little tongue-in-cheek, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is Joel’s response to being an aging artist in a musician landscape obsessed with youth and everybody talkin’ ‘bout the new sound. Looks like he got the last laugh when this track topped the charts. (EB)

  • #33. '(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life' - Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

    Dirty Dancing was one of the biggest films of the ‘80s, and it had one of the most successful soundtracks of all time selling over 11 million copies in the United States and 32 million copies worldwide. The lead single was this Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes duet that has gone on to inspire countless lift attempts, both successful and not. (EB)

  • #32. 'St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)' - John Parr

    Written for the soundtrack of ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’… or was it? When given the script for the film, Parr didn’t come up with anything, and ended up writing it about a Canadian athlete in the Paralympic Games, Rick Hansen. And let’s be honest: he was a hell of a lot more inspiring than the annoying characters in the film. (BI)

  • #31. 'Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)' - Pink Floyd

    A progressive rock band experimenting with disco on a protest song blasting overly strict schools featuring a children’s choir. Well, it probably didn’t sound like a recipe for a hit, but it topped the pop charts and has become an anthem on par with Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” (BI)

  • #30. 'Celebration' - Kool & the Gang

    If you’re celebrating something and don’t play this Kool & the Gang classic, did you really celebrate at all? No, you didn’t. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. (EB)

  • #29. 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn' - Poison

    Poison was the premier party band of the ‘80s. But you can’t party all the time, and anyway, who’s in the mood to party when your heart’s been broken? By letting down their guard for this ballad, Poison ended up with their only #1 hit and arguably the best power ballad of the era. (BI)

  • #28. 'Let’s Dance' - David Bowie

    The lead single from his comeback album, “Let’s Dance” topped the pop charts, but also had some great guitar playing, courtesy of a young up-and-coming guy named Stevie Ray Vaughan. (BI)

  • #27. 'Call Me' - Blondie

    Serving as the theme to the Richard Gere-vehicle American Gigolo, “Call Me” would become Blondie’s most successful single and would top the Billboard year-end singles chart in 1980. (EB)

  • #26. 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' - Bonnie Tyler

    The late Jim Steinman will be best remembered for his work with Meat Loaf, but he also contributed some incredible tunes to other artists, most notably “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to Bonnie Tyler, who truly belted the hell out of this ballad. The album version of this track was nearly seven minutes long, because Jim is gonna Steinman, but the single version would be edited down to 4:30 so…you know…it would get played on the radio. (EB)

  • #25. 'Under Pressure' - Queen & David Bowie

    Between John Deacon’s iconic bassline to the dueling vocals of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, “Under Pressure” was a classic the moment it was released, and its status has only grown over the years and rightfully so. (EB)

  • #24. 'Here I Go Again' - Whitesnake

    You’re surely familiar with Whitesnake’s 1987 smash hit, which is still used in commercials and is a radio staple on multiple formats today. You may not know the original version of the song is from Whitesnake’s 1982 album ‘Saints and Sinners.’ That version is a bit more “rock,” but it was an inspired idea for the band to re-record a slicker version of the song five years later, and clearly the second time was the charm. (BI)

  • #23. 'Take On Me' - A-ha

    If there’s one thing to take away from this list overall, it’s that in the ‘80s, if you had an amazing music video, it’s going to significantly boost your song’s popularity thanks to the growing influence of MTV. In the case of A-ha’s “Take On Me,” not only was the song hooky as all get-out, but the video was nothing short of revolutionary with its mix of live-action and unique pencil animation. It bears mentioning that singer Morten Harket deserves so much credit for being able to hit that insane falsetto in the chorus, which was the real deal and not aided by Auto-Tune or Pro Tools or any other music software used today. (EB)

  • #22. 'Wanted Dead or Alive' - Bon Jovi

    An arena rock version of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page,” Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” was the third single from their massive 1987 album Slippery When Wet. The song evokes wild west symbolism about grueling road life even when you see a million faces and rock them all. Fun fact: Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora’s acoustic performance of the song at the 1989 MTV VMAs helped inspire the creation of the popular series MTV Unplugged. (EB)

  • #21. 'Come On Eileen' - Dexy’s Midnight Runners

    Easily one of the most enduring one-hit wonders of the ‘80s, Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” was a very unique mix of New Wave and celtic folk that few can really resist. (Seriously, just try and not sing along to “Toora loora toora loo rye ay!”) Also, I swear I saw a bunch of Gen Z kids the other day wearing overalls similar to the ones the band wore in the music video. (EB)

     

  • #20. 'Eye of the Tiger' - Survivor

    Queen made a lot of great decisions as a band, but here’s a bad one: they wouldn’t let Sylvester Stallone use “Another One Bites The Dust” for ‘Rocky III.’ Enter Survivor, a band who were somewhat less well-known than Freddie Mercury and co. The version that appeared in ‘Rocky III’ was actually the demo, but it was perfect enough to become a generational anthem. (BI)

  • #19. 'Footloose' - Kenny Loggins

    Much like Irene Cara, Kenny Loggins had some huge hits in the ‘80s thanks to film soundtracksHis biggest hit came with “Footloose,” the titular track from the classic Kevin Bacon film. In fact, “Footloose” is Loggins’ only number one hit in his lengthy solo career. So, let’s hear it for Kenny and that random town that banned dancing! (EB)

  • #18. 'I Want to Know What Love Is' - Foreigner

    Most power ballads have big, booming choruses, but few of them make you scream-sing them in your car quite like Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Foreigner had plenty of hits before “I Want to Know What Love Is,” but this one managed to top all of them, literally. It went to number one in the United States and ten other countries and remains Foreigner’s most successful single in their catalog. (EB)

  • #17. 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' - Queen

    Ready, Freddie! What makes Queen so unique is the way they embraced and explored so many rock sub-genres. With “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” they took on rockabilly but still put their own spin on it. (EB)

  • #16. 'I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll' - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

    How do you know a cover is really good? When you often forget it’s actually a cover. Such is the case with “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which was originally recorded by The Arrows in 1975. The definitive version, however, is Jett’s version. (EB)

  • #15. 'Centerfold' - The J. Geils Band

    One of the best uses of “Nah-nahs” in music history, “Centerfold” was part of J. Geils Band’s last hurrah with Peter Wolf, who would leave the band in 1983. (EB)

  • #14. 'Down Under' - Men at Work

    The song serves as a great commercial for Australia, and that country’s popular snack, vegemite. There’s no solid data as to whether or not it helped tourism but it certainly spread far and wide, hitting number one on the pop charts in New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, England and here in the United States. (BI) 

  • #13. 'Dancing In The Dark' - Bruce Springsteen

    The Boss is a rare case of an iconic artist with loads of hit/classic songs but none of them have topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The closest he ever got was with “Dancing In The Dark,” which peaked at number two and would be blocked from topping the chart thanks to Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” and Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” (EB)

  • #12. 'Sweet Child O’ Mine' - Guns N’ Roses

    For those that aren’t hard rock fans and don’t really know a lot about Guns N’ Roses, they likely at least know “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” Slash, of course, shines on this classic from his instantly recognizable intro riff to his massive solo. And let’s face it: most of us at one point or another has thrown on a headband and did that swaying dance Axl Rose does in the video while lip-syncing the song in the mirror. (Don’t make that face. Yes, you did! No one likes a liar!) (EB)

  • #11. 'When Doves Cry' - Prince

    Plenty of artists have experimented with blending genres, but no one has really done it like Prince. A perfect combination of pop, R&B and rock, “When Doves Cry” was the lead single from Purple Rain and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks. Prince’s guitar work alone on this track secured him as a Guitar God for all of time. Only Prince could come up with such a funky song without even bothering to include a bassline. (EB)

  • #10. 'Livin’ On A Prayer' - Bon Jovi

    At some point in our lives, we’re all Tommy and Gina, aren’t we? “Livin’ On A Prayer” is an epic sing-a-long, it’s an anthem and it’s additional proof that when used just right, the talk box is a game-changerLivin’ On A Prayer” would become Bon Jovi’s second number one hit and is tied with “You Give Love A Bad Name” for being the song Bon Jovi has performed the most live, according to Setlist.fm. (EB)

  • #9. 'In The Air Tonight' - Phil Collins

    The song that catapulted Phil Collins from being “the drummer-singer guy from Genesis” to international superstar status. The man has written and co-written a bunch of hit songs that have resonated on a number of radio formats, but this is the one that overshadows everything else. It also has inspired urban legends: some believe that Collins actually saw someone drowning, and this legend has been referenced by everyone from Eminem (in his song “Stan”) to ‘Family Guy’ (in the “Peter Principal” episode) to many Reddit discussions. Collins has said that the song was inspired by his first divorce… and with that context it makes sense. The song starts as a tense conversation, before Phil goes ballistic with the most iconic drum break of all time, just as one might try to begin a disagreement civilly and then it all goes to hell. (BI) 

  • #8. 'Don’t You (Forget About Me)' - Simple Minds

    Some songs make you do certain things. When you hear Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” you pretend to hold a boombox over your head like Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything… When you hear The Champs’ “Tequila,” you do that weird dance like Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. When you hear Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” you throw your fist in the air like John Bender in The Breakfast Club. Simple Minds may have resisted recording the track, but it’s a good thing they did, because it provided the Scottish band its lone number one hit in the United States. (EB) 

  • #7. 'Jessie’s Girl' - Rick Springfield

    “You know I feel so dirty when they start talking cute/I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is probably moot” still remains one of the most subtly brilliant lyrics ever. The fact it took so long for someone to rhyme “cute” with “moot” in a pop song seems crazy. (EB)

  • #6. 'Africa' - Toto

    Toto keyboardist David Paich had never been to Africa, when he wrote the song. He based the lyrics on an article in National Geographic. But hey, whatever works! The song got a huge boost a few years ago when alternative rock band Weezer covered it. (BI) 

  • #5. 'You Shook Me All Night Long' - AC/DC

    You know it, you love it and you’ve likely sung it in the shower. “You Shook Me All Night Long” is one of the most magical hard rock songs ever because of its ability to appeal to picky hard rock fans AND those with more mainstream sensibilities. Of course, its lyric-packed appeal was almost jeopardized when producer Mutt Lange told Brian Johnson to space out the lyric and slow down the delivery. Johnson would later say in an interview that he did record a version of the track per Lange’s suggestions, but as soon as Malcolm Young heard it, he was not having it. “I did it like that, and then Mal heard it and said, ‘What the f— is this?!’” according to Johnson. We should all be grateful that Malcolm Young lost it in that moment. (EB) 

  • #4. 'Every Breath You Take' - The Police

    The Police had a number of big hits in the United States, but none of them were as big as “Every Breath You Take.” The lead single off their final album Synchronicity, “Every Breath You Take” was The Police’s lone number one hit topping the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. Of course, the track got an extra boost in popularity (and royalties) when it was sampled by Puff Daddy in 1997 on “I’ll Be Missing You,” his tribute to late rapper/best friend The Notorious B.I.G. (EB)

  • #3. “Jack & Diane” - John Cougar

    It’s both about the thrill of being young and the realization that you won’t always be young. “Holdin‘ on to sixteen as long as you can/Change is coming ’round real soon/Make us women and men,” is one of the great lyrics in pop music. (BI)

  • #2. 'Billie Jean' - Michael Jackson

    Like a few of the songs on this list, it’s hard the separate the song from the visuals. In the case of “Billie Jean,” there are two iconic visuals that fans associate with. One: Jackson’s performance of the song at the “Motown 25” TV event, where Jackson debuted his iconic moonwalk and sequined glove. Two: the also iconic music video, which was the first video by a Black artist to get heavy rotation on MTV. But even without any visuals, it’s one of the greatest songs of all time. (BI)

  • #1. 'Don’t Stop Believin’' - Journey

    For a brief moment in the ‘90s, Nirvana and bands from the Lollapalooza scene made “arena rock” like Journey seem unfashionable. We love those bands, obviously. But thank heavens that moment of silliness didn’t last. Why deny yourself the pleasure of this most grand epic of rock songs? It opens with one of the most distinct piano riffs ever; it’s joined about a minute into the song by Neal Schon’s heroic guitar. But, of course, the true star here is Steve Perry and his soaring vocals. It’s so perfect, we’ve all forgiven them for the “born and raised in south Detroit” line. (“South Detroit” isn’t a thing. If you want to get geographically technical. “South Detroit” is actually Windsor, ON, Canada.) (BI)