Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

See list criteria here.

20.  America”, Neil Diamond– Neil Diamond was not my favorite artist growing up, but his music has grown on me as I have aged.  Where I would have turned him off in the 80s, now I will listen to his music, and all of his songs have strong choruses.  I like the patriotic aspect of this song also.

19.  “Morning Train (Nine To Five)”, Sheena Easton– This song was huge at the time (maybe to the point if overplay), and it has catchy (almost monotonous) beat.  You could count on hearing this song on the way to work every day for about two years.  “For Your Eyes Only” was also a very good song released by Sheena Easton in this year, and it was hard to choose between the two.

18.  “Young Turks”, Rod Stewart  I was never a big Rod Stewart fan what with the whole stomach-pumping rumors and all (Yes, I know it was all untrue now, but we did not have Snopes back then, and we were stuck with the rumors we had.  By, the time the truth was revealed, the damage was done).  That all being said, this song has a strong melody, and his voice does not sound so much like sand paper in this song.

17.  “Leader of the Band”, Dan Fogelberg– I always really liked this song, and it was easy for me to apply it to the relationship that I had with my own father.  Since his death, it only seems to apply better.  Same Old Lang Syne” was also a great song that was released in the same year and charted higher than “Leader of the Band”, but I just like “Leader of the Band” more.

16.  “Shake It Up”, The Cars– This is the first great Cars’ song of the 80s.  It has the quirky, syncopated style that eventually style that eventually becomes a staple of Cars’ music.

15.  “Arthur’s Theme”, Christopher Cross– I doesn’t get much more melodic or sing-able than the theme from the movie Arthur, though it is a little on the soft rock side of the scale.  It will always be one of the best movie theme songs.

14.  “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, The Police– This is another upbeat and very good release for the British punk band.  It is the kind of tune that stays in your head in a good way.

13.  “Jessie’s Girl”, Rick Springfield– I have always thought of Rick Springfield as ‘Bruce Springstein without the edge’.  This was a huge hit at the time with a chorus that was easy to sing along with.

12.  “Who Can It Be Now?”, Men at Work– This is the first song released by the quirky group from Australia, and is my second favorite Men at Work song.  I have fond memories of this group because it was my ‘gateway drug’ from Country to Pop music.  I was a big fan right up to the point that I rented their “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” concert video.  My ‘gay-dar’ was not as precisely tuned at that time, but when I saw Colin Hay and the rest of the members of the band prancing around on the stage, I slotted the band with what became an ever growing number of androgynous, quasi-gay 80s bands that put out decent music, but whose concerts I would never go to.

11.  “Urgent”, Foreigner– This was the first hit off of Foreigner’s mega album “4”.  The percussion and keyboards (keyboards supplied by the great Thomas Dolby) has a nice syncopated quality that usually causes the listener to tap his foot or nod his head.

10.  “Our Lips Are Sealed”, The Go Go’s– This was the lead song off The Go Go’s debut album “Beauty and the Beat”.  Belinda Carlisle lent her nice, sexy vocals to the band’s sometimes overly energetic style.  This song stayed on the charts for over a year, an impressive feat for any 80s hit.

9.  “You Make My Dreams”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– This is second song from the early 80s powerhouse Hall and Oates, and is the last single to be released from “Voices”.  Like several of the other songs.  This song almost has a 50s doo-wop feel to it, and I like it better than the Mega-hit “Private Eyes” which was the first song off of the album of the same name.  “Private Eyes” is a little too-cool-for-school for me, and it does not have the staying power of its predecessor.  I chose this song over “Kiss On My List” which I also like a lot.

8.  “The Tide Is High”, Blondie– The main problem that I had with Blondie was Debbie Harry and her ‘Children of the Corn’ eyes.  I found her hard to look at, but she was a beauty compared with that horse-faced Toni Basil.  The Tide is High is a pretty mellow song for this group, but I like it better than anything else that they released.

7.  “Endless Love”, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie– With this song, Lionel Richie began to make a name for himself outside of the Commodores.  It is still Ross’s best selling hit, and the harmonies between Ross and Richie are superb.  The only downside to it is that it was title song of a dreadful movie starring Brooke Shields.

6.  “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, Pat Benatar– Pat Benatar is the best and most prolific rocker-girl of the early 80s, and this song is vintage Benatar, complete with ricochet sounds.  She is one of the few rocker-girls that did not seem screechy to me when she would belt it out.

5.  “The One That You Love”, Air Supply– For some reason, Air Supply decided to confuse all of its fans in 1981 by releasing a song with the very pronounced chorus ‘Here I am, the one that you love’ and another song named “Here I am” that only used these words at the very first of the song, and had a chorus that said, ‘Just when I thought I was over you….”  This was all unnecessarily confusing, though I like both songs.

4.  “Celebration”, Kool and The Gang– This song held the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100 for six weeks, and charted for over a year.  Its disco-funk chorus, of course, had a great beat and base line.  This song is still a staple at most wedding receptions.

3.  “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey– This release from the great Journey album ‘Escape’ is the signature song for the band today.  It is another of the harder songs that are more associated with Graham Nash by many Journey fans than Steve Perry.  The song recently received a revival when it was featured prominently in the last episode of The Sopranos.  “Who’s Crying Now” was also released this year.

2.  “Keep On Loving You”, REO Speedwagon– This is a truly great song by a band that would become an 80s power ballad staple.  “Take It On The Run” was also recorded in this year, but for me, there was no question which of the two was the best song.  It was played on MTV’s first day, and still can be heard regularly today.  It was released on the album Hi Fidelity, and was one of two great songs on this album.

1.  “In The Air Tonight”, Phil Collins– This is my favorite Phil Collins song ever, and one of my favorite songs of all time.  It is dark and edgy, and led to one of the greatest urban legends of all time.  Supposedly, Phil had written the song about an evil man who had allowed one of his friends to drown when they were on a trip to the beach.  According to the legend, Phil later invited the evil man to a concert, and sang the song to him.  Of course, when Phil was asked about this, he did not know what the hell the reporter was talking about.  He simply expressed the truth that this song like “Against All Odds” was written during a tough divorce from his wife.  I’m sure that he and Ben Folds could get together and write a song that would force the listener to commit suicide.  True greatness.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

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9 Responses

  1. […] Top 20 Pop Songs from 1981 […]

  2. […] Top 20 Pop Songs from 1981 […]

  3. Very good and excellent songs list.
    I remember that beautiful music.
    This is my invitation to my music blog.
    From Argentina, my name is Beto
    Kind regards

  4. […] Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981 […]

  5. […] Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981 […]

  6. […] Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981 […]

  7. […] Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981 […]

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