Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

20.  “Careless Whisper”, Wham!– My gay-dar was working well by the time the George Michael led group came along.  This probably explains why I did not care for them too much.  However, I’ll have to admit that they had some huge hits in the mid 80s containing very catchy tunes.  The problem with Wham was that their bubbly style made them seem like a male version of the Go-Gos, and that is not a good thing.  That is why I ended up choosing “Careless Whisper” with its ballad style over their bigger hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”

19.  “Saving All My Love For You”, Whitney Houston– I tend to react negatively to hype, and Whitney got a lot of it when her voice blasted onto the scene, but even back then I could not deny that she was a great singer.  Her songs are not easy to sing along with, for the most part, because they are all a showcase for her incredible vocals.  I chose “Saving All My Love For You” over “You Give Good Love”, but they both are about the same.

18.  “Separate Lives”, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin– This is easily one of the best duets of the 80s.  Her voice and style of singing hold up well with his as they trade off throughout the song.  It reached #1 in the Billboard Top 100, and was featured on the soundtrack to the great date movie, White Nights.

17.  “One More Night”, Phil Collins– As I did in 1984, I will treat the duet above as a group performance, and include another song by Phil Collins as a result.  “One More Night” was one of four songs that charted off Collins’ great album, No Jacket Required.  I had the album, and like most of the albums that I really liked in that era, I wore it out.  I would know any song off of it if I heard it today, and there are some that did not even chart that I liked a lot such as “Long, Long Way to Go” that featured Sting singing the backup vocals.

16.  “We Belong”, Pat Benatar– This was always my favorite Pat Benatar song.  It was a departure from her earlier ‘rocker-girl’ music and it featured a nice melody and vocal.  I’m not sure if it is a guitar or a keyboard at the beginning of the song but in any case, it is iconic, and I immediately knew the song when heard it at the end of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.  That scene where Sacha Baron Cohen is chasing Will Ferrell down the track is classic, and I will probably always associate this song with it in the future.

15.  “We Are The World”, U.S.A. For Africa– Anyone that was young during this era knows this song.  It was a great song, and it was great to see that many of the most popular singers in the world at that time could get together for a good cause.  If this were done today, it would undoubtedly feature Bono, which ever 80s or 90s groups were coming out with a new album, recent groups whose popularity is waning (see Britney Spears), the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and all the failed American Idol winners and finalists.  But, the original truly pulled in the powerhouses of pop music at the time.  Solos included: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Kim Carnes, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Daryl Hall, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Bruce Springsteen, Al Jarreau, and James Ingram.  Other artists included: Randy Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Tito Jackson, JaToya Jackson, The Pointer Sisters, Lindsey Buckingham, Jackie Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Jeffery Osborne, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Bette Midler, John Oates and Dan Aykroyd (odd).  Awesome.  And, it could never be done today.  What, no Bono?

14.  “The Search Is Over”, Survivor– This song continued Survivor’s string of great power ballads.  The lead vocals have a nice tone to them, and the song is easy to sing along with.  I chose it over “I Can’t Hold Back” from the same year.

13.  “Lay Your Hands On Me”, Thompson Twins– I love the whole tone to the vocals on this song, and the choral part is even better.  This song was released on their Here’s To the Future album which was the 6th album released in five years for the prolific androgynous British band.

12.  “What About Love”, Heart– Heart burst on the pop scene in 1985 with the release of their debut album, Heart.  It was a smash hit for sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, as was their first of many hits, “What About Love.”  The band led by Ann Wison’s strong vocals was one of the dominant groups in pop music for the next few years, and was easily the biggest girl band of the decade.  Routinely, their songs are attempted by contestants on American Idol, and just as routinely, those contestants are roundly criticized because their vocals are not near as good or as strong as Ann Wilson’s vocals.

11.  “Things Can Only Get Better”, Howard Jones– Howard Jones is a great keyboardist, and I love his vocals.  All of his melodies pop, and are easy to sing along with.  I would recommend his The Best of Howard Jones from 1993 to anyone.  The backup singers, made up of the members of the female backup group, Afrodiziak (genius) sound great and help to make the song.

10.  “Money For Nothing”, Dire Straits– This is one of the iconic songs of the 80s.  It would be one of the best one-hit-wonders if the band had not had another hit, but their success never again approached the popularity of this song.  It, of course, begins with Sting’s unmistakable falsetto vocals ethereally asking for his MTV with a keyboard appropriately setting the eerie mood.  Then, the guitar bangs in with the very recognizable riff that continues throughout the song, and it takes off as a tribute to the easily attained fame and riches to be found in the music industry.  The vocals, described by lead singer Mark Knopfler as Sprechstimme, are by definition, vocals that fall somewhere between speaking and singing.  There was some controversy at the time involving the lines containing the words “chimpanzee” and “faggot”, and there were accusations of sexism, racism and homophobia leveled against the band which they denied.  The video filled with cool animation was groundbreaking for MTV, and it was one of their most played that year.

9.  “The Power Of Love”, Huey Lewis and The News– This and “Back in Time” were both featured in the 80s hit movie Back to the Future.  “The Power of Love” has all the qualities of a great Huey Lewis song, strong vocals, big band sound, and a bopping 50s-like rock and roll beat.  I remember seeing Huey Lewis in concert in the 80s.  It was one of the best that I ever saw.  He had the Tower Of Power horn section with him, and at one point, every person with the stage crew, the band and the horn section were on stage at the same time singing and dancing to their doo-wop sound with leather jackets on.

8.  “Material Girl”, Madonna– I chose “Material Girl” over “Crazy For You” and “Live To Tell” because it is the song that I think of when I think of Madonna.  The video with her playing the part of Marilyn Monroe from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was great.  She looked sexier to me with her clothes on in this video than she did in later videos when she took them off.  Her voice has a good, if squeaky, tone to it that matches the Monroe’s vibe.

7.  “Heaven”, Bryan Adams– This and “Cuts Like a Knife” are my two favorite Bryan Adams’ songs.  I liked this song a lot because I could sing it, and it was a cool power ballad.  It still gets a lot of play, and can be heard every season on American Idol.

6.  “You’re The Inspiration”, Chicago– This is probably the most popular song Chicago ever recorded (and that is a lot of songs), but it is not my personal favorite- that would be “Love Me Tomorrow”– or even my favorite from Chicago 17– that would be the unreleased “Remember the Feeling.”  However, that does not mean it is not a great song.  Peter Certera proved, once and for all, that Bill Champlin should be a backup singer for the group with this song.  Certera left the band shortly thereafter.

5.  “Head Over Heels”, Tears For Fears– This was another great hit for the semi-androgynous British pop band.  The key board part that sounds like falling rain as it repeatedly moves down the scale let’s you know what song you are listening to from the beginning.  The lead vocals are very clean, and the backup falsetto vocals match nicely on the verses and chorus.  I chose this song over their bigger hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” because I like it better, but they are both great songs.

4.  “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, Simple Minds– What a youth rebellion anthem!  I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than this.  Every child of the 80s reading this sees Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club walking away with his fist (for some reason) in the air in a defiant statement that said, “You might burn me with cigarettes, but I’m still too cool even for myself!”  The song is cool too.  It was the class song for thousands of senior classes that year (pretty much all of the classes that were not gay enough to choose “Friends” as their class song).

3.  “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, REO Speedwagon– Have you ever had a friend who you could not stand to be around when he was with his girlfriend?  When I was in college my roommate was going out with my girlfriend’s roommate (We both eventually married these ladies- I asked mine out first.  He married his first).  There was really no avoiding being around them quite a bit.  The problem was, for instance, at night as I would be watching television in our living room, he would be on the phone with her calling her pet names likes ‘Snoogums” and such.  They would get to the end of he conversation, and then would come the ‘I love you’, ‘no, I love you more’ session (five minutes minimum), and then the ‘hang up’, ‘no, you hang up’ session which rarely ended before I was contemplating ending my own life.

Then there was being with them.  You were never really with them.  They were with each other in their own little world getting as close as the clothes on them would allow, and calling each other pet names in sweet high pitched voices totally oblivious of the fact that every around them was visibly ill.  I swear.  I had to eventually sit my roommate down and explain the concept of ‘too cute’ to him.

All during this time, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was their song.  He played it all the time.  She played it all the time.  They played it all the time.

I think it says a lot about the greatness of this song that through all of that, I still liked it.  And, here it is at #3 on my 1985 list.  It’s probably better than that even, but I hold a long grudge.

2.  “Take On Me”, A-Ha– This song is another of the great one-hit-wonder songs of the 80s.  The Norwegian pop band A-Ha, fronted by Morten Harket, used this song to feature his soaring vocals that hit before-unseen heights for a male voice in popular music.  It also has a signature keyboard part that makes the song instantly recognizable.  The video for this song was one of the most popular of the 80s featuring a sappy love story between a guy in a comic and a girl.  What made it special was its use of animation and real-life video in the same frames bringing the comic book characters to life, then having them interact with the real-life characters almost seamlessly.  The girl is very cute also.

1.  “I Want To Know What Love Is”, Foreigner– What a great song.  This may be the best power ballad of all time.  The vocals are great, and adding the gospel choir brought it to a whole new level.  The keyboard, as with most good power ballads, is great also.

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 1981

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 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

From 1983-1986 80s music hit its high point.  There was a plethora of good songs released during this four year period, and many were forced off the list that would probably have been included in previous years.

20. “She’s A Beauty”, The Tubes– I love the syncopated style of the guitar and keyboard at the beginning of the song.  The funhouse theme of the video was cool, and the woman in the mermaid suit was hot, hot, hot.

19.  “Up Where We Belong”, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes– Joe Cocker has a face for radio and a voice that is the male version of Fran Drescher, but his hyper-affected style, and gravelly sound proved just right for this great 80s love song.  It was the theme song for the great movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.  The song made a clean sweep of the awards topping the charts, winning a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

18.  “Overkill”, Men At Work– “Overkill” is generally regarded as the best song by the Australian band Men At Work.  It was more mature than many of their early hits, but 80s music had matured faster than the band did, so even though I like it better than “Down Under”, it is further down the list in 1983.

17.  “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, Eurythmics– This was the first big hit for the band that was fronted by Annie Lennox.  Her strong alto vocals matched well with the synthesized sound of the music.  The video is very surreal, and features the Lennox and keyboardist Robert Crash in a field with cows and cellos at one point.  This song proved that the synthesizer alone had the ability to make a song that was distinctively 80s.

16.  “Photograph”, Def Leppard– Def Leppard pulled hard rock music into the pop music genre.  They were the first (and really the only) hard rock group that I have ever liked.  Their songs were still very melodic and singable.  All you really need to say is, “One armed drummer!”

15.  “Electric Avenue”, Eddy Grant– Eddie Grant was just cool.  The synthesizer and bass give this song a disco-funk feel.  You have to move when you hear this song, and it is still played quite a bit today.

14.  “Der Kommissar”, After The Fire– This song was released the year before in German by the unknown (at that time) Falco, and it was the B-side a few years later on “Rock Me Amadeus”.  After the Fire released the song in English in 1983.  The song is still very popular today, and has been repeatedly sampled by Hip Hop artists.  Most notably it was the basis for MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” in the 90s.  When I hear it, I see myself looking down at the Frogger machine at the local skating rink as I was growing up.  You could count on hearing it about once an hour.

13.  “Modern Love”, David Bowie– This is easily my favorite David Bowie song.  The beginning of the song almost sounds like and Eagles’ song, until the keyboard and Bowie enter.  The song is upbeat, toe-tapping, and the sax part is nice.  The background singers really make the song.  If I had liked Bowie more at the time, this probably would have been one of my favorite songs of the 80s.

12.  “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”, Air Supply  This song signaled the end of Air Supply’s run, but it was a great way to end it.  The beginning with just the keyboard is iconic, and the tenor’s voice seems to go into the stratosphere.  The song is still heard often today.

11.  “Tell Her About It”, Billy Joel– The bee-bop style with the horn back-up in this song is excellent.  Billy Joel proved again that he could sing almost any style with this song.  The Rodney Dangerfield appearance in the video is nice.

10.  “She Blinded Me With Science”, Thomas Dolby– This song features a great keyboard player providing some great keyboards.  You know the song in about two notes.  It is a little quirky with the weird old man screaming, “Science!”, but that chick in the video with the violin drawn on her back may have the best figure that I’ve ever seen.

9.  “Cuts Like a Knife”, Bryan Adams– I always liked the tone of Bryan Adams voice.  This sing one of the all-time great “na-na” songs, and is easy to sing along with.  I like it better than his other hit from that year, “Straight From the Heart.”

8.  “Maneater”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– You know this song in just a couple of notes.  The baseline with the echoing, whammy keyboard sound is memorable, but the sax makes the song.  This is one of my favorite Hall & Oates songs.  According to Hall, Kelly LeBrock was the inspiration for the song.  I remember those legs from Woman in Red, and I have to admit they inspired my 14 year old hormones quite a lot.  This is another Hall & Oates song that is sampled a lot by Hip Hop groups.  I chose it over “One on One” which also charted this year.

7.  “Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson– I really did not want to put any Michael Jackson songs on the list, what with all of the pedophilia and all, but I just had to include the greatness of Billy Jean.  Most people regard it as his best song, and it carries with it the complicated issue of teen pregnancy.  The bass line and percussion part are iconic.  The addition of an orchestra made the feel of the music much deeper and less disco, than it would have seemed without it.  The song garnered two Grammies for Jackson, and the video featured the stylistic dance style that because a hallmark of Jackson videos in the next few years.

6.  “Every Breath You Take”, The Police– This is one of the best of the Police songs.  It is a little more of a vocal feature for Sting, and a lot more mellow than some of their earlier releases.

5.  “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, Bonnie Tyler– I love this song, and it is the rare true female power ballad.  The piano is the feature instrument with a memorable four note repetition.  The piano is great but not as great as Bonnie Tyler’s vocal.  She’s incredible, and the emotion that she conveys with her vocal is moving.  The background vocal is also an important part of the song.  It is interesting to note that the song was inspired Wuthering Heights.

4.  “Faithfully”, Journey– This is the second of the two great and enduring power ballads by Journey to make it onto the list.  You can find some of Steve Perry’s best vocals on this song.  I chose it over “Separate Ways” and “Send Her My Love” both of which are great songs.

3.  “Africa”, Toto– This is the second and last great song for this band of musical ringers.  The keyboard part carries the song.  The vocal has an ethereal quality until it hits the chorus, and then it soars.

2.  “Always Something There To Remind Me”, Naked Eyes  This song and the #1 song on this list from 1983 would probably make my top ten for the who decade. They both still get a lot of play, and you can hear them almost anywhere.  The four note keyboard part is iconic, and stays in your head.  In the end, this song is just cool, and is why chose it over their other great hit, “Promises Promises” from the same year.

1.  “Come On Eileen”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners  1983 presented us with several great one-hit-wonders, including the number one hit which I consider the greatest to be the best one-hit-wonders of the 80s.  This song exposed me to my own Irish musical heritage, eventually leading me to other music like Folk Like Us, The Chieftains, Lorenna McKennitt and even Enya.  I love the sound of an Irish fiddle, and this song definitely delivers.  I liked this song so much that I eventually bought an imported album called The Very Best of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.  What could go wrong?  I mean they claimed that this album contained the very best music that Dexy’s Midnight Runners had to offer.  After listening to all 25 songs (most of which were a whip), I realized that I knew two of them, period.  They were “Come On Eileen” and the live version of “Come On Eileen”.

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 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

 

 

 

 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