Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

1984 continues the run of great hits that came with the middle of the 1980s.  I had real problems narrowing the list down to 20 for this year.  As a result, from thus point, at least through 1986, I will give a list of songs that almost made the cut at the end.

20.  “Uptown Girl”, Billy Joel– This song was one of the many hits off his Innocent Man album.  It continues the be-bop style that was found in “Tell Her About It”.  The video featured his then wife Christy Brinkley looking very nice, and Joel as a mechanic.  It’s a fun song, and I chose it over his other hit from that year, “An Innocent Man”.

19.  “Say Say Say”, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson– This is the third duet featuring McCartney to chart in a two year period, and the second for the team of Jackson and McCartney.  The other Jackson/McCartney song was “The Girl Is Mine”, and the third duet was the Stevie Wonder/McCartney hit “Ebony and Ivory”.  “Say Say Say” is a fun song, and it stayed in Billboard’s #1 slot for six weeks which was impressive considering the other great music that was out that year.

18.  “Here Comes The Rain Again”, Eurythmics– This is the second song from the Annie Lennox led band to make one of my lists.  It carries on many of the qualities of their earlier hit, “Sweet Dreams” including great vocals, keyboards , and a prominent use of stringed instruments (not just guitars).  Lennox’s voice has a smoky affectedness to it that makes it interesting to listen to.

17.  “I Can Dream About You”, Dan Hartman– This is definitely a one-hit-wonder from a guy I could not have named if you had paid me, but I could easily sing the song a the way through though.  It has a very catchy melody that moves along briskly and is easy to follow.

16.  “Easy Lover”, Phillip Bailey duet with Phil Collins– This is one of my top three duets of the 1980s.  The two Phils’ voices sound great together.  Collins is great as usual, and Bailey shows that he really has some pipes and range when he takes over for his verses.  For those who do not know, Phillip Bailey sang with Earth Wind and Fire before he teamed up with Collins.  He later had a solo career in Christian Contemporary Music, and finally rejoined his old band, re-billed as Phillip Bailey and Earth Wind and Fire to continue releasing music on the Christian charts.

15.  “Sister Christian”, Night Ranger– This was a great Power Ballad by a one-hit-wonder band, and recounts the coming of age of a young woman.  In the video, the band is stereotypically 80s from the hair to the dress.  The song is a very good representation of a power ballad sung by a ‘hard rock group.  It begins with a nice, soft keyboard and vocal, but by the chorus has developed into a full-fledged power ballad.

14.  “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, The Police– This is one of my favorite Police songs.  It has a subdued sultry tone that at times seems almost haunting.  The main instrument in the verses in the chime, and it sounds great as a punctuator for Stings voice.  The melody is easy to sing and memorable, and video looks great with the candles everywhere in a sort of maze.

13.  “Hold Me Now”, Thompson Twins– This is a very nice, easy to sing song by one of the many semi-androgynous British New Wave bands of the 80s.

12.  “Oh Sherrie”, Steve Perry– Steve Perry finally decided that the best way to showcase his great vocal ability was to dump his band, and in 1983 he released his first solo hit, “Oh Sherrie”.  It is a great song that begins with him belting out the first line a cappella.  The background vocals are also nice on this song.

11. “Legs”, ZZ Top– This was the biggest in a strong if hits by the iconic and very hairy guitar band.  Even their guitars were hairy, but ZZ Top was just cool.  I remember the video with that super-hot girl in it.  Nice.  I went to their Eliminator tour, and saw them on the fourth night of four sold out shows at reunion arena in Dallas.  It was great, even though they played a lot of old stuff I had never heard before.  The stage was the dashboard of the car from the video, and halfway through the show it morphed into the control panel for the space shuttle.  This concert was my first exposure to large groups of people smoking pot.

10.  “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, U2– I have a confession.  I did not like U2 in high school.  I don’t even know why.  As a result, I do not know a lot of their stuff, but as the years have gone by, I have been confronted with the undeniable truth that they recorded some of the great songs of the 80s.  Today, I have a reason not to like them (I don’t see eye to eye with all of Bono’s politics), but I realize that songs like “Pride” are great, and deserve to be in any 80s list.

9.  “Like a Virgin”, Madonna– Madonna made my high school pants go crazy.  Her music before this “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” had a lot more of a be-bop quality.  “Like a Virgin” had a different quality, sexuality, and it worked.  Her slightly nasal voice fit in well with her new attitude.  I still remember her singing this on the VMAs while wearing a hot wedding dress.  Nice.

8.  “Shout”, Tears for Fears– This was the first mega hit for the British pop band.  It has a driving beat that I can still hear as a ‘Boom, Boom, Boom” of the rim-shots in my head as I think about this song.  It is right in a teenager’s wheelhouse with its angst-ridden lyrics that are all about expressing your rage at that age.  Oddly, the angry lyrics and beat are backed up by a very nice vocal, especially in the verses.

7.  “Drive”, Cars– The slow cool sound of this song is a departure from the normally quirky, syncopated style that the band normally put forth.  It showcased Rick Ocasek’s unique vocals, and tackles the unusual subject, for a pop song, of drug abuse.  I chose it over “You Might Think”, which is undeniably a more traditional Cars’ song, simply because I like it better.

6.  “Hard Habit To Break”, Chicago This was the second release (the first being, “Stay the Night”) from the mega-album, Chicago 17.  It featured dual vocals from Bill Champlin and the rising star, Peter Certera.  This song recaptured the more traditional Chicago big-band sound with a great horn part in the middle while retaining their new Power Ballad style that was seen on Chicago 16.

5.  “If This Is It”, Huey Lewis and The News  This was the hardest choice that I have had to make between two songs by the same band in the same year on these lists up to this point.  In the end, I chose “If This is It” over “The Heart Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” because I like to do-wap sound in the first one better than the “Rock Around the Clock” style of the second one (though as I write this, it does not sound like a very good reason).  They are both great songs, and Lewis shows his versatility by being able to sing the ballad or the rock song very well.  In the end, I’ll just flip a coin.  Heads it is, and I still choose “If This is It.”

4. “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”, Yes– Guitar is the star instrument in this progressive rock anthem by the British band, Yes, from the distorted guitar at the beginning to the long guitar solo in the middle of the song.  The vocals, provided by lead singer Jon Anderson have an almost hard rock quality which would have worked with a band such as Poison, Metallica or Def Leppard.  The back-up vocal, provided by Trevor Horn, who wrote the song, provides the familiar refrain “Owner of a Lonely Heart!” in the song.  The whole tone to his vocals is a nice contrast to the rocker sound of Anderson.  The video for this song is a surreal journey into the mind of a crazy person, and could have been a predecessor for the Fear Factor show.

3.  “Time After Time”, Cyndi Lauper– Lauper’s persona at the time was a big turn-off to me, but I’ll have to admit, she could write and sing a song very well when she really wanted to.  I still like this song today, and am pleased when I hear it on the radio or in a restaurant.  It gets tons of play, and is often heard in the score of a movie.  It has been covered on about 50 albums including artists such as Willie Nelson and Christian artist Phil Keaggy.  The most memorable appearances in movies include Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Napoleon Dynamite.  It was easy for me to choose this song over her other 1984 whip of a hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

2.  “Hello”, Lionel Richie– After making his mark with the Commodores’ “Three Times a Lady,” and “Still,” and again later with his smash duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,”  Richie released his first solo album in 1982 which included the hit, “Truly,” but was otherwise unremarkable.  In 1983, he released his super-album, Can’t Slow Down from which six of the eight songs were released and did well.  The best of these songs was unquestionably “Hello.”  It’s a beautiful love song, and the video featuring Richie who is in love with a blind woman is very memorable. 

I went to see Lionel Richie in concert when I was in high school.  It was a good show with Sheila E. singing in her underwear (hot!), and a superior technical performance when Richie took the stage.  Back then, you had to buy a T-shirt every time you went to a concert, and I bought one that was black with a big Lionel Richie face on it in some puffy raised-up synthetic paint (so gay).  I remember wearing it to Sunday night church (Sunday night was less formal in our church of about 800 regulars).  At the end of the service, I was standing there talking with my buddies when the preacher walked up to me, and tapped me on the back.  “I was just wondering who the black guy was that was staring at me the whole time I was preaching.”  I’m sure I turned red, and I was never quite sure if it was the fact that I wore a concert T-shirt to church that he did not like or the fact that there was a black man on it that he did not like.  In any case, I did not wear that shirt to church again.

1.  “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)”, Phil Collins– I know I am fudging on one of my rules by having “Easy Lover” at #16, and this at number one, but I chose to look at the duet as a different group in this case, much like I would not have a problem putting a Genesis and a Phil Collins song on the same list.  This is one of the most soulful love songs (or ‘my heart has been ripped out’ songs) that you are ever going to hear.  It’s perfect.  The piano part is memorable, and the vocal is great.  I would love to sing along with it, but I can’t make my voice do the kinds of things that Collins can.  This is another song that came on the heals of Collins’ messy divorce, and his pain is evident in the lyrics and vocal.  The song was released as the title song of a movie starring Jeff Bridges and James Wood which was a remake of an old Robert Mitchum movie called Out of the Past.

 

Here is a list of songs I liked that did not make it onto the list in 1984:

“The Warrior”, Scandal

“Almost Paradise”, Mike Reno and Ann Wilson

“Say It Isn’t So”, Daryl Hall and John Oates

“I Just Called To Say I Love You”, Stevie Wonder

“Cruel Summer”, Bananarama

“Missing You”, John Waite

“On The Dark Side”, John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band

“Footloose”, Kenny Loggins

“One Night In Bangkok”, Murray Head

“Joanna”, Kool & The Gang

“God Bless the USA”, Lee Greenwood

“Jump”, Van Halen

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, Wham!

 

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 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

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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