Why am I so obsessed with the 80s this week? Heck, I’m a 90s kid by only the barest definition of the sense, since I was born so late. Yeah, I know what Pogs are and I remember the jelly bracelet fad, but that’s just because the early 2000s was the Coke Crystal of the 90s - all the flavor with none of the charm.
I still grew up with 80s songs because they have such a distinctive feel to them. It’s probably why Stranger Things is so popular. The synth, the retro electro layering, the neon and wood panels and grainy weird music videos, they all scream EIGHTIES. So, in light of that, here are some of my favorite songs of the decade. While I don’t have a mixtape for them, you can still catch them on Spotify.
Take on Me by a-ha (1985)
This one has found resurgence in memes (Rest in peace, Vine) and the occasional cover album (Thanks, Ninja Sex Party.) To be fair, it’s really damn catchy. The marching beat, the soaring crescendo and, of course, the pitchy refrain: “I’ll be gone/ in a day or TWOOOOOOOOOO.” Very karaoke-friendly, if you’re the type to enjoy a nice Friday-night screech.
Africa by Toto (1982)
I think this is probably the most inoffensive-sounding song in the world. It’s very typical 80s - quiet bass lyrics and then a layered, shooter baritone/soprano chorus. It has soft, gentle synth instrumentals that you can dad-dance along to (much to embarrassment of your progeny).
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel (1986)
If you can, watch the music video for this. It’s hilariously weird. The song itself is great, with an African rhythmic and a marching beat. Good for blasting on a stereo in a trench coat to try and get your ex back (please don’t actually try this).
Elegia by New Order (1985)
I call this one my ‘MKUltra’ song. The full version is about 17 minutes long with no vocals, but by god does it give me the chills. The plinking keyboard melody punctuated by heavy organ chords and guitar riffs is just scary, and towards the end, the song starts to veer off kilter. It’s otherworldly and makes you feel like you’re in a conspiracy theory.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics (1983)
This one is very synth-heavy. It’s spacey, it’s memeable and it’s rather mesmerizing. Annie Lennox’s strong vocals and unearthly croons make this song one that’s going to stay in your head for a while.
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley (1987)
Ok, while I am including this for the memes, this song also made this list because when you look at it, it’s so weird: Rick Astley’s strangely-deep voice for a twenty-something year-old (did he go through super-puberty or something?) and the funnily unnerving music video of him dancing with sunglasses in an empty warehouse. All you can do about it is roll with it.
8th Wonder by Sugar Hill Gang (1982)
Rap and hip hop were rapidly developing in the 80s and can easily be identified by their ‘ballad’ lyrics (“Lemme tell you the story all about how…”) keyboard synths (of course!) and somewhat fast-paced but still articulate lyrics. They call it the ‘Golden Age’ for a reason! This song has all the hallmarks, with a catchy beat and elements of jazz and soul thrown in.
Magic Dance by David Bowie (1986)
I wanted to include a David Bowie song in this, and because I love “Labyrinth” so much, I had to pick this one. Has Bowie done better ones? Yeah. But this one is so cheesy, so dance-able to and the lyrics are so memorable (“You remind me of the babe”/”What babe?”) that I couldn’t help it. Also, the Goblin King in tights. ‘Nuff said.
Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard (1987)
This one has more hard-rock elements than the other songs on this playlist, and it’s one of the best out there. It’s got great riffs, a powerful, ripping chorus and an energetic melody that you can head-bang to.
Don’t You (Forget about me) by Simple Minds (1985)
This is a given if you’re a “The Breakfast Club” fan. Even if you aren’t, it’s still a great song. It’s quieter, but still resonant. You can see it being the opening to a movie where the protagonist is just waking up to their alarm and they’re about to go to school and embark on whacky adventures. Even the audio, when digitally remastered, sounds old, like you can picture the powder-grainy film of the 80s. Not a bad way to start (or end) the day.
You can find all these songs on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/dragonladyofthewest/playlist/4kxTqMZPCrB5NU5lRzc4tY
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.