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Top 10 Decade Defining Songs: 1980s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris. You’re gonna need to grow your hair, put some highlights in, and then tease it till the cows come home! For this list, we’ve looked at a combination of the 1980s’ most commercially successful songs, as well as the most influential records and the tracks that best reflect the period. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining songs of the 1980s. Special thanks to our users Alex Guzman, MrRock4Evr, OskarTheSwde, Oliver Swen, wake_up_dead, passwordusername115, Jimmy Kowaleski, 80sfreaka, connordavidson1998, Rajesh G. Harrynarine, Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez, kopsman124, Mihai Tripp, SomeGuyDownTheRoad, Frank Becerra, Awesome One, hkdbf24, Daniel Soriano, Charles Randazzo and billthecat2011 for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
You’re gonna need to grow your hair, put some highlights in, and then tease it till the cows come home! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining songs of the 1980s.

For this list, we’ve looked at a combination of the decade’s most commercially successful songs, as well as the most influential records and the tracks that best reflect the period.

#10: “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987)
Guns N’ Roses

Released as the band’s second single from their debut album, “Welcome to the Jungle” is a depiction of the Los Angeles lifestyle, and the temptations that are found there. All in all, it was a chart success for the band, and has a lasting legacy – it’s a firm favorite with all generations of metal-heads. Axl Rose’s snarling lyrics hit hard, and some have become immortal lines. The origins of his “you’re gonna die” screech are unconfirmed, but it’s certainly unforgettable!

#9: “Hungry Like the Wolf” (1982)
Duran Duran

Much of this entry’s massive success has been attributed to the coinciding rise of MTV. “Hungry Like the Wolf” was placed on heavy rotation, and as a result, Duran Duran was able to promote their style as well as their sound. Clean cut and polished, their vibe was reflective of the changing technology at the time. Drum machines and synthesizers were matched to Simon Le Bon’s vocals, leaving them hungry, and us very happy.

#8: “Born in the U.S.A.” (1984)
Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen didn’t get nicknamed ‘The Boss’ for nothing – he’s a huge figure in the music business, and this is probably his signature track. Despite a patriotic-sounding title, “Born in the U.S.A.” is not a tribute to all things American. The song was actually written in support of the badly treated, returning Vietnam soldiers. The wide-spread misunderstanding is proof that we hear what we want to hear – but with a chorus as fist-pumping as this, who can blame us?!

#7: “Where the Streets Have No Name” (1987)
U2

Perhaps Ireland’s greatest musical export, U2 had clearly conquered America, or at least a small part of it, during the filming of the video for our next song! A live performance of “Where the Streets Have No Name” brought in the crowds, and thrust the record into the limelight. Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, it was said that the composition was so complex it had to be written on a blackboard like a math equation… We’re glad they managed to work it out!

#6: “Walk This Way” (1986)
Run DMC feat. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith

Next, we have an unexpected collaboration that signaled for many the breakthrough moment for hip-hop and the mainstream charts. In 1986, Run DMC was looking for a way into music, and Aerosmith was experiencing a drug-laden down-point! When they got together and mixed it up, they found an answer to everyone’s problems! The rap majority of the record is, somehow, perfectly complimented by Steven Tyler’s high-pitched hook. We’re not sure why, but it just works!

#5: “Livin’ on a Prayer” (1986)
Bon Jovi

Tommy and Gina’s is a simple story that quickly turned into a stadium-filler! Bon Jovi’s second chart-topping hit from their Slippery When Wet album, it struck a chord with the teenage population as it portrays the trials and tribulations of the working classes. Jon Bon Jovi himself had been dubious that the song was good enough… history clearly states how wrong he was to worry! “Livin’ on a Prayer” is sing-along rock music at its very, very best!

#4: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (1983)
Cyndi Lauper

An empowered female musician and an eternal dance-floor favorite, with this record, Cyndi Lauper paved the way for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears and many other solo female artists that followed. The girls of its title are not the unattainable, falsified females that pop culture was parading across our screens and into our consciousness, but real people. Lauper’s video accompaniment was as honest a portrayal as her music. She had fun, and shook the eighties wide-awake!

#3: “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (1987)
Def Leppard

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” merges an almost rap-style verse with an inherently ‘80s booming chorus. The record was so packed full of innuendo that it covered itself up. Despite the “peaches and cream,” it was deemed to be clean, and became a hands-in-the-air anthem. Def Leppard’s lasting legacy, it’s a song that captured the decade’s big hair, electronic and hard rock sound.

#2: “Like a Virgin” (1984)
Madonna

As the first single off her sophomore effort, this was the record that really propelled Madonna into the public eye. Lyrically, it was especially racy, but musically it stood out as well – as Madonna favored actual musicians to the synthesizer sound of her first album. She famously sang the tune at the first MTV Music Video Awards in 1984 – and based on the performance, she was clearly as excited by the song as the rest of us were!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “When Doves Cry” (1984) Prince and The Revolution
- “Flashdance… What a Feeling” (1983) Irena Cara
- “You Shook Me All Night Long” (1980) AC/DC
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981) Journey
- “Eye of the Tiger” (1982) Survivor
- “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (1985) Tears for Fears

#1: “Beat It” (1982)
Michael Jackson

Appropriately, “Beat It” has beaten everything else to the top of our tree. Michael Jackson was the first black artist to get regular airplay on MTV, and the song’s choreography-filled video was one of the most played. With an unpaid Eddie Van Halen on guitar, and MJ’s signature vocal style, the song carried unrivalled charisma and attitude. It danced its way to the top of music charts worldwide, and collected 2 Grammys. He’s the King of Pop, and this is his fanfare.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite eighties song? For more tuned-in Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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