Blast From the Past: ‘80s Hits That Still Bring the Heat

‘80s music somehow manages to feel both timeless and quintessentially of its time. With big hair, bold shoulder pads, and even bolder egos, it’s no wonder the songs captivate our hearts even after all these years. These tunes transcended genres and emotions. And for some reason, they fall together into a playlist that has it all — feel-good love songs, moody tunes, and everything in between.

So, sit back, and you might find yourself revisiting these classics time and time again.

1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

This song from 1983 blends post-disco, R&B, funk, and dance-pop. It tells the story of a woman named Billie Jean, who claims the narrator is the father of her child, a claim Jackson denies. 

Billie Jean topped the Billboard Hot 100 and charts worldwide, which boosted the Thriller album’s success. Fun fact: Michael’s performance on Motown 25 introduced the moonwalk. 

2. Like a Virgin – Madonna

Like a Virgin, released in 1984, is a classic dance-pop track celebrated for its catchy hooks and Madonna’s distinctive high-pitched vocals. Shortly after its release, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

The music video, directed by Mary Lambert, added to the song’s significance. It featured Madonna in a wedding dress and was set in Venice.

3. Don’t Stop Believin – Journey

Released in 1981, Don’t Stop Believin was the second single from Journey’s album Escape. It’s known for its iconic opening piano riff and the powerful combination of Steve Perry’s vocals, Neal Schon’s guitar, and Jonathan Cain’s keyboards. Cain drew inspiration from his father’s words of encouragement during his early days as a struggling musician in Los Angeles. 

4. Take on Me – A-ha

Take On Me was recorded in 1984 and reimagined in 1985 for A-ha’s debut album Hunting High and Low.

In 1984, the first version didn’t make waves in the UK. However, a re-released version in 1985 found international success, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart. This breakthrough is attributed to the groundbreaking music video created by director Steve Barron.

5. Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds

Don’t You (Forget About Me) was crafted by producer Keith Forsey and guitarist Steve Schiff. Surprisingly. It wasn’t initially intended for Simple Minds, but Forsey and Schiff shopped it around to various artists before the band decided to take it on.

Released in 1985, this song was an influence for a poignant scene in The Breakfast Club where two contrasting characters find a connection.

6. When Doves Cry – Prince

Prince was motivated to write the song for a specific segment of the film Purple Rain, directed by Albert Magnoli. This segment was about complex themes of parental difficulties and passionate love affairs.

The song came out in 1984 and quickly rose to become Prince’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, the accompanying music video faced initial controversy for its explicit content.

7. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

Released in 1986 as part of Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet album, the song was instantly recognised as a hit. Its catchy energy and memorable lyrics won the hearts of fans, of course, topping the charts. 

Interestingly, Jon Bon Jovi initially disliked the song’s original recording but was convinced to rework it by Richie Sambora. 

8. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll was originally written by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker and recorded by the British rock band The Arrows in 1975. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts made it famous with their 1981 cover. 

The second rendition was a chart-topping anthem for seven weeks, and it’s considered Jett’s signature song. In 2016, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

9. Every Breath You Take – The Police

Every Breath You Take is a timeless classic from the 1983 album Synchronicity. This song became a chart-topper for four weeks in the UK and held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. The song was nominated for three Grammy Awards and won two, including Song of the Year. 

10. Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

Sweet Child o’ Mine is featured in Appetite for Destruction (1987). Released as a single in 1988, it reached number 24 upon its initial release in the UK but climbed to number six when re-released in 1989. 

The song’s creation was serendipitous, born out of a jam session with guitarist Slash playing a whimsical melody. Lead singer Axl Rose wrote heartfelt lyrics inspired by his girlfriend. 

That’s it for now — keep grooving!

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