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Pop Culture

What's the most '80s song of all time? People share their most bodacious answers.

A time for big hair and even bigger energy.

best 80s song, 80s music, 80s songs

A sound uniquely its own.

Maybe we have nostalgia-driven television shows like “Stranger Things” to blame, but music from the '80s has made its way back into the mainstream. Just what makes that '80s sound so distinctive?

You could go the scientific approach and attribute it to the heavy use of synthesized piano. And you’d certainly be right. A study published by Humanities Commons noted that one particular preset (E. PIANO 1) on the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer could be heard in up to 61% of No. 1 hits on the pop, country and R&B Billboard charts by 1986.

Of course, I think we’d have to acknowledge that there was more to it than electric piano. That music just had a certain attitude all its own. It was loud, both audibly and visually. And perhaps best of all—it encouraged people of all shapes and sizes to be bold and embrace their inner weirdo.

So, just what is the "most '80s '80s song" of all time? That was a question recently posed on AskReddit. Here are 16 of the best answers:


"Take On Me" – A-ha

@Starstarstar42 said it best: “It is the 80's distilled, run through a charcoal filter, then run through a 2nd distillation to remove any 70's & 90's impurities, leaving only the concentrated 80's with delicate woodsy overtones and hints of plum.”

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears

It certainly helps that this song plays during an iconic scene in “Real Genius,” a quintessential '80s movie.

“I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls

Flock of Seagulls … the band who brought us the '80s most iconic (and unflattering) haircut.

​“Rio” – Duran Duran

With the constant sailboat imagery in the music video, perhaps “Rio” started yacht rock.

“Let's Go Crazy” – Prince

The '80s were a time for epic guitar solos. And Prince delivered the most epic guitar solos of all time.

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper

Lauper’s first single as a solo artist not only became an instant hit, but a bona fide power anthem for girls everywhere. Especially those who just wanted to wear loud colors and cheap jewelry.

“Video Killed the Radio Star” – The Buggles

Technically this song came out in 1979. But, being the first music video ever shown on MTV in 1981, this classic by The Buggles really paved the way for every other '80s hit. Little did the creators of this ode to nostalgia realize, it was only the beginning of the rise of technology in the media.

“Material Girl” – Madonna

Though Madonna has gone through several different incarnations since, the robot voice and heavy synth arrangement in “Material Girl” definitely had her in full-on '80s mode, despite wearing a dress inspired by Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Of course, an even better version of this song came out in 1989 when Sesame Street made “Cereal Girl.”

“Just Can't Get Enough” – Depeche Mode

Because the '80s wasn’t just about outrageous fashion choices. You could also dress like Neo from "The Matrix."

“Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley

Astley had no idea that this one song would immortalize him as a meme forever.

“Every Rose Has Its Thorn" – Poison

According to @momzilla, it’s the quintessential "sitting heartbroken on the bleachers at the 8th grade dance because your crush is dancing with someone else" songs.

“Danger Zone” – Kenny Loggins

Can anyone hear this song and not think of “Top Gun?” I don’t think so.

“Don't Stop Believin'” – Journey

Journey’s signature song was ahead of its time structurally, with the hook coming after two pre-choruses and three verses. Still, “Don’t Stop Believin’” became a phenomenon that still shows up in pop culture everywhere, not to mention your local karaoke bar.

“99 Luftballons” – Nena

Childlike wonder mixed with images of a nuclear holocaust? There’s nothing more '80s than that.

“Don't You Forget About Me” – Simple Minds

Because ”The Breakfast Club.” Obviously.

"Walk Like an Egyptian" – The Bangles

“We were all doing that stupid dance all the time.” – @killebrew_rootbeer

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. But it's enough to give anyone an '80s playlist starter pack. Be warned: Listen for too long and you might find yourself in neon spandex and saying things like “gag me with a spoon.” Which might not be a terrible thing.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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