There’s something fun about scrunchies, leg warmers, fanny packs, and all things covered in neon that is so reminiscent of the 80s’. Not to mention the rise of hair metal, synth, and new wave, the 80’s were some of the biggest times for music, especially with the influence felt today. We all know someone who lived through the 80’s, and whether they had an influence on our favorites, we can’t deny how good some of the music was. I asked all of our MD’s to give us their favorite 80’s song, and why that was their pick.
ASHLYN: HEAD OVER HEELS BY TEARS FOR FEARS
Not only is this song incredibly catchy, but it’s also found in the Donnie Darko soundtrack, which is arguably one of the best soundtracks ever compiled. Everything about this is an absolute earworm, and the music video is weird, but sticks around just as much as the song does. Head Over Heels is their biggest track, but it’s probably because everybody feels just as good listening to this as I do. I wish I could delete my brain and listen to this song for the first time again, which would make Donnie Darko a whole different experience. I could’ve made a playlist of 50 of my favorite 80’s songs, but this one is up there.
AUSTIN: PINK LITMUS PAPER SHIRT BY R. STEVIE MOORE
R. Stevie Moore has been making bedroom rock since the 70’s. I feel he hit a stride in the 80’s that has stood the test of time and influenced countless artists. This song has a funky groove that this turkey can’t help but jive to. The cowbell strikes a nerve backed by smooth bass, and jangling guitar. The depression and anxiety of the lyrics juxtaposed to the chipper rhythm creates a sensuous ditty that tickles the smiling center of the brain.
ZEKE: SHE’S A BAD MAMA JAMA (SHE’S BUILT, SHE’S STACKED) BY CARL CARLTON
Truth be told, there’s not much 80’s music I listen to aside from Michael Jackson‘s big hits which I figured would already populate this article thoroughly. That being said, I absolutely love this song from Carl Carlton. I first heard it during a presentation by my high school’s ASL program, and it’s been in regular rotation since. The catchy lyrics match an equally catchy groove that’s hard not to dance along with, and Carlton‘s lyrics promote body positivity and beauty in all forms. Additionally, the video depicts him singing the song about several women of different ethnicities, which attests to how much he values inclusivity. Is it derivative? You bet. Is it uncomplicated? Absolutely, but She’s a Bad Mama Jama shows that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make a really good song.
ABEL: GENIUS OF LOVE BY TOM TOM CLUB
It’s just so groovy, the synth feels so alive and crispy, and the vocals are cheerful and explosive with random nonsense thrown around from time to time. When you hear this it gets stuck in your head and will never let go. I like this better than any Talking Heads song so far.
DANIEL: KISS OFF BY VIOLENT FEMMES
Kiss Off, from Violent Femmes‘ self-titled debut album, is hands down one of the best songs I have ever heard. I remember I was walking to class a few weeks ago, and then this song came on from my Spotify Daily Mix. I thought, “Hey, this sounds like those guys who did ‘Blister In The Sun.'” What happened next was the greatest rabbit hole I’ve ever dived into. Within a day I had listened to just about every song that Violent Femmes had written and I had fallen in love with the band. I don’t think a single other song in existence has been this influential to my music taste, but here we are. To start, my favorite thing about this song is the bass. Brian Ritchie absolutely carries the melody of the song on his bass, and to me it feels like it’s the soul of the entire band. Next is the vocals; as he does on every song, Gordon Gano totally kills it. You can really feel the emotion and effort he puts in, and just how much thought he puts into the lyrics. My favorite part of the song is when the bass starts to pick up in the background as Gordon starts to speak the more “interluding” part of the lyrics. Just after the lyrics are done, the bass and guitar start to really ramp up and go crazy together, with one of my all-time favorite jams.
ISAK: HOT FOR TEACHER BY VAN HALEN
From the drum intro, to the guitar solo, to the high-pitch yells, this song is an energetic masterpiece. I mean, it’s Van fucking Halen. This song has always stuck with me since I was a kid because I was interested in learning the drums at the time. It’s funny I can imagine as a kid though I had no idea of what the lyrics were about. But back to the drums, when Alex comes in with those double bass pattern, a part of me gets excited every time with no fail. Eddie then comes in with a tapping solo that haunted me for the longest time on how he could play like that. It captures what I like about Van Halen, they are all insane at their instruments while at the same time, they have fun and their songs are enjoyable to listen to. If for some reason you haven’t heard this at a bar, put it on (and as always) with the speakers up.
RYAN: IN THE AIR TONIGHT BY PHIL COLLINS
I’m sure what the other MDs said were all good suggestions, because there’s an endless list of incredible hits from the 80s, but unfortunately for them there’s only one correct answer to this question. It’s the song with the crescendo of all crescendos. For 5 minutes and 36 seconds you’re sucked in to Phil Collins masterpiece of a track. It may be cringy and overplayed, but there’s a reason for that. Go give this song a listen and watch it motivate you to get any mundane daily task completed. A very close second: Nirvana – About A Girl
GARY: I RAN (SO FAR AWAY) BY A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
80s music should make you want to dance. The lyrics should remind you of a simpler time, where all that mattered was summer romance and teenage shenanigans, and the melodies (ridiculous synth lines included) should elevate your spirits until you can’t help but to release your stubborn hold on reality and let the music carry you away. I Ran (So Far Away) is a perfect example of this. The lyrics aren’t particularly insightful, nor is there anything particularly remarkable about the musical composition. Yet, it’s impossible to find a more enjoyable song to listen to.
JUSTIN: LIFE BY THE DROP BY STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN
SRV is one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time, but on this song it’s just him and an acoustic guitar. The song focuses on his own lifestyle and his friend’s warnings that the life he’s leading will lead to a sudden end if he doesn’t make changes. Just a simple beautiful song.
GAVIN: THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (NAIVE MELODY) BY TALKING HEADS
I have never heard a song capture the essence of the word “timeless”, quite like that one. The guitar riff, vocals, drums, bass, etc. EVERY aspect of the song sounds so beautiful and comes together to create a beautiful track.