'80s music really began to establish its identity in 1982, forging both an image and a sound that always harbored more substance than anyone believed was there. Rock and pop styles flourished and intertwined to create an impressive display of originality that still resonates today, especially in the signature genres new wave, synth pop and arena rock.
Perhaps the best group in a vast wave of British synth pop exports, the Human League hit the jackpot with this tune, a wonderfully woven tale of a dysfunctional, hard-knocks relationship featuring a classic interplay of male and female vocals to round out the narrative. The melody is intoxicating, the synth parts mesmerizing, and the singers impeccable in their presentation of what amounts to highly accessible lyrical material. Few singles as tight as this have ever been released.
This confusingly named band (the group's lead singer's first name is Tommy, but his last name is not Tutone) has always been considered somewhat scornfully as one of the quintessential one-hit wonders of the '80s, a viewpoint that tends to suggest novelty regarding this song. But it's a solid rock tune with a brilliant concept and deserves credit as one of the best songs of the modern rock era. Period. And as a stalker song, well, it simply has no equal.
The former Australian bar band's first No. 1 hit is a wonderfully paranoid, hypnotic portrait of a man out of place and out of time in modern society. It also features some tasty saxophone fills that firmly plant it into the sonic realm of the glorious '80s. But what really makes the song tick is the unique combination forged by Colin Hay's spirited, slightly off-kilter vocal style and Men at Work's undeniable rock and roll chops. A brilliantly crafted and ultimately timeless gem.
Although at times this song can sound dated with its space-age, hypnotic qualities, at the core of it lies a near-perfect pop/rock song. The fact that one has to dig through layers of production to experience the songwriting prowess is not necessarily all that surprising, given the perfectionist production and engineering past of the band's namesake. Still, what a joy it is to realize that the only thing that really matters is the quality of a song. In this case, high quality indeed.
From the band's inception, Asia presented a unique fusion of styles old and new. Blending '70s progressive rock with hard rock guitar and innovative keyboards, this tune particularly ran a musical gamut that allowed it to claim a distinct place in pop music history. Though from the start critics labeled this union of disparate talents as a cynical, commercially minded enterprise, I always felt like this music was actually quite organic and genuine in forging its broad appeal.
Branigan's rousing, sing-along anthem is a quintessential '80s classic, but it's far more than a time capsule relic. Impassioned vocals and keyboard flourishes aside, the song's escalating melody takes center stage and delivers with great success across the years. That's also because of the clearly feminist but also authentically modern lyrical perspective of the song. No "I Am Woman" bombast here, just an honest emotional portrait of a woman trying to make it through the darkness.
Longtime classic rock icon and axe-man Steve Miller segued into the '80s with both style and substance with the release of this tune. Though it undoubtedly stands as his most singular and successful pure pop song, this hit single also daringly manages to work as space-age guitar rock just as well. Once again, what ultimately distinguishes this and any other classic pop song are melody and presentation, and "Abracadabra" features masterful strokes in both areas.
Many music fans have understandably been distracted by the shocking and famous haircuts of this band, but underneath that surface lies a classic pop song no matter what decade. The melodic verse is even better than the well-known chorus, and the guitar work of Paul Reynolds, I fear, will always remain criminally underrated. This band has always been unfairly classified as a one-hit wonder, but even if that label is valid, this is certainly one hit to be eternally proud of.
Not many artists can transcend era as smoothly as the versatile Jackson Browne, but this song manages to be an essential document of the '80s without sounding dated. Whatever that actually means. Though the tune rose to prominence partly because of its inclusion in the popular film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it's so memorable mainly because of its infectiously evocative take on the heady emotions of adolescence and first love. Or, maybe it's just a Phoebe Cates thing.
We all know that '80s music takes a lot of abuse as a showcase for fleeting music that emphasized style over substance, but it most certainly produced as many timeless melodies as any era before or since. This great song from the soundtrack of An Officer and a Gentleman perfectly fits its title and lyrical content, as it surely stands as one of the most soaring ballads in pop music history. A tastefully handled duet that justifiably became a slow dance favorite.