Ah, the ‘80s. The age of big hair, and even bigger tunes. Forget the Soundcloud to free mp3 download and Belle Delphine stans of today. We all know that the 80s was the golden era of dance music, loaded with tracks destined to get your feet moving towards that sweaty dancefloor.
In celebration of such a brilliant era of feel-good grooves, we’re counting down 10 on finest offerings. The tracks have stood the test of time and still receive copious airplay today. We’re going to limit the list to one track per act, in the interest of a rich, diverse listing. So, without further ado. Dust off that boombox (please don’t use a Youtube to mp3 converter) and put on your most outrageous outfit. It’s time to go back to a simpler time of unforgettable energy.
10 – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Eurythmics (1983)
Kicking off the list is this fierce piece of songwriting from pop-duo the Eurythmics. Not only is the hook incredibly catchy, but it’s also actually saying something of substance. While we traverse through the long walk known as life “travel the world and the seven seas”, there’s always a prying objective to fulfil our dark pleasures as we go. Eurythmics tap into this feeling with feverish grit.
This message fits into the dance-floor culture so well too, because let’s be honest. A lot of dudes on the dance floor are only there because they’re “looking for something”.
9 – Don’t You Want Me – The Human League (1981)
Here’s another super catchy dance tune with some darker undertones. In our youthful days, dealing with unrequited love can be quite the blow. The idea that someone doesn’t want you is almost too much to bear, so why not sing it at the top of your lungs to a world that wasn’t listening anyway. On a lighter note, the synth layering and arrangement is nothing short of exceptional.
8 – Another One Bites The Dust – Queen (1980)
Did that opening riff just pop into your head? Me too. Queen stripped back the glitter for this no-nonsense tune, with every rhythm and instrument only serving its sole purpose. Everything feels gutsy and intentional, making this track stand out like a sore thumb – but in a good way.
Plus, who doesn’t love pretending they’re as cool as Freddie as they belt out its powerful quips on the dance floor? “Out of the doorway, the bullets rip, to the sound of the beat”
7 – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive (1985)
This track is about as sonically hypnotising as the title of the track. With its upbeat percussion relentless throughout, Dead or Alive keep us hypnotised, but grooving as well, and that’s why this chart-topper made the list. Pete Burns vocals are excessively dramatic, and we love the track all the more for it. Hot tip – If you’re dancing with someone to this track, be sure to give them a twirl as the chorus hits.
6 – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper (1983)
What an unforgettable anthem this is. Lauper’s message is confident and spunky, perfect for the rebellious nature of the ‘80s. While it’s not entirely true, it’s not false either. It’s important to give your girl a good time and keep their spirits high, especially when you’re en route to the dance floor.
The bright synth lines make this song pop, and it would be unjust to not mention Lauper’s dexterous vocal range.
5 – I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) Whitney Houston – 1987
Whitney’s magnum opus, I Wanna Dance with Somebody was recently given the title of Most Feel Good song ever by Smooth FM, and it’s easy to understand why. Even today, the melody and lyrics are as momentous as the day they entered the top charts. This track is perfect for those celebratory dances where you just wanna let loose and have a good time. Preferably, with somebody that loves you.
4 – Tainted Love – Soft Cell (1981)
Did you know that the vocal take on Soft Cell’s rendition of Tainted Love was the very first one? Crazy right? It makes this devastating club bop even more impressive. As a story, Tainted Love taps into that longing feeling to “get away” from a toxic relationship, and what’s more liberating than dancing that sucker off? The Korg Bass and haunting synth tones are particular highlights for me.
Here’s one more fact about this ripper. Gloria Jones, the original writer of Tainted Love has confessed that Soft Cell’s version is superior.
3 – Take on Me – A-ha (1985)
No discussion about the 80s would be complete without mentioning A-ha. Their triumphant smash-hit Take On Me was on the decks of every DJ in the ‘80s, and they’d still be a go-to choice of any serious DJ today.
Musically, Take On Me is a dramatic and triumphant slice of synth-pop with some of the most ambitious male vocals you’ll ever hear. One thing is guaranteed at every party. Someone will try and hit that high note in the chorus, and they’ll almost definitely fail. It’s hilarious every time.
2 – Dancing Queen – ABBA (1980)
Our runner up pick comes from none other than everyone’s favourite pop group of the ‘80s – ABBA. Dancing Queen is much more than a song. It’s a devastating reminder that the clock is always ticking and that every year, every day, every second, should be seized.
From the opening glissando right down to the unwavering tambourine, this song is a masterpiece that’s bound to stay in our collective conscience.
1 – Billie Jean – Michael Jackson (1982)
On March 25th, 1983, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Michael Jackson performed Billie Jean, did the moonwalk for the first time, and raised a bar for pop performance that has seldom been met since.
Billie Jean is swaggered funk with mystery and pulse. Its iconic bass riff makes it irresistible dance floor material, but above that, it’s just a perfect track to sink your teeth into. Who is this girl? Is the kid his son??? Why can’t I stop dancing? These are the questions we ask of our number one 80s tune.