Top 50 Most Popular & Greatest Rock Songs of the 1980s, Ranked, Lyrics

Top Greatest Rock Songs of the 1980s

Looking for the best rock songs from the 1980s? Look no further than our comprehensive list of that decade’s greatest rock songs. Turn up the volume and enjoy!

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1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson is one of the best rock songs of the 80s and an iconic piece in his musical legacy.

The song tells the story of a young man accused of fathering a child with someone named Billie Jean, who denies it to protect his reputation. But as Jackson explains in the chorus, he can “read between the lines.”

This message speaks to themes of mistrust and human perception, making it both a timeless classic and an enduring social commentary.

2. Every Breath You Take – The Police

“Every Breath You Take” is one of the best rock songs of the 80s by The Police.

With tender yet haunting lyrics, Sting’s vocals and Andy Summers’ soaring guitar riffs create a romantic and overwhelming atmosphere.

The song expresses the feelings of a man deeply in love with someone but realizes he can’t control them or their actions.

He sings about watching every move they make to keep them close while wanting to give them the freedom to be themselves.

This powerful exploration of love, desire, and loss has kept “Every Breath You Take” near the top of many lists for best rock songs ever released.

3. When Doves Cry – Prince

“When Doves Cry” by Prince is one of the best rock songs of the 80s. It talks about a tumultuous relationship and how hard it is to escape such an emotional situation.

The song’s lyrics perfectly capture the conflict between love and solitude, between wanting to stay together and knowing you can’t do it anymore.

The music has a unique sound that blends funk and rock & roll with a strong synth presence, creating an unforgettable atmosphere of tension and intensity.

Although there are many interpretations of the song’s meaning, the overall feeling remains quite clear: two people who were once close but have now drifted apart in their world in which they cry alone-even when they are together.

4. Sexual Healing –  Marvin Gaye

“Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye is an R&B classic released in 1980 and is one of the best rock songs of the 80s.

The song speaks to love’s power and ability to heal the pain. It talks about how sex can be a unifying force between two people and become a source of emotional intimacy beyond physical pleasure.

The sexy funk groove contains incredibly passionate lyrics about wanting to find solace from all life’s troubles in your lover’s arms, helping each other overcome whatever issues they may have with their hearts.

5. I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts is one of the best rock songs of the 80s.

The song’s meaning captures a certain truth about life. It’s easier to let yourself go and enjoy life when you don’t take things too seriously and let yourself be free.

It speaks to all those people who feel they can’t fit into society’s expectations or that their lives aren’t what they should be, encouraging them to have fun and live in the moment.

With powerful guitar riffs and a relentless beat, this classic rock anthem will surely pump up any party!

6. Don’t You Want Me? – The Human League

“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League is one of the most classic rock songs of the 1980s.

Released in 1981, it became a worldwide hit and reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100 lists.

The song is about a former lover looking back on their relationship and asking if they still have feelings for each other.

Lyrically, the song dives deep into raw emotion and universal themes of love, loss, regret, and nostalgia.

7. Tainted Love – Soft Cell

“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell is a classic 80s rock song about the highs and lows of love.

The song’s meaning is best summed up in its chorus: “Sometimes I feel I’ve got to, run away, I’ve got to get away from the pain you drive into the heart of me.”

The iconic bassline and synth-pop sound perfectly capture the feeling of being trapped in a one-sided relationship.

With lyrics that speak to people everywhere, this track has become one of the best rock songs of the 80s and continues to be played in clubs worldwide today.

8. Like a Virgin – Madonna

“Like a Virgin” by Madonna is one of the best rock songs of the 80s and is widely recognized as an iconic song that changed the landscape of pop music.

The song talks about the feeling of discovering love for the first time. It uses metaphors such as being “like a virgin” to convey feelings of purity and innocence.

9. The Message – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five is one of the best-known hip-hop songs ever.

The song explores the harsh realities of inner-city ghetto life, painting a vivid picture of urban poverty and the struggles people must endure to survive in such rugged surroundings.

Musically, it features an innovative blend of funk, electro, and hip-hop beats that set the tone for much of the music in the 80s and beyond.

An essential part of its legacy lies in how it showed that rap songs could not only be about partying or having fun but also be about serious topics like racism, crime, and violence.

A true classic, “The Message” remains one of the most influential pieces ever created in hip-hop culture.

10. Beat It – Michael Jackson

“Beat It” by Michael Jackson was a groundbreaking song in the 80s rock genre, as it seamlessly blended rock and pop for a unique sound.

The driving guitar riff from Eddie Van Halen and complex percussion from former Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro, combined with Jackson’s hauntingly soulful vocals and powerful dance moves, make this song a classic.

Lyrically, “Beat It” warns young people to avoid violent street gangs or risk getting hurt.

Yet despite its serious message, the catchy chorus and energetic beat elevate the track beyond its alert message.

11. Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics is an iconic 80s rock song that speaks to personal freedom and autonomy over one’s life.

Written by band members Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, the track was released in 1983 from their album of the same name and quickly catapulted them into worldwide stardom.

The song’s chorus is significant, containing power, strength, and ambition messages.

The song encourages the listener to break free from societal conventions and construct a life based on their unique dreams.

12. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses is a classic rock song from the 80s that speaks to the enduring nature of love.

It’s an ode to a person’s special someone, depicting the deep affection and devotion that can only come from sharing a life.

Hard-driving guitars and sad lyrics have become enduring classics for generations of fans worldwide.

It’s also been seen as an anthem for young people still searching for their place in the world, highlighting the hope and optimism of finding a partner to share your experiences with.

13. Call Me – Blondie

Call Me by Blondie is an iconic 80s rock song that perfectly encapsulates the era’s energy, style, and attitude.

The lyrics tell the story of a woman asking her lover to call her and tell her his true feelings for her.

The song begins with a catchy guitar riff, and Debbie Harry’s sultry vocals draw the listener in.

Throughout the song, she implores him to “call me” and speaks of how they could be happy together if he would open up to her.

The chorus brings it home with an infectious refrain that will have you singing along in no time.

It’s easy to see why this track has been a favorite for decades. With its nostalgic vibe, clever lyrics, and undeniable coolness, Call Me by Blondie will stand as one of music’s best love songs ever written.

14. Celebration – Kool & The Gang

“Celebration” by Kool & The Gang is an iconic 80s rock song about having a good time and celebrating life.

With lyrics such as “celebrate good times, come on,” it’s easy to see why the song has endured over the decades as an anthem of joy and positivity.

It’s a reminder that no matter what challenges we face, there are moments to be enjoyed and celebrated.

15. Super Freak Part I – Rick James

Super Freak Part I by Rick James is an iconic 80s rock song that inspires spontaneous dance parties and embodies the essence of the decade’s music scene.

With its lively beat and catchy lyrics, this hit has been featured in movies like “Austin Powers” and “Back to the Future.” It remains a classic almost 40 years after its release.

The song tells the story of Rick James discovering his love interest, who he names ‘Super Freak’ at a nightclub.

He finds her captivating because she is not afraid to show off her unique style and exude confidence, which many people in the 80s culture connected with.

So if you’re looking for a fun way to return to some of the most dynamic eras of rock music, there’s no better place to start than with Super Freak!

16. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is one of the best 80’s rock songs, a true classic that has stood the test of time.

A song that explores human mortality, it speaks to the ever-present reality of death while simultaneously exploring themes of change and adaptation.

With its pounding beat and Freddie Mercury’s signature vocals at their peak, this song will take you back to a simpler time when music was about having fun.

17. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

“You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC is one of the most iconic and timeless classic rock songs of the 80s.

It tells a story about a passionate night filled with wild energy, leaving the protagonist enamored and mesmerized by their experience.

The song has a catchy melody that features heavy guitars and drums combined with Angus Young’s powerful guitar solo full of emotion.

18. Walk This Way – Run-D.M.C.

“Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C is an iconic 80s rock anthem that has stood the test of time, clear evidence of its timelessness and relevancy.

On the surface, it’s a song about “rapping your way out of a jam,” as Run DMC’s member Rev Run describes it, but dig deeper and find far more profound meaning.

It’s a call to action for us all to stand up and work together towards progress regardless of the odds.

19. Whip It – Devo

“Whip It” by Devo is an iconic 80s rock song that claims to have the ‘best lyrics in the world.’

The message of this anthem is a challenge to break free from conformity and dare to be different.

It encourages people everywhere to be bold enough to embrace their unique qualities – because they can “whip it.”

It’s no surprise that since its release in 1980, Whip It has become one of the decade’s best-loved and most recognizable songs.

20. Girls Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper is one of the best 80s rock songs.

It’s an empowering anthem that encourages young girls to go out and enjoy life, no matter what anyone else is saying.

The song speaks to standing up for yourself, choosing your path, and not letting anyone hold you back from living your best life.

It’s a reminder that it’s okay for girls to laugh, have fun, and shoot for their dreams. It’s all part of growing up and coming into their power.

21. Planet Rock – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force

“Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force is one of the best 80s rock songs.

This album was released in 1982 and gained massive success from its catchy combination of hip-hop, funk, and electro sounds.

Its main message is about unity, as it tells us that no matter where we come from or what language we speak, we can join together on the dancefloor guided by “the force” of music.

It’s an infectious track that’s sure to get us up on our feet dancing for hours!

22. What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Tina Turner

“What’s Love Got To Do With It?” by Tina Turner is one of the most iconic 80s rock songs, and its meaning has resonated with so many people for decades.

The song speaks to the idea of putting pride before love – that one shouldn’t let feelings of hurt or pain cloud their judgment regarding matters of the heart.

Tina Turner sings, “I’ve been taking on a new direction/I should’ve known all along” in the first verse, indicating that she has taken prideful actions at the expense of following her heart.

23. Born In the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen

“Born in the U.S.A.” is one of Bruce Springsteen’s most iconic songs, and it continues to be a classic even today.

The song is an ode to patriotism, although its meaning has been heavily debated.

Many believe it is about how the government often fails its citizens. Yet, Springsteen has said it is a love letter to his country despite its struggles.

24. With Or Without You – U2

“With or Without You” by U2 is one of the best 80s rock songs. The song is melancholy, as evidenced by its haunting melody and powerful lyrics.

The verses are full of yearning as lead singer Bono pleads for a connection with a loved one “I can’t live with or without you.”

As the song progresses, he realizes that regardless of whether his relationship succeeds or fails, he will still be affected by it – “And you give yourself away, and you give yourself away.”

25. Purple Rain – Prince

“Purple Rain” by Prince is one of the best 80s rock songs and is iconic for his unique blend of funk and rock.

The song tackles heartbreak and sadness while maintaining an upbeat disco vibe. This combination of dark emotion and musical optimism was a trademark of Prince’s during the 80s.

It speaks to life’s struggles while still believing in the possibility of hope in difficult times.

26. Physical – Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John’s song “Physical” is an iconic pop-rock anthem from the 80s.

The song tackles the topic of sexual liberation and empowerment, urging listeners to be proud of their bodies and embrace physical intimacy.

The upbeat track has a catchy chorus featuring the singer calling out for a “little bit of devil in her angel eyes.”

The track perfectly captures the spirit of its era as it encourages people to move on from conventional attitudes toward sexuality.

27. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” is an inspiring anthem of hope and determination.

The song follows a narrator who must confront the bleakness of life in the city while pursuing his dream.

Despite facing obstacles such as poverty and discrimination, the lyrics encourage listeners to push forward with faith that things will work out.

28. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits

“Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits is one of the best 80s rock songs.

This classic tune was written by lead singer/guitarist Mark Knopfler as a commentary on the culture of music consumption at the time.

The lyrics consist of a sarcastic story about a store worker who watches MTV all day and forms an opinion of musicians as “getting money for nothing.”

The song’s catchy guitar riff and Knopfler’s signature vocal style make it an impressive track still beloved by rock fans today.

29. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) – Beastie Boys

“(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” by Beastie Boys is an iconic 80s hit that still resonates with people decades later.

The song paints a picture of three friends partying without their parent’s permission, encouraging listeners to make the most of their youth and freedom by rebelling against authority.

It captures a feeling of adolescent rebellion and liberation. Still, it does so safely and creatively, urging listeners to keep things low-key and avoid too much trouble.

The song has become a classic anthem for generations of party-goers who want to have fun while remaining independent-minded.

30. Into the Groove – Madonna

“Into the Groove” by Madonna is an iconic 80s rock song that will have you dancing no matter where you are.

The lyrics reflect Madonna’s desire to escape the struggles of everyday life and get away for a while.

In the chorus, she sings about dancing her troubles away in the “Groove,” which could symbolize taking refuge in music or letting go of our worries through dance.

31. Jump – Van Halen

“Jump” by Van Halen is one of the best 80s rock songs and a surefire crowd-pleaser. The song is an anthem for making bold moves, taking risks, and having a great time.

The lyrics tell us that it’s time to leap and go for what we want, no matter how overwhelming it may seem.

32. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division is one of the greatest rock songs of the 1980s, and its meaning has been widely discussed over the years.

The song speaks to a relationship that has grown apart, with lyrics like “Love will tear us apart again,” suggesting a couple that can never entirely stay together, no matter how hard they try.

The song touches on pain and loneliness in love but ultimately suggests that there still may be hope for two people to find their way back into each other’s lives.

Indeed, it has become an anthem for romantics worldwide who look towards the future with optimism despite past heartbreak.

33. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2

U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is widely considered one of the greatest and most iconic rock songs of the 1980s.

The song speaks to the universal human experience of searching endlessly for something more splendid, only to come up empty-handed.

Bono’s powerful vocals capture his frustration, hope, and longing as he sings about his spiritual and emotional journey.

34. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman is one of the most iconic rock songs of the 80s, and it is a classic example of social commentary.

The song talks about a woman’s dreams being limited by her economic circumstances, and she struggles to escape a difficult situation.

It speaks to the universal feeling of wanting more than what’s within our reach, which makes it easy to relate to.

The emotion in Chapman’s voice and lyrical delivery further adds to the song’s power and resonates with listeners even today.

35. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard

Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard is one of the best rock songs of the 80s.

It’s a song about a man looking for love in a club, and the girl he sees fills him with desire.

The chorus suggests that to make her stick around. He must “pour some sugar on me,” meaning anything from sweet words or physical affection.

This powerful rock anthem speaks to people of all ages who have ventured out into the night searching for something unique.

36. Flashdance…What a Feeling – Irene Cara

“Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara is an iconic 80s song about achieving dreams and living life to the fullest.

The song’s upbeat and catchy melody captures excitement, passion, and optimism for a better future.

The lyrics urge listeners to take risks and persevere in pursuit of their goals despite setbacks.

With its empowering message and timeless sound, “Flashdance…What a Feeling” has become one of the best rock songs of the 80s, inspiring generations to embrace their passions and tread fearlessly toward success.

37. All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie

“All Night Long (All Night)” by Lionel Richie is one of the most iconic, best rock songs of the 80s.

This classic song is about having a good time and letting go of worries while partying the night away.

The infectious beat and catchy lyrics evoke feelings of dance floor euphoria, making it an ideal anthem for any late-night celebration.

Despite its carefree vibe, the deeper meaning behind “All Night Long (All Night)” speaks volumes about living life to the fullest.

38. Blue Monday – New Order

“Blue Monday” by New Order is one of the best rock songs of the 80s and has become an iconic classic. The song was written as a dance track but has been interpreted differently since its release in 1983.

The lyrics are often seen as a metaphor for self-harm, with lines like “It’s so cold outside/You can never win,” but they also suggest loneliness and depression.

With its sad sound and powerful message, “Blue Monday” will remain an essential piece of music for generations.

39. Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

“Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood is an iconic hit from the 80s and one of the best rock songs of that era.

It’s catchy chorus and irresistible dance beats make it easy to see why this tune was a hit.

The song carries a deeper meaning, however: it implores us to let go of our worries and embrace pleasure in life.

In light of the country’s conservative morals at the time, “Relax” was a liberating anthem for many people looking to escape from traditional expectations.

40. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer

41. Kiss – Prince

42. Livin On a Prayer – Bon Jovi

43. Rapture – Blondie

44. 1999 – Prince

45. Rock the Casbah – The Clash

46. Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran

47. In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins

48. Careless Whisper – Wham! Feat. George Michael

49. Take On Me –  A-Ha

50. Start Me Up – Rolling Stones


What was the #1 rock song in the 80s?

Some of the most popular and iconic rock songs of the 80s include “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard, and “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

What’s the biggest hit of the 80s?

One of the most significant and widely recognized songs of the 80s is “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.

Released in 1982, it achieved immense commercial success, reaching the top of the charts worldwide and becoming one of Jackson’s signature songs.

What is 80s classic rock?

The 80s classic rock refers to the genre of rock music that was popular and influential during the 1980s. It encompasses many subgenres, including hard rock, glam metal, arena rock, and new wave.

Some notable characteristics of 80s classic rock include electric guitars, powerful vocals, catchy hooks, and often polished production values.

Bands and artists associated with 80s classic rock include Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Journey, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Queen, Foreigner, and many others.

Why was 80s rock so popular?

The popularity of 80s rock can be attributed to several factors, including the rise of MTV and music videos, the emergence of new technologies and instruments, and the rebellious and energetic spirit of the music itself.

Additionally, the 80s saw a shift towards more commercial and mainstream music, which helped to propel rock into the mainstream and make it more accessible to a broader audience.

Why is 80s music so iconic?

The 80s witnessed the emergence and popularity of various genres, including pop, rock, new wave, hip-hop, electronic, and more.

This diverse musical landscape allowed experimentation and innovation, producing many memorable and influential songs.

Why do all 80s songs sound the same?

While there are similarities in the production and instrumentation of many ’80s songs, it’s important to remember that this was a decade of diverse musical styles and genres.

Some of the similarities may be attributed to the use of certain synthesizers and drum machines that were popular at the time.

In short, it’s up to individual interpretation whether or not all ’80s songs sound the same.

Why is the 80s the best decade?

The 80s was a decade of cultural and technological change, with the rise of MTV, the personal computer, and the birth of hip-hop and electronic music.

It was also a time of economic growth and prosperity, with many people experiencing newfound freedom and individuality.

The fashion and pop culture of the 80s continues to inspire and influence today.

Why do people love the 80s so much?

There are a few reasons why people love the 80s so much.

For one, it was a time of significant cultural and technological change, with the rise of MTV, the personal computer, and other innovations.

Additionally, the 80s were a time of great nostalgia for many people, who look back on the decade fondly for its music, fashion, and pop culture.

Finally, the 80s were a time of great political and social upheaval, with the Cold War, the AIDS crisis, and other significant events shaping the world profoundly.

All of these factors contribute to the enduring appeal of the 1980s.

Is 80s music still popular?

Yes, 80s music is still popular today.

Many people still enjoy listening to the iconic hits from that decade, and there are even radio stations and themed parties dedicated to playing 80s music.

Additionally, many modern artists have been influenced by 80s music and incorporate elements of it into their work.

Was the 80s the rock era?

The 80s were a golden age for rock music, with bands like Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, and AC/DC dominating the charts.

However, it’s important to note that other genres like pop, hip-hop, and R&B were also popular during this time.

So while the 80s may be remembered as a significant era for rock, it was also a diverse and exciting time for music in general.

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