The 100 Best Songs of 1983, the Year Pop Went Crazy (2023)

Table of Contents
100. Billy Joel 99. Nena 98. The Isley Brothers 97. Thomas Dolby 96. Rodney Dangerfield 95. Jonzun Crew 94. Sonic Youth 93. ZZ Top 92. Lionel Richie 91. SSQ 90. Neil Young 89. Men Without Hats 88. The Lyres 87. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard 86. Shalamar 85. Joan Jett 84. The Fall 83. Elton John 82. The Human League 81. Loverboy 80. Paul Simon 79. Wire Train 78. Pablo Moses 77. Accept 76. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 75. Cheap Trick 74. Game Theory 73. X 72. Men at Work 71. Mötley Crüe 70. Malcom McLaren 69. Womack & Womack 68. Adam Ant 67. Metallica 66. Styx 65. The Comsat Angels 64. INXS 63. Billy Idol 62. Donna Summer 61. Violent Femmes 60. Def Leppard 59. Paul McCartney 58. The Verlaines 57. The B-52s 56. Ebn-Ozn 55. The Minutemen 54. Herbie Hancock 53. Sparks and Jane Wiedlin 52. Peter Schilling 51. The Police 50. Stevie Nicks 49. Spandau Ballet 48. The Rolling Stones 47. Dio 46. Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force 45. Minor Threat 44. The S.O.S. Band 43. The Embarrassment 42. Ministry 41. Lou Reed 40. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton 39. Double Dee and Steinski 38. Yaz 37. DeBarge 36. U2 35. The Raincoats 34. Lovebug Starski 33. Dexy’s Midnight Runners 32. Quiet Riot 31. Kajagoogoo 30. Mtume 29. Hüsker Dü 28. The Cure 27. Ray Parker Jr. 26. The Smiths 25. Rammellzee vs. K-Rob 24. A Flock of Seagulls 23. Bob Dylan 22. Dominatrix 21. Echo and the Bunnymen 20. Madonna 19. New Edition 18. Duran Duran 17. Bonnie Tyler 16. Talking Heads 15. Rufus and Chaka Khan 14. The Replacements 13. New Order 12. Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel 11. Big Country 10. Haysi Fantayzee 9. Michael Jackson 8. Shannon 7. Cyndi Lauper 6. R.E.M. 5. Culture Club 4. Prince 3. David Bowie 2. Run-DMC 1. Eddy Grant FAQs Videos

The musical world of 2023 was born here — featuring Run-DMC, Prince, Madonna, and many more

It was theyear pop went crazy. 1983 shook up all of the old rules about how music worked. Suddenly, anything could happen. All the music that matters in 2023 — it kicks off somewhere here in 1983. So many timeless classics. So much wild innovation, all around the margins. Every genre is booming. The old stylistic boundaries don’t hold anyone back anymore. It’s the year of the pop revolution.

So let’s break it down — the 100 best songs of 1983, 40 years later. One of the most amazing, most innovative, most insanely packed music years ever. Prince took over once and for all. Michael Jackson dropped the pop blockbuster of all time. Madonna stepped into the spotlight. Lionel Richie learned to dance. Hell, Rodney Dangerfield made a rap record.

MTV transforms the way fans devour music. So do the Walkman and the boombox, putting young fans in command. Rock, rap, disco, New Romantic synth-pop, metal, electro-funk — they all start sharing bodily fluids all over the radio. It’s the most glorious year ever for one-hit wonders, especially the really shameless ones. Kajagoogoo? Men Without Hats? Dexy’s Midnight Runners? There’s loads more where those come from.

Run-DMC take rap from the discos to the streets, kicking off the golden age of hip-hop. R.E.M., Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and Sonic Youth revitalize underground rock. Kenny Rogers dances with Dolly Parton. Echo dances with the Bunnymen. ZZ Top became MTV studs, without shaving their beards, changing their clothes, or even taking a bath. Old-school legends like Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Isley Brothers, that Bowie guy — they all figure out how to reinvent themselves.

Some of these songs are eternal classics: “1999,” “Karma Chameleon,” “Beat It,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Others are forgotten gems worth digging up. Some are acclaimed works of art that changed history. Others are underground sensations that went on to be influential later. But the only thing these songs have in common? They all sound amazing in 2023. As the Human League would say, keep feeling fascination.

Hear this playlist onSpotify.

100. Billy Joel

‘Uptown Girl’

Let’s kick itoff with a true classic: Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” The Piano Man had just madeThe Nylon Curtain, an excellent yet somber art record, but this time, he decided to ditch all the next-phase new-wave malarkey and go for cheap rock & roll kicks. “Uptown Girl” souped up the doo-wop sound of 1963 for the summer of 1983. But the song took on a new life when a teenager named Olivia Rodrigo claimed it for the 2020s. Olivia turned it into “Deja Vu,” where she’s fighting with her ex over a hit from 20 years before she was born. She just sang “Uptown Girl” onstage with Billy last summer. Now that’s the mark of a classic — it keeps right on telling new stories, into the future. From 1963 to 1983 to 2023, the beat goes on.

99. Nena

’99 Luftballons’

The German synth-popicon Nena tapped into a timeless sense of doomy teen melodrama with “99 Luftballoons.” Hell, Nena even predicted the China balloon invasion of 2023 — now that’s a New Wave prophet. Like Sade, Nena was the name of both the singer and the group, with “99 Luftballons” as a protest against the nuclear-arms race. They remade it as “99 Red Balloons” — her voice shreds harder in the German original (oh, the way she snarls “Kriegminister”), but the English version is the one that still rules the karaoke bars. Bonus points for the Captain Kirk reference — needless to say, William Shatner loved it.

98. The Isley Brothers

‘Between The Sheets’

The Isley Brothersreached a pinnacle of Eighties baby-making R&B with “Between the Sheets.” These guys were soul legends before many Eighties pop stars were even born. But they weren’t ready to settle for being a nostalgia act. “Between the Sheets” was a fresh style of Quiet Storm balladry, with Ernie Isley’s guitar, Chris Jasper’s lush synths, and the iconic vocals of Rudolph, Marvin, O’Kelly, and Ronnie Isley. It took on a whole new life in hip-hop, sampled on classics from A Tribe Called Quest and Keith Murray. Most famously, Biggie turned it into “Big Poppa.” Yet it will always belong to the Isleys.

97. Thomas Dolby

‘She Blinded Me With Science’

Thomas Dolby cameon as a crackpot English gearhead, in his white suit and glasses. The son of anOxford archaeologist, he was building his own synthesizers as a teenager. He toyed with the boffin image on his great debut,The Golden Age of Wireless, but he took it to the bank with “She Blinded Me With Science.” “The sort of slightly forlorn mad-scientist character was somewhat endearing to people and was definitely a part of my personality,” Dolby said in the bookMad World. “And so I decided I was going to create a vehicle for that character.” The old man yelling “science!” was the real deal: 74-year-old Dr. Magnus Pyke, a U.K. TV personality. Pyke didn’t approve of the title, sniffing, “As a known scientist, it would be a bit surprising if a girl blindedmewith science.” The tape was rolling, and that became the famous intro.

96. Rodney Dangerfield

‘Rappin’ Rodney’

You know it’san insane year when Rodney Dangerfield scores a rap hit. The comedy legend busts rhymes about how he don’t get no respect. Rodney’s got bars, too: “Steak and sex, my favorite pair/I have ‘em both the same way — very rare.” He was enjoying his late-game career boom, as every Eighties kid’s favorite ol’ dirty bastard. So the time was right to bumrush MTV with “Rappin’ Rodney,” kvetching from his childhood (“I was an ugly kid, I never had fun/They took me to a dog show and I won”) to old age (“They left the car and towedmeaway”). In the video, Rodney goes on trial for being a loser and faces the death penalty. The executioner turns out to be Pat Benatar.

95. Jonzun Crew

‘Space Cowboy’

Hooow-dyyyy!“Space Cowboy” is a lost electro-funk classic from Jonzun Crew, the essence of Eighties hip-hop yeehaw realness. Michael “Spaceman” Johnson rocks the party people with “yippie-aye-ay” chants and yodels, over galactic synth beats. He rides high in his 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, singing, “He was last seen between Venus and Mars/Riding a comet and lassoing stars.” The Johnson brothers were electro pioneers from Boston, inspired by Sun Ra and P-Funk, with roller-skating hits like “Pack Jam (Look Out for the OVC),” “Electro Boogie Encounter,” and “Space Is the Place.” One of the brothers: Maurice Starr, the boy-band impresario who gave us New Edition and New Kids on the Block. “Space Cowboy” was a mega-weird art experiment that also happened to be a dance-floor smash, the ultimate 1983 combination.

94. Sonic Youth

‘Shaking Hell’

A turning pointin the history of American punk: Sonic Youth slither out of the Lower East Side, rising from the gutter with a whole new style of NYC art-freak guitar noise. “Shaking Hell” is the Youth’s first classic, from their full-length debut,Confusion Is Sex. The guitars clang and toll like evil bells, as Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore ride Jim Sclavunos’ bad seed of a groove. Kim Gordon declaims like an evil priestess, as she chants, “I’ll take off your dress! I’ll shake off your flesh!” Her voice escalates into demonic heavy breathing. “We did an incredible version of ‘Shaking Hell’ which we erased,” Moore told the zineForced Exposurein 1985. “We only had a copy of it on a bad cassette which we had to transfer back to reel-to-reel, which got mangled, to use on the album.”Yet that just adds to the grimy ambience. Moore said, “They were dirty, dirty recordings.”

93. ZZ Top

‘Sharp Dressed Man’

The last thinganyone expected from 1983: ZZ Top, the bearded blues buzzards from Texas, became chic. They didn’t need new haircuts, either — and still the same cheap sunglasses. But against all odds, these mangy old dogs adapted brilliantly to the pop-culture youth explosion, by leaning all the way into their beardness. They conquered MTV with theirEliminatorTrilogy of “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Legs,” starring a trio of video vixens as superhero feminist avengers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is their turbo-charged hyper-boogie ode to lookin’ sharp and lookin’ for love. “Our audience grew up with us until the videos,” the late great Dusty Hill toldCreem. “And they were beginning to get a little long in the tooth. Then the videos came along, and now we’ve recaptured the 16-year-old girls. The16-year-old girls!”

92. Lionel Richie

‘All Night Long (All Night)’

“That song hascreated more babiesafterthe song,” Lionel Richieonce said.“We have populated theworld.” “All Night Long” was a radical artistic left turn as bold as Neil Young’sTrans— the king of smooth ballads switched into fiesta-forever mode, with a calypso-inspired smash that made even Lionel-phobes break down and admit this man is three times a boss. Every detail clicks: the Trinidad-via-Tuskegee rhythms, the Pastel City video, even that accent when he purrs, “Life is good,wiiild, and sweet!” As for the African chant, it’s total gibberish — Lionel just made it up. But damn if it doesn’t work. “What I try to write about are real events,” he said. “There will always be an easy like Sunday morning. There will always be an endless love. There will always be an all night long.

91. SSQ


Stacey Q voicesthe erotic yearning of every California girl who ever dreamed of having sex with a synthesizer. The SSQ singer is one of the most underrated synth-pop sirens, best known for her 1986 solo smash “Two of Hearts.” (“I-I-I-I-I need you!”) But “Synthicide” is one of the great lost New Wave electro-kink bangers, as she pleads, “I gotta have my digital fix today!” The video is an anthology of all the Eighties tropes: You gotta love the keytar dude who tries to go Hendrix, playing it with his teeth, then smashing it on the ground. “Synthicide” was the highlight of SSQ’s cult favePlayback, along with “Screaming in My Pillow,” “Synth Samurai,” and the song about the girl who can only have sex with her “Walkman On.” It also appeared on the soundtrack of one of the Eighties’ dumbest teen comedies,Cavegirl. (You’re not missing a thing.) SSQ just reunited in 2020 for a new album,Jet Town Je T’Aime.

90. Neil Young

‘Transformer Man’

Neil Young wentoff the deep end withTrans, the notorious synth experiment where he distorted his voice through vocoders. It’s infamous as the flop that led to his label boss David Geffen suing him for making music that was “not commercial in nature.” As Young said, “To get sued for being noncommercial after 20 years of making records, I thought was better than a Grammy.” But as the world found out years later,Transcame out of Young’s struggles with his two-year-old son, who had cerebral palsy and couldn’t understand spoken words. In “Transformer Man,” he sings directly to his child — as he says in the bioShakey, it’s about his search “to find some sort of interface for communication.” Young revived the song in a beautifulacoustic versionfor his 1993MTV Unpluggedspecial.

89. Men Without Hats

‘The Safety Dance’

These Montreal synthgeeks might have seemed like Men With One Hit, but they had the last laugh. “The Safety Dance” turned everyone in earshot into a blithering imbecile for a few weeks that summer. Preach, Men Without Hats: “We can dance if we want to! We can leave your friends behind! Because your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well, they’reno friends of mine!”The video featured singer Ivan Doroschuk in medieval garb, with a jester and a frolicsome peasant maiden. He wrote the song as his protest against mean bouncers. As he toldTime Out, “I was getting kicked out of clubs for pogoing — for hitting the dance floor whenever they played Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ or the B-52s’ ‘Rock Lobster.’” Vindication: Men Without Hats bounced back four years later with a second hit, the equally excellent “Pop Goes the World.”

88. The Lyres

‘I Want To Help You Ann’

The Lyres wereBoston garage-rock scruffers, led by Jeff “Monoman” Connolly on his Vox Continental organ. Their indie 45 “I Want to Help You Ann” updated theNuggetssongbook with a punk frenzy, going for a gritty high-speed tremolo guitar attack. The flip side,“I Really Want You Right Now,”sounds just as fierce. The band was ruling Boston clubs around the time the Pixies were learning how to write songs, and you can hear the Lyres’ loud-quiet-loud dynamics onSurfer RosaandDoolittle, not to mention PJ Harvey, Nirvana, and all that followed. They retitled it “Help You Ann” on their debut,On Fyre, maybe the only 1980s album to cover a Pete Best song.

87. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

‘Pancho And Lefty’

Two great countryoutlaws team up for a classic outlaw ballad: “Pancho and Lefty,” by Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt. One night on tour, Willie’s daughter Lana played him Emmylou Harris’ version. Willie was so blown away that he recorded it immediately with his band, then woke up his tourmate Merle to sing his part. A few months later, their one-take duet was a Number One country hit. In the video, Willie plays Pancho and Hag plays Lefty. But both their grizzled voices fit Van Zandt’s hard-ass poetry, as when Willie growls, “Livin’ on the road, my friend, is supposed to keep you clean/Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath’s as hard as kerosene.” At Willie’s 60th-birthday concert, he sang “Pancho and Lefty” with another outlaw who’d lived out this story: Bob Dylan.

86. Shalamar

‘Dead Giveaway’

Shalamar hit thesweet spot between L.A. R&B and London New Wave, with the shiny black-leather funk of “Dead Giveaway.” It’s a last dance for the classic Shalamar trio: smooth frontman Howard Hewett, future solo diva Jody Watley, and New Romantic style icon Jeffrey Daniel, more famous in Europe, Asia, and Africa than at home. They had their roots in Seventies disco — Watley and Daniels started out asSoul Traindancers, chosen for the group by Don Cornelius himself. But “Dead Giveaway” sums up the era when Daniel was hitting the London clubs with Bananarama and Culture Club. Equally great: “No Limits (The Now Club),” about a hotspot open to disco dancers, punks, and rockabillys, where “Beethoven freaks are into funk.” Shalamar went on to do one of the Eighties’ few protest songs about police racism: “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills.”

85. Joan Jett

‘The French Song’

Joan Jett deservescredit for so many innovations, but “The French Song” is one of her boldest moves: an explicit garage-metal ode to a threesome. After fighting her way to the top with “I Love Rock & Roll,” Joan refused to tone it down for the mainstream. Her next album, brilliantly titledAlbum, has “The French Song,” where she rips through the chorus in her hilariously abrasive all-American sneer: “J’aime faire I’amour sur tout a trois!” In case you don’t parlez-vous her francais, she spells it out for you: “I have to laugh out loud, when you say three’s a crowd.” It was the “voulez vous couchez avec moi” of its time, yet it ruled MTV all summer. Proof that St. Joan really doesn’t give a damn about hermauvaise réputation. Eat your heart out, Serge Gainsbourg.

84. The Fall

‘Hotel Bloedel’

Mark E. Smithwas notorious as the “Hip Priest” of U.K. post-punk, leading the Fall with the most evil sneer in rock & roll. But his music took a surprise turn in the early Eighties, when he arrived home with a young American bride on his arm. Brix Smith was a blond California art girl who was glam, tuneful, flashy, and a few dozen other things that he wasn’t. But they mesh in “Hotel Bloedel,” the song that kicked off the Fall’s classic Mark-and-Brix heyday, from the albumPerverted by Language. “The first song I ever recorded with the Fall,” she recalls in her memoir,The Rise, the Fall, and the Rise. Her doomy croon meets his slang-king snarl over droning violin for a profoundly creepy epic. Brix Smith Start is now an acclaimed London fashion designer. Mark E. Smith died in 2018 — but he’sstillscaring people.

83. Elton John

‘I’m Still Standing’

The bitch wasback. Many people figured Elton John was washed up at this point, and he was serving them plenty of evidence. (Have you listened toJump Up!lately? Don’t.) But Captain Fantastic came back strong as an elder statesman in “I’m Still Standing,” his kickiest hit in years. He proved his New Romantic cred in the video, a pansexual MTV smash where he frolics on the French Riviera with an army of naked gay clowns. You can spot futureDancing With the Starsjudge Bruno Tonioli, as the leather-thonged hotel doorman who Elton tips with a fistful of glitter. (The queer equivalent of catching the keys in a ZZ Top video.) Elton took a break during the video shoot to guzzle a half-dozen martinis with Duran Duran. After “I’m Still Standing,” he never faced another popularity crisis.

82. The Human League

‘Keep Feeling Fascination’

(Video) 100 Best Songs of 1983

“We’d made twoLPs as a male-only group,” Phil Oakey toldRolling Stonein 2000. “But two of the guys left and we had to do a tour, so we went out and recruited a couple of women. And then we had to give them something to do, really.” But those female voices made all the difference. Joanne Catherall and Suzanne Sulley were the first to say they couldn’t sing, yet their playful voices are the heart of “(Keep Feeling) Fascination,” along with a creepy synth hook that sounds like an asthmatic goat doing Cher karaoke. Those guys who left the Human League? They went on to form the equally brilliant Heaven 17, who crafted synth-pop classics like “Temptation,” “Let Me Go,” and “We Live So Fast.”

81. Loverboy

‘Hot Girls In Love’

The world hasdecided to remember exactly one Loverboy song, the Friday-afternoon radio staple “Workin’ for the Weekend.” World, you’re blowing it. That isn’t even one of the top five Loverboy hits, but there’s no question about Number One: “Hot Girls in Love,” a blast of perfect disco-as-metal headband-wearing spandex glam-pop. These Canadian rockers elevate the cars-and-girls concept, with an ode to a muse who’s hot because she’s cool, with her lust for fast wheels, soft boys, and loud music. (“She likes her tapes on 10!”) Also savor the semiotics of Loverboy doing a hit called “Hot Girls in Love,” as if these loverboys are lovergirls in drag. The original boys of Hot Girl Summer.

80. Paul Simon

‘Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War’

One day in1983, Paul Simon gave Art Garfunkel a phone call. The bad news: He was wiping Artie’s vocals off the reunion album they’d just recorded. The good news: Garfunkel was invited to his wedding to Carrie Fisher, just a few days away. Simon decided he didn’t want another voice singing these personal songs. “He makes the sound of them more agreeable to many, many people,” Simon told theL.A. Times.“But I don’t care.”Hearts and Bonesholds up as his most underrated album, full of stormy adult romance; as you can hear, Simon and Fisher went through even more drama than Simon and Garfunkel. But it’s got a moment of romantic bliss in “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War.” It’s a fantasy of the Belgian surrealist painter and his wife dancing naked in the moonlight, to their favorite Fifties doo-wop records. (“The Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles, the Five Satins.”) It’s one of the most hopeful love songs in his catalog.

79. Wire Train

‘Chamber Of Hellos’

Wire Train getslept on these days, but that just means these San Francisco guitar boys are ripe for rediscovery. “Chamber of Hellos” was the underrated single that defined how Modern Rock for Sad Girls would sound for the rest of the decade; there was seriously a time when it wasn’t clear whether R.E.M. or Wire Train would become sad-girl America’s favorite band. The intricate guitar frills, the dub-wise bass, the echoey art-boy voices — an enigmatic power-gloom sound that Wire Train took toAmerican Bandstand. They came from the Bay Area’s 415 Records scene, with simpatico labelmates like Translator (“Everywhere That I’m Not”), Romeo Void (“Never Say Never”), and Red Rockers, whose awesomely inane “China” became the pop breakthrough that Wire Train never had.

78. Pablo Moses

‘In The Future’

Pablo Moses wasa crucial rustic figure in the Jamaican roots-reggae scene, rising up in 1975 with his albumRevolutionary Dreamand the crossover hit “I Man a Grasshopper,” a religious parable based on the TV martial-arts dramaKung Fu. He never had any interest in being a star, but he devoted himself to mystic meditations like “In the Future.” Moses looks ahead to the 21st century, warning about environmental disaster in his calm, kindly voice, over the skank of bassman Aston “Family Man” Barrett and drummer Mikey “Boo” Richards.

77. Accept

‘Balls To The Wall’

Accept blew theroof off the radio with “Balls to the Wall,” a revolutionary anthem with the German leather boys urging you to rise up and overthrow capitalism. The band chants the title over savage guitars, while Udo Dirkschneider yowls, “Let’s plug a bomb in everyone’s ass.” Udo’s voice is pure sandpaper — he sounds like Lemmy’s wart just had a baby with Bon Scott’s back hair. The wholeBalls to the Wallalbum is a classic, reveling in the homoerotic subtext of metal testosterone. In “Love Child,” Udo rasps about “feeling the power of lust when this guy’s passing by,” adding, “Don’t know what I am/A woman or a man?” Balls to the wall!

76. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark


Orchestral Manoeuvres inthe Dark were one of the U.K.’s kickiest synth-pop duos. On their 1983 gemDazzle Ships, they managed to get more awesomely pretentious than ever, and that’s an achievement considering their previous album was calledArchitecture and Morality.Dazzle Shipswas theirKid A— as Andy McCluskeysaid, “We wanted to be Abba and Stockhausen.” It was a commercial flop that got roasted (“Guzzle Shit,” theBoston Phoenixcalled it), but it’s rightly taken its place as their masterwork, right down to the elegiac finale“Of All the Things We’ve Made.”“Telegraph” is the crown jewel, a satire of how people keep falling for the utopian promises of new social media. (Talk about a song that’s decades ahead of its time.) O.M.D. are still running at the same creative level, on recent albums likeThe Punishment of LuxuryandEnglish Electric.

75. Cheap Trick

‘I Can’t Take It’

Never bet againstCheap Trick. Just when the music business figured the Trick were washed up, these high rollers roared back in ’82-’83 with power-pop gems like “She’s Tight,” “If You Want My Love,” and best of all, “I Can’t Take It.” It wasn’t just the first song on their new album — it’s their greatest post-Budokantune, the moment when Robin Zander stepped out as a songwriter, and arguably the best thing Todd Rundgren produced in the Eighties.* MTV couldn’t resist the psychotic video. “I Can’t Take It” missed the charts, but it can hang with any hook onIn ColororHeaven Tonight— hell, it wouldn’t sound out of place onRubber Soul. Cheap Trick still play it today. As Rick Nielsen proudly toldRolling Stone’s Andy Greene, “We’re too dumb to quit.”

* Except the Psychedelic Furs

74. Game Theory

‘Nine Lives To Rigel 5’

The late ScottMiller was one of the Eighties’ most brilliant indie songwriters, besotted by Big Star, James Joyce, andStar Trek. His band Game Theory operated under the radar, with a string of head-spinning classics likeLolita NationandReal Nighttime. (His bookMusic: What Happened?is a treat, too.) “Nine Lives To Rigel Five” is a love song to the brightest star in the Orion galaxy,a blue supergiant 870 light years away. It soars with Miller’s jagged guitar, sci-fi B-movie keyboards, and the invitation, “Let’s get out the Twister game and get down on all fours.”

73. X

‘The New World’

The L.A. punkpoets stretched out in “The New World,” a road trip through the down-and-out side of Reaganist America. After X spent their first three albums chronicling the dirty dreams of L.A.,More Fun in the New Worldwas the album where they did that for the rest of the country, from Flint to Buffalo to Mobile to the Motor City. “The New World” chronicles the have-nots, at a time when the new president’s supply-side economics were raising the unemployment rates to all-time highs. John Doe and Exene Cervenka harmonize over Billy Zoom’s rockabilly guitar twang and D.J. Bonebrake’s drum shuffle, wisecracking, “It was better before, before they voted for what’s-his-name.” The revitalized X are back on the road this year, with new music on the way.

72. Men at Work


“I can’t getto sleep/I think about the implications” — now there is one extremely 1983 opening couplet. Men at Work did happy-go-lucky pub-rock singalongs like “Down Under,” one of the year’s first Number One hits. But under the jolly surface, the Australian band explored surprisingly dark emotional territory. “Overkill” was their loveliest song ever, a poignant tale of insomniac loneliness, with the hook “Ghosts appear and fadeawaaay.” (The follow-up hit was equally choice: the anti-nuke protest “It’s a Mistake.”) “Success went to my head,” Colin Hay toldRolling Stonewhen the Men made the cover. “But it didn’t like it there, so it moved down into my left lung, where it lives quite comfortably, except for an occasional bit of congestion.”

71. Mötley Crüe

‘Looks That Kill’

The US Festivalwas one of the key music events of that summer, especially Heavy Metal Day, headlined by Van Halen. It introduced a horrified adult world to the new breed of headbangers, especially a Sunset Strip mob calling themselves Mötley Crüe. Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars went on in the kiss-of-death afternoon slot, playing songs nobody knew from their upcoming debut album,Shout at the Devil. Were these guys nervous? Ah, no.“Looks That Kill”slew the crowd and became the Crüe’s career-making single, winning over skeptics with its over-the-top glam burlesque.

70. Malcom McLaren

‘Double Dutch’

One of theyear’s craziest left-field hits: a celebration of NYC jump-rope culture, from former Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren. The London huckster shouts out champion double-dutch teams like the Ebonettes and the Fort Greene Angels, calling out, “All over the world, high school girls take to the ropes and turn them slow!” “Double Dutch” also salutes hip-hop scenesters like the Zulu Nation, and swipes a South African mbaqanga groove straight from Soweto, the Boyoyo Boys’ 1977“Puleng.”(Yes, they sued.) It was a U.K. Number Three hit, but it really took off on MTV. The video showcased the double-dutch teams’eye-popping artistry, plus the most unfiltered African grooves heard on U.S. airwaves at that point. Liz Phair turned it into her 1990s indie-rock classic“Whip-Smart,”with the hook, “When they do the double dutch, that’s them dancing!”

69. Womack & Womack

‘Love Wars’

Womack & Womackwere a family affair, rooted in the bloodlines of classic American soul. Cecil Womack’s brother Bobby was Sam Cooke’s guitarist; Linda Womack was Cooke’s daughter. (Bobby was married to Cooke’s widow Barbara — until she shot him after catching him in bed with Linda.) They debuted as a married couple with their albumLove Wars,harmonizing with family members singing and playing along, in gritty tunes about real-world romantic struggles. “Love Wars” is the soul testimony of lovers who don’t want to be fighters. It’s a goosebumps moment when they sing, “Bring it on home, and drop them guns on the floor.”

68. Adam Ant


Adam Ant wasthe kind of rogue who would try absolutely anything for a hit, whether it was pirate gear, tribal drums, heavy guitar, even “Ant Rap.” But in “Strip,” he offers a philosophical inquiry into the topic of nudity, and why he’s in favor of it. As he pleads, “We’re just following ancient history/If I strip for you, will you strip for me?” Adam goes for a glam-folk makeover in “Strip,” with rollicking Celtic fiddles. But even when he’s stripped naked, this Prince Charming remains a show-biz pirate at heart, overdubbing himself a chorus line of hormonally crazed showgirls kicking madly at the ceiling.

Also See Our Pick of 10 Classic K-Dramas

67. Metallica

‘Hit The Lights’

A before-and-after momentfor rock — the first time Metallica hit the world hard enough to be heard. “Hit the Lights” kicked off their full-length debut,Kill ‘Em All, announcing the arrival of a new metal generation intent on doing it their own way. It was the first song James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich ever wrote — they sound like the hungry, pimply kids you see on the back cover. Kirk Hammett had only been in the band three weeks. It’s a statement of purpose, with Hetfield roaring, “No life till leather, we’re gonna kick some ass tonight!”

66. Styx

‘Mr. Roboto’

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. Styx invented recap-rock with “Mr. Roboto,” a Number Three hit that breaks down the plot of their sci-fi concept albumKilroy Was Here. It gives you the backstory of Robert Orin Charles Kilroy, a guitar hero in a futuristic theocracy where music is outlawed. (Yeah, basically a rip of Rush’s2112.) As Dennis DeYoungadmitted, “‘Roboto’ was never intended to be a single.” But it was catchy enough to stand on its own. He sings, “The problem’s plain to see/Too much technology/Machines to save our lives/Machines dehumanize!” And this was in an era when “technology” meant landlines and TRS-80s. DeYoung shows off his ability to sing in Japanese and his inability to pronounce the word “modern.” (No, there’s no such thing as a “modrenman.”) It remains a travesty that he failed to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Kilroy.

65. The Comsat Angels

‘Will You Stay Tonight?’

I don’t wantto oversell this one — just a melodramatic little synth-pop shiver, not much of a hit in the U.S., the U.K., or elsewhere. But for synth-pop devotees, it’s a ballad that pierces to the heart with all the exquisite beauty of doo-wop like “Earth Angel” or “In the Still of the Night.” The Comsat Angels came from the Northern English post-punk stronghold of Sheffield, taking their sci-fi name from a short story by J.G. Ballard. Unfortunately, in the U.S., they had to use the name “C.S. Angels” for copyright reasons. “Will You Stay Tonight?” is the song of a bashful heart at the moment of truth, when you realize that shyness is nice but now is the time to finally blow your cool and say how you feel. There’s so much emotion in every digital tremble. And those octagonal drums —wow.

64. INXS

‘Don’t Change’

“Our first Americantour, people were not ready for us,” INXS’s Andrew Farriss told me in 2008. “One night in Texas, somebody threw a pistol onstage. There was a note tied to the barrel. It said, ‘You’re gonna need this.’” But the Australian rockers changed minds with “Don’t Change,” an undeniable punk-disco anthem from their breakthroughShabooh Shoobah. A generation of girls and gays heard Michael Hutchence’s voice and felt the earth move under their feet. As Ferriss said,“Radio had very tight formats then — you were in the rock area or the dance area. So if you wanted to go exploring likeStar Trekoutside your area, thenciao.” But INXS made “Don’t Change” hit home like a new sensation.

63. Billy Idol

‘Rebel Yell’

Nobody, absolutely nobody,was accusing Billy Idol of not posing ridiculously enough. But Billy obviously took a look in the mirror and demanded “Mo, mo, mo.” “Rebel Yell” is the most egomaniac moment in the career of a man who turned egomania into a musical genre. But he roars through this tale of an insatiable midnight-hour sex fiend — Billy seems to meetlotsof those — with every guitar screech and drum thump amped into the red.

62. Donna Summer

‘She Works Hard For The Money’

(Video) 1983! THE 100 GREATEST HITS - 100 BEST SONGS

So hard forit, honey. The Seventies disco queen fought her way into the Eighties with a hard-hitting populist ode to the blue-collar female work force, not a demographic getting much love from the Top 40 in those days. Summer wrote it inspired by a women’s-room attendant she met at a fancy Hollywood restaurant — Summer put her photo on the back of the album cover. The video, with a grown-up flash mob of waitresses and teachers and construction workers dancing in the street, was a cathartic rush then and now.

61. Violent Femmes

‘Add It Up’

The Violent Femmesgot discovered one summer afternoon in 1981, three nerds busking on the sidewalk outside of a Milwaukee drugstore. One of the pedestrians who stopped to listen: Chrissie Hynde, who was so knocked out, she immediately invited them to open for the Pretenders. That night. The Femmes banged out their debut album with little more than Gordon Gano’s acoustic guitar, Brian Ritchie’s stand-up bass, and Victor DeLorenzo’s drums, with intense tension-and-release dynamics matched to weapons-grade bad vibes. Still in his teens, Gano seethes with sexual frustration in “Add It Up,” pondering key philosophical questions like “Why can’t I get just one fuck?/I guess it’s got something to do with luck.”

60. Def Leppard


The greatness ofDef Leppard can be summed up in four words, and notgunter glieben glauten globen. The four words are: Girls totally liked them. This was a breakthrough in metal terms. Lep served glam thrills for the dancing ladies: They sang harmonies, they pumped up the beat to near-disco levels, they wrote songs as tight as their Union Jack shorts. As guitarist Phil Collen used to say, “We’re more Duran Duran than Black Sabbath.” Fighting words, but the Sheffield crew lived up to it with “Photograph,” thePyromaniabanger that turned them into a megaplatinum hit machine. “We never wanted to look like tramps,” Joe Elliott toldRolling Stone. “Some of these bands, like Motörhead, just sort of turn up in their car-mechanic overalls, with unwashed hair. To me, that is really abusing the audience.”

59. Paul McCartney

‘So Bad’

A buried treasureof Paul McCartney’s career, not to mention his finest tune of the Eighties. Macca was on a post-Wings roll with his twin hits,Tug Of WarandPipes of Peace. “So Bad” is an impossibly delicate and bittersweet ballad, the kind of melody any other songwriter would have sold a kidney to compose, with Paul lobbing high notes across the room to Linda like it’s no big deal. (Not much cop in the lyrics department, but it beats “Say Say Say.”) The drummer? Some guy named Ringo. “So Bad” wasn’t a major hit, and he’s never done it live, but it’s a ballad soulful enough for Macca’s idol Smokey Robinson to sing — he covers it beautifully on the 2014 tribute albumThe Art of McCartney.

58. The Verlaines

‘Death And The Maiden’

The New Zealandrock scene was a hotbed of creativity, with nobody in the outside world butting in or paying attention. Just an island of 70 million sheep and a bottomless supply of eccentric guitar bands. The Verlaines dropped their debut single, “Death and the Maiden,” on the Dunedin label Flying Nun, gossiping about French poets over chiming guitars, with the “Verlaine Verlaine Verlaine” chorus. Graeme Downes was already one of the craftiest songwriters anywhere, as heard on the band’s EP10 O’Clock in the Afternoon, with gems like “You Say You” and “Joed Out.” By the 1990s, the Verlaines’ influence was all over indie rock, from the Spinanes (their fan tribute“Hawaiian Baby”) to Pavement. Stephen Malkmus later covered “Death and the Maiden,” the least he could do after ripping it for“Box Elder.”Matthew Goody’s recent bookNeedles and Plasticgives a superb Flying Nun history.

57. The B-52s

‘Legal Tender’

Kate Pierson andCindy Wilson — now and forever, are the ultimate New Wave double threat. Hearing them sing together is one of the eternal joys of being a music fan, and they belt “Legal Tender” like 52 girls packed into the four lungs of two groovy Southern women. Pierson and Wilson sing about counterfeiting cash in the basement, using it as a feminist metaphor for outsmarting the patriarchy. (New Wave girlsloveto sing about stealing.) There’s so much evil glee in their voices when they chant, “10! 20! 30 million dollars! Ready to be spent!” A highlight of the B-52s’ stellarWhammy!, which has hidden gems like “Trism” and“Song for a Future Generation.”

56. Ebn-Ozn

‘AEIOU Sometimes Y’

Ebn-Ozn were thequintessential 1983 one-hit wonder, cramming so many ideas into “AEIOU Sometimes Y” they didn’t really need another one. Ebn is the synth whiz, whipping up deranged hooks on his Fairlight CMI. Ozn is the suave blond stud, talking shit about his escapades with a Swedish muse named Lola, having a cappuccino on the streets of NYC. He’s like a cross between Klaus Nomi and David Lee Roth, with cooler hair than either. True romance, Eighties-style: “She was nice to me, you know? She let me keep on my cowboy boots!” For us diehard Ebn-Ozn fans, the wholeFeeling Cavalieralbum is a must. The sleeper: “Video DJ,” which has a shout out to Kajagoogoo.

55. The Minutemen

‘The Product’

The Minutemen wereraging through the punk underground, coming off their ferocious full-length debut,What Makes a Man Start Fires?Guitarist D. Boon and bassist Mike Watt were best friends from childhood, and with drummer George Hurley, their music was full of corndog humor and working-class resistance. As Wattput it, “All you got is you, so you have to make something out of it.” They stretched out onBuzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat, with grooves like “Cut” and “Little Man With a Gun in His Hand.” But the left-field highlight is “The Product,” with Byrds-gone-feedback guitar and an out-of-nowhere trumpet solo. D. Boon babbles like a man possessed, about feeling like “the product, the product, the product, the product … the product of capitalism!”

54. Herbie Hancock


There comes amoment in every jazz legend’s life when they realize it’s time to to strap on that keytar and dance. At least, it happened to Herbie Hancock. The result: “Rockit,” his avant-ridiculous hip-hop robo-funk smash. Hancock’s résumé included everything from Miles Davis’Nefertitito solo fusion likeHead Huntersto theDeath Wishsoundtrack. But here he hooked up with Material producers Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn, plus scratching from turntablist Grand Mixer DXT, who’d shown his moves in the movieWild Style. Throw in some “Planet Rock”-inspired vocoders and a Led Zeppelin sample, and you’ve got“Rockit.”Hancock also appeared at the 1985 Grammys for a strangesynthesizer tutorial,in a four-way keyboard jam with Howard Jones, Thomas Dolby, and Stevie Wonder.

53. Sparks and Jane Wiedlin

‘Cool Places’

These days Sparksare recognized as art-rock pioneers, thanks to Edgar Wright’s documentaryThe Sparks Brothers. Ron and Russell Mael had quirky hits around the globe, yet they remained unknown in their native U.S. But “Cool Places” gave them a shot at American kids, as an irresistible synth-disco duet with the ultimate New Wave California girl, the Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin. Who’s cooler than Jane? Nobody. It’s an irresistible ode to two dorky kids hitting the hipster clubs they can’t get into, with Sweet Jane cooing, “I never wanna cool down.” Her yin is the perfect match for their yang — this is the closest Sparks came to a Top 40 hit.

52. Peter Schilling

‘Major Tom (Coming Home)’

The most audaciousfan-fic hit of all time. German one-shot Peter Schilling didn’t just do an unauthorized sequel to David Bowie’s Major Tom saga, he wrote himself into the story. Just like Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and “Ashes to Ashes,” Schilling’s “Major Tom” tells the story of the lonesome space cadet, lost in the cosmos, but he does it so powerfully that it became a permanent part of the story. “Major Tom” made a memorable appearance inBreaking Badas the karaoke video left behind by a dead meth cook. But maybe the ultimate epitaph is William Shatner’s amazing 2011 concept albumSeeking Major Tom, where he narrates the whole story of Tom’s space voyage, covering the Schilling and Bowie songs, but also throwing in “Rocket Man,” “Walking on the Moon,” “Spirit in the Sky,” “Space Cowboy,” “Twilight Zone,” and “Iron Man.” This album actually happened.

51. The Police

‘Every Breath You Take’

The bottle-blond threesomewere on top of the world in 1983. Years before BTS made concept albums about psychologist Carl Jung, the Police were on the case withSynchronicity. (It was theMap of the Soulof its time.) “Every Breath You Take” was the year’s biggest hit, yet it’s never left the radio, with its brilliantly sparse sound. Sting does for the one-note piano solo what Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” did for one-note guitar solos. “It’s ostensibly a love song, a very seductive romantic love song,” Sting toldRolling Stone. “But it’s about controlling somebody to the nth degree and monitoring their movements.” Most fans missed the dark subtext. “It’s not like ‘Stand by Me,’ which is this wonderful noble song that means just one thing. ‘Every Breath You Take’ is very ambiguous and quite wicked.” Sting later wrote an answer song, his 1985 solo hit “If You Love Someone, Set Them Free.” “I had to write the antidote,” he said, “after I’d poisoned people with this horrible thing.” Go off, King of Pain.

50. Stevie Nicks

‘Stand Back’

Stevie Nicks wasone 1970s L.A. rock star who got her Eighties New Wave pass. She wrote one of her greatest songs by singing along with the radio to another singer fond of black lace and high heels: Prince. “We were strange friends,” Stevie toldRolling Stonein 2019. “‘Stand Back” was inspired by ‘Little Red Corvette.’ I called him and said, ‘Can you come to the studio and listen to this song? I’ve sung over your song and written another song and you may hate it and if you do, I won’t do it.’ He came over to Sunset Sound, and he loved it — he played piano and guitar on it. Then he was gone — he was like a spirit then.” But their cosmic connection lives on. “I feel like Prince is with me,” Stevie said. “When I’m nervous, I’ll talk to Prince. In my solo act, when I do ‘Moonlight,’ I wear this white wolf-y coat — I put this coat on, and I try to transform into a Dire Wolf fromGame of Thrones. And before I go on, I always say, ‘Walk with me, Prince.’”

49. Spandau Ballet


Seriously, though: WhydoI find it hard to write the next line? Spandau Ballet gave us all a classic ballad with “True,” a song with an amazing power to send otherwise civilized people into fits of homicidal rage. But every second of it is a goddamn masterpiece (I can prove it), so if you hate it, you can just take your seaside arms and read the next song. Tony Hadley is a master at turning the word “true” into a 17-syllable sob, while songwriter Gary Kemp gives it up to his hero in the line “Listenin’ to Marvin all night long.” Kemp played Whitney Houston’s manager inThe Bodyguardand currently plays 10-minute guitar solos of the Pink Floyd songbook in Nick Mason’sA Saucerful of Secrets. (You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the guy who wrote “True” play “Set the Control for the Heart of the Sun.”) The Spandaus tell their amazing story in the must-see docSoul Boys of the Western World.

48. The Rolling Stones

‘Undercover Of The Night’

The most underratedStones era? That’s easy — it’s their early-1980s mall-rat years, withTattoo You,Emotional Rescue, and (especially)Undercover. For the last time, England’s Newest Hitmakers felt the urge to prove they could head into the studio and trounce the competition. “Undercover of the Night” splices the Clash, Grandmaster Flash, and Duran Duran into an attack on U.S. imperialism, with Mick Jagger railing, “One hundred thousanddisparus/Lost in the jails of South America.” Like so many Stones classics, it’s a boogie through a nightmare, full of fever in the funk house. They must have spent a night at the hotel watching MTV and saying, “Bloody hell,wecan do that.” In the video, Keith Richards gets to abduct Mick at gunpoint, a fantasy he must have secretly savored for years.

47. Dio

‘Holy Diver’

Ronnie James Diowas one of the most respected sages in metal before he even started his solo career, after his career with Black Sabbath and Rainbow. But “Holy Diver” was a statement of purpose that set out his moral vision and epic force, with his unique ability to tap into the dark places of the soul. He sang about wounded kids with a rare sense of empathy, as in “Invisible,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On),” and “Rainbow in the Dark.” That’s why “Holy Diver” just hits deeper and deeper as time goes on: Dio’s compassion was as mighty as his pipes.

46. Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force

‘Looking For The Perfect Beat’

“Universal people lookingfor the perfect beat” — that describes the music audience of the early Eighties. Producers Arthur Baker and John Robie had just turned the world upside down with “Planet Rock,” launching hip-hop into deep space. Yet this sequel went somewhere new with Kraftwerk-style electronics, DJ scratches, robot voices, and the Zulu Nation’s rap outreach, bringing it all back home to the Bronx. The vocoders deliver what Bambaataacalled“deep, crazy, supernatural, bugged-out funk stuff,” with the chant, “We are the future/You are the past!” “Looking for the Perfect Beat” sums up the vision of electro hip-hop: a galactic disco full of party people melding minds and bodies.

45. Minor Threat

‘Cashing In’

Minor Threat’s earlysongs capture a sense of tribal community — the moment when punk kids ignored by the world recognized one another as kindred spirits. “Cashing In” is about how it hurts when that community falls apart. Like everything else onOut of Step, the band’s farewell record before splitting up, it’s full of grief and rage. Ian MacKaye vents about feeling betrayed by his old friends, chuckling in the sardonic intro, “How do you do? I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is Ian, and I’m from Minor Threat.” But it ends with pain, amid the back-stabbing in the D.C. hardcore scene, as MacKaye repeats, “There’s no place like home. So where am I?”

44. The S.O.S. Band

‘Just Be Good To Me’

The Minneapolis writer-producersJimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were just getting started, touring with Prince in their band the Time. But they made their bones with “Just Be Good to Me,” the R&B smash that put these whiz kids on the map for an unstoppable run of hits. Atlanta’s S.O.S. Band took it toSoul Train, with the fiery vocals of the iconic Mary Davis. It was full of electronic razzle-dazzle and 808 club beats, but it doubled as a passionate soul confession — the ultimate Jam and Lewis combination. Mariah Carey loved to cover “Just Be Good to Me” on her 1990s tours, calling it “one of my favorite old-school songs.”

43. The Embarrassment

‘Drive Me To The Park’

One of thedecade’s most perfect love songs, from four bookish guitar boys in Lawrence, Kansas. The Embarrassment’s iconic debut,Death Travels West,encapsulates the moment when jangly rockers were rising up, as fans realized there was a whole underground of brainy bands out there, doing it their way and ready to be heard. “Drive Me to the Park” is an ode to a furtive crush, with the hook “Drive me to the park/But let me stay in thecarrrrr.” And that’s what it’s about: a gorgeous spring day, seat belt on, looking out the window at sun shining and people smiling, wishing you had the emotional fortitude to step out onto the grass (bare feet? yeah right), but for now feeling the joy of riding shotgun with a slightly braver (but not brave enough) crush object behind the wheel. The happiest goddamn day of your pitiful little life so far. If you hear any trace of irony here, you’re doing better than me. The “Pink Chiffon” of its time.

42. Ministry


Does any artisthate their own debut as much as Al Jourgensen? “I started with a shitty Eighties pop record,” hetoldRolling Stonein 2017. Strange but true: Before Ministry became industrial/metal kingpins, they were the Chicago goth-pervsynth twits behindWith Sympathyand the MTV hit “Revenge.” We’re talking big hair, black nail polish, even a faux-Brit accent. This Ministry phase is the bane of Al’s existence, which is nothingbutbanes. “It was revolting, disgusting, and it traumatized me for years,” Alsaid. “I was sick to my stomach on a daily basis. I threw up more on that record —times 10— than any other. It was absolutely an abortion period of my life. I fucking hated myself, the world, and everything around me because of that record.” Sorry, Al — but it was also bloody brilliant, especially the psychotic rant “Revenge,” where he vents all the bile in his soul. Yet he’s finally come to feel“grateful”for this phase: “Without that record, I wouldn’t be as much of a fucking maniac douchebag as I am today.” He’s also been spotted at a signing with aT-shirtreading, “Will signWith Sympathyfor $1000.”

(Video) BILLBOARD "TOP 100 HITS OF 1983" - PART 1/4 (reeditado -reissued )

41. Lou Reed

‘Bottoming Out’

Lou reached asolo peak in the early Eighties, in his turning-40 trilogy ofThe Blue Mask,Legendary Hearts, andNew Sensations. He faced up to the everyday terrors of adult relationships — yet another situation where some people work very hard, but still they never get it right. His account of a troubled marriage onLegendary Heartsis surprisingly specific, as “Martial Law” and “Don’t Talk to Me About Work” get into the details of the basic problem: how to stop taking out your petty grievances on the person you live with (“Try not to take the garbage of the day any place else but outside”). But “Bottoming Out” is when the arguing won’t stop, so you go for a motorcycle ride to clear your head, except you get wasted and then back on your bike and it all goes bad because this is a Lou Reed song, remember? No cheap happy endings around here, but loads of guitar.

40. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

‘Islands In The Stream’

Kenny and Dollyalways had chemistry. At a time when pop music was going through a youth revolution, they sang “Islands in the Stream” like a pair of sassy seniors in a lavender haze, drawling every “ah-haaaa” with a sensual post-coital glow. The Bee Gees wrote this for Kenny, Nashville’s silver fox, but it didn’t really cook until his old friend Dolly got on the mic. “Islands in the Stream” was totally out of step with every pop fashion, but it proved true greatness never goes out of style. These two were never a couple — as he toldRolling Stonein 2014, “We just flirted with each other and loved every minute of it.”

39. Double Dee and Steinski

‘The Payoff Mix (Lesson 1)’

This legendary mastermix didn’t get officially released, because it violated too many copyrights to count. But Double Dee and Steinski revolutionized how music was made and heard. “The Payoff Mix” is a warp-speed audio collage, crashing James Brown into Funky Four Plus One into Boy George into the Supremes into Humphrey Bogart into Grandmaster Flash. No samples, either — the sampler hadn’t gotten invented yet — they did it all on tape. They followed with “Lesson 2 (James Brown Mix)” and “Lesson 3 (History of Hip-Hop Mix).” The promo 12-inch became an underground white-label sensation, passed around on tape. Each “Lesson” ends with a mysterious voice that heads spent years tracking down; it’s New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, reading the Sunday funnies to kids over the radio in 1945: “Say, children, what does it all mean?” Double Dee and Steinski elevated the art of mixology, making every scrap of junk culture dance to the drummer’s beat.

38. Yaz

‘Nobody’s Diary’

Alison Moyet hasalways been such a powerhouse singer, people overlook she’s an equally forceful songwriter. “Nobody’s Diary” was a lament she wrote at 16, before she’d ever had a real-life romance, but it’s one devastating breakup story. Fittingly, it was the final hit for Yaz (“Yazoo” in the U.K.), her short-lived but hugely influential duo with Vince Clarke. TheirTop of the Popsperformance is a heart wrecker. Moyet torches it up, while Clarke hovers in the background with an absurd haircut and a keytar around his neck. She’s wailing about tragic love, practically breaking into tears as she lip-syncs; he’s punching buttons. They look ridiculous. They look beautiful. Moyet can still burn any house down with this song.

37. DeBarge

‘Time Will Reveal’

DeBarge was afamily act in the Motown tradition — sadly, with a history of tragedy that’s also part of the tradition. But nothing on Eighties radio sounded like El DeBarge’s voice. He carried on the Motown tenor legacy of legends like Smokey Robinson and Eddie Kendricks. “Time Will Reveal” is his ultimate slow jam — a fragile melody full of breathy asides, falsetto swoops, the most vulnerable sighs and coos. The whole vocal is a high-wire performance where you can’t believe your ears. Many singers have tried to redo “Time Will Reveal,” but not even Janelle Monáe could duplicate his style. El’s still got it — at the2017 BET Awards, he did a great tribute to the late George Michael, with Kamasi Washington playing the “Careless Whisper” sax solo.

36. U2

‘New Year’s Day’

Nobody was preparedfor “New Year’s Day.” Even hardcore early U2 fans, who’d already memorized every note ofBoyandOctober,got pulverized into silence by the opening piano-guitar fanfare of “New Year’s Day.” Those drums. That bass. And that’s before Bono even clears his throat. It was the first taste of the Dublin lads’ hard-hitting third album,War, complete with a video where they ride horses through the snow. (The Edge later admitted it was actually four women with scarves over their faces riding those horses.) “When we started, it was hard to get the Edge to play aggressively,”Bono said in 1982. “He is a gentleman, and he plays guitar like a gentleman.” He obviously got over that in time for “New Year’s Day.”

35. The Raincoats

‘No One’s Little Girl’

The Raincoats rosefrom the London punk scene — but they didn’t play by punk’s rules, or anyone else’s. “No One’s Little Girl” is a madcap trance groove, dancing on the grave of misogynistic clichés. Gina Birch chants over her wobbly bass skank, chanting, “I never shall be in your family tree,” along with Ana Da Silva’s guitar and Vicky Aspinall’s viola. This single followed their classic albumsThe RaincoatsandOdyshape, ignored at the time but a huge influence on freewheeling minds ever since. They also used it to kick off their 1983 live cassetteThe Kitchen Tapes. Birch is in peak creative form in her great new solo debut,I Play My Bass Loud.

34. Lovebug Starski

‘Starski Live At The Disco Fever’

The late greatLovebug Starski was one of the original hip-hop prophets. For one thing, the Bronx MCcoined the term “hip-hop,”along with the Furious Five’s Keith Cowboy. But he was also a DJ — as Public Enemy’s Chuck Dsaid, he was “the first double-trouble threat in hip-hop and rap music.” Starski spun at the historic Disco Fever nightclub, paying his respects in this epochal single, rapping over Larry Smith’s DMX beat.LL Cool J saidStarski “made me believe anything was possible.” His influence spread worldwide — he was a hero to the Smiths, after they shared a New Years Eve bill at NYC’s Danceteria. (Johnny Marr wrote the heavy groove of “How Soon Is Now?” as an explicitStarski homage; the guitar break comes straight from “You Gotta Believe.”) Starski passed in 2017, but his legend will never die.

33. Dexy’s Midnight Runners

‘Come On Eileen’

In case youneeded proof that literallyanythingcould blow up into a hit in 1983: An arty U.K. band named Dexy’s Midnight Runners decided to woo America with Irish folk music. So they struck up the fiddles and yelped the Celtsploitation classic “Come On Eileen.” The result? Kevin Rowland and his self-proclaimed “Celtic Soul Brothers” score a Number One song that lives on through the decades. In case you thought it was too subtle, they etched a message on the 12-inch sleeve: “And though spiritual seduction might seem more my aim, right now I just want to take off all your clothes and do something dirty to you.” Every detail is 10 times better than it should be — especially when it slows down for the “too-loo-rye-ay” interlude, then builds up into the explosive final choruses.

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32. Quiet Riot

‘Metal Health (Bang Your Head)’

“Who remembers 1983?” Quiet Riot frontman Kevin DuBrow asked the crowd at the 2007 Rocklahoma festival. “Well, I think you’re all a bunch of fucking liars! Because I don’t remember a fucking thing!” Quiet Riot played a huge role in the year’s historic metal explosion. The Riot scored an out-of-nowhere Top 10 hit with “Cum on Feel the Noize,” a Slade cover they’d never rehearsed and barely even listened to. (Just a year after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads, the band’s original founder.) But their anthem was “Bang Your Head (Metal Health),” with Dubrow wailing, “I’m frustrated! Outdated! I really wanna be overrated!” Just when metal was being written off as a dinosaur genre, “Bang Your Head” was a fight song for the comeback, kicking off the 1980s Sunset Strip metal heyday the way Run-DMC kicked off hip-hop’s golden age. DuBrow died in 2007, just a few months after Rocklahoma; drummer Frankie Banali passed in 2020.

31. Kajagoogoo

‘Too Shy’

The British Invasionof the Eighties reached its glorious, garish peak with the Kajagoogoo Era, which lasted for the entire three minutes and 40 seconds of “Too Shy.” An elfin star child named Limahl sings “Too shy-shy, hush hush, eye to eyes,” twirling barefoot to the gooshy synth-funk, with his Greek-chorus mullet looking down at the pageant. Kajagoogoo wanted a name that sounded childlike. “Goo-ga-ga-goo-goowas the first thing that came into my mind,” Nick Beggs toldStar Hits. “So Kajagoogoo. The sound of primal life, don’t you know.” Believe it or not, they have other goodies on their debutWhite Feathers, even if it all ended in tears. But we’ll always have “Too Shy.”

30. Mtume

‘Juicy Fruit’

James Mtume wasa jazz pioneer from the Miles Davis band who defined the sound of Eighties R&B cool with his slow jam “Juicy Fruit.” Just ask Biggie, who sampled it for his life story, “Juicy.” “What I called it was ‘sophistifunk,’”Mtume said. He devised the most shameless oral seduction with “Juicy Fruit,” starring the great soul legend Tawatha Agee, who was in the middle of a Roxy Music tour. The only people on Earth who couldn’t figure out what “Juicy Fruit” meant? The lawyers from Wrigley Gum, who called in Mtume for a deposition. As he recalled, “They say, ‘Does “Juicy Fruit” have anything to do.…’ I said, ‘No.’ Finally one of the guys says, ‘Would you mind telling us what the phrase is? What do you mean by the phrase “You can lick me everywhere?”‘ I said, ‘Very simply, it’s about oral sex.’ You want to see a bunch of guys turn red?” So if you don’t know, now you know.

29. Hüsker Dü

‘Real World’

The Minneapolis powertrio went from being merely the world’s most skull-crushing punk band to a whole new thing with “Real World.” Suddenly, the Hüskers had songwriting as corrosive and furious as Bob Mould’s guitar buzz. Mould and drummer Grant Hart both blew up as writers on theirMetal CircusEP, acerbic but not ironic, lashing out at their hardcore subculture as well as the straight world. “Real World” is one of two explicit anti-rape songs onMetal Circus, two more than any other male bands would dare at the time. Mould foams at the mouth with rage, screaming, “I can’t think of anything that makes me more upset!” Don’t worry — he thought of more things to get upset about, which is why Mould’s voice and guitar keep raging just as true today.

28. The Cure

‘The Love Cats’

It’s the grooviestthing, it’s a perfect dream. The Cure shocked their misery-loving fans with “The Love Cats,” a bouncy ode to feline romance. Robert Smith not only learned to smile, he was purring and meowing over stand-up bass and jazzy piano. But he figured, “It’s so ludicrous that I’m gonna go from goth idol to pop star in three easy lessons.” It all started when “Let’s Go to Bed” took off on MTV. “Suddenly, ‘Let’s Go to Bed’ was turning into a big hit,” SmithtoldRolling Stonein 2004, “on the West Coast particularly, and we had a young, predominantly female, teenage audience. It went from intense, menacing, psychotic goths to people with perfect white teeth. It was a very weird transition, but I enjoyed it. I thought it was really funny.” “The Love Cats” still makes the fur fly — it’s so wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty.

27. Ray Parker Jr.

‘I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You’

While Robert Smithwas discovering the joys of pop, Ray Parker Jr. decided to write his own Cure song. “I Still Can’t Get Over You” is a sly, sexy, painfully sad synth-pop slow jam from a soul man who always knew his way around a sad song. Ray was clearly checking out the U.K. New Wave competition, and set out to beat them all at their own game. He sings about romantic agony, with a satirical edge of self-pity, until the song veers off into paranoid rage. By the end, he sounds slightly familiar as he sings, “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you, girl.” Parker might be best known for romps like “Ghostbusters,” but “I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You” is the crown jewel of his amazing career.

26. The Smiths

‘This Charming Man’

“I don’t recognizesuch terms as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual,” Morrissey declared.“These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy, so I want to do away with them.” This is not how rock stars talked in the 1980s. (Remember, this was the era so closeted that Elton John married a woman.) But it has everything to do with why the Smiths shocked the world. “This Charming Man” was their first big hit, reaching for the heart with Johnny Marr’s jumped-up surf-guitar riff. Morrissey pleads, “I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a stitch to wear.” Nothing like “This Charming Man” had ever happened before. Nothing was ever the same.

25. Rammellzee vs. K-Rob

‘Beat Bop’

“Beat Bop” isold-school rap at its wildest. Jean-Michael Basquiat, the young rebel king of the art scene, produced and released this classic 12-inch showdown. In this corner: Rammellzee, the hip-hop visionary. In that corner, K-Rob, the 15-year-old graffiti writer from the Lower East Side. They battled face to face, two microphones in the same room, getting crazier as they rocked on. As K-Robsaid,“It was like I was hydroplaning in space.” The groove builds for 10 minutes of dub bass, go-go cowbell, and violin from Hungarian teen Esther Baliant (later star of Jim Jarmusch’sStranger Than Paradise, which also had a scene-stealing moment for Rammellzee). “Beat Bop” became the theme fromStyle Wars, the groundbreaking graffiti documentary. Both voices reteamed in 2004 for “Beat Bop 2,” fromBi-Conicals of the Rammellzee. But this was a glorious one-off. Like Ramm said, “No guts, no galaxy.”

24. A Flock of Seagulls

‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)’

A Flock ofSeagulls fans can never shut up about how criminally underrated this group is, but you really don’t want to get us going aboutListen, their second album. It’s the serious Flockhead’s pick to click, especially the ballad “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You),” the essence of spaced-out synth-pop melancholy. Mike Score sings in the flat voice of yet another Major Tom, isolated in yet another space capsule, floating in the dark, dreaming of a distant lover galaxies away. Those giant synth drones build an ominous mood. (The great 1990s Chicago indie band Red Red Meat did akick-ass versionthat got the emotional timbre just right.) If “Space Age Love Song” was the Seagulls’ Eighties equivalent of Taylor Swift’s “Enchanted,” “Wishing” is their “Last Kiss.”

23. Bob Dylan

‘Sweetheart Like You’

The Jokerman’s greatestEighties song — by a freaking mile — fromInfidels, his greatest Eighties album by an even freaking-er mile. (ThoughInfidelswould be twice as great if he’d kept “Blind Willie McTell” on Side Two.) “Sweetheart Like You” is a slept-on deep cut now, but it was all over MTV at the time. It’s the ballad of two lost souls in a bar at closing time, sizing each other up with the question, “What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?” Mark Knopfler adds blues guitar, while Sly and Robbie give Dylan some muscular bottom end. The most famous line sadly rings as true as ever: “Steal a little and they throw you in jail/Steal a lot and they make you king.” Dylan’s old pal Leonard Cohen must have been taking notes, because he used this song as the template for the last 30 years of his career.

22. Dominatrix

‘The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight’

A rush ofelectro-throb dance-floor kink, from producer DJ Stuart Argabright and vocalist Claudia Summers. “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” was a NYC club classic shrouded in mystery: the sound of whips cracking, drum machines slapping, synth frills burbling. The narrator is a robot-sex priestess with a fabulously bored voice: “That night, a wild party. Women beat their men. Animals watch beyond the fire. The dominatrix sleeps … tonight!”

21. Echo and the Bunnymen

‘Never Stop’

(Video) Haircut 100 - Love Plus One

Nobody made gothgirls twirl harder than the Bunnymen. These Liverpool lads had it all: an excellent name, scary album covers, long scarves, black overcoats, and psychedelic guitar squalls. Ian McCulloch stood at the top of the U.K.’s hot-gloom-dude charts — bigger hair than Morrissey, poutier lips than Robert Smith, not as dead as Ian Curtis. No modest wallflower, this boy. “I think the Bunnymen are a lot better than David Bowie,” Mac mused in 1983. “I’ve looked up to him all my life, but now I think he should look up to us. We are the greatest band in the world.” “Never Stop” proved he wasn’t kidding, a single coming hot on the heels ofPorcupine, their third and best album, in a Velvets-style attack of guitar, cello, congas, and McCulloch’s messiah-bitch preaching. MTV fans cherished thelive video, from the famous Royal Albert Hall show named after the Bunnymen’s motto: “Lay Down Thy Raincoat and Groove.”

20. Madonna

‘Burning Up’

Madonna introduced herselfto the clubs and the DJs with her debut “Everybody” 12-inch. With “Burning Up,” she introduced herself to everybody else. This was the first Madonna track where she had room to throw her elbows around, letting her voice and personality slide into the spotlight. As she toldMelody Maker,her goal was to reach “the kind of people who might like Grace Jones.” “Burning Up” was written by her producer Reggie Lucas, Mtume’s longtime jazz partner in “sophistifunk.” “She wasn’t the weirdest personI’dever met, you know?” Lucas toldRolling Stone. “I’d worked with Sun Ra! So after hanging out with the Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Madonna didn’t seem particularly avant-garde.” But she steals the show with her feverish moans and gasps, pleading, “I’m not the same/I have no shame/I’m on fire!”

19. New Edition

‘Candy Girl’

New Edition launchedthe modern boy-band age with “Candy Girl.” These five Boston kids charmed their way into history with zippy beats and sweet harmonies, plus that crucial touch of hip-hop. New Edition might have originally echoed the Jackson 5, but they were even more influential; after “Candy Girl,” the boy-band template never needed to be revived again. Bobby Brown went on to solo fame, as did his replacement Johnny Gill, while Bell Biv Devoe tasted “Poison” and Ralph Tresvant found “Sensitivity.” But “Candy Girl” really started the New Kids on the Block Had a Bunch of Hits era. From Orlando to Seoul to Miami, from “MMMBop” to “Midnight Memories,” we’re living in a world full of Candy Girls.

18. Duran Duran

‘New Moon On Monday’

Duran Duran seducedAmerica in 1983, as their classicRiokept giving up hit after hit. All year long, the Fab Five kept bursting with brilliant new music: “Is There Something I Should Know?,” the single with Simon Le Bon’s immortal complaint, “You’re about as easy as a nuclear war!”; “Union of the Snake,” the dystopian jam fromSeven and the Ragged Tiger; “Secret Oktober,” the cult-fave B side. But the peak has to be “New Moon on Monday,” a tune that’s always been underrated, especially by them. The groove slinks into Berlin Bowie turf, until it explodes into that glam-gasm fire dance of a chorus. If you went back in time, not even the most delusionally devoted Durannie would have predicted these boys would still be inventing the future on their goddamn15thalbum. But to this day, DD still keep taking that fire dance through the night. Light your torch, and wave it.

17. Bonnie Tyler

‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’

Power-ballad armageddon. BonnieTyler was a Welsh pop belter. Jim Steinman was the lord of mega-bombastic pop excess, the songwriter-producer-auteur who dubbed himself “Little Richard Wagner.” As she sings in “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” her voice is “a powder keg giving off sparks,” and this man was the flamethrower. Together, they made “Total Eclipse” a karaoke classic, with the hook “Once upon a time I was falling in love/Now I’m only falling apart.” (The first karaoke machine was patented in 1983. Coincidence? Never that.) “I’m not interested in doing what Bonnie Tyler wants to do,” Steinman said. “I don’t think she has any idea what she’s doing. She probably just wants to do the housework with the record playing.” But they created a spectacle, right down to the final seconds, when the schoolboy with the glowing eyeballs chirps, “Turn around, bright eyes!”

16. Talking Heads

‘This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’

Talking Heads madea tradition of ending their albums with a slow-motion ode to alienation: “The Big Country” onMore Songs About Buildings and Food, “Drugs” onFear of Music, “The Overload” onRemain in Light.” But the Heads endSpeaking In Tongueswith their warmest, most passionate love song, with electro-swamp bass and synths sighing like Hawaiian slack guitars. David Byrne proves himself a soul man, singing about searching for a home, with one of his most poetic and simple lines: “If someone asks, this is where I’ll be.” For the most poignant moment inStop Making Sense, Byrne shares a romantic dance with a living-room lamp.

15. Rufus and Chaka Khan

‘Ain’t Nobody’

Chaka made thisone of her signature songs in the early Eighties. The Queen of Funk already had plenty of classics to her name, both with and without her group Rufus, from “Tell Me Something Good” to “I’m Every Woman” to “Papillon (a.k.a. Hot Butterfly).” And she’d go on to more, with Prince’s “I Feel for You.” But she sounds regal over the electro brunk-funk groove of “Ain’t Nobody.” “Some people say that fear is sexual,” Chaka toldRolling Stoneat the time. “I don’t know if that’s true. I just like to scare myself.”

14. The Replacements

‘Within Your Reach’

By 1983, theReplacements had their own manic punk sound. This isn’t it. “Within Your Reach” is basically Paul Westerberg hiding from the Replacements, a solo recording with synthesizers, baring his soul about a loneliness he’s too scared to share with the rest of the band. It stands out like a sore thumb onHootenanny, a whole album of sore thumbs. The Apostle Paul sings over the amateurish synths, in the voice of a desperate young man terrified he’ll die without a dream. The way he gulps the line “drowning in this city, when it’s really up to me” is a heart punch. This was the equivalent of a bomb dropping on the band’s hardcore fans — drum machines were taboo, as were feelings. But by the end of the decade, it was the Replacements’ best-known song, after Cameron Crowe used it as Lloyd Dobler’s theme inSay Anything. “Within Your Reach” proves Westerberg in the early Eighties was as powerful as any American rock singer has ever been.

13. New Order

‘Blue Monday’

New Order cameup with “Blue Monday” because they didn’t feel like bothering to play it. “‘Blue Monday’ had been selfishly written,” Peter Hook said. “We could play an encore without having to go back onstage and do it ourselves. The machines would play it as we relaxed and put our feet up.” But like every New Order story, this one didn’t work out as they planned. “Blue Monday” became a surprise synth-disco smash, reaching audiences (and emotions) they never imagined. The Manchester misfits hit on a majestic electro-goth groove, with Bernard Sumner ripping Kraftwerk and Sylvester on sequencers he built in his basement. But for all the gloom and grief in the music, “Blue Monday” hits ecstatic heights.

12. Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel

‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’

Higher, baby.Higher, baby. Just a year after Grandmaster Flash and MC Melle Mel stunned listeners with “The Message,” “White Lines” was an equally gritty street tale. “White Lines” was something like a phenomenon, a hip-hop warning against the dangers of cocaine that was as addictive as the drug itself. The track came from the NYC dance-punk electro group Liquid Liquid, with their club single “Cavern.” But the drama of “White Lines” is in the tension between the euphoric, dreamy R&B voices and the stern tone of Melle Mel, as he fades in and out of reality, with the shout, “Now I’m broke, and it’s no joke/It’s hard as hell to fight it/Don’t try it!”

11. Big Country

‘In A Big Country’

Every time theScottish boys in Big Country yelled “Shock!,” another bagpipe guitar solo rose from the ground. Bagpipe guitar: A brilliant trick nobody else tried to steal, partly because Big Country owned it, but also because other bands knew they couldn’t come close to the giant-hearted warmth of this song. “In a Big Country” has Stuart Adamson and crew taking on teen malaise with real compassion and twin-guitar duels. There’s a big-brotherly smile in the way he drawls, “That’s a desperate way to look for someone who is still a child.” But his power move is how he tries to pack way too many consonants into every line, especially the big payoff: “I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert/But I canliveandbreatheandseethe sun in wintertime!” What a song.

10. Haysi Fantayzee

‘Shiny Shiny’

Haysi Fantayzee’s one-shot“Shiny Shiny” might be the most obscure song on this list, maybe because most people who heard it have desperately tried to forget. But it’s a New Romantic poseur anthem for the ages. “Shiny Shiny” is more than a hit — it’s a way of life. Jeremy Healy and Kate Garner were a London boy-girl duo, tight with the Boy George crowd, wearing fishnets and top hats. They rap about nuclear apocalypse over jump-rope fiddles, chanting, “Shiny shiny, bad times behind me/Shiny shiny,sha-na-na-na!” They called it “a party song about dressing up after the bomb has dropped.” The Haysis explained their whole philosophy on their concept albumBattle Hymns for Children Singing; it has their sex jam “John Wayne Is Big Leggy,” plus Kate’s tragic lament, “I Lost My Dodi.” Everything about Haysi Fantayzee was absolutely horrifying. In other words, a classic that sums up the highs and lows of their whole moment. Shiny shiny, bad times behind me.

9. Michael Jackson

‘Beat It’

TheThrillersingles had a clear game plan: First, tiptoe in with “The Girl Is Mine” for the old folks, then “Billie Jean” for the pop kids, then “Beat It” for rock fans, until eventually they got everybody. Great plan, except it failed becauseThrillergot everybody right away, knocking down cultural boundaries without a fight. After “Billie Jean” (which was on our1982 list),Thrillerrewired the sound of pop radio. “Beat It” mixes up the breathy gasps of Michael Jackson’s voice with disco drums and metal thunder. The most striking guitar sound on “Beat It” isn’t an actual guitar — it’s a Synclavier doing that bombastic power-chord intro, taken straight from a 1981 demonstration record,The Incredible Sounds of Synclavier II. But Eddie Van Halen’s uncredited (and unpaid) guitar eruption became one of his most famous finger-blazing moments. The only person not impressed? David Lee Roth, who scoffed toRolling Stone, “What did Edward do with Michael Jackson? He went in and played the same fucking solo he’s been playing in this band for 10 years. Big deal!”

8. Shannon

‘Let The Music Play’

Like so manyof the year’s key music moments, Shannon’s “Let the Music Play” divides history into a “before” and “after.” This was the New York freestyle shot heard around the world. No electro-disco single had come on so loud, so aggressive, so in-your-face, with every 808 delivering a full-body slam to the central nervous system. Producers Chris Barbosa and Mark Liggett took inspiration from “Planet Rock,” but “Let the Music Play” was a whole new boom. By the end of the year, the air was full of freestyle classics from NYC (Valerie Oliver’s “G.T.M. [Get the Money]”) to Miami (Debbie Deb’s “When I Hear Music”). Shannon Green testifies from a crowded dance floor, making eye contact with a stranger, praying to the DJ for a sign, pleading, “What does love want me to do?” So she surrenders to the beat, until love puts her into a groove.

7. Cyndi Lauper

‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’

Cyndi Lauper mighthave been the year’s unlikeliest superstar — a washed-up saloon singer who couldn’t even cut it in bar bands. “I got in trouble for moving around too much,” she recalled. “They said I moved like a boy. I tried to stand still and sing, but I couldn’t — I always had these giant platforms on.” So Cyndi took those platforms to the radio, and kicked her way in. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” became a timeless feminist pop manifesto, where her gaudy thrift-shop wigs-and-lipstick humor is part of the statement. She speaks up for every girl who wants to be the one to walk in the sun. She makes every “just wanna” feel like a challenge, as well as an invitation.

6. R.E.M.

‘Sitting Still’

R.E.M. give offso much emotional intensity in “Sitting Still” without any of the usual rock clichés. No song does a better job of showing why the boys from Athens, Georgia, reinvented American guitar rock with their debut,Murmur. It’s all there in Peter Buck’s guitar, Mike Mills’ bass, that Bill Berry bang-bang drum fill into the final chorus. It’s all there in the breathless rush of Michael Stipe’s urgently beautiful vocal. You can spend years trying to figure out what he’s saying. “We could gather, throw up beer”? “Octopi, they can’t advise your kitchen sensei’s monthly bill”? “Sitting on top of the big hill, wasting time, sitting still”? Nobody will ever know, not even him. WhenRolling Stoneasked in 1991, Stipe said, “There’s no hill in there, I know that.” But he also added, “I don’t know the words. I know the sounds.” That’s what “Sitting Still” is all about. He ends the song with a question anyone can understand: “Canyouuuhearmeeeee?” All over the world, people said, “Yes.” That “yes” is where the whole grand R.E.M. story begins.

5. Culture Club

‘Karma Chameleon’

Boy George wasa quintessential pop icon: the gaudiest, the prettiest, the bitchiest, the most scandalous pinup boy of the moment. He was also the least interested in sticking to the closet. Asked if he was bisexual, he replied, “I never have to buy sex.” But even if he seemed eager to hide it, it was always his music that mattered most, with his pipes and Culture Club’s pop bricolage. “Karma Chameleon” is his diary of love wars, in his badly hidden affair with the Club’s drummer Jon Moss. But the wounded humor in his croon makes “Karma Chameleon” glow with emotion.

4. Prince


Prince’s apocalyptic funkanthem is so beloved now that it’s easy to overlook how radical and divisive it sounded at the time. But “1999” was a song with two different lives. In November 1982, the video conquered MTV, to the point where the network started using it for their in-house ads. But radio still wouldn’t touch it — too rock for the disco stations, too disco for rock — so “1999” died on the charts. It was only in the summer of 1983, after “Little Red Corvette” crashed the Top 10, that the pop audience got an earful of “1999.” Game over: “1999” wasn’t just Prince’s personal fantasy any more. It was the whole audience’s fantasy of the future he was inventing, a mix of different genders and races and cultures and beats. As Prince said, “Half the musicians I knew only listened to one type of music. That wasn’t good enough for me.” After “1999,” it wasn’t good enough for anyone else either.

3. David Bowie

‘Modern Love’

David Bowie dropped“Modern Love” as the first song fromLet’s Dance, a manifesto for his Serious Moonlight era. But he turned this song into a statement of career-capping wisdom. The music world was crawling with Bowie disciples, trying to copy his old moves, but he was already jumping ahead into his next move. HisLet’s Dancepop-idol disguise was “the flowering of his next drag,” as his producer Nile Rodgers wrote inLe Freak. “He was delving into the Eighties metrosexual world of high fashion, a precursor to what’s called ‘Executive Realness’ in vogueing competitions.” “Modern Love” is one of the realest songs Bowie ever wrote — the song of a cracked actor who’s searching for the real thing, maybe even love that will finally get him to the church on time.

2. Run-DMC

‘Sucker M.C.’S’

Run-DMC’s bombshell debutsingle flipped hip-hop from club music to street music. As Jam Master Jay said, “There never was a B-boy record made until we made ‘Sucker M.C.’s.’” It’s two rappers from Hollis, Queens, boasting about their wild style — “I cold chill at the party in a B-boy stance” — over the toughest stripped-down DMX beats. This sound wasn’t designed for disco speakers — it was built to blast out of boomboxes on street corners. Like Run says, “You’re a five-dollar boy, and I’m a million-dollar man/You the sucker M.C., and you’re my fan.” Suddenly everything else in rap was old-school. Run, DMC, and Jay put their B-boy stance front and center: The stance was the star. The golden age of hip-hop was about to begin, with Run-DMC leading the way.

1. Eddy Grant

‘Electric Avenue’

“Electric Avenue” summedup everything radical and innovative about the sound of 1983. Eddy Grant blasted out of nowhere with this concrete-jungle smash, chanting, “We’re gonna rock down to Electric Avenue/And then we’ll take it higher!” What a song: It’s reggae, it’s synth-pop, it’s punk, it’s funk, it’s a political rant, it’s a call to the dance floor. It’s an avant-garde experiment, yet it also blew up into a Top 10 hit. It’s kept rocking the airwaves ever since, and it’s always mind-blowing.

(Video) BEST SONGS OF 1983

Grant was a 35-year-old veteran of the London scene; he wrote the Clash classic “Police on My Back.” But he wrote “Electric Avenue” after the 1981 Brixton riots, where African-Caribbean youth battled the police. “I could have easily been one of those guys with no hope,” heexplained. “I knew that when people felt they were being left behind, there was potential for violence. The song was intended as a wake-up call.” He played every instrument, producing in his Barbados home studio, with a snare-drum loop distorted to sound like a revving motorcycle. His voice hits home with a no-bullshit adult style of working-class anger, growling, “Can’t get food for the kid—goodgaaaawd!”

“Electric Avenue” is a 1983 classic that couldn’t have happened in any other year. Before that, it never would have had a shot at the American audience, because it didn’t fit any radio format. But it sounded right at home in the eclectic mix of MTV, which kept pushing and pushing it until the radio finally caved. “Electric Avenue” was the kind of hit that defines a moment in time. But years down the line, it still sounds like the future.

From Rolling Stone US.


The 100 Best Songs of 1983, the Year Pop Went Crazy? ›

The longest running number-one single of 1983 is "Every Breath You Take" by the Police at eight weeks. That year, 9 acts reached number one for the first time: Toto, Patti Austin, James Ingram, Dexys Midnight Runners, Irene Cara, The Police, Eurythmics, Michael Sembello, and Bonnie Tyler.

What was the #1 song in 1983? ›

The longest running number-one single of 1983 is "Every Breath You Take" by the Police at eight weeks. That year, 9 acts reached number one for the first time: Toto, Patti Austin, James Ingram, Dexys Midnight Runners, Irene Cara, The Police, Eurythmics, Michael Sembello, and Bonnie Tyler.

What big event happened in music in 1983? ›

February 26 – Michael Jackson's Thriller album hits #1 on the US charts, the first of thirty-seven (non-consecutive) weeks it would spend there on its way to becoming the biggest-selling album of all time.

Why was 1983 the best year for music? ›

11 Reasons Why 1983 Was the Best Year in '80s Music
  • It was hottest year for breakthroughs and best new artists since 1964.
  • It was a “Thriller” year.
  • Musically speaking, 1984 hasn't aged so well.
  • The music from “Flashdance” has held up a lot better than 1984's “Footloose” soundtrack.
  • Prince became a pop superstar.
Nov 16, 2018


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