T

he 1980s was a decade of bold style, colors, and unforgettable music that continues to influence modern artists and captivate new generations. For Gen Z, diving into the '80s music scene is not just about discovering the roots of today's hits but experiencing the innovation and diversity that characterized a decade. Here are 20 amazing '80s songs that every Gen Z should have on their playlist, complete with a taste of their timeless appeal.

1. "Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson (1982)
A song that needs no introduction, "Billie Jean" features a driving beat and a bassline that's as infectious today as it was in the '80s. Jackson's tale of a woman who claims the narrator is the father of her child captivated audiences worldwide. "She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son."

2. "Sweet Child o' Mine" - Guns N' Roses (1987)
This hard rock anthem showcases Slash's iconic guitar riffs and Axl Rose's unique vocal style. It's a testament to love's power and youth's innocence. "She's got eyes of the bluest skies as if they thought of rain."

3. "Take on Me" - a-ha (1984)
Known for its catchy synth line and innovative rotoscope-animated music video, "Take on Me" is an upbeat track that epitomizes the '80s sound and visual artistry. "I'll be gone in a day or two."

4. "Like a Virgin" - Madonna (1984)
Madonna's dance-pop anthem became a defining moment in her career, celebrating love's fresh and joyful discovery. "Hey, you made me feel shiny and new."

5. "Every Breath You Take" - The Police (1983)
With its haunting melody and Sting's evocative lyrics, this song reflects the obsession and loss in a relationship. Often misinterpreted as a love song, its depth resonates with listeners across generations. "Every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you."

6. "Livin' on a Prayer" - Bon Jovi (1986)
This rock anthem tells the story of Tommy and Gina, two kids working to make it through tough times. Its message of hope and perseverance is universal. "We've got to hold on to what we've got."

7. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" - Cyndi Lauper (1983)
An anthem for female empowerment and sheer enjoyment, Cyndi Lauper's hit is a vibrant call to live life to the fullest. "When the working day is done, oh girls, they want to have fun."

8. "Beat It" - Michael Jackson (1982)
With its famous Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, "Beat It" is a powerful fusion of rock and pop. Its message to avoid violence and walk away from a fight is as relevant today as it was in the '80s. "No one wants to be defeated."

9. "Under Pressure" - Queen & David Bowie (1981)
A collaboration between two of the biggest names in music, this song tackles the stress and challenges of life, underlined by its famous bass riff. "Pressure pushing down on me."

10. "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey (1981)
An enduring rock anthem that has found new life in movies, TV shows, and sports events. Its message of hope and holding on to dreams is timeless. "Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit."

11. "Tainted Love" - Soft Cell (1981)
A synth-pop interpretation of a soul classic, "Tainted Love" captures the anguish of a failing relationship with its catchy beat and memorable synth lines. "Now I run from you, this tainted love you've given."

12. "With or Without You" - U2 (1987)
This haunting ballad explores the complexity of love and dependency, showcasing Bono's emotional vocal delivery. "With or without you, I can't live."

13. "Thriller" - Michael Jackson (1982)
An iconic track known for its groundbreaking music video, "Thriller" is a blend of pop and horror, showcasing Jackson's ability to innovate and entertain. "Cause this is thriller, thriller night!"

14. "Dancing in the Dark" - Bruce Springsteen (1984)
A rock anthem that captures the frustration and desire for change, Springsteen's earnest lyrics and energetic performance make this a quintessential '80s hit. "You can't start a fire without a spark."

15. "Purple Rain" - Prince (1984)
A soulful blend of rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music, "Purple Rain" showcases Prince's extraordinary talent and depth as an artist. "I never wanted to be your weekend lover."

16. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" - Wham! (1984)
An exuberant expression of joy and youthful energy, this song is a pop masterpiece that's impossible not to dance to. "Wake me up before you go-go, don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo."

17. "Africa" - Toto (1982)
With its rich instrumentation and evocative lyrics, "Africa" is a soft rock anthem that has captivated listeners for decades. "I bless the rains down in Africa."

18. "Eye of the Tiger" - Survivor (1982)
The ultimate motivational anthem, "Eye of the Tiger" was made famous as the theme song for "Rocky III," embodying the spirit of determination and triumph. "It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight."

19. "The Safety Dance" - Men Without Hats (1982)
An infectious synth-pop track that promotes freedom of expression and non-conformity, its quirky video and catchy chorus have ensured its place in '80s lore. "We can dance if we want to."

20. "Back in Black" - AC/DC (1980)
A hard rock anthem that marked the band's comeback, "Back in Black" features one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history. "Back in black, I hit the sack."


The '80s were a time of musical diversity and innovation, producing songs that remain influential and beloved. For Gen Z, exploring these tracks is not just a lesson in music history but an invitation to experience the depth and variety of human expression through song.

Stay up to date with timeless music at Woke Waves Magazine.

#80sMusic #RetroVibes #GenZPlaylist #IconicTracks #MusicalJourney

-> The '90s Soundtrack: A Gen Z Guide To The Decade's Best Hits
-> Retro Vibes: 20 Amazing '70s Tracks Every Gen Z Should Jam To

Posted 
Mar 9, 2024
 in 
Entertainment
 category

More from 

Entertainment

 category

View All

Join Our Newsletter and Get the Latest
Posts to Your Inbox

No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.