The party music from the 80s was just as varied as the fashion that was worn at that time. With flashy colors and eye-catching hairstyles, the carrot jeans, neon jackets, and mesh shirts were proudly worn. Especially in clubs, such clothes were the rage.
The 1980s hits cover a wide range of music genres such as new wave, synth-pop, hard rock, and hip-hop.
Of course, the King of Pop Michael Jackson was often represented at 80s parties, and he has five songs in our playlist. The Queen of Pop Madonna, who became internationally successful in 1983 with her debut album “Madonna”, is also represented in the 80s party playlist with her song “Like A Prayer”. Other music stars who created a buzz in the eighties were u. a. Guns N’ Roses, A-Ha, Blondie, Wham!, Whitney Houston, and Billy Idol.
German 80s music may not be missing of course also on a true eighties party. For the German audience, among others, Nena with “99 Luftballons” produced a hit, which also became internationally extremely successful. In addition to Nena, the Austrian Falco was also a real party hit with his hit singles “Rock Me Amadeus”, “Der Kommissar” or “Jeanny”.
But the most successful German artists were others. The German pop music duo Modern Talking took the cake with the English-language song “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul”. The song was in the top 10 in 13 countries and sold over eight million copies.
The single got 250 gold and platinum records.
(At the end of the article, we have created a Spotify playlist for you with all the songs listed here.)
Listen to the best 80s party hits:
01. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
The rock composition was written by the American band Journey and was released in 1981. “Don’t Stop Believin'” is one of the most successful and best 80’s party hits. The song reached #9 on the singles chart in the U.S. and the Top 10 in the U.K. Critics call “Don’t Stop Believin'” a perfect feel-good rock song and the keyboard riff at the beginning one of the best riffs in rock history.
This hit song also achieved great fame through its use in numerous television series. The principle of the song is that one should never give up pursuing and realizing one’s desires.
02. Funkytown – Lipps Inc.
Lipps Inc., an American disco band from Minneapolis achieved a number 1 hit with “Funkytown” in 1980 in the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and 24 other countries. This was the greatest success of the band.
Before “Casablanca Records” released the song, there were first many cancellations from other record companies. “Funkytown” was composed when the members of the band lived in Minneapolis and dreamed of moving to New York. In total, the single achieved 1x silver, 2x gold, and 1x platinum. The cover version by Pseudo Echo reached #1 on the charts in New Zealand, Canada, and Australia in the 1990s.
03. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
“Billie Jean” was released in 1983 as the second single from the album Thriller. In the song composed by Michael, a woman claims Michael is the father of her child. In Jackson’s autobiography Moonwalk, it is explained that the song lyrics are not based on a true event. Sold over one million copies in the U.S. and over five million copies worldwide, making “Billie Jean” Jackson’s most successful single.
In the USA Jackson reached platinum status in 1989. The song was number 1 on the charts in many countries. At the 1984 Grammy Awards, “Billie Jean” was honored with two Grammys for “Best Male Vocal Performance – R&B” and “Best R&B Song”.
04. Like A Prayer – Madonna
The song “Like a Prayer” was written and released in 1989. Reached number 1 on the charts in many countries around the world. The release of the advanced single “Like a Prayer” became a scandal.
In the video, Madonna observes the murder of a woman and how an African-American man rushing to help is arrested by the police as the culprit. Madonna hides from the real culprits in a church. She displays stigmata on her hands, kisses a black saint, and dances on a field of burning crosses. These crosses led to the video being boycotted and canceled in the U.S., Europe was shocked because of the blasphemous scenes.
However, these reactions ensured that “Like A Prayer” became Madonna’s seventh № 1 single in the U.S.
05. You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi
Originally the track, written by Desmond Child, was the rough version for Bonnie Tyler’s song “If You Were a Woman”, but it became a flop. Desmond Child reworked the music with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, this time intended for the band Loverboy.
But since Jon and Richie liked the title very much, they decided that Bon Jovi should release the title in 1986 as “You Give Love A Bad Name”. In the lyrics, a woman breaks a man’s heart and plays with his emotions. The single became the first number 1 hit of the band.
06. Red Red Wine – UB40
The original version of this 80s party song was written by Neil Diamond but only reached #63 on the US charts in 1968. The British reggae group UB40 recorded a cover version in 1983 and it reached #1 on the charts in the UK and #34 in the US in 1983.
In 1988, DJ Bobby Stark recorded a dance version of the song, making “Red Red Wine” popular again. UB40’s record label, A&M Records, re-released the UB40 version as a single in 1988. This now became a worldwide success and also rose to number 1 on the charts in the USA.
The lyrics are about a man who has lost his Heartbreak processed with red wine.
07. Physical – Olivia Newton-John
This song is one of the most successful 80s party hits and was released as a single version in 1981. “Physical” sold millions of copies in the U.S. and went platinum. It reached #1 on the US charts in 1981, as well as in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. “Physical” was the world’s best-selling and most successful song of 1981, and was named “Sexiest Song Of All Times”.
08. The Tide Is High – Blondie
The original version was written by the Jamaican band The Paragons in 1967. In 1980, Blondie re-recorded the track, adding strings, horns, steel drums, and congas, and it reached #1 on the UK and US charts. It was the last number 1 ranking before the band broke up. “The Tide Is High” is one of the most successful 80’s party hits.
The song is about a woman who fights for her dream man. Debby Harry expresses this very well through her lyrics: “The current’s strong, but I’ll hold against it, I’ll be your number one. I’m not the kind of girl who just gives up, oh, №”
09. Don’t You Want Me? – Human League
“Don’t You Want Me” is among the best 80s party songs and was released in 1981 by the British synth-pop group Human League. In the UK, “Don’t You Want Me” became the UK’s number one hit in the winter of 1981, selling 1.4 million copies of Christmas hit Number 1. In 1982 the song also reached the top of the US charts. Today, “Don’t You Want Me” is considered a classic of the synth-pop and new wave era.
It was sung by lead singer Philip Oakey and then 17-year-old backup singer Susan Ann Sulley. Oakey denies to this day that this is a Love song is supposed to be about. According to Oakey, it is an uncomfortable song about gender power games.
10. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics
“Sweet Dreams” was composed in 1983 by the band Eurythmics. According to Annie Lennox, it was written on the day of the Separation between her and Dave Stewart and is meant to express what drives people in life. Sweet Dreams reached number 1 on the charts in the U.S., Canada, and France, and on MTV the video was one of the most played clips.
The message of the lyrics is that people are always in a perpetual state of seeking. Lyrics like “I travel the world and the seven seas” and “Everybody is searching for something” show this.
11. I Love Rock ‘N Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“I Love Rock ‘N Roll” was written and released in 1975 by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker, members of the rock band Arrows, but was not a huge success. Joan Jett already wanted to record a cover version with the band The Runaways, but could not convince them of the quality of the song. The first recording was made in 1979 with the punk band “Sex Pistols”, but this version was released only in the Netherlands.
Joan returned to the U.S. in 1980 and recorded the piece again in 1981 with her backing band, The Blackhearts. The single sold over a million copies reached platinum status and number 1 on the US charts in 1982.
12. La Bamba – Los Lobos
“La Bamba” is the theme song from the film of the same name, which depicts the short life of Richie Valens, rock ‘n’ roll star of the 1950s. Valens wrote and published the song in 1958, shortly before the plane crash in which he died. The song, adapted from a 200-year-old Wedding Song from Mexico, is about the rocking of the ships on the sea.
This swing was also transferred to the dance La Bamba. “La Bamba” by Los Lobos became one of the best 80’s party songs and reached the top of the charts in the US and UK.
13. Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff composed this song for the soundtrack of the feature film The Breakfast Club. In 1985, Forsey offered the composition to Scottish band Simple Minds after The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol declined to record the song. Simple Minds also refused at first, because Jim Kerr thought that the band did not need to have music composed for them.
He only wanted to release his own songs. But Forsey didn’t let up, and eventually, Simple Mind was ready to record “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. The single was released worldwide in 1985, reaching #1 on the charts in the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands.
14. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham!
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was written and produced by George Michael in 1984. The song reached #1 in the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and the Netherlands. George was inspired by a note that Andrew Ridgeley’s mother wrote to remind him to wake up on time. Andrew first wrote only “Wake me up” and when he noticed the double “up” he added, “Before You go-go”.
George thought this was so ingenious that he used this line for the lyrics. The song is about a man who is often left alone by his wife but wants to change that.
15. I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” was released worldwide in 1987. Originally composed in a country style, it was later decided to record the song as a dance-pop song because of Whitney’s style. The single reached #1 on the charts in 14 countries and won in the category “Best Female Vocal Performance – Pop” at the 1988 Grammy Awards and in the category “Favorite Pop/Rock Single” at the American Music Awards.
The video for the song is one of the most-played clips on MTV and VH1.
16. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
The song was written by Ed Cobb and originally released by Gloria Jones in 1965. However, this version did not reach a place in the charts. The version by club DJ Richard Searling released in 1976 was also unsuccessful.
Soft Cell knew this club version and released their own slower version in 1981. In addition, Soft Cell used a drum machine and synthesizer instead of the classic rhythm section and horns. In the boom of the synthpop wave and with the help of an appearance on “Top of the Pops”, the single rose to number 1 in the UK and 17 other countries on the charts. In the USA the song stayed in the charts for 43 weeks, the highest position was number 8.
17. Down Under – Men At Work
“Down Under” is a reggae rhythm song by the Australian band Men at Work. The song was the second single from the band’s debut album, Business as Usual, released in October 1981 and was released in 1982. “Down Under” reached #1 on the charts in the US, UK, Australia, Ireland, Poland, Canada, New Zealand, and Switzerland. The lyrics exhort Australia not to lose its cultural identity and tell this through the story of an Australian traveling the world on the hippie trail.
18. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor
“Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor was written by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik in 1981 for the movie Rocky III and released as a single in 1982. Sylvester Stallone commissioned Survivor to compose the music, as Queen refused him the rights for the song “Another One Bites The Dust”, which was first intended for the film. “Eye Of The Tiger” reached #1 on the charts in the US, UK, Australia, and Ireland. Survivor won a Grammy in 1983 in the category “Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals – Rock” and was nominated for an Oscar in the category “Best Movie Song”.
19. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen
“Another One Bites the Dust” was written by John Deacon in 1980 and appeared on the album The Game. On the advice of Michael Jackson, Queen released “Another One Bites The Dust” as a single in August 1980. Sales of the single exceeded 7 million copies and are the band’s best-selling single. The song became #1 on the singles chart in the U.S. and was nominated for a Grammy in 1981 in the category “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal”. “Another One Bites the Dust” means “another one bites the dust” and expresses the feeling of a man who has been mistreated, hurt, and abandoned by his partner.
Wyclef Jean wrote a remix for the movie “Small Soldiers” in the 1990s. The cover version reached top positions in the international charts.
20. Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen
“Dancing In The Dark” was written by Bruce Springsteen in 1984 and produced by him, Jon Landau, and Chuck Plotkin.
The composition was the final track for Springsteen’s album “Born in the U.S.A.” and was released as a single in May 1984. In the U.S., the hit reached № 2 on the charts, and a 1985 re-release of the single reached № 4 in the UK. In the Netherlands and Belgium “Dancing In The Dark” reached the top of the charts.
In 1985, the song won the Grammy in the category “Best Male Vocal Performance – Rock”. The lyrics are a call against the frustration of ordinariness and dullness. Springsteen calls for breaking out of the mundane routine, even if it amounts to dancing in the dark.
It ranks 21-104 on the best party hits from the ’80s:
Each song is linked to its accompanying music video via its title.
|21.||Sweet Child O’ Mine||Guns N’ Roses||1988|
|24.||Skandal Im Sperrbezirk||Spider Murphy Gang||1982|
|25.||My Prerogative||Bobby Brown||1989|
|26.||Jessie’s Girl||Rick Springfield||1981|
|27.||Let’s Go Crazy||Prince||1984|
|28.||Don’t You (Forget About Me)||Simple Minds||1985|
|29.||The Way You Make Me Feel||Michael Jackson||1988|
|30.||Rock With You||Michael Jackson||1980|
|31.||Celebration||Kool & The Gang||1981|
|32.||Take On Me||A-Ha||1985|
|33.||Beat It||Michael Jackson||1983|
|34.||Pour Some Sugar On Me||Def Leppard||1988|
|35.||Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)||Billy Ocean||1984|
|36.||You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul||Modern Talking||1985|
|38.||Eye Of The Tiger||Survivor||1982|
|39.||Rock Me Amadeus||Falco||1985|
|40.||Come On Eileen||Dexy’s Midnight Runners||1983|
|41.||Livin’ On A Prayer||Bon Jovi||1987|
|42.||Centerfold||The J. Geils Band||1982|
|43.||Walk Like An Egyptian||Bangles||1986|
|45.||Rock The Casbah||the Clash||1983|
|46.||Mony Mony||Billy Idol||1987|
|47.||Oh Sheila||Ready For The World||—||1985|
|48.||Looking For Freedom||David Hasselhoff||1989|
|49.||Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst)||Peter Schilling||1983|
|50.||Girls Just Wanna Have Fun||Cyndi Lauper||1984|
|51.||Start Me Up||The Rolling Stones||1981|
|52.||Everybody Have Fun Tonight||Wang Chung||1986|
|54.||Ein Bißchen Frieden||Nicole||1982|
|55.||Let’s Groove||Earth, Wind & Fire||1981|
|57.||Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)||Pink Floyd||1980|
|58.||London Calling||The Clash||1982|
|59.||You Win Again||The Bee Gees||1987|
|60.||Keep Your Hands To Yourself||Georgia Satellites||1987|
|61.||With Or Without You||U2||1987|
|62.||I Feel For You||Chaka Khan||1984|
|64.||Der Nippel||Mike Krüger||—||1980|
|66.||On The Radio||Donna Summer||1980|
|67.||Summer of ’69||Bryan Adams||1985|
|68.||Ich Will Spaß||Markus||1982|
|69.||Fight For Your Right||Beastie Boys||1986|
|70.||All Night Long||Lionel Richie||1983|
|71.||It’s the End of the World as We Know It||R.E.M.||1980|
|72.||Love Shack||The B-52’s||1989|
|73.||You Shook Me All Night Long||AC/DC||1980|
|75.||Time After Time||Cyndi Lauper||1984|
|76.||Born in the U.S.A.||Bruce Springsteen||1984|
|77.||Under Pressure||Queen and David Bowie||1981|
|78.||Walk This Way||Run-D.M.C.||1986|
|79.||In the Air Tonight||Phil Collins||1981|
|82.||Walking On Sunshine||Katrina & The Waves||1985|
|84.||Rock This Town||Stray Cats||1982|
|85.||Glory Days||Bruce Springsteen||1985|
|86.||Cool It Now||New Edition||—||1985|
|87.||Bette Davis Eyes||Kim Carnes||1981|
|88.||Woman In Love||Barbra Streisand||1980|
|89.||White Wedding||Billy Idol||1988|
|90.||Just Can’t Get Enough||Depeche Mode||1981|
|91.||Just Like Heaven||The Cure||1987|
|92.||Janie’s Got a Gun||Aerosmith||1989|
|95.||Da Da Da||Trio||1982|
|96.||Love Will Tear Us Apart||Joy Division||1983|
|97.||Round and Round||Ratt||1984|
|98.||I Want to Know What Love Is||Foreigner||1984|
|99.||Burning Down the House||Talking Heads||1983|
|100.||Maid Of Orleans||OMD||1982|
|101.||Lessons In Love||Level 42||1986|
|102.||Do You Really Want To Hurt Me||Culture Club||1982|
|103.||Girl You Know It’s True||Milli Vanilli||1988|
|104.||Bust a Move||Young MC||1989|
80’s Party Spotify Playlist:
The most successful 80s party hits came from a variety of music genres, pop, rock, soul, funk, or synthpop. They were created in the 80s, but were also popular in the 1990s and are still played by radio stations today.