As someone who considers herself to be a child of the 1980s, I enjoy the music from that era very much. Unfortunately, I enjoy it so much so that it can be hard to come up with the most memorable songs from the decade. And since the 1980s also ushered in the era of the music video, one has to factor how much the music video for a song plays a part in making it memorable. But, after some consideration, this is what I’ve come up with.
First and foremost, I would have to say that Devo’s “Whip It” is a memorable song from the 1980s. When you hear the song, you can just visualize Mark Mothersbaugh and the rest of the band in their weird red hats and wielding the whips. It also helps that the song itself has a very catchy sound.
Another memorable song from the 1980s would be Toni Basil’s “Mickey.” The song itself is very catchy, including a cheerleader-type chant in the middle. And once you factor in the cheesy music video with the bad cheerleading choreography, it makes the song even more memorable.
In 1989, Was (Not Was) released the song “Walk the Dinosaur.” The song itself quickly became a big novelty song, thanks to the strange lyrics and catchy music. The video helped to add to the song’s novelty factor, with dancers dressed up as cavemen and cavewomen, and seeing animated dinosaurs appearing in the video.
Another memorable song from the late 1980s would be Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” This a cappella track stood out from the other songs being released at the time, and it came out at just the right moment. The theme of the song fit the mood in the U.S. at that time, and was even quickly snapped up to be used during the 1988 presidential campaign.
In 1985, Madonna released “Material Girl” as a single from her album, Like a Virgin. While the song itself is catchy in its own right, the music video helped cement the song into the consciousness of music listeners at the time. When you hear the song, you can envision the music video, where Madonna mimics Marilyn Monroe’s performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” came out around the same time, and has gone on to become a classic “power ballad” from the mid-1980s. It’s become so memorable not so much for its music video, but because it evokes feelings that many listeners can relate to.
While there are other songs that came out in the 1980s that are also considered to be memorable, these are the first ones that came into my head.