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Top Ten Dance Songs of the 80’s

Dance Clubs, Dance Songs, Ratt, The 80's

Ah, the 80’s – big hair, big earrings, big belts. Leg warmers, headbands, and Pat Benatar makeup. Pacman, MTV, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The Brat Pack, AquaNet Hairspray, and Vans shoes. Like, for sure dude, a lot of totally awesome gnarly words were coined in the 80’s, too. But who can forget 80’s music? Pop, new wave, punk, and rock and roll were all popular. Here’s my list of top ten dance songs of the 80’s!

1. “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive. Number one of the top ten dance songs of the 80’s, this buoyant and infectious song was a huge dance club hit in 1985. Because music videos were going full force by then, much attention was given to the flamboyant and androgynous style of front man Pete Burns. Big hair and lots of makeup were not just for women anymore!

2. “1999” by Prince. You can’t have an 80’s dance song list without Prince. Although he released his first album in 1978, he became well known for the song “1999” released in the early 80’s. It was a HUGE dance hit. He too sported big hair, flamboyant clothes and a “beautiful people” lifestyle. He went on to release several successful albums, but nothing holds a place in my heart like “1999”.

3. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. When the Thriller music video came out, my friends and I were glued to MTV. We couldn’t get enough of the movie-style story, the killer costumes, and the awesome dancing. Thriller was also a big dance club hit. It was so long, it was like doing aerobics, but we loved it anyway. Kudos to the movie 13 Going on 30 for that fun trip back to the 80’s with the “Thriller” dance scene. Go Jennifer Garner.

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4. “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles. Released in 1986, this follow-up hit to “Manic Monday” made a big splash both as a music video and a dance hit. This all-girl band brought forward a brief dance “craze” with what we called Egyptian hands. If you’ve seen the video, you know what we mean! I do recall, however, that the boys were not really looking at the Egyptian hands so much as the Egyptian…costumes. Ahem – boys are the same in any era.

5. “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Before becoming a big hit in the United States in mid-1984, the song “Relax” gained notoriety in Great Britain when a DJ stopped the song mid-way through after realizing what the lyrics were really about. This helped propel the popularity of the song in the U.S., but so did the sort of funky techno beat and strong, if limited to one note, bass line. It was a popular choice in dance clubs, always fun to dance and sing to. May I just say – the lyrics are pretty tame compared to today’s songs.

6. “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. Aha! You thought this well recognized song was from the 1970’s, but it’s not – it was released in 1980. “Funkytown” may be one of the most recognized one-hit wonder songs ever played in dance clubs around the U.S and the world. It even reached #2 in the United Kingdom. Some say it is the last disco-era song, and that may be true. It’s not rock and it’s not pop, but it is eminently danceable. We loved it then, and we love it now.

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7. “What I Like About You” by The Romantics. Released in 1980, “What I Like About You” was not an immediate big success. Gradually, though, it did become an oft-requested dance hit, probably in part due to strong commercial usage in the late 80’s. It’s short and to the point, energetic and fun, a really great dance tune.

8. “Whip It” by Devo. Yeah, they’re kind of weird, but get a load of their synthesizers. “Whip It”, released in 1980, was a highly danceable new wave hit with frequent MTV showings. I’m not really sure what expandable plastic red bowls worn as hats had to do with breaking your momma’s back or taking care of life’s problems, but then again, who cares? Way too fun to dance to.

9. “Jump” by Van Halen. Departing a bit from their hard rock image, Van Halen released “Jump” in 1984 with resounding success. Although it wasn’t a pop dance-y song like most in the 1980’s, energetic lead singer David Lee Roth and killer guitarist Eddie Van Halen made it popular at dance clubs. Only the real dorks actually jumped during the chorus, though. NO, I did not jump.

10. “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News. More rock and less pop, this song nevertheless became a dance hit in 1983. This band always seemed sort of blue collar, down-home, and predictable, but we did love to dance to “I Want a New Drug”. You’re right – at the time, we girls did think Huey looked kinda old.

There are so many other well-loved (not just dance) songs from the 80’s that another list may be in order. Who can forget Tears for Fears’ “Shout”, A-Ha’s “Take on Me”, A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran”, ZZ Top’s ‘Legs”, Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, REO Speedwagon’s “Take It on the Run”, and Ratt with “Round and Round? For now, though, these are my favorite top ten dance songs of the 80’s.