Billboard's Top Songs of the '80s


The rock generation of the 1960s moved into adulthood as the 1980s moved into the early years of the video and digital ages. MTV, VH1 and the compact disc each emerged in the first half of the decade that opened with the murder of John Lennon. Prince, Madonna and U2 led the '80s in worldwide sales, while computers became viable music creation tools. Both established and emerging genres provided Billboard's top song soundtrack for the Reagan years.

Please Don't Go -- The Early Decade

  • With the exception of one-hit wonder Rupert Holmes and "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," the '80s opened with established '70s acts dominating the first quarter. Blondie's "Call Me" and Kenny Rogers' "Lady" each held top spot for six weeks in 1980. Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" scored nine weeks at No. 1 in 1981, as did "Endless Love," from Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. Olivia Newton-John and "Physical" owned the last six weeks of 1981, finishing a 10-week run in January 1982.

Up Where We Belong -- Electropop Hits the Top

  • The remainder of 1982 saw J. Geils' "Centerfold" and "Eye of the Tiger" from Survivor at No. 1 for six weeks, while Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" matched Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's seven weeks for "Ebony and Ivory." Electronic music topped the Hot 100 for four weeks, between "Chariots of Fire" and "Don't You Want Me." Michael Jackson's huge breakout began in 1983, with 14 weeks at top spot, with "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Say, Say, Say," with McCartney, each reaching No. 1.

Let's Go Crazy -- Chart Balance

  • The middle of the decade saw shorter reigns for top songs. "Jump" from Van Halen and "When Doves Cry" from Prince were the only songs to hit No. 1 for five weeks in 1984. Four weeks was the longest time at the top in 1985, with only "Like a Virgin" from Madonna and "We Are the World" by USA For Africa reaching a month. Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" was the sole 1986 hit to last four weeks.

Satisfied -- To the End of the Decade

  • Increasing diversification of taste continued the trend of four-week runs as a maximum a single could achieve. Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" made it a month in 1987, while George Michael took three weeks at the end of the year as well as the first of 1988 for the run of "Faith." "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood was the only '88 song to last four weeks. Janet Jackson's "Miss You Much" owned October 1989, while 32 songs shared the remaining weeks at top spot.

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