Top 10 80s Songs That Got Popular Again

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Top 10 80s Songs That Got Popular Again

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jacob Pitts
Thanks to their use in movies, TV, commercials, and memes, these songs have endured. For this list, we'll be looking at songs from the 1980s that made a comeback in later years. Our countdown includes “Tainted Love”, “Take On Me”, "Total Eclipse of the Heart”, and more!
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top 10 80s songs that got popular again


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 80s songs that got popular again.

For this list, we’ll be looking at songs from the 1980s that made a comeback in later years. Thanks to their use in movies, TV, commercials, and memes, they've endured the test of time and been embraced by a new generation.

Let us know your favorites down below, and which other 80s songs you’d like to see resurrected.

#10: “The Safety Dance”

Men Without Hats

Our list begins with a quirky new wave song about pogo dancing. After the death of disco in the early 80s, pogoing was the new style of dance. Consisting of jumping up and down in place, Men Without Hats lead singer Ivan Doroschuk was kicked out of a club for trying the trend, and wrote “The Safety Dance” in protest. The song later appeared on “South Park” in 2015, and Alaska Airlines filmed a parody video in 2020 to promote their COVID-19 safety precautions. With lyrics about hand-washing and mask-wearing, the company chose the perfect song to get the message across.

#9: “Tainted Love”

Soft Cell

With a beat this infectious, it’s easy to see why “Tainted Love” continues to bewitch well into the 21st century. Its opening synth instantly transports the listener to a seedy underground club from the future, making its inclusion in “Doctor Who” a no-brainer. In the second episode of the 2005 revival series, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor can be seen dancing to it at Lady Cassandra’s end-of-the-world party. A year later, Rihanna sampled the song in her hit “SOS,” referencing other 80s throwbacks by A-ha, Michael Jackson, and Tears for Fears in the lyrics. Contrary to popular belief, “Tainted Love” precedes the 2000s and the 80s: before Soft Cell covered it, it was actually a 60s soul song by Gloria Jones.

#8: “Livin’ On a Prayer”

Bon Jovi

Everyone loves some 80s cheese, and “Livin’ On a Prayer” is a giant wheel of it. Bon Jovi’s 1986 signature anthem about a struggling working-class couple continues to be referenced in pop culture today, with even their own songs calling back to it. The arena rockers mention Tommy and Gina in their 2000 hit “It’s My Life,” dedicating the song to them for never backing down. In 2013, “Livin’ on a Prayer” made a comeback to the charts, after a 2009 video of a Boston Celtics fan dancing his heart out in the bleachers went viral. The song also appears in season 3 of “Supergirl,” when villainess Reign breaks into prison.

#7: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”

Tears for Fears

Nothing ever lasts forever...except this song’s legacy. Possibly one of the deepest chart-toppers ever recorded, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”’s existentialist lyrics grow more relevant with every passing year—having Lorde cover it can’t hurt, either. While Tears for Fears’ original version contrasts its heavy lyrics with upbeat production, Lorde’s 2013 cover for the “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack goes full dystopian in true Capitol fashion. With its profound lines about greed, corruption, and human nature in the Cold War era, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” continues to resonate with listeners around the world no matter the decade.

#6: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

Eurythmics

Who are we to disagree? Despite its title, “Sweet Dreams” sounds more like a nightmare. The 1983 hit’s ominous vibe has made it a favorite for modern movie trailers, from “A Wrinkle in Time” to “House of Gucci.” It’s also been covered numerous times, most notably by Marilyn Manson in 1995. His industrial rock rendition ramped the creepy factor up to 11, with Billboard calling its music video one of the scariest of all time. Actress Emily Browning also covered “Sweet Dreams” for the 2011 film “Sucker Punch,” and Britney Spears sampled it in “Everybody,” from her 2007 album “Blackout.” “Sweet Dreams” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2020, solidifying its status as a timeless 80s gem.

#5: “Take On Me”

A-ha

Synth-pop is one of the 1980s’ most beloved genres, and “Take On Me” is arguably its crowning achievement. A sonic sugar rush from beginning to end, it gave Norwegian trio A-ha their first and only #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as one of the most iconic music videos of the MTV era. Flashforward to 2013, when it was sampled by the most unlikely artist possible: Pitbull. His duet with Christina Aguilera, “Feel This Moment,” transformed the iconic keyboard melody into a party song. When the rapper-singer duo performed at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, they invited original A-ha singer Morten Harket on stage to celebrate the song’s renewed success.

#4: “Careless Whisper”

George Michael

Whether or not you lived through the 80s, you’re almost certainly familiar with this steamy saxophone riff. George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” hits perfectly when you’re seeking out a serious, soulful breakup jam, but its flair for the dramatic is undeniably funny out of context. The song was used in memes galore throughout the 2010s, and even received a major movie moment thanks to its inclusion in “Deadpool.” In the film’s final minute, Wade pulls out his phone to play “Careless Whisper” during his big kiss scene with Vanessa, leading into the end credits where an animated Deadpool plays the saxophone.


#3: “Africa”

Toto

The arrival of “Stranger Things” in 2016 introduced Generation Z to dozens of 80s classics, but none have received a boost quite like Toto’s soft-rock masterpiece. In the show’s series premiere, “Africa” blasts over Nancy and Steve’s makeout session. The song proved extremely popular among young fans of the show, and Weezer took note of its renewed popularity: the band’s 2018 rendition became their first #1 hit on Billboard’s Alternative chart in a decade. They weren’t the only ones to jump on the “Africa” bandwagon—later that year, Pitbull sampled it in “Ocean to Ocean,” which played in the DC film “Aquaman” to unintentionally hilarious effect.

#2: “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

Bonnie Tyler

The 1980s were full of bombastic power ballads, but none are as beloved (and ridiculed) as “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Thanks to its massive chorus and melodramatic lyrics, a 2013 survey saw it voted the most popular song to sing in the shower, over more recent hits by Justin Bieber and One Direction. Much like Mariah Carey around the holidays, it also gets a bump whenever there’s a real-life solar or lunar eclipse. During the solar eclipse of August 2017, Bonnie Tyler performed the song on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with Joe Jonas’s band DNCE backing her. Despite its story of falling apart, new listeners are still falling in love with “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

#1: “Never Gonna Give You Up”

Rick Astley

Just as its lyrics promised, this 80s smash hit is never gonna say goodbye. Three decades after its release, “Never Gonna Give You Up” resurfaced in 2007 when 4chan users posted disguised links to the music video at unexpected moments. The now-common practice, known as Rickrolling, revived singer Rick Astley’s career and became one of the biggest memes in Internet history. Astley, who originally called the meme “weird,” eventually embraced the song’s second life and gave a surprise performance at the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As of 2021, the “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video has over 1 billion views, and the song has cemented its place in past and present pop culture.
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