37 Best 80s Rock Songs Ever, These’ll Go Down in History

Best 80s Rock Songs Ever

Soft rock and glam metal are some of the most defining genres of the 80s. Rock n' roll is all about jamming out and letting loose. Rock songs are defined by electric instruments, repetitious phrases, and high energy. Check out these 37 rock songs from the 80s that will never get old.

“Livin on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

Song year: 1986

If you ever need a little more motivation to make it through a hard time, then this song is for you. It's about two people who are just trying to do their best to succeed and struggling along the way.

The chorus is cathartic and lively, creating a sense of determination to make it through. Fighting the good fight and believing that you'll survive is what this song is all about.

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen

Song year: 1980

The simple drum beat in this iconic Queen song is almost impossible not to immediately recognize. Freddie Mercury's unique and throaty vocals bring so much energy to the song.

Listening to this song, your head will bop up and down, and your foot will tap along to the beat.

“Don't Stop Believin” by Journey

Song year: 1981

This is one of the most iconic and recognizable rock songs. The opening keyboard riff is a great primer to the lead singer's incredible vocals.

Staying true to a common theme in the rock genre, this song is about making a fresh start and believing in your dreams no matter what. It's an incredibly uplifting song that many critics have described as a near-perfect electronic rock anthem.

“Hit Me with Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar

Song year: 1980

When people think of rock, they often think of iconic male singers. But women have played a large role in rock n' roll as well.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar shows how women can rock out just as hard as men. Benatar's iconic 80s voice makes this song about picking yourself back up after a breakup into one that anyone can relate to, and everyone will want to sing along to.

The song tells the listener to come at Pat Benatar with everything they have to try and hurt her and that she be able to handle it no matter what. So, bring it on!

“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones

Song year: 1981

Few bands embody the rock n' roll spirit like The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger, the lead singer, is known for his confidence on stage and ability to connect with an audience.

The Rolling Stones pushed the limits of their performances and were never afraid to be themselves and show their authenticity. This is a classic song that belongs on any rock playlist.

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leopard

Song year: 1987

The iconic chorus of Pour Some Sugar on Me is a staple for every rock enthusiast that will definitely go down in history. Joe Elliot brings life to this song like no other, and it's also been used in classic movies such as Coyote Ugly.

Known as the band's signature song, this title was originally put out on their album Hysteria and has remained an exceptional part of rock history ever since.

“Hungry Like a Wolf” by Duran Duran

Song year: 1982

This song is all about feeling alive and following your desires. Written by the members of the British rock band Duran Duran, this song quickly topped the charts in the US with its debut on their 1982 album Rio.

The popularity of the music video also catapulted the band into international fame.

“Sweet Child O' Mine” by Guns N Roses

Song year: 1987

Rock enthusiasts and guitar artists know the opening riff to this song by heart. This song is lauded by critics as one of those songs that never gets old. In fact, many people describe it as getting even better to listen to as it ages.

Not only is the electric guitar in this song truly incredible, but the lyrics also bring more depth to it that adds even more to this song's ability to stay great more than forty years after its initial release.

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions

Song year: 1984

You'll feel like you're in a hurricane of energetic vocals and mind-blowing guitar riffs when you listen to this one. If you need a good song to party to, then this is the one.

Put this one on the stereo and turn up the volume, and you'll have everyone singing along in no time.

“I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Song year: 1981

This is one of the best iconic rock anthems that history will not forget. What could be better than a rock song about rock music! This song is all about sharing a love of music and jamming out with people who also know how to rock out.

If you're feeling nostalgic for those days of adding a coin to the jukebox and putting on a song everyone will love, then this one is definitely for you.

“Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi

Song year: 1986

For the loner's who have seen a lot in life, this song speaks to the experience of the independent cowboys who've made it through enough in their lives to have made some enemies.

Bon Jovi is one of the most iconic names in rock n roll, and the chorus to this song, with its lulling melody and minimal beats, will go down in rock history forever.

“Don't You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds

Song year: 1985

Jud Nelson and the rest of the crew from The Breakfast Club are calling your name. I dare you to try not to pump your fist in the air when you hear this song.

This track by Simple Minds is not only an amazing rock song but one of the most defining sounds from the 80s decade as a whole. It's a true classic.

“Every Breath You Take” by The Police

Song year: 1983

Rock n roll is known for its repetitious lyrics that somehow never get old. This track by The Police is one of those songs with elegantly simple verses and lyrics.

It speaks to obsession and the turmoil of heartbreak. Rock n roll is just as much about tough emotions and letting them out as it is about having fun and jamming out.

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

Song year: 1982

If you need a good rock song to excite you up and get you to focus, then this is it. Eye of the Tiger is about keeping your eye on the prize and not letting other relationships get in your way.

If you've ever watched a classic movie with a workout montage, then this song is most likely accompanying it. The drums are front and center in this track, creating a rock n' roll vibe that is sure to get you ready to move your body.

“We're Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister

Song year: 1984

Twisted Sister embodies glam rock like no other. If the man has ever gotten you down or your boss is frustrating you, play this song in the car, and you'll feel invincible.

This song is all about living your life the way you want to and not letting others get you down or take advantage of you.

“Beat It” by Michael Jackson

Song year: 1982

Although he's known as the King of Pop music, Michael Jackson's Beat It is often described as a great rock song. With a repetitious beat and guitar solo played by none other than Eddie Van Halen, this song blends rock and pop seamlessly.

“Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen

Song year: 1984

Another iconic rock anthem, Bruce Springsteen's rough and throaty vocals, make this song of the most rock n' roll tracks to go down in history.

A lot of rock n' roll is about fighting the man and going against the establishment. That's what this song is all about. Rock n' roll songs like this one are about questioning the status quo and stand up for what you think is right.

Largely inspired as a song against the Vietnam war, Born in the USA speaks to themes and attitudes that are popular across the rock genre.

“Back in Black” by AC/DC

Back in Black by AC/DC

Song year: 1980

AC/DC is a staple for any 80s rock playlist. The opening guitar and simple beat as the opening to this song make it easily recognizable even for those who don't listen to very much rock.

The guitar riffs on this track are incredible. Bon Scott, the lead singer, had passed away before the song was released and ended up signaling to fans that the band would be able to survive beyond the tragedy.

“I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

Song year: 1984

This song is speaking to the feelings of loneliness and wanting to have more love in your life. These are feelings and worries that are universal no matter who you are.

We've all longed for a person or an experience that we're too afraid to go after because of our past. You won't be able to stop yourself from singing along to the chorus.

“The Final Countdown” by Europe

Song year: 1986

For all you classic metal fans, this one is for you. The simple keyboard riff throughout the song, along with the story described in the lyrics, is very unique. The lead singer Joey Tempest wrote the song based on the keyboard riff first, which helps explain why this instrument is front and center throughout the entire song.

“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake

Song year: 1982

At first glance, this song seems like it's all about facing your future head-on and relying on yourself. However, many others find this song as a representation of the loneliness often felt after realizing that you have to leave your past behind you.

David Coverdale brings energy and charisma to the song that made the music video which appeared on MTV, entrancing to a wide audience.

“Every Rose Has It's Thorn” by Poison

Song year: 1988

This song is all about the presence of the bad with every aspect of the good. With every good thing that comes, there's always going to be a painful or hurtful side to it.

An iconic song about heartbreak and longing, this rock song will put in your feels over that breakup.

“One” by Metallica

Song year: 1988

This anti-war song about a struggling soldier is about the lingering effects of the past. It was the first song to win a Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category and has remained one of the most popular songs by the band throughout their entire discography.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash

Song year: 1981

This song was originally released in 1981 but didn't receive quite as much popularity until it was used in a Levi's jeans commercial almost ten years later.

A unique part of his song is the inclusion of Spanish lyrics echoing the English ones.

“Angel” by Aerosmith

Song year: 1987

Have you ever felt so intensely for someone that you can't imagine your life without them?

Angel by Aerosmith is a great rock track about intense love that's unlike anything else and the beauty of seeing the best in someone else.

“With or Without You” by U2

Song year: 1987

An emotional track from U2, this rock ballad is about the struggle of both being with someone and being without them.

Relationships can get really complex, and this song speaks to the contradicting emotions many people can feel when they love someone but can't be with them because it's just as painful to be in their life as it is to be apart.

“Is This Love” by Whitesnake

Song year: 1987

That feeling of newly falling in love really can't be beat. While rock isn't always immediately thought of as a genre that focuses on love so much, some of the songs iconic the genre, like “Is This Love,” can inspire hope about falling in love with someone new and questioning your feelings.

“Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest

Song year: 1980

Judas Priest is commonly known as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. This song is for the rebellious spirit inside all of us.

Sometimes life can feel so monotonous, and you just have to break the rules in order to feel something. Isn't that what rock n' roll is all about?

“Keep on Loving You” by REO Speedwagon

Song year: 1980

REO Speedwagon had been in the rock game since the 60s but gained massive popularity in the 80s.

This song is about loving someone even though they've done things to hurt you. The narrator of the lyrics has been cheated on but says that they can't help but feel like they're going to keep their promise of loving the person no matter what.

“Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses

Song year: 1987

Guns N' Roses explores the culture of the rock scene in Los Angeles, California, in this high-energy song.

The things that band members and many others encounter when they move to the city to pursue fame often have a dark side to them, which makes for great material in a rock song.

“Ace of Spades” by Motorhead

Song year: 1980

On the surface, this song is about gambling, but it's really about the role of fate and chance in the real world. Life is often unpredictable, and we're usually making moves and being dealt a hand that we don't have control over.

Ace of Spades, with its guitar riffs and the rhythm of the lyrics, make this song punchy and energetic.

“Girls Girls Girls” by Motley Crue

Song year: 1987

Such a large part of rock culture was the abundance of glamourous women who would hang around the band members.

Motley Crue describes what's it's like to have beautiful women around while living the rock n' roll lifestyle. This is a great song to sing along to!

“How Soon is Now” by The Smiths

Song year: 1984

A common part of being rock n' roll is an outcast sometimes. Many rock fans don't always fit in with popular culture or society and turn to other mischiefs or outliers for connection.

This song is all about feeling disconnected from others and the emotions that come with not fitting in.

“Walk this Way” by Run DMC

Song year: 1986

This song was given a new life when it was covered by Run DMC after being originally released by Aerosmith in the 70s.

It paved the way for a unique genre that came further into the mix during the 80s: rap-rock. It's a unique song that is definitely well worth the listen and inclusion in rock playlists.

“Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles

Song year: 1986

This song was designed for dancing. The Bangles The funky beat and tambourine make the song energetic but with just enough pop influence.

It's a great lighthearted song for all the rock fans out there that was some great female vocals and fun lyrics.

“When Doves Cry” by Prince

Song year: 1984

Many have attempted to dig deeper into Prince's lyrics, uncovering the meanings behind their symbolism.

One thing is certain, the synth and pop influences on this incredible track are addictive. Prince was a pioneer in many ways, and this song speaks to his musical genius and talent.

“Nowhere to Run” by KISS

Song year: 1982

No list of iconic rock songs can be complete without KISS. This song is about pining for a woman who would rather stay with her boyfriend, who treats her badly rather than accept the narrator's love.

It's a bummer for sure, but the melodic vocals and classic rock guitar create a great song that many rock enthusiasts love.

Best 80s Rock Songs, Final Thoughts

These rock songs will live forever in history. Their classic instrumentation and easy-to-follow-along lyrics make it a genre that so many people love.

The popular songs on this list are especially recognizable, even for listeners who don't fancy themselves hardcore fans of metal or glam rock.

Add these songs to your playlists of great classics today!

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