33 Best New Wave Songs In The World

Best New Wave Songs

New wave music dominated the '80s. In a decade full of bold colors and big hair, the dance-driven synthesizer sounds of these quirky pop songs matched up like a perfectly played Rubik's Cube.

Below is our list of the best new wave songs for your next tubular party time!

1. “Heart of Glass” by Blondie

Song year: 1979

New York City punk veterans Blondie scored a hit with their new wave single, “Heart of Glass.” The song is considered one of the greatest tracks ever and helped usher in an era of dance rock.

The single has sold millions of copies worldwide and is one of Blondie's signature songs.

2. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Song year: 1980

Over frantic drumming and piercing synthesizers, Joy Division's Ian Curtis spells out his oblique relationship problems in “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

The song has endured through the decades as an anthem of dancey despair. Adding to its dark tone, Curtis would take his life shortly after recording the single.

3. “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls

Song year: 1982

A Flock of Seagulls' single “I Ran (So Far Away)” is as stylish as it is catchy. The British new wave group took America by storm with its spacey sound and wild hair cuts.

Thanks to the emergence of MTV, the track's music video became a defining image of new wave culture.

4. “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush

Song year: 1985

Kate Bush's eccentricities as a singer-songwriter were a perfect match for the burgeoning studio technology of the '80s. Her single “Running Up That Hill” took the eclectic tendencies of her writing from the '70s and bolstered them with synthesizers and drum machines.

The single was her most successful of the decade.

5. “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs

Song year: 1982

With rock legend Todd Rundgren producing, The Psychedelic Furs updated the '60s concept of free love with their single, “Love My Way.”

The song's juxtaposition of the natural sound of a marimba against cold synthesizers effectively catches the listener's ear long enough to make its point that love is love.

6. “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung

Song year: 1984

Wang Chung topped the Billboard dance chart with their ode to the days of ballroom dancing and big bands, “Dance Hall Days.”

Though the band would find more success later in the decade with a streamlined pop sound, the new wave approach of “Dance Hall Days” helped them capture the zeitgeist.

7. “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club

Song year: 1981

Husband and wife duo Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth cut their teeth as the rhythm section of the Talking Heads before forming Tom Tom Club. Their side project's single, “Genius of Love,” was a surprise success.

The song topped the dance charts and became an oft sampled song, most notably in Mariah Carey's “Fantasy.”

8. “Since You’re Gone” by The Cars

Song year: 1982

The Cars' style of mixing rock and roll structure with new wave elements makes their single “Since You're Gone” sound classic and forward-thinking at the same time.

The song is a ballad disguised as an uptempo rock song. It uses power pop guitar tones and quirky keyboards to give its themes of lost love an anxious energy.

9. “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell

Song year: 1981

“Tainted Love” was originally a soul song performed by Gloria Jones, but after the massive success of Soft Cell's new wave version, the single is now synonymous with the '80s.

By slowing down the song's original tempo and replacing all the instruments with synthesizers, Soft Cell took a forgotten soul classic and turned it into a top ten hit.

10. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

Song year: 1983

Cyndi Lauper's debut single “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” catapulted her to fame. The feminist anthem captured the eccentricities of Lauper as a performer while its catchy chorus begged women across the world to sing along.

The song is one of Lauper's best-known and stands as a playful primer to female empowerment.

11. “I Melt With You” by Modern English

Song year: 1982

Modern English took their experiences living through an economic recession and threat of nuclear war and turned them into a new wave love song in their single “Melt With You.”

The song would be the only hit for Modern English and the first for their indie record label 4AD. It's among one of the most played songs on American radio ever.

12. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics

Song year: 1983

The Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” was written while the duo was in a transitional period. Their earlier band had failed, as had Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart's romantic relationship.

Written from a place of failure, the single was an ironic examination of human nature. It just so happens the song fulfilled their dreams.

13. “Obsession” by Animotion

Song year: 1984

Songwriter Michael Des Barres was recovering from heroin addiction when he wrote “Obsession.” While the track's lyrics read like a love song, the pulsing beat and distorted guitars of Animotion help underline the insidious tale of addiction.

The single would be Animotion's best-known song. Its association with the '80s continually places the track in television and film.

14. “Hold Me Now” by Thompson Twins

Song year: 1983

The Thompson Twins wrote their hit single “Hold Me Now” after bandmates Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie reconciled their romantic relationship. The perspective lends the song tinge of melancholy.

Utilizing Latin percussion and the percussive melodies of a xylophone, the band injects lots of rhythm into their ballad of love, loss, and love again.

15. “Girls On Film” by Duran Duran

Song year: 1981

While Duran Duran's single “Girls on Film” didn't make much of a splash initially, after the band filmed a controversial music video for the track, it received additional airplay on radio and went into heavy rotation on MTV.

The music videos' scantily clad women illustrate the song's themes of the darkness lurking beneath fame and fortune.

16. “The Warrior” by Scandal

Song year: 1984

Former glam rocker Nick Gilder co-wrote “The Warrior,” a top ten hit for the '80s rock band Scandal. The song's palm-muted guitar and sing-along chorus set the stage for Scandal singer Patty Smyth's gritty and passionate voice.

Smyth's look, a take on punk rock with heavy makeup and wild hair, helped define new wave's visual aesthetic.

17. “Under The Milky Way” by The Church

Song year: 1988

Australian rockers The Church stumbled into a new wave hit with their single “Under the Milky Way.” Using a twelve-string acoustic guitar and synthesizers, the band created an other-worldly sound that became their signature track.

The licensing of the song in 21st-century media has cemented its place as an indelible '80s classic.

18. “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles

“Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles

Song year: 1979

The Buggles wrote “Video Killed the Radio Star” as an ode to television's effect on the radio in the '60s.

Ironically, the music video for the single would be the first played on the fledgling cable network MTV. Many would consider the network the beginning of music's turn to glossy pop acts with model looks.

19. “Kids In America” by Kim Wilde

Song year: 1981

Heavy synthesizers and a punk rock attitude made Kim Wilde's debut single, “Kids in America,” a new wave hit. The song was a family affair, written and produced by her brother and father.

The single would kick off a successful decade for Wilde. Her singles continually charted through the '80s and sold millions of records.

20. “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats

Song year: 1982

Men Without Hats wrote “The Safety Dance” after a night of pogo dancing led to their singer's removal from a club. The Canadian new wave group's ode to the freedom of dance became a smash hit single, giving them the last laugh.

The quirky song is good-natured and fun, making it a nostalgic staple for dance nights the world over.

21. “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby

Song year: 1982

Thomas Dolby wrote “She Blinded Me with Science” after visualizing the single’s music video. In fact, the singer didn't begin writing the song until his vision for the video was complete.

This mad scientist approach to songwriting worked, as the single became Dolby's biggest hit. He also directed the music video.

22. “Vacation” by The Go-Go’s

Song year: 1982

By 1982, L.A. punk band The Go-Go's sound had softened into a mainstream-friendly version of new wave. Following the surprise success of their first album, Beauty and the Beat, the band continued their string of hits with the keyboard-heavy “Vacation.”

The song's infectious chorus and big-budget music video would help The Go-Go's crack the top ten once again.

23. “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Song year: 1982

Dexy's Midnight Runners combined soul and Celtic folk influences in their wholly original sounding hit single “Come On Eileen.” The song topped the charts globally and became the band's signature song.

With numerous key changes and shifts in tempo, this instantly recognizable new wave classic is as musically dense as it is fun to sing.

24. “Forever Young” by Alphaville

Song year: 1984

Fueled by Cold War anxiety, the German band Alphaville captured the overwhelming sense of geopolitical dread and channeled it into the classic coming-of-age new wave hit “Forever Young.”

Though the track is an apocalyptic allegory, its catchy chorus and synthesizer melodies helped it chart across the globe while becoming a classic '80s slow dance song.

25. “Mickey” by Toni Basil

Song year: 1982

Choreographer Toni Basil would top the pop charts with her cheerleader-inspired single “Mickey.” The song's vocal chants and handclap rhythm mimicked a school pep rally, and this infectious quality made the song a bubblegum new wave anthem.

Basil's dance abilities are in full effect for the song's music video, which received heavy airtime on MTV.

26. “Der Kommissar” by After The Fire

Song year: 1982

Initially a German-language song performed by Austrian singer Falco, “Der Kommissar” became a top ten hit in the U.S. for British rock band After The Fire.

Unfortunately, by the time the new wave hit was climbing up the charts, After the Fire had broken up. The band refused to regroup to promote the single, but heavy airplay on MTV helped it climb the charts.

27. “Our House” by Madness

Song year: 1982

As the '80s began, British ska band Madness began experimenting with pop and jazz textures in their songs. The result was a unique and spritely brand of new wave that garnered the band their biggest hit single, “Our House.”

With its hook-laden sing-along chorus, the song took hold of radio stations in America and Britain.

28. “99 Red Balloons” by Nena

Song year: 1983

Nena's “99 Red Balloons” was written after the singer's guitarist watched red balloons float above a Rolling Stones concert. The song imagines those balloons flying over the Berlin Wall.

Originally written in German, the song addresses the difficulties of living in post-WWII Germany, though the incredibly catchy synthesizers sound great in any language.

29. “Whip It” by Devo

Song year: 1980

Art-rock new wave group Devo scored an unexpected hit with their single, “Whip It.” The song's galloping disco beat and nonsensical lyrics gave the track an almost taboo sensibility and helped Devo crack the top 20.

“Whip It” stands as a classic new wave single and remains popular for use in commercials and films.

30. “You Spin Me ‘Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive

Song year: 1984

Dead or Alive's stilted synthesizer take on disco, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” is a frantically paced new wave single that has become synonymous with dance music in the '80s.

Of particular note is the music video, which features singer Pete Burns in a vanity eye patch, crimped hair, and heavy makeup. It's a quintessentially new wave look.

31. “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles

Song year: 1986

Inspired by a bumpy ferry where the passengers cut figures similar to ancient Egyptian paintings, The Bangles' “Walk Like an Egyptian” topped the 1987 year-end Billboard pop chart.

The track's exotic subject matter is a new wave version of past dance-move-oriented songs like “The Twist” or “Y.M.C.A.,” helping their album Different Light go triple platinum.

32. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds

Song year: 1985

As a Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper and the soundtrack to the iconic ending of The Breakfast Club, Simple Minds' “Don't You (Forget About Me) is a quintessential '80s single.

The band recorded this new wave classic was begrudgingly for John Hughes' classic film and never put it on an official full-length album. Ironically, it became their signature song.

33. “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League

Song year: 1981

The Human League didn't think much of their single “Don't You Want Me.” They were so unimpressed with the final recording of the song that they never intended to release it as a single.

At the insistence of their record label, they eventually released the single. It immediately climbed up the charts and is now considered a classic of the era.

Top New Wave Songs Ever, Final Thoughts

The term new wave started as a catchall for independent music. By the '80s, it had become its own sound. Utilizing disco, punk, pop, and dance gave the genre its unique, synthesizer-laced flair.

Whether you're nostalgic for a time when MTV played music videos, or you're just having your mind blown by neon for the first time, we hope you enjoyed our list of the best new wave songs.

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