27 Best Songs From 1983

People who grew up in the 1980s know firsthand about all the good music from 1983 and other years. As we continue living in a world besotted by nostalgia, the retro craze keeps bringing 80s music back again, which Gen Xers are thrilled about. Need a guide? Here are some of the best songs from 1983.

1. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police

Song Year: 1983

It was the most-played song in the history of radio. It was also not a love song. People swooned over “Every Breath You Take” as being so romantic, but Sting’s narrator is a possessive, obsessed stalker.

Andy Summers’ iconic, added-2nd guitar riff helped lodge the song in everyone’s ears long after 1983 was in the rearview, and despite the band selling more than 100 million albums, “Every Breath You Take” was the band’s only song to hit number on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Sting’s brooding good looks, shown off to great effect in the video, surely boosted the band’s appeal.

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

Song Year: 1983

Another earworm from halfway through the Reagan era, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” had the driving synth-pop sensibilities of the era, but its minor-key setting and Annie Lennox’s haunting vocals gave the song an underlying unsettled feeling.

Like “Every Breath You Take,” it is often interpreted incorrectly. Rather than being about how great life is, it’s more accurately asking, “Is this what the world has come to?”

3. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler

Song Year: 1983

Originally written for MeatLoaf, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” represented a dying art at its time— the hugely overproduced pop song that unabashedly sought to yank the heartstrings and get people to belt the chorus along with Bonnie Tyler with abandon.

We’d see the last dying gasp of this type of pop single with Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “November Rain” a decade or so later, but that has not had the staying power of “Total Eclipse.” Then again, Will Farrell didn’t sing “November Rain” in “Old School.”

4. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

Song Year: 1983

Even if “Billie Jean” weren’t a great song, it would go on a list of great things about 1983 because of Michael Jackson’s performance of it on a TV special called “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.” It was the first time most people saw the moonwalk.

“Billie Jean” won two Grammy awards and was just one of seemingly thousands of mega-hits off Jackson’s album Thriller.

5. “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie

Song Year: 1983

David Bowie showed up with a new persona when he released Let’s Dance in the spring of 1983. The album gave us “Modern Love, “China Girl,” and this instant classic.

“Let’s Dance” also featured an unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan on that killer solo. It was to be Bowie’s last number-one in the States, though he continued making terrific music until he died in 2016.

6. “1999” by Prince

Song Year: 1983

The Purple One was still a year away from becoming a household name via “Purple Rain,” but the apocalyptic, nihilist undertones of “1999,” coupled with that iconic keyboard lick at the top woke the world up to what it was about to experience from Prince.

The song is vintage Prince, melding superlative musicianship with inescapable hooks. It’s also another song from the early 80s that seemed like a good time while having dark undertones.

7. “Faithfully” by Journey

Song Year: 1983

Journey had dabbled in ballads as they evolved from their San Francisco jazz-rock roots, but “Faithfully” was a full-on power ballad.

As if Steve Perry’s soaring vocals on the tag weren’t enough, Neil Schon wailing away on his guitar puit this one over the top.

The video made its splash, too, as it was an early adopter of using amateur video shot by the band and tour personnel to create a sort of video diary of life on the road. It also showed Perry shaving off a mustache he’d grown. Said mustache was the bane of existence to many fans, so maybe showing its demise in the video was a way of telling the fans that the band had heard them.

8. “Islands in the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

Song Year: 1983

At the time, it seemed like the weirdest idea for a crossover hit ever. “Islands in the Stream” borders on campiness, but honestly, the utter joy you can hear in both singers’ voices made this tune an instant classic. Can you think of a single person who doesn’t love this song? Or at least like it?

The song was written by the Bee Gees and may hold the distinction of being the only pop hit ever to have been inspired by a posthumous collection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories.

9. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

Song Year: 1983

Many people greeted their first encounter with Cyndi Lauper by asking, “What’s up with this girl?” But “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was an enormous hit and made the Brooklyn native a household name. It peaked at number two, but that came in 1984, as the song’s first chart appearance came in December of 1983. So it’s technically a song from ‘83, even if you remember it differently.

Viewers have streamed the video more than a billion times, so this isn’t one of those songs that got left behind at the close of the Me Decade.

10. “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran

Song Year: 1982

New Wave pioneers Duran Duran had already begun revolutionizing the nascent music video industry with “Rio” and others, but “Hungry Like the Wolf” was arguably the beginning of the band’s superstardom. It was released to no acclaim in mid-1982, then re-released in December, so when it took off, it did so in 1983.

Simon Le Bon was the face and voice of these upstart British Invaders, but John Taylor’s slap-and-pop baselines made this hit, in particular, a driving force in pop culture. There was also guitarist Andy Taylor (no relation), who brought a hard-edged, overdriven tone to the band, which kept them from going completely over into being a synth-pop band.

As late as 2013, John Taylor admitted in an interview that he had no idea what “Hungry Like the Wolf ”actually meant, but who cares? What a great piece of music.

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