27 Best Songs From 1985

11. “You Give Good Love” by Whitney Houston

Songwriter La Forrest Cope wrote “You Give Good Love” for Roberta Flack, but Whitney Houston ended up with it as the lead-off single of her eponymous, debut album.

The song was intended to introduce a young, unknown singer to the R&B audiences of the time, but it enjoyed crossover success because no matter what people like, they can recognize an exquisitely lovely voice when they hear it.

Whitney Houston’s massive career as a superstar started here in 1985.

12. “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears

As simple love songs go, “Head Over Heels” is a solid example. It’s also a fine instance of Simple Done Well. It doesn’t have the booming percussion of “Shout,” nor its anthemic nature, and it eschews the jangly guitar of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

Instead, it’s a straight-up song that doesn’t suffer (as many 1980s songs did) from overproduction.

13. “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin

“Freeway of Love” was one of Aretha Franklin’s 77 hit singles. Its 1985 debut found Franklin wielding the same command of her voice and the music as she did on any hit she released in the 60s and 70s.

The song rose to number one and earned The Queen of Soul a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

14. “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen

Seven hit singles came off of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 album Born in the U.S.A. “Glory Days” was the fifth one, and it made it to number five on Billboard’s Hot 100.

As its lyrics reminisce—somewhat comically—about the good old days, the overall garage-band feel of the single seems apropos.

15. “Crazy for You” by Madonna

Madonna’s first ballad single came from the soundtrack for a Matthew Modine vehicle called “Vision Quest.” Think “The Karate Kid” but for wrestling. And without an endearing mentor.

Songwriters John Bettis and Jon Lind feared Madonna’s dance-pop sensibilities made her a liability and didn’t want her to sing it. They were wrong because what else does the world remember from this movie? Journey’s “Only the Young”? That’s a no.

16. “Jungle Love” by The Time

The Time gained a lot of cachet from appearing in “Purple Rain,” with frontman Morris Day playing a foil to Prince’s protagonist. The band toured with Prince, and he is credited as one of the songwriters (albeit as Jamie Starr) alongside Day and Jesse Johnson.

Day handled the vocals while Johnson handled some of the guitar work, but every other sound on the record was made by Prince. Not to take away from Day’s stellar onstage performance and persona, but no wonder the song was a top-ten hit.

17. “Voices Carry” by ‘Til Tuesday

While “Voices Carry” rendered ‘Til Tuesday a one-hit wonder, it was a pretty big hit in 1985. It spent 20 weeks on the Billboard charts and reached number eight.

Aimee Mann presented the world with a woman it didn’t know what to do with: punky, bleached hair, seemingly pouty, but with a powerful voice, a strong energy about her, and she played the bass. That unusual combination (unusual in pop music, anyway), along with the dark undertones of the lyrics and the video, drove the song’s popularity.

Mann herself went on to great success as a solo artist and critics’ darling.

18. “What You Need” by INXS

INXS had been bubbling under for a few years, though they were pretty popular in their native Australia. When they finished recording 1985’s Listen Like Thieves, the label personnel felt that the album lacked a hit single and charged the band with writing one that night and recording it the next day.

It happened, and the result, “What You Need,” went to number five. It didn’t have the world-swallowing popularity of the band’s 1987 album Kick, but it sure set the stage for it.

19. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits

A song told from the perspective of two blue-collar workers scoffing at the rock stars they see on MTV, “Money for Nothing” was one of three top ten hits Dire Straits ever had in the US and the band’s lone number one.

It happened because of MTV, which insisted on the band giving it a video for the song that was something other than the band playing the song “live.”

The result—a CGI video animation that was, at the time, mind-boggling— took the song places it never would have gone. Having Sting sing at the beginning and end helped, too, as the Police were still red hot when the song dropped.

20. “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” by Don Henley

Before Don Henley got all political and took himself way too seriously, he recorded the Danny Kortchmar-penned song “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” his biggest solo hit. While the song decried US policy in Central America, it was a fun listen.

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