It’s not necessarily something you notice unless it’s pointed out to you (unless you’re a musician) that the beat sometimes makes the song.
Obviously, the beat plays a crucial role in most music, but it’s not always the centerpiece, and it’s not always accentuated either.
The following songs, on the other hand? Well, they all have very steady beats, and they often are emphasized and highlighted by other instruments.
So, let’s look at the best songs with a steady beat.
“Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant
Eddy Grant’s catchy 80s party anthem “Electric Avenue” features a very steady beat over which synths and guitars gradually provide additional textural layers of interest. The drumbeat only features a few fills. For the most part, the drums consist of that familiar “kick – snare – kick – snare” rhythm, a staple in many of the songs featured here.
Of course, if you listen closely, you realize this is not a party anthem at all, but an angry, socially conscious song about violence, racism, famine, and poverty contrasted with British consumerism and partying excess.
“1999” by Prince
Prince is well known for his extreme musicianship, larger than life onstage personality, and preoccupation with sexuality.
But many of his hits were, in fact, very much a product of their time. Prince brought his own style to everything he did, sure, but as with many funk and synthpop songs in the same vein, “1999” featured a very steady beat.
The song opens with a series of kicks. As the song builds, there is the occasional drum fill, but for the most part, the beat is held down with a heavy emphasis on kick – snare – kick – snare.
“The Power Of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News
Huey Lewis & The News was hell bent on writing a catchy, memorable tune for the explosive hit film, Back to the Future, and they succeeded with the unforgettable “The Power Of Love,” which practically became the movie’s theme.
Compared to some of the other songs on this list, you may find that the drumbeat features more shots, stops, and fills. But if you listen closely, you’ll notice that it still carries with it that standard 80s kick, snare, kick snare beat heard on many recordings coming from artists and bands of the same time in similar genres.
“Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer
Prince and Huey Lewis & The News are one thing, but Robert Palmer must be cut from a different cloth, right? Not so fast. Even on “Addicted To Love,” you will hear that heavy kick, snare, kick, snare pattern laid down with exacting precision.
The one notable difference is that you can hear the hi-hat used a little more prominently on “Addicted To Love,” and it does have the occasional stop too. But other than that, it’s the expected deliverable.
“You Make My Dreams” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
At first brush, “You Make My Dreams” may appear a syncopated dance number. And to be fair, the trademark keyboard part is kind of funky. But once the beat comes in, it becomes apparent that we’re in for another steady, straightforward 80s adventure, save for a few stops.
The drums are even accentuated with the bouncy guitar part, emphasizing the two and four of the beat.
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
Thriller is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and reportedly features only the best songs and best musical ideas across dozens, possibly even hundreds of song ideas mapped out by Quincy Jones and team.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the most sophisticated music ever composed. Rather, it’s the culmination of simple ideas creating sophisticated layers. If in doubt, listen to “Billie Jean,” a song with one of the steadiest beats in all the 80s.
“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz
Even from his early days, it was clear that Lenny Kravitz was influenced heavily by the music of the 60s and 70s. “Are You Gonna Go My Way” is his take on rock from decades past, and he captured the feel to a tee.
Aside from a few simple fills, you will find that this song features a very steady, driving beat.
“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
You can generally count on funk songs to have a very steady beat, and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” is no exception. The steadiness of the groove allows singer Bruno Mars to float on top, with the bass, guitars, horns, and synths adding additional flare and syncopation to keep it funky.
There’s the occasional fill and stop but otherwise you mostly hear that familiar and steady kick – snare – kick – snare beat.
“Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel
This unforgettable 80s classic shows some sophistication in terms of chord progressions, modulation, and melodies. But listen closely to the beat and you will find it’s driving the whole song.
It features a variation on the typical kick-snare feel we’ve already explored extensively, though, which could be a welcome departure to your ears.
“Y.M.C.A.” by Village People
Novelty disco songs were all the rage (and almost on their way out) upon the release of Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” in 1978. This song is recognized internationally, and it was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Like I said earlier, though, a steady beat is the very hallmark of funk and disco tunes, and you will find that this song rarely deviates from the expected.
“Party In The U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus
Opening with a repetitive dirty funk / country guitar riff, Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.” is impossible to get out of your head once you’ve heard it.
Holding down the backbone of the song is a hard-hitting, big club beat – kick-snare-kick-snare.
“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Love it or hate it, “Call Me Maybe” nailed a formula. For its time, this pop hit was rather revolutionary, featuring strings (likely synthesized) and distorted guitars no less.
The song opens with steady kicks, and then builds into that time-tested beat we know so well – kick, snare, kick, snare. Steady as she comes.
“Runnin’ With The Devil” by Van Halen
When it comes to songs with steady beats, it’s hard to forget the late 70s hard rocker, “Runnin’ With The Devil.” Alex Van Halen being one of rock’s best drummers, you might expect this one to be less steady than it is, but he follows very closely Michael Anthony’s steady, pounding bass save for a few fills.