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Apr 01 2013
Old Wave: The 125 Ultimate Pop Singles Of 1983 Comments (12)

1983

Newsflash: 1983 was 30 years ago. A baby born the day "Rebel Yell" was released could be a balding dad of three by now. Quite easily.

Looking back, that year seems to be a sweet spot for great pop music, perhaps in part because I was about 14, which was when I was really intensely caring about music, especially anything Casey Kasem told me about.

What follows are my picks for the ultimate, defining pop singles of 1983. Let me know if I missed any! I focused on U.S. singles with a few U.K. tossed in for good measure, and tried not to include a song if the bulk of its life as a single was really in 1982, yet I did include some that were released in '82 but were huge in '83. (I tended to skip any songs that were released in Decemvber of '83.)

Enjoy the flashback...

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"Ain't Nobody" by Rufus & Chaka Khan, Stompin' at the Savoy

Chic lives! The funky, barely post-disco stomp in this slow-burn pop hit is as fresh today as 29 years ago, thank in no small part to Khan's supremely confident vocal, which switches from lagging appealingly behind the beat and girlishly dashing ahead of it.

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"Always Something There to Remind Me" by Naked Eyes, Naked Eyes

It's impossible to believe it now, but when I heard this song in 1983,  I never would've suspected this was a remake of an orchestral '60s pop tune—it fit so spectacuarly well into the early '80s with its synth kick and that unforgettable hook that sounded like a kinder "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." One of my all-time favorite songs to this day.

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"Automatic" by The Pointer Sisters, Break Out

Ruth's sultry vocal makes this one of the most suggestive of all girl-group ditties. It could've been such a juvenile, breezy number without that experienced-sounding voice leading the way. This is the song that kicked off the Sisters' string of Top 40 smash hits from Break Out, which made them a top pop act after having been a vocal group and then an R&B act. Incredibly, just three years later, they had their last Top 10!

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"Baby, Come To Me" by Patti Austin & James Ingram, Every Home Should Have One

Another General Hospital success story! This song was two years old when it hit #1. Creamy. It makes love sound like a lot of cuddling.

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"Bad Boys" by Wham!, Fantastic

An appropriately fantastic bit of bubblegum in which George Michael, 19 when he wrote it, gets to sneer about being 19, tall and handsome. An anthem for all '80s brats.

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"Beat It" by Michael Jackson, Thriller

One of pop's all-time classic basslines and vocal performances, even if "Beat It" is one of Thriller's less thematically complex pleasures; it's simply Michael Jackson effortlessly spinning gold at the peak of his creative powers. Like most '80s videos, the one for "Beat It" is hopelessly dated. But it's hopelessly dated in the way Rebel Without a Cause is—it's an iconic slice of the year it was made, a time capsule of 1983.

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"Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, Thriller

I remember when this was released and it sailed up my cherished Top 40 charts. I didn't really get it. It seemed kinda slow to me. Today, it's hard for me to get past the content (we know the kid's not your son). But Jackson's feelings of paranoia and his crumbling under pressure (which wouldn't become readily apparent in real life for years) power this song along to a place where it resonates in any number of ways with the black, the gay and the youth experience. One of pop history's ultimate hooks, it was so great it sounded just as good inverted on Madonna's "Like a Virgin" over a year later.

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"Blue Monday" by New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies

This seminal New Wave dance song is kind of the logical extreme of the European pop-music tradition, a perfect counterpart to American soul-based pop. It is cold, bloodless, its impact based on its chilly, electronic devastation, whereas a song informed by America's R&B tradition thrives on passion, sweat, sex, heat. For me, New Order is a unique brand of heaven, its detachment so familiar (especially when I was a gay teen) that it was, ironically, what made me feel I was connected to its performers. Now, of course, I can only think of college when I hear it.

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"Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues

David Byrne & Co. heated things up with this reminder that not every song on the air in the '80s had to be fluff. This marriage of the avant garde with the has-a-good-beat-and-you-can-dance-to-it was the band's biggest American hit.

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"Burning Up" by Madonna, Madonna

Less a single than a manifesto, "Burning Up" told an not-yet-fully-listening world that Madonna had arrived to kick feminism, the stultifying sexual revolution and popular music in the ass. I own the choke-chain necklace she stretches across her neck in the video, a talisman of strength and provocation.

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"Candy Girl" by New Edition, Candy Girl

If you liked those adorable Jackson 5 kids, you were bound to like New Edition, a group your daughters would be screaming over. The group failed to cross over from R&B in the U.S, but the song was influential on future boy bands of all stripes.

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"Change" by Tears for Fears, The Hurting

TFF's lesser-known hits are far superior to its ubiquitous "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and execrable "Shout." Love this one's melodic drama.

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"Church of the Poison Mind" by Culture Club, Colour By Numbers

As slinky and supple as Boy George's blue-eyed soulful vocals were, this was always about Helen Terry, no? I interpreted this as anti-religion even if it was probably about not much at all. Who cares? Poison minds, karma chameleons...anything Boy George sang in the '80s was cool.

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"Cold Blooded" by Rick James, Cold Blooded

Rick James wrote this "sexy, sexy, sexy" Top 40 (barely) hit about his ex, Linda Blair, who apparently once "belonged to" him.

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"Come Back and Stay" by Paul Young, No Parlez

A Brit with soul, Paul Young rocks it with this melodramatic mix of '80s New Wave and '60s Motown. The song has a genuinely unique sound, thanks in part to the female wailing in the middle. It's like Rod Stewart covering Eurythmics.

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"Come Dancing" by The Kinks, State of Confusion

Having nostalgic feelings for such a nostalgic (if perky) song is a double whammy for sure. The Kinks reaffirmed their relevance with this smash hit, which harkened back to a simpler time so wittily evoked by the carnival-like music. They couldn't resist rocking out midway through when Ray sang about part of his childhood dying. For some reason I always think of my late, sweet Aunt Gloria in relation to this song, and of the fun she had in the '40s, before hard work and cancer.

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"Come on Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners, Too-Rye-Ay

"They're playing good music!" a character exclaims as this song plays in the '90s-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and she was not lying. A song infused with Celtic sounds that references "poor old [gay] Johnnie Ray"? I'm all over it.

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"Cool Places" by Sparks with Jane Wiedlin, In Outer Space

Proving the theory that everything is improved by a dose of Jane Wiedlin (even Belinda Carlisle), this bubbly '80s confection is guilt-free because it's miles more New Wave than most other songs with the same BPM. There's no way to dance to this without lapsing into an impersonation of how Russell Mael and Wiedlin shimmy in the video.

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"Cruel Summer" by Bananarama, Bananarama

The music sounds like snippets of several disparate pop hits, unified with that loping bassline and the lazy clap that suggests the lyrics' focus on the oppression of a killer summer. Bananarama consistently churned out irresistible pop, but this early hit, before their generic-ization, was as good as contemporaneous hits by Madonna and other greats of the time.

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"Crumblin' Down" by John Cougar Mellencamp, Uh-Huh

All of Mellencamp's social angst was poured into this lead single from his Uh-Huh album. "Some people think I'm obnoxious and lazy/Uneducated/My opinion means NOTHIN'!"

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"Cuts Like a Knife" by Bryan Adams, Cuts Like a Knife

One of Adams's most popular numbers, this pleasing rocker has that great sing-along "nah-nah" section that never leaves your head.

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"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" by Culture Club, Kissing to Be Clever

The ultimate Culture Club statement, which kicked off a good run for Boy George as the world's favorite (only tolerated?) gender bender. Released in late '82, ubiquitous in '83.

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"Don't Cry" by Asia, Alpha

A soap operatic hard rock song made more universal with a shimmering pop makeover, this schlocky diversion warrants inclusion for its pleasing lack of guile and foot-tappin' drums.

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"Down Under" by Men at Work, Business as Usual

Goofy novelty hit that mashes up all things Australia had everyone trying to figure out what the HELL the chorus was saying and what the HELL a vegemite sandwich was. Really a 1982 song, and yet it was #1 for a month in the U.S. in '83, so I just had to.

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"Drop the Pilot" by Joan Armatrading, The Key

One of the scandalously underappreciated singer/songwriter's most attention-grabbing numbers, "Drop the Pilot" has a jazzed up folk sound and an almost evangelical vocal that make it a true '80s gem.

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"Every Breath You Take" by The Police, Synchronicity

One of 1983's biggest, this hypnotic hit was uncharacteristically direct and conventional for The Police, the instrumentation hinting at Sting's more legit leanings toward true musicianship.

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"Everyday I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello, Punch the Clock

Costello is definitely an acquired taste, but even non-fans fell for this sweet-hearted, reggae-infused pop shuffler about love.

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"Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode, Construction Time Again

With the bassline that prefigured "Into the Groove" and that gorgeous Martin Gore chorus (the talented little bitch plays a horn at some point, too), this anti-greed song from the "Greed is good!" decade is one of Depeche Mode's best efforts. "The grabbing hands/grab all they can," and sung so prettily, too.

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"Family Man" by Hall & Oates, H2O

One of the duo's least contiguous with the rest of their output (though it makes a nice bookend to "Maneater"), this almost sinister-sounding tale of a woman trying to steal a married man away from his family (if only for an hour or two) is one of my favorites by the dudes even Huey Lewis would have conceded usually sounded so square.

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"Flashdance...What a Feeling" by Irene Cara, Flashdance Soundtrack

A lifeline for '70s-associated Giorgio Moroder, this soaring movie theme song holds up in a way some others ("Footloose") really do not. Cara wraps her husky pop voice expertly around this airy synth sensation. Best roller-skating song EVER. Grammy? Check. Oscar? Check.

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"Gimme All Your Lovin'" by ZZ Top, Eliminator

Say what you will about these skeevy, bearded rednecks (after all, I just did!)...they could teach a master class on branding. Their unified looks, their hog and their requisite video babes made so many appearances in their work in 1983 they pushed the group's album into multi-platinum success. And the song it top-notch, a classic that's as catchy today as ever.

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"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual

One of 1983's most iconic and timeless numbers, and the one that battles with "True Colors" for the title of Cyndi Lauper's signature song, this girl-power statement of purpose makes the Spice Girls look like Phyllis Schlafly. Subversively, Lauper reworked the song from it's original, 1979 meaning...namely, that girls just wanted to get their sexual kicks. Lauper was 30 while having her slumber party in the classic music video, but nobody noticed; "girls" are ageless. Pure joy on vinyl.

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"Gold" by Spandau Ballet, True

At some point, it becomes a convincing Bond theme song, but aside from that, "Gold" is a New Romantic affair with melody delivered with urgency by the ever-gorgeous Tony Hadley. His dissonant delivery in the beginning is a strong candidate for all-time pop attention-getters, and that wailing horn is beyond hip.

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"Heart Attack" by Olivia Newton-John, Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2

There's something tasteless about using a heart attack to describe amorous palpitations. What's next, your love is spreading through me like cancer? But the former Miss Wholesome (who had by then semi-recently shed her good-girl image via orgasmic songs with accompanying gay-ish work-out videos) makes it work. Love her raspy delivery, which makes her sound in the throes of carnal cardiac arrest.

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"Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins, Into the Gap

Tom Bailey sounds like he can barely be bothered to sing this ditty, a mid-tempo love song that represented a huge step into the Top 40 zone after several more artsy pop albums. Even when gunning for America, the Thompson Twins have that too-cool British sound, unlike Berlin, which sounded nakedly ambitious with "Take My Breath Away."

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"Holiday" by Madonna, Madonna

The future Queen of Pop's very first single to hit the Top 40 remains one of her best efforts, four minutes of pure fun and an exhortation to get over reality...if only briefly. If general music fans, or even people with a distaste for Madonna, were polled, "Holiday" is guaranteed to appear in the Top 5 songs by Madonna that they like. (Note: The video is from a rare TV performance of the song and is not, in fact, a long-lost studio video.)

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"Holiday Road" by Lindsey Buckingham, National Lampoon's Vacation Soundtrack

Fuck if I know what Lindsey's video for the song was about, but the song itself is an unyieldingly cheerful, almost lyrics-less experiment in normalcy for Buckingham. It's forever tied to the movie for which it was written, but it's an earworm in its own right.

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"Hot Girls in Love" by Loverboy, Keep It Up

This shamelessly libinous rock romp flirted with controversy with the confusingly lesbian-sounding title and relentless sexual innuendoes throughout the song, but it became a huge, across-the-board smash for the shlock rockers. It's pretty hard to resist to this day. I always liked how in the video the blonde vixen runs out of gas and clearly mouths, "Shit." She looked like she would have no problem siphoning gas orally if need be.

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"How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" by Laura Branigan, Branigan 2

Just put Michael Bolton out of your mind for the moment. Okay, for forever. Because the late, great Laura Branigan's inimitable voice and far more genuinely emotional performance of the song that would go on to become the, gulp, "Feelings" of the '80s make it a single far more worthy than the performances of the pretenders who would follow after it in droves over the ensuing years.

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"Human Nature" by Michael Jackson, Thriller

Just a very pretty tune by Michael Jackson. It felt like an afterthought compared to his other, more hard-driving, work from Thriller, and in fact was not even granted its own music video.

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"Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran, Rio

The song that made Duran Duran a household name in the '80s, backed by a video that made them the leading artists in that then-new form. Still one of my favorite, if not my favorite, DD song. It hit #3 in 1983. Isn't it bizarre that it was not a #1 hit?

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"I Am What I Am" by Gloria Gaynor, I Am Gloria Gaynor

When the "I Will Survive" diva took on the most popular song from La Cage aux Folles, gay fireworks ensued. Truthfully, her discofied take is a bit rote compared to the original as sung in the musical, but it's such a powerful pop song it would still be a travesty not to include it.

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"I Don't Care Anymore" by Phil Collins, Hello, I Must Be Going!

The Genesis frontman juggled genuine solo success while moonlighting from the group. This angrier-than-most pop song found him at his best and most embittered.

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"I Love L.A." by Randy Newman, Trouble in Paradise

Sure, this song could be heard as the ultimate cheesy city tribute, but I always liked how Newman satirized L.A.'s uncomplicated love of itself and exaltation of sunny weather over any other possible problems ("Look at that mountain/Look at those trees/Look at that bum over there, he's down on his knees" is pretty bitng, even if the video sanded down its teeth.

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"I Melt With You" by English Beat, After the Snow

Good grief...if ever a song was a not a candidate for future use in a TV commercial, this was it. Yet it was picked up and has a whole new life thanks to Hershey. The drums sound very Go-Go's on this giddy, end-of-the-world tune, whose video featured an interracial dance sequence that felt kinda daring even for 1983. It was an MTV staple even if it was never a huge hit in the U.S.

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"I'll Tumble 4 Ya" by Culture Club, Kissing to Be Clever

As light and silly as it sounds (and with a charming, dance-driven video), I always thought this track was loaded with gender and gay and sexual tension. It's adorable...but so much more! Who does got that new-boy gender?

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"I'm Still Standing" by Elton John, Too Low for Zero

My favorite Elton John song! It's the male "New Attitude," and probably came in handy for him as he recovered from various addictions and a heterosexual marriage. It's randy, bisexual-feeling vide is  on point, and don't miss featured dancer Bruno Tonioli from Dancing with the Stars, who rocks an alarming male camel-toe on the beach

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"In a Big Country" by Big Country, The Crossing

Rousing Irish melodic rock that was an enduring hit for a band more famous for its live shows than for its singles. Big Country is often called a one-hit wonder. Sadly, lead singer Stuart Adamson hanged himself in 2001

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"Is There Something I Should Know?" by Duran Duran, Duran Duran

I love this goes-down-easy entry from Duran Duran, especially thanks to lyrics like, "You're about as easy/As a nuclear war."

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"Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, Eyes That See in the Dark

One of history's best-loved country duets crossed over in a big way. The first-stringers upped their game with this Bee Gees (yes, Bee Gees) penned feel-good frolic. It's just shameless crush of a song, made all the more buoyant by Dolly Parton's champagne-bubble perk.

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"Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band, Kihnspiracy

It's tempting to remember this as a novelty hit due to its I-got-a-million-of-'em music video and the song's chorus sounding like it says, "I lost on Jeopardy." (Thanks, Weird Al.) But it's a really hot little number, complete with a nice guitar solo and music that's not so far removed in spots from what Michael Jackson was doing at the time. Something else Michael Jackson was doing at the time? Holding this song to #2 with his #1 hit "Beat It."

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"Joanna" by Kool & the Gang, In the Heart

Hey, they did more than "Celebration!" Kool & the Gang's sappy love song is a smooth pleasure from start to finish, a giant #2 (#1 R&B) hit that feels a bit forgotten today.

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"Just Got Lucky" by JoBoxers, Like Gangbusters

This peppy track still has plenty of New Wave cheek left in it. It just makes me want to run out and purchase a jaunty hat and dance in a way that would probably be really bad for my spine.

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"Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club, Colour by Numbers

Even if I were not partial to Culture Club—and it should be obvious by now that I am...real partial to them—this song would earn a place on any list of 1983 accomplishments. What the hell is a karma chameleon? I aways thought it was so obvious: He is that boy who pretends he might be gay , then turns out not to be, not for you anyway. She is that girl you're dating who smiles emptily when something good happens for you at work. He or she is that person you can't help loving even though they're poison.

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"(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by Human League, Red

If they'd never done another song after "Don't You Want Me," Human League could have retired and said, "We won." But then they had to go and create this almost equally compelling, propulsive pop prancer. How can you not clap along to the synthesized drumbeats?

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"Lawyers in Love" by Jackson Browne, Lawyers in Love

As winsomely listenable as it is, this song is so acridly anti-establishment it's hard to believe it was a hit. But you know, people often don't listen to lyrics, and how could a song that contains the words "sha-la-la" be criticizing Reagan?

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"Let the Music Play" by Shannon, Let the Music Play

A personal fave of mine, "Let the Music Play" has ben called "the beginning of the dance pop era." I'm not sure if that's true, but it definitely has that Miami sound that would dominate the dance music of the later '80s. It's not not an invitation to dance, it's a command. Even though it's not even Shannon's very best song ("Give Me Tonight" earns that honor), it's one of 1983's very best songs.

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"Let's Dance" by David Bowie, Let's Dance

Bowie was a virtual dinosaur (at 36!!!) by the time he reminded everyone of his musical supremacy with this eccentric song about, but not made for, dancing.

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"Let's Stay Together" by Tina Turner, Private Dancer

Speaking of reminding people of one's musical supremacy, Tina Turner did just that by singing the hell out of Al Green's classic soul hit. (And she was beyond over the hill by then...at 43!) A scorching-hot performance that was not topped by any of her other, much more successful, comeback singles.

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"Little Red Corvette" by Prince, 1999

Not many artists had platinum pop success while still churning out aggressive personal artistic statements like Prince did. Who writes a song about losing it in a car? He's so religious now, can he even perform this anymore? Just be grateful he was a scuzzball back in the '80s...when he put out, his output was incredible!

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"Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar, Live from Earth

Obviously one of the first music videos anyone thinks of from the '80s—Pat Benatar and her "Thriller" 'tutes—this is also a killer song with a killer Benatar vocal riff: "Whoa-oa-oa-oa-oa-oa-oa-oa-oa!"

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"Love Reaction" by Divine, The Story So Far

Divine, with the best worst voice ever, went the full New Order with this scarily good dance track. How did Divine wind up with such a great, no laughing matter, song?

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"The Love Cats" by The Cure, Japanese Whispers

Quite a sad, dark song, but in such a toe-tappin' package. It's my favorite Cure tune, probably because I went to see them live once thanks to some pushy friends and they performed this, one of the only songs I knew by them.

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"Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Peter Schilling, Error in the System

For a gimmicky track crafted as a sort of tribute to David Bowie's "Space Oddity," this one has a truly haunting quality. Schilling was obsessed with space and technology (even computers, quite interesting for 1983!), and his story about a man abandoned to space is a neat way to underscore the impersonal nature of what was then the dawning digital age.

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"Making Love Out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply, Greatest Hits

Good luck becoming stars when your resident hunk is Jim Steinman, and yet Air Supply consistently kicked ass with their middle-of-the-road, AC approach to music, never more memorably than with this wailer. It's pure soap opera, but it works.

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"Maneater" by Hall & Oates, H2O

With its Supremes-esque beat, this song's an ode to the dark side of beauty, and it had me envisioning myself as a 14-year-old Lolito about whom such a song could be written. I thought for the longest time the lyrics went, "She could really rip your butt apart" There's really not a lot more that can be said here.

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"Maniac" by Michael Sembello, Flashdance Soundtrack

Flashdance had an amazing soundtrack, just by the way, as evidenced by the fact that this infectious, edgy track is only the second best thing on it. Forever overshadowed by Jennifer Beals's butt double jiggling with purpose in the video, the song is nonetheless hotness.

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"The Metro" by Berlin, Pleasure Victim

Still basking in the afterglow of "Sex (I'm a...)," Berlin released this frigid remembrance of a broken relationship that is a near-perfect blend of punk and pop reminiscent of what Blondie did with a song like "Heart of Glass."

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"Mr. Roboto" by Styx, Kilroy Was Here

The only Japanese I know, I learned in this concept song about a rocker confined to a sort of futuristic prison factory, where he became a robot. The song always sounded like ELO to me. Gotta love Dennis DeYoung in his smart lavender set. Rockstars are...different...now.

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"Never Gonna Let You Go" by Sérgio Mendes (sung by Joe Pizzulo & Leza Miller), Sérgio Mendes

Cosmopolitan power ballad by the veteran musician and sung by hired guns, this is an indisputed AC classic.

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"One on One" by Hall & Oates, H2O

A lovely way to say you're horny and want to drill someone. Just another in a then-endless string of blue-eyed soul home runs by the Bert & Ernie of pop.

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"One Thing Leads to Another" by The Fixx, Reach the Beach

This song is not kidding around. I think The Fixx is a band that had some really incredible songs (a few of which were bona fide hits, like this one) but unfairly never caught on enough to go to the next level. Maybe they were a bit nervy for the average (and I do mean average) American teenager?

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"The One Thing" by INXS, Shabooh Shoobah

Poor, beautiful Michael Hutchence! That's all I can think of watching or listening to this sneaky-snake song about love. Have always got off on his insinuating vocal...not to mention the dude in red! Oh, and never mind the video—the song's got some '80s sax appeal, too!

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"Only You" by Yaz, Upstairs at Eric's

The crushingly bittersweet, most memorable single from one of the best albums of the era, this record just burns/freezes with the gradations of Alison Moyet's voice.

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"Our House" by Madness, The Rise & Fall

Prefiguring Billy Eichner by 30 years, Madness kicked off its video for this spirited track with some man-on-the-street leg-pulling But video aside, it's a nostalgic song reminiscent of its contemporary on the charts, "Come Dancing" by The Kinks.

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"Overkill" by Men at Work, Cargo

Abandoning its previous novelty-like vibe, Men at Work scored big with this introspective, melodic hit.

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"Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes, 90125

The prog-rock classic that topped the charts in an age of synth-pop and Michael Jackson.

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"Photograph" by Def Leppard, Pyromania

One of many videos to feature Marilyn Monroe, this one was particularly clever, since the song was all about the difference between a fantasy photo and an in-the-flesh woman. Burn-outs and preppies alike were into Def Leppard over this one.

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"The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing

With that detached, Big Brother vocal so prevalent during the time period, this singer's song masquerading as a New Wave hit was the band's biggest hit and a college-music staple.

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"Promises, Promises" by Naked Eyes, Burning Bridges

Equally as good as the band's "Always Something There to Remind Me" is this lover-scorned smack-down. How did those bloodless little Brits wring so much emotion out of their synth beats? As fresh today as ever. Did you lay down and die when you heard Madonna's vocals that were recorded for the song in 1983 but not released for 20 years? I did. Send flowers. It's been 10 years, but it's never too late.

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"Puttin on the Ritz" by Taco, After Eight

One of the weirdest remakes ever (who decides to do a 1929 song 54 years later?), it also had a video with blackface that, because many in the U.S. fail to see that as "super duper," had to be excised (see above). Taco sings this like the ghost of someone. In other words, it's flawless. Or awful. Or maybe just "flawful."

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"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" by Michael Jackson, Thriller

This could've lived just as successfully on Jackson's previous disco albums. Of course, the subject matter would eventually become uncomfortably ironic, but it's comfortably iconic in its own right.

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"Radio Free Europe" by R.E.M., Murmur

I just love Michael Stipe's vocal on this, especially on the chorus. Even if you can't make out a single word, it feels so urgent! The song was actually recorded in 1981 but re-recorded for their proper debut, putting it smack dab in the middle of 1983.

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"Rebel Yell" by Billy Idol, Rebel Yell

As cheesetastic as Billy Idol was, the bitch made some great songs. This one, well after his legit punk phase and well into his Top 40 suck-up phase, is solid gold. How he sang through that sneer, I'll never know, but I don't disbelieve him when he claims she cried, "More! More! More!" in the midnight hour.

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"Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Welcome to the Pleasure Dome

One of the best songs about sex ever was also about gay sex...and it somehow became a Top 10 hit in America, where we tended to frown on both back in '83. Frankie Goes to Hollywood blew into the country from England, where their catch-phrase "Frankie Say Relax" was all the rage, but no one was relaxing when they got a load of the frisky video they planned to release here. A new one, minimalist and with laser beams, was cut. The rest is his-on-history. Haters can suck it.

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"Rio" by Duran Duran, Rio

If you've got any taste, you might be thinking by now that 1983 might just have been one of the best years for music in pop history. To keep that thought going, we're up to "Rio," the decadent song by Duran Duran with the even more decadent video. Music video? It should've been called a short film and won a frickin' Oscar. But even without John Taylor in white swim trunks (!), the song alone is sweepingly satisfying, a major expansion from the band's earlier, more aloof hits.

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"Rockit" by Herbie Hancock, Future Shock

The most experimental song on Top 40 radio (well, Top 71 radio...it peaked at #71), this Hancockian masterpiece gained invaluable exposure on MTV, where its video's nonsensical imagery propelled it into heavy rotation.

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"Runaway" by Bon Jovi, Bon Jovi

I vividly recall haering this song on Casey Kasem's Top 40 and being surprised I liked a hard rock song. It's undeniably catchy, but could anyone have predicted these guys would still be around 30 years later and going strong, helping get presidents elected?

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"Running with the Night" by Lionel Richie, Can't Slow Down

Gotta admit...I find Lionel Richie hard to take. But "Running with the Night" goes down easy, especially around the time the chorus hits and it feels like it's zipping along. When watching it on YouTube just now, I was surprised to realize I knew every word.

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"Rush Rush" by Deborah Harry, Scarface Soundtrack

A HiNRG hot compress that couldn't have sounded more out of place on the Scarface Soundtrack if it tried, it remains one of Debbie Harry's best solo efforts.

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"The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats, Rhythm of Youth

It's a bit scary when a video presents the Middle Ages as a more desirable alternative to the nuclear '80s, but the kitschy vibe of the song (which I've always heard as a giant tsk-tsk to slam-dancing) overrode any anarchical overtones. It still feels very rebellious, no?

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"Saved By Zero" by The Fixx, Reach the Beach

This moody torch song should've or at least could've been sung by The Motels but damned if those versatile Fixx boys didn't knock it out of the park with this.

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"Say It Isn't So" by Hall & Oates, Rock 'n Soul Part 1

This one always makes me want to dance as if inside a medium-sized box, aiming my feet toward opposite corners with each pogo, just like the singers. As bland as they could sometimes be, if you listen to their output with fresh ears, it's hard to criticize any of it.

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"Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson, Pipes of Peace

I always thought Jacko got the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it came to the two duets he did with McCartney; McCartney got this upbeat number featuring a Thriller-esque Jackson vocal and Jackson got the dull "The Girl Is Mine."

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"Searchin' (I Gotta Find a Man)" by Hazell Dean, Heart First

One of the best HiNRG songs ever, this was a 1983 release that gained its true popularity during 1984. If you have never heard of this prepare yourself by clearing some space for dancing around. Gotta love Dean, standing around in her video looking like the first Jane Lynch in her sensible sweater and leather bottoms, crooning about desperately needing a man!

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"Send Me an Angel" by Real Life, Heartland

This band knew they had a hot-ass song. Is it just me, or does this song make everyone want to spread for the first decent-looking guy who can dance in the nearest bar?

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"Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" by Journey, Frontiers

Hard-driving Journey song that everyone in the world loves. I miss Steve Perry's voice.

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"Shame on the Moon" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, The Distance

Deeply sensitive song that functions as a user's manual for both men and women.

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"She's Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer, She Works Hard for the Money

A global smash, this was only two hits away from Summer's last Top 10 hit. Inspired by a women's room attendant, the song is a feminist anthem you can rock out to, and earned her a spot on the Grammys telecast.

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"She's a Beauty" by The Tubes, Outside Inside

"You're gonna like her/'Cuz she's got class!" An anti-love song whose video was about as glibly sexist as as anything on TV until Jessica Hahn. Oddly, it was directed by Kenny Ortega, of High School Musical fame.

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"Slipping Away" by Dave Edmunds, Information

A Jeff Lynne song performed winningly by Dave Edmunds, it had pop, rock and even a a bit of a country twang to it. I think it was scandalously under appreciated, with #39 on the charts representing its peak.

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"Stand Back" by Stevie Nicks, The Wild Heart

One of the best tracks of the whole damn '80s was this percussive update of the Stevie Nicks sound for a new decade. High drama and a heady dose of witchcraft.

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"Stranger in My House" by Ronnie Milsap, Keyed Up

Lookit, when there's a stranger in Ronnie Milsap's house, that is a problem. His clever song about sensing another man in his woman's life, in his house metaphorically, plays off of his real-life blindness. For a country song this one pops along pretty snappily.

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"Strip" by Adam Ant, Strip

How this missed the Top 40 is beyond me, but shit starting getting real in the '80s when I was watching MTV and songs were endorsing getting naked.

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"Suddenly Last Summer" by The Motels, Little Robbers

The sublime Martha Davis belts this tribute to Tennessee Williams (he died while The Motels were recording their album). It's a gorgeous and bittersweet song with a video that paints Robert Carradine the sexiest he's ever looked.

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"Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2, War

The defining political song from one of the most beloved and accomplished modern rock acts, this military-themed track set the tone for U2's hard-rocking career and the group's knack for connecting emotionally with its audience.

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"Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart, First Offense

I'll give you a first offense, Corey. He was the only blatantly sexy man I had pinned up to my wall during my high school years, and it was just because I could not resist him. In the video, when he stutter-walks into that jail, it's like...I need some of that. He pout-sang his way through this song, which as silly as it is gets a viscerally passionate reading by the best set of lips in Canada. I sang theee HELL out of this in the shower as a kid. I must meet Corey Hart. Now, my mission is clear.

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"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Annie Lennox, with her shaved head and man's suit, made me fall in love with lesbians just as Boy George had made me fall in love with drag queens. No matter that neither of those artists were either of those things. Genderfuck was a big part of my '80s, even as I wore distinctly boy-clothing and never did anything riskier than, well...never did anything risky. The ultimate '80s baseline, and one of the voices of the decade. I can't express to you how much more into the frozen side of this duo I am than the later, hotted-up R&B iteration.

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"Take Me to Heart" by Quarterflash, Take Another Picture

One of my favorite small-time pop acts from the '80s, Quarterflash scored pretty big with this mournful tune, which at one point ain't to proud to beg: "Do you WANT me? Do you WANT me?"

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"Talking in Your Sleep" by The Romantics, In Heat

The video for this conventional pop tune by the Detroit rockers opens with this sexy nude scene featuring a model, and then lead singer Wally Palmar rises up with this nerd face and ruins it. But I sorta love him for it. He must've scored pussy every day he was in that band in spite of looking like an accountant with a bouffant.

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"Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)" by Sheena Easton, Best Kept Secret

Always reminding me of "Bette Davis Eyes" Lite, this crackler by Sheena Easton actually sounds better to me now than it did even then. She's so appealingly shrill!

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"Tell Her About It" by Billy Joel, An Innocent Man

The crown jewel in Joel's litany of music infused with elements of the '50s and '60s, this #1 smash still has timeless pizzazz.

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"Think of Laura" by Christopher Cross, Another Page

Since everyone watched General Hospital anyway, it was inconceivable for any of us not to have been saturated with this mind-bendingly omnipresent hit. Genie Francis was to this song as Rosanna Arquette was to Toto's "Africa."

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"This Charming Man" by The Smiths, The Smiths

A deceptively bubbly song that contains what may be the story of a boy being, as they say in England, interfered with by the titular charmer. Seminal work from the lust-obsessed Smiths.

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"Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo, White Feathers

If you don't like this song, I'm not sure we can be friends...?

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"Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, Faster Than the Speed of Night

Like a straggler from some monumental rock opera that never was, this song is a reference point for just about every '80s music lover. It's become a bit of a joke over the years, almost camp. But Bonnie Tyler doesn't sing it that way, and the kitsch video is probably as much to blame for this as anything. Dynamic.

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"Trammeltanz" by George Kranz, Pool

Thrillingly forward-thinking g dance hit that would influence a lot of future electronica, "Trammeltanz" (that's "Din Daa Daa" to you!) is so freaky even The Art of Noise were probably like, "WTF?" Sounds brand new today.

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"True" by Spandau Ballet, True

A throwback to something a '50s crooner might have chosen to sing, this slick number straddled New Wave and pop with aplomb. Sixteen Candles, much?

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"Wanna Be Startin' Something" by Michael Jackson, Thriller

A flip, fun entry from Michael Jackson as carefree as anything he would ever record. "Mama say, mama sah, ma-MA mu-sah." Who commits that to vinyl and convinces us it's brilliant but Michael Jackson?

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"What Is Love?" by Howard Jones, Human's Lib

For Jones this is as conventional a love ballad as he was ever gonna put out, but it sounds like "People Are People" by Depeche Mode got tossed into the mix—to great effect.

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"Where Is My Man?" by Eartha Kitt, I Love Men

Hilarious, sexy and seriously fun to dance to, Kitt's vampy number makes Madonna's "Material Girl" look like child's play.

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"White Horse" by Laid Back, Keep Smiling

Looking, or listening, back, this song is one of the most modern-sounding of anything else on the list. It seems to have been about cocaine...?

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"Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)" by Icicle Works, The Icicle Works

That relentless drumbeat and the song's reference to helplessness and indecision make it the salty-and-sweet of adolescent anthems.

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"Who's That Girl?" by Eurythmics, Touch

Boy, is this cold cookie of a hit song forgotten today. At the time, it was a big deal, and I must say Annie Lennox was the first person I ever saw kiss herself.

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"You and I" by Crystal Gayle & Eddie Rabbitt, Radio Romance

A country duet that would get you to at least third base with any Southern chick. Sounds like what a big, slow-moving bear hug feels like.

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