1985 was a year that maintained a wide selection of music genres. Any music lover will enjoy classic pop, disco, R&B, and synth-rock tracks from iconic artists like Madonna, Eddie Murphy, and Huey Lewis.
Here are 20 of the greatest songs from 1985 that maintain their fame even today.
- 1. “Crazy for You” by Madonna
- 2. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears
- 3. “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight
- 4. “Take On Me” by A-Ha
- 5. “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister
- 6. “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston
- 7. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits
- 8. “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy
- 9. “We Built This City” by Starship
- 10. “Secret Lovers” by Atlantic Starr
- 11. “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News
- 12. “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds
- 13. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
- 14. “Never” by Heart
- 15. “We Are the World” by U.S.A. For Africa
- 16. “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red
- 17. “Burning Heart” by Survivor
- 18. “Sara” by Starship
- 19. “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin
- 20. “These Dreams” by Heart
1. “Crazy for You” by Madonna
The Queen of Pop leads this list with her infectious ballad “Crazy for You.” Madonna recorded this feel-good track for the film Vision Quest.’
It performed well in the charts and earned her first Grammy Nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The song is about being head-over-heels for someone, which often happens during the first stages of love.
2. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears
Worldly desires for power and control are at the forefront of this new-wave song by Tears For Fears. The band received positive reviews and commercial success with this track, being certified gold in two music trade associations.
It topped the charts globally, including in Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. This track speaks to the human condition of corruption and wanting more than what one has. It’s a relatable and controversial topic, which is likely why the song has stood the test of time.
3. “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight
This soft rock classic was recorded as a benefit for AIDS research and features some of the most iconic vocalists of our time. Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight came together to record this beautiful anthem about the value of true friendship.
Rod Stewart originally sang the tune, but when other well-known artists of the time collaborated on a charity record, it took on new meaning.
It was performing so well on the global charts and earned two Grammys, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Song of the Year which makes it one of the iconic tracks of 1985.
4. “Take On Me” by A-Ha
This synth-pop song by the Norwegian group A-Ha was an instant classic when it was released in 1985. The music video features the innovative use of rotoscoping, which gives the video a unique look.
They recorded the original song in 1984 but recorded it again in 1985 with a different arrangement, which is the version that achieved global fame. “Take On Me” topped the charts in several countries and is still considered to be a classical new wave song.
5. “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister
A lovely ballad about mistakes and second chances, “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister is a song that tugs at the heartstrings. The lyrics are about a relationship that’s hopefully trying to mend the broken.
It gained global success in the charts and was certified silver in the UK. People love this song for its relatability; even though it’s about a personal relationship, the lyrics can be interpreted to fit many different situations as it was inspired by the novel entitled ‘Broken Wings.’ It’s probably one of the reasons why the tune has remained popular throughout the years.
6. “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston always set the record straight with her powerful voice and timeless classics. “How Will I Know” is a candy-coated dance-pop love song about the anxieties of waiting for someone to call or show interest.
The track hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and topped other charts across the world. The song was certified gold in Denmark, two times platinum in the US, and received several MTV nominations.
Through the years, several renditions were made by other artists which just proves how timeless this song really is.
7. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits
People would want an easy life as rockstars and lavish in the money and glory if they could. This was the plot for Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” video, which featured a man watching music videos and daydreaming about being able to have it easy like guys on MTV.
This pop-rock song was released as the lead single from their album Brothers in Arms and went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.
It also topped the charts in several other countries and won numerous awards. As this track peaked in the same year, it was one of the first songs they played at Live Aid.
8. “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy
The famous Eddie Murphy is not only an actor, but he also has some musical talent! “Party All the Time” was the first single off his debut album entitled ‘How Could It Be’ as a recording artist and it was co-written by Rick James.
It’s a feel-good party song that talks about, well, wanting to party all the time. This song was originally made because of a bet he had with Richard Pryor which Murphy ended up winning.
It was a huge success, reaching the top 2 of the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and selling over a million copies in the US. Murphy really proved himself as a musician with this hit.
9. “We Built This City” by Starship
A rock anthem that just wants to play rock and roll amidst the corporate takeover of the music industry, “We Built This City” by Starship is one of the most recognizable songs from 1985.
This synth-rock tune was released in 1985 and became an instant hit. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks as well as the international charts.
It was nominated for the Grammys and is certified platinum in the UK. It’s one of those songs that just gets you pumped up and is perfect for a sing-along.
10. “Secret Lovers” by Atlantic Starr
A beautiful and sensual ballad, “Secret Lovers” by American group Atlantic Starr is a song about two people who are in love but can’t be together because they’re both already in relationships.
The lyrics tell about falling in love with someone you shouldn’t and the internal struggle of wanting to be with that person.
As secret lovers, they can only meet in secret and the song reflects the excitement, fear, and anticipation of their clandestine meetings. This track was sampled by Usher in 2008 which gave it a resurgence in popularity.
11. “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News
“The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News is an upbeat track that became popular after being featured in the film ‘Back to the Future.’ The song is about the power of love and how it can make you feel mixed emotions like fear and happiness which you get for free.
This pop-rock song was a number-one hit in the US Mainstream Rock chart and is certified gold in Canada, US, and the UK. It also placed on the charts worldwide, making it one of their most successful singles.
12. “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds
A song about hope and resilience, “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds is an anthem for anyone who’s ever felt down but still manages to get up and carry on.
The lyrics talk about how life can be hard but you have to keep going no matter what. It’s a motivational song that encourages people to never give up. This synth-pop track performed well in the charts and is certified silver in the UK, having sold over 200,000 units.
13. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
A song that has been used in many films and TV shows over the years, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds is a classic track that everyone knows and will never forget.
As this was used in the film ‘The Breakfast Club,’ it has topped the charts internationally and is certified two times platinum in the UK.
14. “Never” by Heart
A rock song with a positive message, “Never” by Heart is about never running away from love and just giving a chance to something that might be great.
The lyrics talk about how love can be scary but it’s worth taking the risk. Braving the fear of getting hurt is worth it for the chance of finding something real and special. This song performed well in the international charts and is Heart’s most popular and well-loved track.
15. “We Are the World” by U.S.A. For Africa
As a charity song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, “We Are the World” by U.S.A. For Africa is a song that was recorded by some of the biggest music stars in the world to raise money for famine relief in Africa.
Selling over 20 million copies, this song became one of the best-selling singles of all time and won several Grammy Awards.
The artists who performed on this track came together to use their talents and platform to help those in need and make a difference. This song is often used by charity initiatives to bring people together and help raise funds for different causes.
16. “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red
A song about regrets and lost love, “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red is a mix of soul and blues track about reminiscing about the good times. This track became a worldwide hit as it performed well in the charts and was one of Simply Red’s most popular songs.
17. “Burning Heart” by Survivor
As the theme song for the film ‘Rocky IV,’ “Burning Heart” by Survivor is a track about two rivals who are fighting for victory. The intense feeling of fighting for the win, even when the odds are against you, is conveyed in this song.
This track is an 80s classic that is still remembered and loved by many as it peaked in different charts worldwide and became an iconic song from the film it was featured in.
18. “Sara” by Starship
A soft rock ballad about a relationship that’s coming to an end, “Sara” by Starship is a song about how the relationship was once so strong but it’s now fading away.
The song is named after Mickey Thomas’ wife at that time but was written by Peter and Ina Wolf. The track was a top hit, especially in the US where it is one of the best-selling singles in North America. It’s a track that many people can relate to as it’s about heartache and loss.
19. “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin
A soul and R&B song about a love that’s worth fighting for, “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin is a track about how the freeway can be seen as a metaphor for life. It’s about taking risks and going after what you want, enjoying the ride that comes with it.
The album has done well on charts worldwide and won Franklin’s 12th Grammy Award. Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solo on this track is one of the most iconic parts of the song.
20. “These Dreams” by Heart
The ethereal feeling of living in a dream is conveyed in “These Dreams” by Heart. This track is about how we enter a magical state when we fall into a deep slumber.
As this was one of Heart’s biggest hits, it topped the charts in different countries and is one of the songs that Heart is most known for. The song has a soft rock ballad tune that makes it stand out from the other tracks.
This era of 1980s music was one of the most influential and important times in music history. There’s a song for every feeling, and sometimes all you need is to take yourself back through the years.
No matter the genre, these greatest songs from 1985 remain popular and well-loved by many people around the world.