20 of the Greatest Songs From 1986

Music in 1986 has been a year of outstanding creativity and talent. From the pop anthems of Madonna and Janet Jackson to the classic rock sounds of Prince and Peter Cetera, excellent records have been made.

For us to remember those iconic music tracks, here are 20 of the greatest songs from 1986.

1. “I’ll Be Over You” by Toto

Soft rock love songs were all the rage in the ’80s and this tune by Toto was no exception. It reached the top 11 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and remains a popular choice for weddings and anniversaries despite its break-up theme.

“I’ll Be Over You” is a song about the regret and sadness felt after ending a past relationship. The lyrics “as soon as forever is through, I’ll be over you” just shows that the singer isn’t going to be moving on anytime soon which makes this tune all the more relatable.

2. “Walk Like an Egyptian” by Bangles

The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian” was one of the most popular songs of 1986. The song not only reached number one on the Billboard chart but is also certified gold, selling over 500,000 units just in the United States.

The song is about ancient Egyptians and their unique way of walking. It even made an appearance in “Totally Spies! The Movie.” If you want to know how to strut your stuff like an Egyptian, this new-wave track is the perfect guide.

3. “Friends and Lovers” by Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson

This duet by Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson was originally recorded for the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” The song became so popular that it was released as a single and ended up peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song is about the complicated relationship between friends and lovers. It touches on the idea that sometimes being friends and lovers are separated by a fine line.

This makes the song relatable to anyone who has ever been in a complicated relationship. Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson’s unique vocal styles come together to create stunning harmony.

4. “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott

Gregory Abbott’s “Shake You Down” was one of the sexiest tunes of the decade. It went to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and also topped the UK singles chart, placing at number six. This sensual track is among the tracks that have a suggestive theme laced into it.

5. “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie

The master balladeer wrote this track for the film “White Nights.” It went on to become one of Lionel Richie’s most successful songs, peaking at number one on multiple charts and winning two Academy Awards because of its inclusion in the movie.

Having sold over one million copies in the US, the track is about the power of trusting and believing in each other. Lionel Richie’s smooth vocals make this song one of the most romantic tunes of the decade.

6. “C’est La Vie” by Robbie Nevil

Robbie Nevil’s “C’est La Vie” was one of the most popular dance tunes of 1986. It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was certified gold in Canada. The song is about living life to the fullest and enjoying every moment.

This track is a reminder that life’s just full of surprises so we might as well enjoy them. Robbie Nevil’s catchy vocals and the song’s overall upbeat message make it impossible to not dance along.

7. “Kiss” by Prince and The Revolution

The ever-talented Prince released this track as the lead single from his album “Parade.” It became an instant classic, selling over a million copies in the US.

As this track is part of an album where it is used in the film “Under the Cherry Moon,” it has a very sensual and sexual theme.

The song contentedly describes the physical act of kissing and how simply that can be enough. Prince’s sultry vocals make this track one of the most iconic songs of the decade.

8. “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range

“The Way It Is” features powerful piano solos that set it apart from other Bruce Hornsby and the Range tracks, making it one of their most popular songs. It soared to the charts worldwide and has been sampled by various artists.

The song is about acceptance and how sometimes we just have to accept the way things are. The lyrics talk about various social issues like racism and social inequality.

Despite the heavy subject matter, the track has an overall diverse and hopeful message that everybody deserves to be treated fairly.

9. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a song for anyone who has faced difficulties in their lives and hoped for something better tomorrow. It was released as the second single from Bon Jovi’s album “Slippery When Wet” and went on to become one of their most successful tracks.

As Bon Jovi’s signature song, “Livin’ on a Prayer” has been a fan favorite, charting number one in numerous charts and recharting in different decades. In 2013, their digital downloads numbered over three million, indicating that this song only gets better with time.

10. “On My Own” by Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald

This heart-wrenching ballad about being alone after a relationship that ended too soon is one of the most beautiful tracks of the decade. The track has been certified gold in the UK after selling over 500,000 units and an impressive two million units in the US.

The soulful vocals of Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald complement each other perfectly, making this song an instant classic. You’d want to play this track whenever you’re feeling a little blue and in need of a good cry.

11. “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung

Everybody would want to dance to this fun and catchy tune by the new wave Wang Chung.It topped the charts and was a leading song for partying and clubbing in the late ’80s.

The lyrics talk about letting loose and having fun while we still can. The synth-driven beat and unique vocals make this an unforgettable track from the decade.

12. “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera

As a previous vocalist of the band Chicago, Peter Cetera embarked on his solo career and highlighted his skills as a balladeer with this track. “Glory of Love” was originally written for the film “The Karate Kid Part II” but it eventually became a hit in its own right.

It topped the charts and has been one of the top-selling singles of the year. Being nominated for several prestigious awards, the track was able to bag the ASCAP Award for Most Performed Songs from a Motion Picture. This love song is truly a musical masterpiece that sets it apart from other love songs of the era.

13. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House

The soothing beat and melancholic but reassuring lyrics of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” make it an instant favorite, especially among those who are heartbroken and have gained freedom. 

This track is very popular in the UK and has been certified gold. You’d want to listen to this song whenever you’re feeling a little hopeless and in need of some encouragement.

14. “The Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh

Feeling lucky in love is the exact definition of this song. “The Lady in Red” is a beautiful and romantic ballad that will sweep you off your feet.

De Burgh made this song for his wife, and how he felt when he first laid his eyes on her. It’s no wonder that this track is one of the most popular wedding songs of all time.

The song has been used in the British TV series ‘This Is Your Life.’ It’s a romantic track suitable for slow dancing with your partner or to set the mood for a special night.

15. “Control” by Janet Jackson

Independence and gaining control over one’s life is what Janet Jackson’s song “Control” is all about. It was the title track of her third studio album which became a commercial and critical success. The album has been certified gold in the US, selling over 600,000 copies.

“Control” topped the charts and earned Jackson several awards and nominations. It’s an empowering song plus the funky and groovy tune will make you want to get up and dance.

16. “Notorious” by Duran Duran

Duran Duran is one of the most popular bands of the ’80s, and “Notorious” is their best-selling single. It’s a cryptic track about a manipulative woman who the narrator can’t resist.

With its worldwide success, it has topped the charts and is known to be a funky song that will make you want to move.

17. “The Next Time I Fall” by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant

If you’re a fan of either Cetera or Grant, then this song is a must-listen. “The Next Time I Fall” is an amazing love ballad by Cetera, from the album ‘Solitude/Solitaire.’

As part of Cetera’s solo career away from the band Chicago, he has done well on his own with his collaborations, selling a million copies in the US alone.

18. “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” by Billy Ocean

Another love ballad that has been sung with full emotion and finesse, “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” by Billy Ocean is a track from his fourth studio album, ‘Love Zone.’

The song reminds listeners that love songs can greatly affect one’s emotions, which can make you cry with nostalgia. As this song performed well in the charts, it has been a personal favorite for most sappy music lovers.

19. “Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau

As a rendition of Bill Withers’ original song, Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me” is a track full of positivity and hope. 

The Club Nouveau’s version has set the bar high as the song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hit 100 and won a Grammy credited to Withers. It’s a lovely song to listen to when you need a little motivation.

20. “Open Your Heart” by Madonna

Only Madonna could pull off a dance song about giving love in the most persuasive way possible. “Open Your Heart” is a track from her 1986 album, ‘True Blue.’

The song became an instant hit as it has been part of the top ten charts worldwide. It was well received in many countries, especially in the UK, where the track garnered over 250,000 units sold which made the single a certified silver. Madonna is always having fun in her music videos, and this one is no different.


A dynamic mix of love ballads, feel-good anthems, and groovy dance tunes, the songs of 1986 provided an excellent soundtrack to one of the most unforgettable years in history.

From Janet Jackson’s “Control” to Madonna’s “Open Your Heart,” these songs remain as popular today as they were over thirty years ago. These tracks from 1986 will take you back to a time when life felt simpler and all that mattered was having fun.

I’ll Be Over You Cover Art Featured Image (Bottom) by: Fair use, Link