Songs That Defined the 80s and 90s
October 4, 2008 10:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for 80s and 90s songs that defined the times.

I'm looking for the songs that dominated the radio between the mid 80s and mid 90s. I'm looking for the songs you made out to and the songs you made fun of. Help me make a friend's birthday party a good one. If you graduated high school between '89 and '94 what are the tunes that bring you back to home room?
posted by lysistrata to Media & Arts (66 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I should note: don't feel constrained by the dates I gave. Anything from the mid-80s to the mid-90s is helpful. The cheesier the better!
posted by lysistrata at 10:51 PM on October 4, 2008

Huge make-out tune: Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" which was the love song from the movie "Say Anything" (1989).
posted by amyms at 10:57 PM on October 4, 2008

This may or may not be useful, but John Parr's damn "St. Elmo's Fire" song (or whatever it's called) has randomly appeared twice in my life today. George Michael's "Faith" takes me back. So does about 75% of this list.
posted by greenland at 10:58 PM on October 4, 2008

Ace of Base - The Sign

That thing was everywhere in 1993.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:59 PM on October 4, 2008

Baby Got Back. Seriously.
posted by plasticbugs at 11:02 PM on October 4, 2008

So far, so good. I'm talking song you're embarrassed to admit you owned yet were all over the radio. Ace of Base is an excellent example.
posted by lysistrata at 11:02 PM on October 4, 2008

I'm talking song you're embarrassed to admit you owned yet were all over the radio.

Ahh, okay then, anything by New Kids On The Block. Especially "Hangin' Tough."
posted by amyms at 11:06 PM on October 4, 2008

Smells Like Teen Spirit?

Vogue by Madonna?

George Michael comes to mind, too.
posted by icarus at 11:06 PM on October 4, 2008

Hangin' Tough is terrific. She will hate me. Perfect.
posted by lysistrata at 11:21 PM on October 4, 2008

Debbie Gibson - Electric Youth
Berlin - Take my Breath Away
posted by at 11:26 PM on October 4, 2008

Thompson Twins - "Hold Me Now"
Terence Trent D'Arby - "Wishing Well"

Wait, cheesy?

How about Kajagoogoo - "Too Shy"

Then again I graduated in '86 so maybe I'm going back a little too far.
posted by MikeMc at 11:38 PM on October 4, 2008


A-Ha, Take On Me.
Duran Duran... pretty much anything.
Scorpions, Winds of Change (was there ever footage of the Berlin Wall coming down without this playing?).
Psychedlic Furs, Pretty In Pink.
Nirvana, all the singles from Nevermind.
Guns n Roses - many, many songs, but Welcome to the Jungle is the obvious standout.
Bon Jovi circa Slippery When Wet.
Def Leppard - most of the Hysteria album.
Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams.
Spandau Ballet - Gold.
Blur - Girls and Boys was just nonstop in my neck of the woods, but a bunch of Parklife and Blur were huge.
Aqua - Barbie Girl.
The Cult - Wild Hearted Son.
posted by rodgerd at 11:39 PM on October 4, 2008

George Michael comes to mind, too.

Oooohhh "I Want Your Sex" FTW!
posted by MikeMc at 11:40 PM on October 4, 2008

Fine Young Cannibals - She Drives me Crazy
I actually bought this CD

Wang Chung - Everybody Have Fun Tonight

WHAM! - "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go"

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (Don't Do It)

Dead or Alive - You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)

I have to stop or I'll be doing this all freakin' night.

One more, one of my absolute favorite '80s songs: Big Country - In A Big Country
posted by MikeMc at 11:52 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

MC Hammer - Have You Seen Her? (I think this is cheesier and better than 'U Can't Touch This'.. You know it's good right from the first part where Hammer says, 'Aww, yeah. I'm glad I put this tape in..' And you're in total agreement with Hammer!

Snow - Informer
Salt n Pepa - Let's Talk About Sex
Color Me Badd - I Wanna Sex You Up
C + C Music Factory - Gonna Make You Sweat
Gerardo - Rico Suave
Timbuk 3 - The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
Yello - Oh Yeah
LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out
Amy Grant - Baby Baby
Tag Team - Whoomp! There It IS
Haddaway - What Is Love
Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart
Kris Kross - Jump (This one's pretty good)
Jordy - Dur Dur d´être Bébé
Lou Bega - Mambo No. 5
Republica - Ready To Go
Bobby Brown - My Prerogative or Every Little Step
The Heights - How Do You Talk To An Angel?
Wham! - I'm Your Man
RuPaul - Supermodel

In a different vein, I was pretty embarrassed about the Spin Doctors. I didn't like them, I was just embarrassed. They 'Two Princes' and 'Little Miss Can't Be Wrong'.
posted by Mael Oui at 11:55 PM on October 4, 2008

They're songs were 'Two Princes' and 'Little Miss Can't Be Wrong'.
posted by Mael Oui at 11:58 PM on October 4, 2008

Seconding MikeMc's suggestions [insert thumbs-up here].
posted by amyms at 12:03 AM on October 5, 2008

Also, mid-Eighties through early Nineties were pretty much the prime time for Madonna (when everyone paid attention to her culturally and musically - Like a Virgin, Papa Don't Preach, et al) and George Michael (both in Wham and on his own - think Faith).
posted by rodgerd at 12:06 AM on October 5, 2008

Mael Oui said: I was pretty embarrassed about the Spin Doctors. I didn't like them, I was just embarrassed. They 'Two Princes'...

Nothing to be ashamed about regarding The Spin Doctors. "Two Princes" is a great 90s song.
posted by amyms at 12:08 AM on October 5, 2008

Men Without Hats - Safety Dance.
posted by rodgerd at 12:10 AM on October 5, 2008

'Return To Innocence' by Enigma might be a fun sing-along!
posted by Mael Oui at 12:15 AM on October 5, 2008

You guys are awesome. I knew AskMe would come through. Loving the suggestions.

This party will be taking place in a skating rink and I already have a good idea of what I'll be playing, couples skate included. Keep 'em coming!
posted by lysistrata at 12:19 AM on October 5, 2008

Samantha Fox anything
Lita Ford - Kiss Me Deadly
George Harrison - Got My Mind Set on You (maybe not cheesy, but was ubiquitous to the extreme)
We Are the World
Cameo - Word Up
Simply Irresistible - Robert Palmer
Buffalo Stance - Neneh Cherry
Good Thing - Fine Young Cannibals
posted by batmonkey at 12:19 AM on October 5, 2008

Survivor - Eye of the Tiger
Bette Midler - Wind Beneath My Wings
Peter Cetera - Glory of Love
Nu Shooz - I Can't Wait
Falco - Rock Me Amadeus
Prince anything
posted by batmonkey at 12:23 AM on October 5, 2008

I'm not sure if you have any interest in this, but in trying to make sure I was spelling something right, I ran into's music section and found they had a top 40 list (see link).
posted by batmonkey at 12:27 AM on October 5, 2008

I'm Too Sexy - Right Said Fred
Epic - Faith No More
Been Caught Stealing - Jane's Addiction
I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You - Bryan Adams

Other acts that come to mind from the 80s and 90s: Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos, Metallica.
posted by ellenaim at 12:31 AM on October 5, 2008

batmonkey, thank you for the eightyeightynine site. It's a big help.
posted by lysistrata at 12:37 AM on October 5, 2008

Extreme, Hole Hearted. (ouch!)
Seal, Crazy.
Seal, Kissed by a Rose on the Grave.
Cathy Dennis, Touch Me All Night Long. (cringeworthy)
Mr. Mister, Broken Wings.
Richard Marx, Right Here Waiting.
Johnny Farnham, You're the Voice.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:17 AM on October 5, 2008

Good list, Sonny Jim, but the second Seal song is "Kiss From a Rose" and the lyric is "kissed by a rose on the grey" (not grave).
posted by amyms at 1:29 AM on October 5, 2008

T'Pau - Heart and Soul.
Adam Ant - almost anything.
M.A.R.S. (?) - Push It.
Toni Basil - Mickey
Soft Cell - Tainted Love
posted by zengargoyle at 1:43 AM on October 5, 2008

PM Dawn - Set Adrift On Memory Bliss, Looking Through Patient Eyes
posted by PenDevil at 4:11 AM on October 5, 2008

The Cure - Close to me, or Love Cats.

when I was searching those links I kept accidentally typing "the cute." he he. Hey! I think that will be my tribute band name!
posted by dog food sugar at 4:19 AM on October 5, 2008

Simple Minds: "Don't You Forget About Me"

Psychedelic Furs: "Pretty In Pink"

OMD: "If You Leave"

Molly Ringwald rocks!

I am annoying my children now.
posted by beachhead2 at 5:37 AM on October 5, 2008

seconding Nu Shooz, "I Can't Wait"
Samantha Foxx "Touch Me"
Sherrif "When I'm You"
REO Speedwagon "Can't Fight This Feeling"
White Lion "When The Children Cry" (cheesiest song EVER)
Cutting Crew "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight"
posted by mrmarley at 6:24 AM on October 5, 2008

Grand Theft Auto Vice City soundtrack. nuff said
posted by jozxyqk at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2008

Jesus Jones "Right Here, Right Now"
posted by furtive at 7:12 AM on October 5, 2008

The most quintessential '80s songs that I did not see listed above would be Down Under and the curiously punctuation-free Come On Eileen.

I was not listening to current music in the '90s, but even then, I heard Champagne Supernova enough to know it note for note.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2008

Oh boy, this question takes me back to jr. high and mostly not in a good way (although you have to play Have You Seen Her!). Here are a few of the cheesier songs that haven't been mentioned:

Sinead O'Connor -- Nothing Compares 2 U
Boyz II Men -- It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday / End of the Road
Gerardo -- Rico Suave
Bel Biv DeVoe -- Poison
Jon Bon Jovi -- Blaze of Glory
Bon Jovi -- Bed of Roses
GNR -- November Rain / You Could Be Mine
posted by KatlaDragon at 7:46 AM on October 5, 2008

Anything from THRILLER!!!

Our House - Madness
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
The Flame - Cheap Trick
That's What I Like About You - The Romantics
Head Over Heels - The Go-Go's
anything from Purple Rain (Prince)
Rock the Casbah - The Clash
Working for the Weekend - Loverboy
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:50 AM on October 5, 2008

A few more more:

R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion was everywhere in 1991
Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was revived by Wayne's World in 1992
Arrested Development -- Tennessee
Tracy Chapman -- Fast Car
Black Crowes -- Hard to Handle / She Talks to Angels
Aerosmith -- Janie's Got a Gun / Love in an Elevator

and a few of my personally maligned earworms:
Technotronic feat. Ya Kid K - Move This
Lisa Stansfield -- Around the World
Crystal Waters -- Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)

Finally, a scan through the musical guests on Saturday Night Live during the period in question should provide some other good ideas.
posted by KatlaDragon at 8:10 AM on October 5, 2008

Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
U2 - One / Mysterious Ways
Billy Joel - We didn't start the fire
Extreme - More than words
Sting - All this time
Amy Grant - Every Heartbeat / I will remember you
Genesis - Hold on My Heart
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:52 AM on October 5, 2008

After reading the Weird Al thread, It hit me that if you grab whatever albums he released in that time period and peruse the polka medley from each album, you'll have a decent list of what was popular at the time.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:27 AM on October 5, 2008

"Laid" by James.
"Cannonball" by the Breeders
"Feed the Tree" by Belly
"Good" by Better Than Ezra
Anything from that Presidents of the USA album
posted by pxe2000 at 9:49 AM on October 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

EMF - Unbelievable
Helmet - Unsung
REM - It's the End of the World As We Know It
posted by ostranenie at 9:54 AM on October 5, 2008

Also Born of Frustration by James.
posted by ostranenie at 9:54 AM on October 5, 2008

I'm looking for the songs you made out to

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order
Just Like Heaven by the Cure
Head like a Hole by NIN
posted by 23skidoo at 10:42 AM on October 5, 2008

Us3: "Flip Fantasia"
Jesus Jones: "Right Here Right Now"
Cure: "Friday I'm In Love"
The entire Wilson/Phillips catalog
Blues Traveller: "Runaround"

On the less-embarrassing tip: "Casiotone Nation" by Soul Coughing?
posted by pxe2000 at 11:05 AM on October 5, 2008

Oh, "Wishing Well" by Terrence Trent D'Arby.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2008

amyms: No, it's "grave". One of the most morbid pop songs since the '50s.
posted by batmonkey at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2008

Hm. Actually, now I don't know...and he doesn't list lyrics in his cds, and of course the soundtrack it's on doesn't have lyrics.

Weeeeeeird. I think I'm going to keep thinking "grave", even though it probably is "grey".
posted by batmonkey at 11:50 AM on October 5, 2008

Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
Lisa Loeb - Stay (I miss you)
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:55 AM on October 5, 2008

I was at the Echo and the Bunnymen show at Radio City Music Hall on Wed night and I can tell you that "The Cutter", "Lips Like Sugar", and "The Killing Moon" brought the '80s screaming back.
posted by nicwolff at 2:20 PM on October 5, 2008

This thread feels 80's heavy. I would say definitely "What's Going On" by 4 Non Blondes. It came on the radio the other day and took me back hard...and I still knew all the words. And yes, seconding Oasis (either Champagne Supernova or Wonderwall), maybe some Hole, and Alanis. Tonnns of Alanis.
posted by crinklebat at 2:43 PM on October 5, 2008

The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
posted by zachxman at 2:55 PM on October 5, 2008

The first song every played on MTV...
Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star
posted by chana meira at 2:56 PM on October 5, 2008

batmonkey, your favorite lyrics site is wrong.
posted by amyms at 3:07 PM on October 5, 2008

I've forgotten the singer's name, but how about the one that goes "...never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you..."?

It was such a huge hit in the late eighties, I'm surprised nobody's mentioned it yet.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 3:58 PM on October 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

amyms: not my favourite, just one that comes up quickly. If one of the other sites had been first, I'd have instantly agreed w/ you. So, instead, clarification was offered after I went back and clicked through a few others. :)

'90s: is pretty handy for '90s hits.
posted by batmonkey at 4:17 PM on October 5, 2008

You need Celebrity Skin by Hole. I also can't believe that nobody has mentioned The Bangles or The Final Countdown by Europe.

I believe that Miss Otis is referring to Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up.

posted by cholly at 4:53 PM on October 5, 2008

Here are some more:

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm by the Crash Test Dummies
Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry
Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now) by Cracker
Here and Now by Letters To Cleo
Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry
Saved the Best for Last by Vanessa Williams
Finally by Cece Peniston
UNITY by Queen Latifah
Shoop by Salt-N-Pepa

The more I scrape away the cool stuff from my brain, the more I remember...THE CHEESE.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:00 PM on October 5, 2008

R.I.P. Ian McCulloch's clarion tenor.

The Clash: "Should I Stay or Should I Go".
Everything of the Violent Femmes
Romeo Void's "Never Say Never"

Bowie's Let's Dance Album came out in '83
posted by brujita at 10:19 PM on October 5, 2008

A couple 90s songs that just instantly take me back to driving to my summer job:

Jon Secada- Just Another Day
Toad the Wet Sprocket- All I Want
Sophie B. Hawkins- Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover

And for late 90s, don't forget... the Mmm-Bop.
posted by cereselle at 1:22 PM on October 6, 2008

I want to thank everyone for the terrific suggestions! I'm going to have my hands full putting this all together but I think it's going to be great fun at the same time. I wanted to mark every single one a best answer but it's taking forever for some reason. Rest assured, if you posted here you definitely gave me a best answer!
posted by lysistrata at 3:46 PM on October 6, 2008

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