10 Worst Songs of the 1980s

When I was a teenager in the 1990s, the 1980s were often reviled as the decade that taste forgot. But I think this list is far less heinous than the 10 Worst Songs of the 1970s – the corporate vibes of the 1980s sound less dated than the hippie ethos still permeating some of the worst 1970s songs.

I couldn’t squeeze in Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love of All’, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson’s ‘The Girl Is Mine’, or anything by Huey Lewis and the News. Several 1960s legends disgrace themselves, while the 1988 Tom Cruise movie Cocktail contributes two numbers. Read on for all the gory details.

10 Worst Songs of the 1980s

#10 Kokomo by The Beach Boys

By 1988 The Beach Boys had been an irrelevant legacy act for years – 1960s mastermind Brian Wilson was struggling under the care of controversial psychologist Eugene Landy, while Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983. ‘Kokomo’, featured in Cocktail, was an unexpected U.S. number one single. It was written by a collective of prominent 1960s musicians – The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, producer Terry Melcher, The Mamas & The Papas’ John Phillips, and Scott McKenzie, best-known for ‘San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)’. It’s redeemed somewhat by lovely vocals in the bridge from Carl Wilson, but it’s a crass cash-grab from a legendary pop band.

#9 Tainted Love by Soft Cell

Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’ began as an obscure 1965 b-Side, but became popular in British clubs in the 1970s. Leeds synth-pop duo Soft Cell covered the song in 1981. It’s a much-loved tune, easily the most controversial inclusion on the list, but it’s always grated on me. The combination of the repetitive backing track and the sleazy lead vocal has always made it a tough listen.

#8 Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce

This novelty song was a number one hit in Australia and the UK, but it failed to crack the top 50 in the USA. The US had superior taste in this instance; unlike Australia, where for years it was the highest-selling single ever. This accordion-driven tale of a rebellious Italian boy belongs to the 1920s rather than the 1980s. Dolce was unsuccessful in milking the formula for a follow-up hit – neither ‘You Toucha My Car, I Breaka You Face’ nor ‘Pizza Pizza’ was successful.

#7 The Final Countdown by Europe

Swedish glam-rock band Europe designed ‘The Final Countdown’ as a concert opener, with its piercing and dramatic keyboard riff. They’re ostensibly a rock band but ‘The Final Countdown’ is a pop song – it’s based around a drum machine and a synth riff. Europe left ‘The Final Countdown’ off their first two records because it was too unusual, but included it on their third album where it was a worldwide smash hit.

#6 The Lady In Red by Chris de Burgh

Argentina-born Chris de Burgh started his career opening for Supertramp, but hit the pay-dirt with this swooning 1986 hit. There’s a pleasant verse melody, but the chorus is lazy and insipid. Chris de Burgh wrote ‘The Lady In Red’ about the first time he met his wife. He wrote ‘For Rosanna’, also from 1986’s Into The Light, about his 2-year old daughter; she later became Miss World 2003.

#5 Girl You Know It’s True by Milli Vanilli

Milli Vanilli are an easy target – the European R&B duo shot to infamy in 1989 when a technical glitch revealed that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were lip-syncing their live performances. They weren’t singing in the studio either, although I’m a firm believer that the final product is more important than any notions of artistic integrity. The problem is that the final product is utterly generic R&B, with its “true” and “love you” rhymes – the slick dance moves of Morvan and Pilatus are the group’s biggest redeeming feature.

#4 We Are The World by U.S.A. for Africa

There are a bunch of questionable collaborative songs that emerged in the 1980s – duets featuring various combinations of Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson were all considered, as well as ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’. It’s fun watching a bunch of legends takes turns at the mic in the music video for ‘We Are The World’ – you’re unlikely to see the combination of Dionne Warwick and Willie Nelson anywhere else. But ‘We Are The World’, written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, is essentially a bad Christmas carol.

#3 Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin

‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ is the second song on this list to originate from the movie Cocktail. Bobby McFerrin has a jazz pedigree, influenced by Keith Jarrett and working with Herbie Hancock. The song is an impressive technical achievement with all of its sounds emanating from McFerrin’s mouth. But ultimately it’s a gimmicky novelty hit – McFerrin’s faux-Jamaican accent is particularly painful. ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ was used as George H.W. Bush’s campaign song against McFerrin’s wishes, and it’s often falsely attributed to Bob Marley – Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ (which also features lyrics about not worrying) is a much stronger song.

#2 We Built This City by Starship

In the 1960s Jefferson Airplane were an anti-establishment band, pushing boundaries with songs like ‘White Rabbit’, ‘Triad’, and ‘Volunteers’. By 1985 they’d morphed into Starship and they were the establishment, singing a corporate rock song about how they’d built this city on rock and roll. Bernie Taupin provides incomprehensible lyrics like “Marconi plays the mamba”. The attempted inspirational anthem ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, from 1987’s No Protection, was also in contention for this list.

#1 Dancing in the Street by David Bowie & Mick Jagger

Two rock legends joined forces for a cover of a 1960s Motown classic, with a video recorded for broadcast at Live Aid. It’s a robust song, co-penned by Marvin Gaye, but it’s spoiled by the over-enthusiastic singing of the pair. They sound like caricatures of themselves, embarrassing dads. It’s not only David Bowie and The Rolling Stones implicated in this train-wreck – Prefab Sprout‘s Neil Conti. The Attractions‘ Steve Nieve, and The Soft Boys’ Matthew Seligman are all involved.

Am I wrong about ‘Tainted Love’? Am I crazy to think that David Bowie and Mick Jagger recorded the worst song of the decade? What did I forget to include?

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  1. I actually rather like ‘Kokomo,’ ‘Tainted Love,’ and ‘Don’t Worry.’ I can take or leave ‘We Are the World.’ ‘We Built this City’ is a piece of garbage and a long fall from grace for what used to be the great Jefferson Airplane. That said, it’s good to know that ‘Marconi plays the mamba’ or whatever. (Rolling Stone readers voted it the worst by a wide margin. And did you know Bernie Taupin – to his lasting shame – was a co-writer?)
    As to Jagger/Bowie, I never thought that was such a great song in the first place. Their “I’m a bigger star” one-upmanship in the video is more embarrassing than the song. My choices?
    -That’s What Friends Are For – Warwick and crew
    -Groovy Kind of Love – Phil Collins
    -Ebony and Ivory – Jackson/McCartney
    And while I don’t know when it came out exactly, special mention – as always – to “Sometimes When We Touch,” literally the worst song of all time.

    • Sometimes When We Touch is late-1970s, but it kind of sounds 1980s.
      I did consider Ebony and Ivory (I assume you meant this Wonder and McCartney collab, not McCartney and Jackson’s The Girl is Mine) and That’s What Friends Are For.

    • That’s what Friends are For and Dionne Warwick beat out Steve Windwood, Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon for the Grammy that year, so there’s that……

    • Another spot-on list but, I like any version of Tainted Love. And sometimes I’ll listen to final Countdown. Here are my turds from the 80’s in no particular order: Human League ” “Don’t You Want Me”, Howard Jones ” “Don’t You Want Me,” Ebony and Ivory, I Got My Mind Set on You George Harrison. Shame on you the quiet Beatle. IMHO you wrecked a great early 60’s song by James Ray with a kick ass background section of soul singers. Phil Collins “”Sussudio” Franky Gays (Go’s) To Hollywood, Barry Manilow Read Em and Weep. Coming Up Paul McCartney and Wings. The Curly Shuffle. Though I love the Three Stooges. “Pack Man Fever” And Escape Club Wild West make my list. 99 Luft Balloons Yuck!

  2. Now you’re talking!
    An amazing list.
    No way tainted love should be there, though. And I’m not sure about “we are the world” – it’s not a bad song and it’s for charity.
    All others are terrible.
    My 1 and 2 worst songs of the 1980s:
    1. Culture Club – “War Song”
    2. Duran Duran – “Wild Boys”

    • I’d never heard that Culture Club song before. Listening now, I do enjoy Boy George’s voice enough to give it a pass, even though the chorus lyrics are kind of stupid (their words, not mine).

  3. I agree with several of your picks – especially anything by the egregiously fake Milli Vanilli – but must disagree on “Tainted Love” and “Greatest Love of All”, and strenuously disagree on “We Are the World”. Many love to hate on that song, which I’ll concede is a bit sappy, but hearing all those voices of so many important singers of that time period who came together for this fund-raiser track still puts a lump in my throat.

  4. great post. I can’t disagree on much. I do like Final Countdown but it always felt to me like they had this great riff but couldn’t do anything with it.

  5. I agree with you on 10, 5, 4, and 2, disagree with you on 9, 7, 6, 1, and would nominate “Hangin’ Tough” by New Kids on the Block, “Party all the Time” by Eddie Murphy, “Sunshine Raggae” by Laid Back, and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” by Boy George.

  6. You were not blighted by Stock Aitken and Waterman the way I was. The top ten could be produced by that gang of Turd Vendors. But yep this list is all pretty hideous. I hold deep the belief that the 80’s were a shockingly bad decade for music punctuated by pockets of quality and the retro kitsch cash in machine promotes all the worst aspects of it.

    • There are a whole lot of big dancefloor fillers from the 1980s that have held up really well – I’ll rep for Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ or Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. We got a bit of SAW over in New Zealand – I don’t actually hate Rickrolling like I’m supposed to, and most of their hits are pretty upbeat.

  7. That’s the thing about music – it polarises opinion!
    I’m not a fan of 80s music in general after about 1984, but some of these on your list I’d definitely disagree with. I’m sure I could name some that are a hundred times worse….. what about all that Stock Aitken Waterman bilge? 😀
    But then, nobody agrees 100% on music do they? 😉

  8. I can agree with you on most of these, especially Chris DeBurgh. I much prefer his 1983 single, “Don’t Pay the Ferryman.” The only thing I like about Joe Dolce is that years later, my ex wife hated it because it kept her favourite song at the time, “Vienna” by Ultravox off the number one spot in the UK. As for the number one, well according to Family Guy, it was the gayest video ever made.

  9. You have a few of one hit wonders like Joe Dolce and BM on your List -. But the 1980s should be remembered as the decade when otherwise accomplished musicians committed serious music crimes.
    So in addition to the Culture Club (War song) and Duran Duran (Wild Boys) mentioned above, these are on my list:
    Phil Collins – “Illegal Alien”
    Glen Fry – “The Heat is on” ( or anything from the BHC soundtracks)
    Elton John – “I’m still standing”. Ya it’s catchy, but the background “gospel singers” are gimmicky and the lyrics are beyond terrible
    Anything from the Huey Lewis album that came after “Sports” – “Happy to be stuck with you”, “ gonna go back in time…”. Etc.

    • Illegal Alien is bad, but I don’t really feel like picking on deep cuts works for this list. Glenn Frey was in contention too – ‘Sexy Girl’ is a bad one. I like ‘I’m Still Standing’ though – I’m pretty sure John has some worse 1980s stuff.

  10. Where do I start?
    I would add these
    The Safety Dance….this would be my number 1 followed by We Built This City
    Every Rose Has It’s Thorn (prick)
    Mr. Roboto
    Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
    And for me…Duran Duran’s entire 80s catalog.
    Don’t Worry Be Happy is annoying I’ll give you that and I don’t like it…but no one fired up a synthesizer so it might be the only song of the 80s not to feature one.

    • I’ve barely heard the Safety Dance – it’s not really part of my personal 1980s hell. Every Rose Has Its Thorn is terrible, but I’ve never minded Wham’s hits.

      • The Safety Dance would also probably take the worse video of the decade…and that is saying a lot!
        The only song that I could stomach on your list is the Soft Cell song…

    • God, you’re right these are all horrible songs as well; plus if i remember correctly the Safety Dance video is bizarre and creepy and the Mr. Roboto one is just weird.

      • Thank you Paul! The video matched the song in bad. I cringe everytime I hear the song. That song was really popular and it boggled my mind…but a cool song like Salt In My Tears was barely a hit….a different kind of decade.

  11. You know your getting old when I remember all these tunes. lol I grew up in the 80’s and yes some of this stuff was silly. Ok a lot of it was silly.

  12. When I was growing up in Montreal there was a synth-pop band called “Rational Youth” that was popular locally .
    Then one of the main members left to do something else and they re-branded as “Men Without Hats”. The Safety Dance was a huge global billboard hit and they received a Grammy nomination for the song and the video.
    People assumed at the time that the member who left would be upset. Even back then, he said “not really”.
    Now we know why.

  13. I have to say I much prefer thinking and writing about music I like. While I agree none of the songs you listed are masterpieces, most don’t bother me that much except perhaps “Tainted Love,” which is really terrible.
    Two additional tunes I find truly awful are “Looking for Freedom” (David Hasselhoff) and “Cheri Cheri Lady” (Modern Talking). You can pretty much add any other tune that German pop duo ever released!

    • It’s nice to find another ‘Tainted Love’ hater. There’s a very popular recent-ish song named ‘Shotgun’ – I think it’s terrible, and the singer reminds me of Hasselhoff.

      • I think Hasselhoff (sorry, David, don’t mean to keep picking on you, but acting and singing usually doesn’t work out very well!) and Modern Talking were even worse.
        Modern Talking were extremely popular in Germany. During their heyday, you simply couldn’t listen to (mainstream) radio without encountering the annoying duo.

  14. There is a theory, espoused by music Historians such as Alan Cross, that music swings in a long pendulum from pop to rock and back again
    Many observers believe that musically the decade of the 1980’s was the worst ever and the 1990s the greatest.
    In a few short years we went from listening to “How Will I know?” To “Jeremy “
    But the butterfly wings were flapping in the late 1980s like canaries in the coal mine:
    REM, the ultimate college radio band, was suddenly on the main billboard chart with “Losing my religion”
    Prince transformed himself into something totally different from before and was mesmerizing (sorry G I know you love “I wanna be your lover”- which is a fun song )
    At the very end of the decade 40 people paid exactly $5 go to a tiny bar in Madison Wisconsin to hear Nirvana open for The Tragically Hip.
    If you have a poster or a ticket stub from that night it’s worth a lot of money today.

    • I don’t know that we’ve really had a swing back to rock since the early 2000s – things like The Strokes, The White Stripes, and Franz Ferdinand are the last vestiges of rock hitting the mainstream. I’d question whether it will ever swing back.
      I think there’s lots of good underground rock and alternative UK stuff around in the 1980s – just not much in the way of mainstream rock.
      I think every era has good stuff, it’s just more obvious in some than others.

      • You are right that there’s all styles of music in every era but that you never know which styles will be emphasized at that time on the radio and the charts.
        Yes, after the swing to rock in the 1990-2005 years it went back to pop during the 2010’s (Drake,Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar , justin Beiber etc) and hasn’t swung back yet.

          • Yes!
            Just when you think it won’t ever swing from pop etc back to rock, it does. It usually needs a crossover bridge like Prince was in the mid- late 1980s .
            As you say “a female appealing to disaffected youth” is exactly what I was thinking about for this time around – probably Lorde but more likely Billy Eilish – each has both pop and rock cred

          • I certainly think Billie Eilish could be that person, she’s just not particularly rock, but does have a DIY aesthetic that resembles rock.

  15. There are some classics (as in, classically bad) songs on this list and for that, I salute you. Soft Cell’s “Tainted love” though? I love that one. You can easily replace that one with Taco’s “Puttin’ on the ritz” or Spandau Ballet’s “True” (which for some reason, I’ve always hated) or Squeeze’s “Cool for cats” or…

    • I’m aware everyone else likes ‘Tainted Love’, I’m pretty sure ‘True’ is disliked by a lot of people though. You hate ‘Cool For Cats’? Some of those lyrics are pretty gross, but it’s not that bad (and it’s from 1979)….

  16. “When I was a teenager in the 1990s, the 1980s were often reviled as the decade that taste forgot.”
    I did much of my growing up in the 80s, and became a teenager in the late 80s, though most of it was done in the 90s. So I’m mostly in agreement with that sentiment. But it just…amazes me how the 80s have been held up as “cool” to those who didn’t live through it since about the early aughts. I don’t get it. Yeah, there was some great pop, and the clothes were colorful! But I think those who currently worship the 80s either a) had it be their “great” years or b) were too young to remember or not born yet. Because when I now think of the 80s, I think about Reagan, the threat of nuclear war, the poor getting poorer (which has just intensified in the past few decades), the AIDS crisis and the homophobia surrounding it, and lots of bad Saturday morning cartoons. So to see some consider it The Greatest Decade just boggles my mind.

    • I certainly don’t think it was the greatest decade ever, I just think its music was written off too much in the 1990s. In New Zealand we had a bizarre political situation where the right wing party almost bankrupted the country with a bunch of public works projects, then the left wing party brought in a bunch of neo-liberal policies.

      • 80’s music was definitely written off in the 90’s, but now we’ve had almost two decades of the elevation of 80s music with much less reverence for 90s music (outside of 1991-4).

          • Oh, no doubt there’s some great stuff from the 90s. (Not No Doubt, though.) It just seems that it’s become easy for people to bag on the decade.
            I blame it on the trends that came to a head in the late 90s: Fourth-generation warmed-over grunge, nu-metal, etc. There were genres that tried to become predominant and failed (electronica, ska, swing revival). It’s almost like what came later in the decade negated what started it. And because some of the late 90s music was just that bad, it’s hard for people to get over it.
            It seems to be a pattern: We remember the 60s more for the psychedelic rock at the end vs the pop acts that dominated the pre-Beatles charts, the 70’s are depicted as being dominated by disco and “yacht rock”, music that came to the forefront in the decade’s later years. I guess the 80s has a “leg up” because we tend to think fondly of the stuff that came from 1985 and earlier while ignoring the hair metal and such that dominated the last few years.
            Disclosure: I do like a good amount of ska music, but the acts that “got big” in the later 90s were not that good for the most part.

          • I think in my age cohort, the early 1990s are loved. My friends were into then-current bands like Manic Street Preachers, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine etc.
            The late 1990s did have Radiohead – they plus Nirvana are the most identifiable rock bands for the decade.

  17. The Muppets version of Kokomo is a pinnacle. The Beach Boys version a travesty. The 80’s was a strange time, the true start of the decline with Thatcher et al.

  18. With so many awful ones to choose from I don’t know how you ever narrowed it down to 10. I could never. The only one I kind of disagree with is Tainted Love, which is kind of okay. Anything after 1983 or so was so terrible that early 80s synth-pop seems like the highlight of the entire decade. lol

    • I think synth sounds got better later in the decade – I like 70s synth sounds and sounds from later in the 1980s but there’s a little zone in the early 1980s where I don’t like the synths much.

  19. I’m impressed you narrowed it down to so few songs – that decade was a shiat-pile of the highest order. I once wrote a whole post ranting about that Chris DeBurgh song. Ugh. And I might have to stick up for those embarassing dads. Their enthusiasm and camp is what makes that track such hilarious fun.

  20. Yes it’s hard to narrow down the badness of the decade musically.
    I would include Dire Straits “Twisting By the Pool” and also anything by “The Stray Cats”.

  21. Everyone loves to trash the 1980s- but what decade can compete with this list?
    The ten best songs of the 1980s (according to me)
    1. The Smiths – “How Soon is Now?”
    2. Queen/ Bowie – “Under Pressure”
    3. U2 – “ With or without you”
    4. REM- “ Losing My Religion”
    5. INXS- “Never Tear us Apart”
    6. The Pixies – “Debaser”
    7. The Cure – “Just Like Heaven”
    8- Simple Minds – “Alive and Kicking”
    9. The Clash – “ Bankrobber”
    10. The psychedelic Furs – “Heaven”
    And I didn’t even have room for the Talking Heads, Prince, Tom Petty, Guns & Roses, Dire Straits, The Stone Roses, the Ramones, New Order/Joy Division, Lou Reed etc

  22. Omg.
    I purposely googled most of the songs just to make sure they were all exactly from the 80s.
    I just assumed that that REM album was as well .
    Ok , so just replace LMR with something from “Life’s Rich Pageant” or the B52s – also from Athens, GA

      • I think “Automatic for the People”! is their finest album , Better than “Pageant” . The singles , plus “Night-swimming “ and “ Find the river” hang together.
        It’s obviously 90s, but somehow the band will always be in one’s imagination as an 80’s college radio band.
        Same with U2.
        Hard to imagine, but there was a time in the late 1990s-early 200s when U2 and REM were not the bomb anymore – overshadowed by grunge and Oasis and the Smashing Pumpkins, and Radiohead, and you could see them in a mid-sized venue if you paid attention to the touring dates

        • I think U2 and REM both outstayed their welcome and became less relevant. Although REM’s last couple of albums are pretty good, and U2 are still relevant as a touring band but probably should have slowed their recording output right down.

  23. Well, that’s the same for most bands.
    There are a lot.of theories behind a band’s inevitable decline – but most likely it’s a combination of internal and external forces
    I tried to like “accelerator.” but I dare you to listen to it all the way through.
    REM eventually broke up (I think) but I saw them tour with “the National” and “ Modest Mouse” near the end in TO at a mid sized venue – was great.
    “How to dismantle an atomic bomb “ is without question one of U2’s best albums. But ya, the shark was jumped for both bands by then

  24. I normally don’t comment on blog posts. Especially top ten lists as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That said this list is a little harsh and overly opinionated. While not representing the best of the decade they’re far from the worst.
    As you mention yourself, some of these were easy targets and almost come across as lazy inclusions. I think given the decade a lot or these get a pass. This was, after all, the decade of excess.
    Tainted Love by Soft Cell is a Synth Pop Classic that’s been covered by many an artist. Simply does not belong here. Sounds like it’s only basis for being a “bad” song is the fact you personally didn’t like it.
    If I had to pick a single song as the worst song of the decade it would probably be ‘The Girl is Mine.’ Which you mention but do not give a slot. This was a extreme waste of talent imo and kept ‘Thriller’ from being a perfect album. For that reason alone it deserves the top spot.

    • Lists of ten worst anything are going to be “harsh and overly opinionated” by design. There’s no “objective” way to determine what the worst is when you are talking about an artform.
      “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell IS a cover. They didn’t write the song, just made it popular.
      I do agree with you on “The Girl Is Mine”, though.

      • Well “if it’s a cover “is your test, then you are really letting the genie out of the music bottle –
        Google every song you love to make sure it’s not a cover. I think you will be surprised

        • “Cover” is not my test. Maybe it wasn’t your intention, but the wording of your comment makes it sound (at least to me) like people are “covering” Soft Cell. While those folks may be informed by Soft Cell’s take on it, they aren’t “covering” Soft Cell. They weren’t the writers nor the original artist of said song.
          Yes, there are many songs I love that are covers, no doubt. Covers can be great, horrible, or somewhere in between. Sometimes a cover becomes “the definitive” version of a song in most people’s eyes, like Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” and Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You”. Some of it comes down to personal taste. For example, I like Husker Du’s cover of “Eight Miles High” better than the Byrds original.

          • I Will Always Love You is pencilled in for the 1990s list. I don’t hate Whitney Houston (IMO ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ is a total banger) and I like the Dolly Parton original, but it drives me crazy. It was all over the radio at the age where I was becoming musically conscious.

        • The comment adventurepdx has responding to said “a Synth Pop Classic that’s been covered by many an artist.” I don’t think covers are intrinsically bad, but Soft Cell shouldn’t get credit for writing Tainted Love.

          • I read somewhere that “Tainted Love” was pretty popular in the UK in the ’70s, at least amongst those who were into Northern Soul. When they did their take on the song, they figured everyone would realize it was a cover.

  25. I definitely think “Do they know it’s Christmas” is much better, more genuine, than “We are the World”. I liked “Kokomo”, I’m indifferent about “Dancing in the Street” and “Tainted Love” used to make me turn off the radio. Probably still would.

    • I’m not a huge fan of Do They Know It’s Christmas, but I think it’s a step up from We Are The World. It focuses in on one issue and did a good job on bringing attention to it.

  26. I have an idea of the worst and best of the 1990s. That’s my decade!
    G – I’m not telling you what to do but if you include the WH song you will get Tons of pushback like soft cell.
    Watch the documentary on her. “Whitney.” It’s really very good.

  27. I agree with 8 out of 10 of your worst 1989s ideas.
    I’m glad you didn’t put down “Spandau Ballet” or “Flock of Seagulls” or “Mister Mister”.
    They are classic 80s, and decent enough songs to boot.

    • Apparently True is hated by a lot of people. I think it’s well-written but is just a bit slow/long and drags a bit. I don’t hear that Flock of Seagulls song around much.

  28. I don’t know what it is about the 80s but I seem to enjoy everything equally, I can’t even hate joe dolce. For me the really bummers on the list are the American ones it’s like they are trying too hard especially Jefferson Starship.

  29. I’m with you about Starship. Jefferson Starship was my favourite band from 1976-84. However, after Paul Kantner left the band, taking the Jefferson name with him thanks to a lawsuit, Starship became a top 40 band and that was a damn shame.

  30. Hey, watz up? I’m in a hurry but not that much to say that Hey Mickey was bad but they ULTIMATELY WASTED ALL ENERGY ON (PAC MAN FEVER) or did you forget that one? I did actually like LADY IN RED but different strokes. TTYL PEACE

  31. Someone obviously did not like the ’80s. However, I can agree with some of these, they’re definitely not the worst. It would be more like. “I got my set on you.”- George Harrison, and Hangin’ Tough – New Kids on the block.

  32. The absolute worst song of the 80s is You Spin Me Around by Dead or Alive.
    Another song that should have been included is Mickey by Toni Basil.
    Those two songs are just plain awful
    Signed a 1987 HS Grad…I know the 80s!

  33. With the exception of that stupid faux italian somg that i never even heard of, this list is WHACK. In fact, these are some of the BEST and most DEFINING songs of the 80’s and as a generation x’er born in 1978 i think that makes me qualified. I don’t think the writer knows what he or she is talking about.

  34. I sang along on the car radio happily in the 80’s some of your picks for “worst songs'”. They probably didn’t hold out to appeal to your generation, but at the time, a ton of people around me also sang along with some of them-some were catchy tunes. Most of my friends then preferred Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Ramones, Clash, Queensryche, Motorhead, Dead Kennedys, Stones, Rush etc, but some of those songs were still cool then, too-like, “Tainted Love”. Could be partially a generational thing.

  35. That’s actually a great list, with the exception of Soft Cell. The song comes from their brilliant album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (hence, the sleazy vocals). Nice pick for number 1. I’m a huge Bowie fan, but that was one of the worst recordings he ever did. Half of these songs would probably be on my list. I’d have to include “Endless Love” or “Hello” by Lionel Richie. He wrote some good songs, but he also wrote some real stinkers that were huge. Also, Sussudio, by Phil Collins. Lol.

    • Thanks for writing in! I’m well aware that I’m in the minority about Soft Cell – maybe I should hear the parent album sometime to see how I respond to it.
      IMO, Adele’s ‘Hello’ makes Richie’s look good.

        • I have a list of 1990s worst songs ready to write about – I was planning to publish it today, but the accusations of 1980s hating pushed me to make a 1980s best of list instead.

  36. I CANT BELIEVE YOU HAVE KOKOMO ON THIS LIST – i LOVE THAT SONG!! Kidding, kidding, totally kidding. Don’t spam me! This is quite the list. Kokomo is actually at the top of my list for worst songs ever. We Built this City as well – have you ever seen the video – it actually makes the song worse if that’s possible; Re: Tainted Love though, I always kind of liked that song so there you go.
    Will go back and check out the 70s best and worst. Looking forward to the 90’s as well.

    • I’m aware that lots of people like Tainted Love – it’s more just a personal bugbear for me. I’ve got a lot of response from these posts, so really I should make a best hits, worst, and maybe best deep cuts/cult acts list for every decade from the 1960s to 2010s.

  37. Two additional comments – how did Australia, the land that has given the world so many great bands, make “Shaddap Your Face” a hit?
    Secondly, the idea of comparing Don’t worry be happy with Three Little Birds almost makes me physically ill – it approaches sacrilege. Blahhh… 🙂

    • Shaddap Your Face was a hit almost everywhere except the USA.
      I was at a party where someone got those ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘Three Little Birds’ mixed up. Didn’t want to be rude and correct them.

      • Well the US certainly has had its share of novelty song feel that probably didn’t chart elsewhere.
        Re party I would have probably backed away slowly… 😀

  38. The final countdown is a great song. If europe was an american band it would have been made it big. Every song on that album is good just people cant listen too stuff if it aint about love, sex , drugs, violence but i do recon alot of people dare not admit they like it. It blows def leppard out of the water

  39. “We built this city” is a dumpster fire of a song. The interesting thing to me is that jefferson starship, although nowhere near as cool as airplane, didn’t embarras themselves with some of their 70s and early 80s stuff. Red Octopus has some well crafted tunes. Hell even their arena rock efforts like “find your way back” etc. were fine entries into that tepid genre. So when ” we built this city” came out it kinda shocked me. Clearly they didn’t care anymore about anything but makin a buck. Kind of a bummer.

  40. “Ebony and Ivory” is McCartney and Stevie Wonder. “Say, Say, Say” is McCartney and Jackson. They’re both really bad, so it’s easy to confuse them.

  41. Europe! I wish it actually was the final countdown when I hear that piece of eurotrash. I totally agree that ‘Final Countdown’ is a well deserved entry in this list….unfortunately it’s an ear worm… and the worst of it is you cannot escape it, much like death and taxes. One argument I would make is that, in order to qualify for the top 10, a song should at least be recognizable and thus have managed to instill disgust, hatred, a feeling of anguish and despair at being forced to listen to it, which is to say it had to have at least been played a lot and be recognizable, which you have admirably managed to succeed in doing with your selections.

    However, I am one of those who do take issue with your inclusion of Soft Cell’s version of ‘Tainted Love’: it brings back fond memories of a time when it seemed that the music you listened to was some form of personal moral stand against authority and hypocrisy. Perhaps it still is, but it seems sometimes that the bad guys won. On a personal note, some of us at our high school got a campaign going to have that song chosen as our prom song (class of 1982). It duly won out but was nixed by higher powers and we were forced instead to listen to ‘Wild Horses’ (they should have given the band combat pay for playing that piece of trash). However, by the end of the night we got the band to play our ‘subversive’ song anyway, along with ‘Dirty Water’ by the Standells (unsurprisingly my high school was in suburban Boston). Strange as it seems now, ‘Dirty Water’ was also considered unfit for youthful ears by the school administration.

    I would recommend in place of Soft Cell’s admittedly quirky but not by a long stretch one of the ‘worst’ songs of the 80s, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ from 90125 by Yes (or frankly anything by Yes). My roommate in college would come back from class and play it incessantly until threats were made, after which he played it with his headphones on and sang it loudly with a heavy Puerto Rican accent. I think it improved the song! Or maybe ‘Africa’ by Toto: I feel the urge to vomit every time I hear that song. The lyrics are actually strong candidates for the most absurdly pretentious ever written: “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti I seek to cure what’s deep inside” ugh. So many many bad songs to choose from in the 80s.

    I actually disagree with you about which decade has a worse collection of crappy songs: better to have some sappy faux-aspirational and misguided/borderline un-PC 70s crap than sanitized corporate elevator music crap (think Miami Vice) that was increasingly the style as the decade progressed (declined?). The 1980s however, frankly like all decades if you poke around a bit, was a great time in music history (Happy Mondays, U2, REM, Clash, Cure, INXS, B-52s to name merely a small selection of the quality acts from that era) but the more I reflect the more I begin to remember all the songs I have heretofore managed to purge from my memory. So… thanks for this?

    By the way, I would bet that you get more comments on this subject than on the best songs of the 80s. It’s almost more fun to talk about the crappy songs than to argue about the best songs, a futile endeavor to be honest, as everyone has slightly different taste and personal connections to songs always play a role in one’s choice of songs. I would put ‘Blister in the Sun’ by the Violent Femmes in my all time top ten songs of the 1980s but my wife hates that song with a passion, Each of us for personal reasons related to the time and place we both first heard that song, to give one example.

    • Thanks for writing in. I agree that it’s actually a short distance between worst song and best song sometimes. You could argue that the worst song gets stuck in your head just like the best one does – they need a well-constructed hook. It’s the unmemorable ones that don’t stick in your head that arguably aren’t as good.

      I am finding it tough to find bad songs from the 1960s – mostly weird novelty songs or stuff from the pre-Beatles era.

  42. Jagger/Bowie seems deserving because they attacked your eyes as well as ears-you can’t unsee it. It’s like watching boomers get their groove on in a Celebrex ad. For purely aural torture, I’d have to go with “Born in the USA” or its evil twin “Walk of Life”

  43. I think Springsteen has done some brilliant stuff, which just makes such a facile song (lyrics notwithstanding) so deserving of your list. It’s a ballpark rally organ riff atop B and E chords ad infinitum.
    Maybe I’m being too hard on Bruce because let’s face it, is there any 1984-era stuff by anyone that DIDN’T suck?

    • Do you like Purple Rain by Prince? That’s a mega-selling album from 1984 that’s held up pretty well.

  44. You’ve got a point there. I just meant that the mid 80’s epitomize an over reliance on synthetic instruments which haven’t held up well to these ears. An exception that comes to mind is Private Revolution by World Party.
    There are always exceptions. But generally speaking, I’d rather hear the Beatles Let It Be minus the heavy hand of Phil Spector, Neil Young’s first solo release minus what Jack Nitzsche did to songs like I’ve Been Waiting For You, and just about anything from the 80’s that wasn’t slathered in cheez whiz synths and drum machines.

    • I like World Party, haven’t really written about them yet. Generally that big 1980s sound is back in vogue at the moment – you can hear it in lots of contemporary hits like The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’. I love a lot of the 1984 American indie/underground records, like Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, The Replacements’ Let It Be, Meat Puppets II. No synthetic instruments on those…

  45. I love looking at the music from the classic eras and learning all about the artists and music history. There’s so much to learn and read about, so thanks for this amazing website!

    Here are a few of my thoughts on what I consider to be the worst songs of the entire 1980s decade.

    Groovy Kind Of Love. By Phil Collins. An absolute snore fest of a song. A huge hit that bored anyone who heard it to tears. Yet it still became a massive hit. However, all was not lost. As it turns out, some time after the song became a hit, word began pouring in from everywhere that insomniacs were successfully using the song to put them to sleep! Insomniacs everywhere wept for joy, and a few years later, it was announced that Insomnia had been wiped from existence and, however unintended by Phil, had been cured thanks to Phil’s dull and Land of Nod inducing smash hit record! Phil received numerous awards for his efforts! Well done, Phil!

    I Just Want To Be Loved. Elvis Costello. While the song idea and sentiment was worthy, who doesn’t want to be loved? This sleepy, and honestly, dull to a fault song was not a major hit and is best long forgotten. And would have been, had Elvis not sued Phil Collins years later. Elvis insisted that it was his sleep inducing hit and not the aforementioned 1 by Phil that had cured insomnia. Elvis lost the lawsuit, and Phil, in turn, sued Elvis. He only dropped the lawsuit when his Lawyers informed him that Elvis, who had never sold many records and made little money from his career, was essentially broke!

    Suzie Q. 2 Of Hearts. This lighter than helium pop dance hit was about the worst of it’s kind back in the 1980s. Fortunately, Suzie wasn’t relevant for very long before she faded away. Amazingly, she reappeared in the UK after inventing a new cola brand called Vomit Comet! The brand was an enormous success in the UK, Europe and Asia, as well as South America. It was surprisingly, never sold in North America, which is why no 1 here has ever heard of it. She retired a multi-billionaire, as President in 2000 and sold all her shares of the company. Bizarrely, she reappeared yet again in 2015 as a permanent member of Sheryl Crow’s road crew, essentially as a roadie!

    Dan Hill. Sometimes When We Touch. I know … it’s not a 1980s song, but a 1970s hit. Still, this musical abomination needs to be publicly shamed and condemned each and every decade going forward until the end of time!

    Dan Hill. Vonda Shepard. Can’t We Try. An actual 1980s hit featuring Dan Hill. While Vonda’s performance is fine on this weepy pop ballad, Dan Hill’s insistent pandering, begging and moaning is the worst thing he’d come up with since Sometimes When We Touch. By this time, word had spread in the music industry that Dan Hill was not actually a recording artist from Canada, but a Russian Spy infiltrating the US with the intention of bringing down not only the music business, but the entire Western Civilization! Suspiciously, soon afterwards, Dan began keeping a low profile and worked at writing songs for artists including Celine Dion. It’s said his songs have been on albums that have sold over 100 million copies. The rumors have since faded publicly about who Dan really is, but he remains under suspicion by many music fans and owners of music websites. We’re watching you Dan …

    1 final song. Starship. We Built This City. The thing about this song which is considered by many critics and music fans to be the worst song of all time, is that it isn’t that at all. It’s got amazing production, musicianship, and vocal performances by both Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick are excellent. The main problem is with the lyrics, which are horrible! Including this doozy: “Marconi plays the mamba, listen to the radio, don’t you remember?
    We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll.” Anyone could have written a better lyric. How about this instead? “My lonely days are numbered, listening to the radio, don’t you remember? We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll.”

    Better, yes? In any case, critics who say this is the worst song of the 1980s are simply parroting what they’ve heard and read from polls in years gone by. Like the Rolling Stone poll in 2011. Starship wasn’t the Jefferson Airplane of the 1960s. Actually, neither was Jefferson Starship, really, in the 1970s. The song is fun and dramatic. And people are just lazy. Why bother making up a list of the worst songs of the 1980s overall, like this website correctly has very well,and then deciding. That’s more than fine and I totally respect this page and the list because a lot of effort went into creating it. Unlike a lot of lazy websites and critics happy to dine on low hanging fruit, and not even bother to do their homework. Thanks for letting me have my say on here. This page and list is great and I enjoyed reading the article and the comments, too! This is fun!

  46. Because The Beach Boys performed it on ‘Full House,’ I’m sort of attached to “Kokomo.” I don’t hate “Tainted Love,” but I prefer the cover done by Danny Noriega on ‘American Idol.’ It wasn’t good vocally, but I liked the arrangement and it was entertaining. Honestly, I’m surprised both Bowie’s and Mick Jagger’s careers weren’t destroyed after the “Dancing in the Street” video.

  47. Agree with these except for Soft Cell’s remake of Tainted Love, which I think is fantastic.

    Ebony and Ivory, and The Girl is Mine, are nauseating.

  48. Having read and heard all about music from the 1980s, 1 thing that stands out is a lot of 1960s and 1970s artists went kind of soft. I know the music and culture changed, but some of them seem to have gotten thrown off by the Disco era before it and maybe and never recovered?

    To think Rod Stewart could go from Every Picture Tells A Story and the great songs by The Faces to such gutter trash as “Love Touch” is almost scary. 1970s Rod would have gotten in 1980s Rod’s face and told him to smarten up and go back to his roots! “It’s NOT worth it, future Rod!” He would have screamed in his (Own) face. Fortunately, Out Of Order was better and Vagabond Heart even better than Out Of Order. I don’t know any of his other stuff like American Songbook. I think that’s really old school music, right?

    • Yup, there’s certainly a history of legacy acts struggling to adapt to the 1980s with its new sounds and styles. It’s partially captured by a few of these songs, but a lot of it was so bad it didn’t get anywhere near the charts.

        • I think a lot of the worst stuff gets forgotten – I think the worst album I ever bought was an early 1980s album by the 1970s art-rock band Caravan.

          • It’s probably for the best that the worst music is forgettable. Who want’s to remember bad music, lol? That’s a band I haven’t heard of, btw. What hits did they have in the 1970s? 😃

  49. I’ve heard several songs by Men Without Hats on Youtube. Some of them are very good and probably went unnoticed by a lot of music fans. Songs like Where Do The Boys Go, The Message, Pop Goes The World. They seem to have had some good songs that went under the radar, maybe because they weren’t right for top 40 airplay. But they had better songs than The Safety Dance.😃

      • I like it. But the video is very weird. I’m not really sure what they were trying to say with that video. Everybody looks kind of high or drunk or something in it. That would explain why everyone in the video agreed to appear in it. You’d’ think someone would have questioned whether doing it that was was a good idea. 😃

  50. That’s weird and just wrong! I don’t care for the song either. It’s kind of boring, even if they did the right thing, and I think, raised money for charity, right? It’s also interesting to see that in the R&R hall of fame fan vote last year Tina Turner won and Dionne Warwick was near the bottom for votes. Some of her 1960s and 1970s songs are good, but her 1980s stuff is boring and uninteresting to me. Love Power, 1 of her hits, is a cure for Insomnia.

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