Do you know what the best decade of music is for karaoke? Hands down, it’s the ’80s.
There’s something about the music that came out of that decade that is almost made for karaoke.
Is that because a karaoke bash requires that carefree, ‘letting my hair down’ attitude that ’80s songs specialized in? Yes, probably.
So, without further ado, here are the best 80s karaoke songs to unleash on your audience next time you step to the mic.
Table of Contents
- I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston
- The Power of Love – Huey Lewis & The News
- Take on Me – A-ha
- The Final Countdown – Europe
- Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
- Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
- Careless Whisper – George Michael
- (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (from ‘Dirty Dancing’)
- Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
- Under Pressure – David Bowie and Queen
- Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
- Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
- Every Little Step – Bobby Brown
- Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
- What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner
- Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
- Tainted Love – Soft Cell
- When Doves Cry – Prince
- Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
- Endless Love – Lionel Richie & Diana Ross
- Every Breath You Take – The Police
- I Wanna Know What Love Is – Foreigner
- Africa – Toto
- True – Spandau Ballet
- Walk This Way – Run DMC
- Walking On Sunshine – Katrina and The Waves
I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston
This is a very popular karaoke song, most likely due to its combination of sad lyrics related to the desire to find love and an upbeat, dance-worthy sound. While the song talks about dancing with someone, the writers intended dancing to be a metaphor for life. Therefore, the song is really talking about finding someone to “dance through life” with. The track was loved by music enthusiasts and critics alike, and won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance.
Related: see our list of classic karaoke tracks for girls to sing.
The Power of Love – Huey Lewis & The News
Huey Lewis & The News sing about not only the power of love, but the many different ways that love can make different types of people feel, think and behave. It featured prominently in the 1985 film Back to the Future; the director, Robert Zemeckis, wanted Lewis to write something that would fit into the movie without necessarily being about the film’s main theme. It was the first Number One hit for the music group.
Take on Me – A-ha
‘Take On Me’ may be one of the most well-known songs of the 1980s. It has inspired a number of parodies and pop culture references since its release. It tells the classic story of asking a love interest to take a chance on the protagonist while they still have a chance. Despite its eventual popularity, the song from Norwegian band A-ha had to go through three releases before it charted in the UK and the US.
The Final Countdown – Europe
This Europe track tells a story of a group that’s traveling into space. It has elements of optimism and doom in its lyrics, as the protagonists of this lyrical tale are leaving Earth behind forever to find a new life in a new and unknown land. It’s a popular karaoke song due to its majestic sound and exciting lyrics, as well as its typically 80s sound that makes it a good fit for evoking a bit of nostalgia.
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Sometimes, believing in oneself and one’s abilities is all it takes to improve one’s life. This song and its compelling story have always served as symbols of self-confidence and optimism, and is considered to be Journey’s most well-known and lasting track. It’s also one of the most popular songs of the 80s and a very common karaoke track. Its unique structure – where the chorus is not introduced until the song is almost at its end – explains at least part of its enduring appeal through more than 40 years of play.
Related: see our songs about not giving up playlist.
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
‘Billie Jean’ tells the story of a woman claiming that Michael Jackson is the father of her son, with the singer insisting that he is not. The track was based on a real-life event; Jackson actually was stalked by a woman who would write to him and state that her son—one of two twins—was also his. The song allegedly helped Jackson deal with the situation, which was very difficult for him. It’s a popular karaoke song due to its story-rich lyrics and infectious sound.
Careless Whisper – George Michael
This Wham! hit tells the fictional story of a man who is full of regrets regarding a love lost after cheating on his partner. Dancing is used as a metaphor for love and enjoying life throughout. The saxophone solo that introduces the song and helps it to stand out from the crowd is one of the most memorable parts of the track. While it was originally credited to Wham!, the song was released as a George Michael single in the US and credited to “Wham featuring George Michael.”
Related: see our playlist of songs about affairs.
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (from ‘Dirty Dancing’)
Used as the theme song for Dirty Dancing, this 1980s classic is a popular karaoke song due to its uplifting beat and duet-worthy lyrics. It won numerous awards after its release, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It’s widely considered one of the best 80s love songs.
Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
The sweet and earnest lyrics for this famous track came from a poem that Axl Rose was writing about his then-girlfriend Erin Everly. It was considered quite unique at the time of its release as a harder rock song with a gentle, romantic theme to its lyrics. The song was Guns N’ Roses only Number One hit, released after two songs that had little to no success on the charts. It also has been listed on various journalistic lists as one of the best songs of all time in different categories.
Related: see best karaoke songs for guys to try.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Few songs evoke the fun and colorfully glam feeling of the 1980s as well as ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.’ Surprisingly, this girl-power anthem was originally written and performed by a man, Robert Hazard, who was talking about a different type of fun entirely—and from a male perspective. It’s popular as a karaoke song due to its deeply 80s feel – as well as its fun lyrics and sound. It was nominated for two Grammy Awards after its release.
Related: see our list of good time songs.
Under Pressure – David Bowie and Queen
This track is one of Queen’s most well-known releases. It discusses pressure and the negative effects it can have on one’s life – and the power that love has to overcome it all. It was released to critical acclaim and is considered one of Queen’s greatest songs as well as one of the greatest songs of all time. This along with its powerful theme may explain why it’s stayed popular as a karaoke track over the years.
Related: this track also appears on our playlist of songs from the movie Sing.
Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
Here is a lyrical story that follows two young individuals who are getting through life on their prayers and each other’s love and companionship. It was based on the real-life story of a young couple making ends meet in New York. It’s one of the most well-known and loved of Bon Jovi’s songs, and was certified triple platinum in 2013 after gaining more than three million digital downloads. Jon Bon Jovi did not like the original version and almost didn’t release it, but decided to go ahead with it after rewriting some parts of the track.
Related: this song appears on our songs about financial struggles playlist.
Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
This song was inspired by songwriter Peter Waterman’s relationship with a woman he was interested in romantically. He was talking to singer Rick Astley after a three-hour conversation with the woman and Astley said that Waterman was “never going to give her up,” inspiring the song’s lyrics and theme. Thanks to the internet craze known as “Rickrolling,” the song has now stayed in the public consciousness for decades, which may explain its popularity among karaoke singers.
Related: this appears on our list of best karaoke songs of all time.
Every Little Step – Bobby Brown
Classically sweet lyrics make up this late 80s track. Songwriters L.A. Reid and Babyface wrote this song, with Reid gaining some inspiration from his relationship with singer Pebbles. In fact, he was driving to see her when he got inspired to write it. It highlights the many wild emotions that can arise when you really love someone. Perhaps its romantic lyrics are what make this a great karaoke song; it’s the type of tune that’s perfect to serenade to a love interest.
Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
On its surface, what is one of Bruce Springsteen’s most well-known songs seems to be a celebration of the USA and being a US citizen. Upon closer review, however, its lyrics tell a more heartbreaking tale of the cold welcome that Vietnam War veterans from the US received after coming back as losers. Bruce Springsteen himself considers it one of his best songs, but has expressed frustrations over how common misinterpretations of the song are.
What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner
Tina Turner sings of romantic pleasures of the less-committed variety in this 80s classic. While this track was far from Turner’s most favored songs to sing due to its suggestive material, it ended up being her big comeback track. it’s one of those songs that has the 1980s written all over it, which may explain its popularity as a go-to 80s karaoke song. It was also used as the title of a 1993 biopic about Turner’s life.
Related: see our list of songs with ‘love’ in the title.
Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
This Bonnie Tyler hit addresses the feelings of love that won’t let go, even if one’s love interest is bad for them or even cruel to them. It’s a dramatic, emotional piece that is timeless in its sound and message. It’s relatability has made it a popular song throughout the decades; it’s been featured in several movies and earned Tyler a #1 spot on the UK charts as the first female artist to do so.
Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Originally released as a soul song in 1964 by Gloria Jones, this cover by Soft Cell was supposed to be a throwaway cover and only took 15 minutes to write. However, as anyone who has heard it knows, it became much more than that as one of the top hits of the 80s. The song tackles the topic of toxic love, but it also became a more serious symbol of the AIDS crisis as the disease spread throughout the decade.
When Doves Cry – Prince
‘When Doves Cry’ was written by Prince specifically to be included in his movie Purple Rain. Its use of dove metaphors and lack of a bass track – which was removed right before its release – make it a very unique song that likely became popular due to its unusual sound. It’s unknown to this day how much truth was in its lyrics and the story of Purple Rain, as Prince was famously reserved when it came to discussing his personal life.
Related: see our playlist of songs about birds.
Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
While its subject matter is quite adult—where “sugar” refers to something else entirely—this track’s metaphorical lyrics made it radio-ready. This was a lucky event for Def Leppard, as it became an extremely popular track across the world after its release that has hit numerous charts. Its lyrics were said to be inspired at least subconsciously by the 1969 song ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies. The song also can be interpreted as a track about the frantic emotions that arise due to romantic attraction.
Related: this appears on our playlist of songs that mention food.
Endless Love – Lionel Richie & Diana Ross
Lionel Richie and Diana Ross sang a truly timeless piece from the film of the same name. This track was met with critical acclaim after its release, receiving Grammy and Golden Globe nominations as well as a Marquee Award for Best Original Song. It’s still popular today – most likely due to its universal theme of romantic love, which knows no time – but the film, which itself was based on a book of the same name, was not.
Related: this classic appears on our list of duet karaoke songs.
Every Breath You Take – The Police
Although this track tells the tale of a desperate voyeur, Sting has said that the song was inspired by his mental breakdown after separating from his wife and highlights the feelings of jealousy and possessiveness that he felt in his professional and personal lives. While Sting considers it to be a dark and even nasty track, it was a huge success that went on the become the biggest hit song of 1983 in Canada and the United States. It received two Grammy Awards and numerous award nominations after charting across the world.
Related: this features on our list of breathe songs.
I Wanna Know What Love Is – Foreigner
Guitarist Mick Jones wrote this powerful ballad about his own struggles in love, particularly with his future wife. However, it took on a more universal meaning after its release that has allowed it to endure for four-plus decades. It has been featured in over 15 movies and televisions series, further demonstrating its global relatability and endurance in popular culture. It hit numerous music charts in countries across the world and was the band’s first Number One single.
Related: see songs about new relationships.
Africa – Toto
This lovely story-rich track tells the tale of a man who comes to Africa and must make the choice between staying in this new land that enchants him or leaving with the woman he loves. It’s certainly not a biographical song, as writer David Paich—Toto’s keyboardist—has never been to Africa. It’s no surprise that this is a go-to karaoke track; the hit has been featured in pop culture and covered numerous times since its release in 1982.
Related: this appears on our rain songs list.
True – Spandau Ballet
Here’s a heartbreaking track written by Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp. Its themes of unrequited love were inspired by his feelings for Clare Grogan, who did not feel the same. The candid realism of Kemp’s feelings can be felt in the line “This is the sound of my soul.” It also was written in part to be a tribute to Marvin Gaye. The song has no bassline, which gives it a unique and interesting sound that may help to explain its lasting power in the karaoke world and beyond.
Walk This Way – Run DMC
This song is a rap cover of the Aerosmith song written by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry and released 1975. The band didn’t even know of Aerosmith when they stumbled upon the track. It was so popular that it began to expose wider audiences to rap than had previously shown interest in the genre. Both groups won a Soul Train Music Award for Best Single with this track, which ended up becoming a hit across the entire world.
Related: this classic track also appears on our playlist of songs about walking.
Walking On Sunshine – Katrina and The Waves
Walking On Sunshine’ is a light and uplifting pop track that conveys the spirited feeling that occurs when you know your loved one will soon return to you. It’s also a wonderful tribute to all feelings of pure joy, no matter what their source may be. It’s been covered by various artists over the years and is still a popular karaoke track to this day. It must be considered quite the big deal in the music industry, since BMG Rights Management acquired it and all other Katrina and The Waves songs for £10 million in 2015.
Related: this ’80s classic appears on our list of sunshine songs too.