The 80s is a bit like Marmite. People either love it, or they hate it. To some, it was a torrid decade for music, for many, it was ‘the golden decade’.
If you’re here, I’m assuming you’re in the latter camp (or you’re a gluten for punishment :-)).
So, without further ado, here’s our pick of the most popular 80s love songs. Go on, grab your Sony Walkman, throw in a cassette, and take a step back in time. Cue Michael J Fox.
Table of Contents
- The Power of Love – Jennifer Rush
- I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner
- Your Love Is King – Sade
- Saving All My Love for You – Whitney Houston
- I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
- Is This Love – Whitesnake
- The Power Of Love – Huey Lewis & The News
- Cherish – Kool & The Gang
- A Groovy Kind Of Love – Phil Collins
- What’s Love Got to Do with It – Tina Turner
- Tainted Love – Soft Cell
- I Just Can’t Stop Loving You – Michael Jackson
- Love Is A Battlefield – Pat Benatar
- On The Wings Of Love – Jeffrey Osborne
- I Need Love – LL Cool J
- The Lady in Red – Chris De Burgh
- Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington, Jr. (feat. Bill Withers)
- Woman – John Lennon
- Every Breath You Take – The Police
- Crazy For You – Madonna
- (I Just) Died In Your Eyes – Cutting Crew
- Drive – The Cars
- With Or Without You – U2
- Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman
- Stuck on You – Lionel Ritchie
- Eternal Flame – The Bangles
- Love Changes (Everything) – Climie Fisher
- Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
- Sweet Love – Anita Baker
- Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
- Careless Whisper – George Michael
- (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes
- Broken Wings – Mr. Mister
- Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
- I Feel for You – Chaka Khan
- Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
- Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
- Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship
The Power of Love – Jennifer Rush
This was one of three songs by this name to be released in the 1980s. It’s all about the power that love has to help one carry on when life gets hard. The song has been covered several times, with Celine Dion’s 1994 cover hitting the Number One spot in the United States.
I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner
This song was written to highlight Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones’ romantic woes about his future wife. It was Foreigner’s first Number One hit and remains a pop-culture force to this day, boasting 15 features across various forms of mainstream media.
Your Love Is King – Sade
Sade tackles love in a devotional sense as well as a passionate affair sense in ‘Your Love Is King.’ After its release, the track charted across the world and was covered in 2004 by Will Young for the film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Saving All My Love for You – Whitney Houston
In this classic piece, Whitney Houston sings of unrequited love for a mostly uninterested partner. It allowed Houston to win her first Grammy Award in 1986, among other coveted awards and nominations. It has been certified gold in the United Kingdom and platinum in the United States.
Related: see songs about loving someone you can’t have.
I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
The title of this track tells the listener all they need to know about its subject. It was featured in the film The Woman In Red, for which Stevie Wonder wrote and sang several songs. The song won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Is This Love – Whitesnake
This track highlights the feelings that come while waiting for someone special to call. Frontman David Coverdale’s girlfriend Tawny Kitaen, an actress and model, appeared in the song’s music video. Coverdale and Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes wrote the track. Classic Rock Magazine listed the track as one of its Top 40 Greatest Power Ballads in 2015.
The Power Of Love – Huey Lewis & The News
This song could be said to be about either love’s power, or the ways that love has the power to change people’s behaviors. The song was written specifically for the film Back to the Future in 1985 and became Huey Lewis & The News’ first Number One hit.
Cherish – Kool & The Gang
This song is a celebration of love that encourages the listener to cherish the small moments with a romantic partner and other loved ones. Kool & The Gang’s lead singer James “JT” Taylor was inspired to write it after watching the bandmates’ children happily playing on the beach.
A Groovy Kind Of Love – Phil Collins
Phil Collins covered this Mindbenders song in 1988. Collins had a hit with it, reaching Number One in the US and the UK. The song’s melody was inspired by the Rondo from Muzio Clementi’s ‘Sonatina in G Major.’ Collins was nominated for a Grammy Award due to this track.
What’s Love Got to Do with It – Tina Turner
This 80s staple is all about passion without strings attached. While it was a definitive hit for Tina Turner, it wasn’t one of her favorite tracks to perform due to its risque themes. The title was used for Turner’s 1993 biopic.
Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Soft Cell sings of the ways that an abusive relationship can ruin love in this cover of the earlier Gloria Jones track. It went on to become a more serious symbol for the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s instead of the light poppy track it was originally intended to be.
I Just Can’t Stop Loving You – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson sings of a love that is unending and unwavering in this classic pop hit. It was one of five Number One hits to be released from Jackson’s second studio album, Bad. The song has been covered at least six times, with some versions being very different from the original.
Love Is A Battlefield – Pat Benatar
As its title suggests, this track is all about the trials and tribulations of love. VH1 has listed it as one of the 100 Greatest Songs of The 80s; it also has sold over one million copies and hit numerous worldwide song charts.
On The Wings Of Love – Jeffrey Osborne
The “wings” of this song’s title refer to the feelings of soaring and flying that a happy love can create. This was Jeffrey Osborne’s first hit after breaking away from soul group L.T.D. The song hit Number One on the Adult Contemporary chart in Canada.
I Need Love – LL Cool J
This was one of the first hip-hop tracks to explore love and gentler themes. It explores the basic human need to love and be loved. ‘I Need Love’ was LL Cool J’s first Top 40 hit in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Lady in Red – Chris De Burgh
Chris De Burgh wrote this track after arguing with his wife. It’s all about appreciating your significant other through fresh eyes after spending years as a couple; De Burgh has been clear in saying its meaning is supposed to be more universal than autobiographical.
Related: see more songs about beautiful women.
Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington, Jr. (feat. Bill Withers)
This track demonstrates the powerful feelings that can arise when a couple feels a deep and intense connection. It’s a popular song today, particularly at weddings, due to its positive themes surrounding romantic love and partnership. It has been certified gold in Denmark and Italy and silver in the United Kingdom.
Woman – John Lennon
John Lennon wrote this definitive track as an ode to his wife, Yoko Ono. Lennon also said that it was written to be a track about the sacrifices women make for the men in their lives. This single was released about a month after Lennon’s death.
Every Breath You Take – The Police
Sting wrote this song after splitting from his wife. It highlights the feelings of jealousy and mental instability that he experienced after the breakup. Sting is not all that proud of the track, but it has two Grammy Awards to its name.
Related: this track appears on our list of 80s karaoke songs.
Crazy For You – Madonna
Sometimes a new romantic infatuation can feel like the most powerful experience in the world; this song highlights that feeling flawlessly. Madonna recorded the vocals for this track in just one take. Crazy For You’ gave Madonna her first Grammy Award and second Number One spot on the music charts.
(I Just) Died In Your Eyes – Cutting Crew
Cutting Crew’s lead songwriter Nick Van Eede wrote this song about his relationship with a girlfriend who was also the mother of his daughter. It highlights the frustrations that occur when you pursue a relationship despite a gut feeling that it won’t work out, only to find out you were right all along.
Drive – The Cars
The Cars sing from the perspective of a man watching a former flame and trying to figure out how her life is going. The band’s bass player Benn Orr sang the vocals, rather than frontman Ric Ocasek. Despite their name, it’s one of the only songs that the band used automotive imagery in.
With Or Without You – U2
This is one of those classic songs about the universal feeling of being trapped in a toxic relationship due to feelings of love that won’t let go. It also served to describe Bono’s feelings of overexposure from being in U2. It went on the become the group’s first hit in the United States.
Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman
At its core, this song is about the ways that actions are more important in a romantic relationship than even the sweetest of words; it reached Number One in Portugal in July of 1990. Chapman re-released the hit in 2001 to support her greatest hits album.
Stuck on You – Lionel Ritchie
This song is about finding love from long-time friendship. It provided Lionel Ritchie with crossover success, charting on a variety of genre-specific charts. It resurfaced in popular culture after being featured in a Super Bowl ad for Pringles in the United States in 2022.
Related: see songs about rekindling old love interests.
Eternal Flame – The Bangles
The eternal flame at Elvis Presley’s grave in Memphis, Tennessee, United States, inspired this song, which talks about a flame in the sense of enduring love. t became a major hit that has received numerous certifications across the world and been covered and featured in popular culture many times. ome covers have found their own critical and commercial success.
Love Changes (Everything) – Climie Fisher
This track, as its title suggests, is about the ways that love changes one’s life. It actually gained its greatest success after it was re-released in 1988, when its songwriters received an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. House music group Musikk covered it at a later time.
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
Bette Midler’s version of this classic track thanking a lover for their support was one of many covers, recorded for the film Beaches that Midler starred in. It plays in the film after a character’s death. It is one of the most-performed tracks in history that won two Grammy Awards in 1990.
Related: see our playlist of songs about wind.
Sweet Love – Anita Baker
This is an ode to the protagonist’s “sweet love,” declaring, “With all my heart, I love you baby.” It won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1987. The song also charted in various countries across the world after its release.
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
This track focuses on Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend Erin Everly, but it also focuses on one happy memory from his difficult childhood. It was inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd music that Axl Rose listened to before recording the track. A third verse was written for this hugely popular song, but was cut out for time.
Related: see our pick of the all-time best karaoke songs.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
Here’s a classic Queen hit that’s all about the crazy feelings and actions that love inspires. It was the first track that Freddie Mercury played rhythm guitar on. It is unique from other Queen songs in its throwback, Elvis Presley vibes, but this change was actually popular among the group’s fans.
Related: see our list of great songs with ‘love’ in the title.
Careless Whisper – George Michael
This song tells of the regrets that can arise in one’s heart and mind after cheating on and hurting a true love. It was originally released as a Wham! single but was later marketed as a George Michael song when it was released in the United States.
Related: see songs about fooling around (having an affair).
(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes
This is the theme song for the much-loved 1980s film Dirty Dancing. The track was critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful, receiving numerous awards -including a Grammy – after its release and remaining one of the most-played songs on the radio to this day.
Related: see our list of perfect couple karaoke songs.
Broken Wings – Mr. Mister
This song was inspired by the book The Broken Wings by Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran. The song – and Gibran’s book, to an extent – are about moving on with your life after heartbreak. It hit Number One in the United States in December 1985.
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
‘Time After Time’ is a gentle and uplifting tune about being there for someone even if you need to be apart from them. It was written quickly and simply, but became a critical and commercial success, receiving a great deal of acclaim after its release.
I Feel for You – Chaka Khan
This is a more instrumental and heavily-produced cover of Prince’s original track. It’s about loving someone, but more in a passionate sense than a “true love” sense. It made for a great Chaka Khan track, as it is sung in first person and doesn’t use any gender-specific pronouns.
Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
While it doesn’t always happen, sometimes you fall in love with a long-time friend. That’s what this track is all about. REO Speedwagon played it at Live Aid in 1985. It’s also featured in various forms of media over the years.
Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
This song is about the power of love to keep you holding on even when a significant other keeps breaking your heart. The song’s popularity after its release allowed Bonnie Tyler to become the first female artist to hold the Number One spot on the UK chart.
Related: see popular karaoke songs for women.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship
‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ was Starship’s third Number One hit. It remained at Number One in the UK for four weeks straight. It returned to the UK charts in 2013 after being featured in an advertising campaign, proving its timelessness and longevity as a track about being strong together as a romantic couple.
Related: see songs about victory.