Every era has its fair share of juicy ballads, but nothing compares to the vibrancy and mystique of the 80s love songs. From an age when Madonna and Prince ruled the world, these best love songs from the 80s are the go-to soundtrack for humankind’s insatiable heartache, longing, and lust.
Come with us, if you dare, to a time of hair-sprayed bangs, neon-lit sequins, and tainted love. Without further ado, we present the top 31 love songs of the 80s!
1. “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner
Wholesome and desperate, and with a healthy dose of synthesizers, this ballad gets number one because it’s just so darn sweet. That universally-felt loneliness of heartache is given a sense of hope only Foreigner can deliver. The writer Mick Jones said the song was “probably written entirely by a higher force.” We believe it, buddy.
2. “Careless Whisper” – George Michael
George Michael never shied away from the sultriest of tunes. This track is no exception. What other song has a saxophone line that gets your blood going like this one?
3. “Hello” – Lionel Richie
This song is proof Lionel Richie went through the biggest crush in human history. Dreaming of requited love? None can dream harder than Lionel in “Hello.” This one will be on repeat for those working up the gumption to finally ask their object of affection, “is it me your looking for?”
4. “Sexual Healing” – Marvin Gaye
This is the classiest song about sex ever made. What more is there to say? When Marvin Gaye released this track, the world prepped for another Marvin Gaye reign. Unfortunately, Gaye died only two years after the song was released. At least he went out with a bang.
5. “Take My Breath Away” – Berlin
Berlin brings us the most 80s arrangements of this list so far. Over the big snare claps, a choir-like synth in the background, and that boingy bass line, Terri Nunn takes our breath away with her pleading lyrics and dramatic performance.
6. “Against All Odds” – Phil Collins
As the decades pass, our appreciation for Mr. Phil Collins deepens. This song is a great example of his ability to give new feelings to love song clichés. In this song, he knows it’s a long shot, but he’s changed, and trying again is a chance he’s willing to take. I mean, if she’d just listen and take a look at him, she’d probably realize he’s Phil Collins and take him back on the spot.
7. “Total Eclipse of The Heart” – Bonnie Tyler
When I was younger I never realized how strange the arrangement for “Total Eclipse” is. It’s kind of a weird song, right? But when the chorus hits, all the tension gives way to one of the most epic moments of the 80s. Bonnie Tyler’s voice drips with passion and desperation, and the music keeps moving and upping itself, making it one of the most intense ballads ever written.
8. “I Would Die 4 U” – Prince
Energetic, confident, and funky as heck. Prince, basically. This song has the added bonus of being easy to text.
9. “With or Without You” – U2
Bono’s ballad about the conflict of being away from his family due to the band’s success is another example of how real and complicated tracks from the 80s could be while dripping with style and mood.
10. “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” – The Human League
Thoroughly and undeniably 80’s, “Love Action” is a bouncy pop track about the power of love. The title alone is so 80s, we can’t take it!
11. “Saving All My Love for You” – Whitney Houston
It’s a known fact that Whitney Houston is one of the greatest singers of all time. This song is a wonderful example of her talent. Her performance on this track is so strong, you can practically smell the hairspray.
12. “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
This one’s got all the Cyndi Lauper hallmarks: longing lyrics, an emotional chorus, and an enduring melody. (Author’s note: my friends call this my ‘vodka song.’ Wish I could remember why. They just laugh every time I ask.)
13. “Just Like Heaven” – The Cure
You’ve found it. The catchiest song on this entire list. Leave it to The Cure to turn a song about love and longing into a bouncy synth-pop masterpiece.
14. “Keep on Loving You” – REO Speedwagon
The video for this early 80s arena-rock ballad was one of the first to appear on MTV. The power of the anthem-like chorus still sneaks up on me to this day.
15. “Sweet Child of Mine” – Guns n’ Roses
Axl Rose was a true rock star. This song is an example of why he’s legendary and why GNR became so successful. If it’s been a while, put this on and tell us if Axl startles you when he first comes in. Or is it just us?
16. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” – Stevie Wonder
I don’t think we need to say anything about this one. It’s Stevie Wonder at his sweetest. If you don’t know it, go listen to it right now. And bring a tissue to wipe away those happy tears.
17. “Love Shack” – The B-52’s
American 80s through and through, the B-52’s helped define the decade with their quirky brand of new wave. This song is one of their most well-known and upbeat tracks about, you guessed it, love… in a shack?
18. “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” – Michael Bolton
This ballad is an example of Michael Bolton’s signature belting. Dramatic, powerful, and a great track from the 80s for your next karaoke party.
19. “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” – Dead or Alive
The perfect band to capture that crazy 80s crush energy, Dead or Alive’s biggest hit is an upbeat and ridiculously catchy track.
20. “The Power of Love” – Jennifer Rush
This one secured Jennifer Rush as the first female solo artist to hit a million sales. Take a listen and you’ll see why.
21. “Eternal Flame” – Bangles
Susanna Hoffs actually recorded this without any clothes on. She says it was a prank by the producer, who fooled her into thinking Olivia Newton-John records naked. But when I listen to this song I just think, “yep, naked makes sense!”
22. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division
Okay, maybe this one is the catchiest actually. Joy Division’s bleak love song is one of the most iconic tracks from the 80s.
23. “Right Here Waiting” – Richard Marx
Richard Marx’s ballad is one of the most popular love songs from the 80s. It was even featured in an episode of The O.C.! Not that I care. What, do you?
23. “Crazy for You” – Madonna
Early Madonna showcases her powerhouse vocals and penchant for catchy love songs. This song was featured in the movie Vision Quest, which I’m pretty sure is about wrestling or something. (Here’s a piece of 80s trivia: no one saw that movie.)
24. “Your Love is King” – Sade
Smooth, sultry, and oozing with desire, Sade’s voice is the perfect match for this love song. Be careful when you put this one on with that special someone around.
25. “Love Plus One” – Haircut 100
If you grew up in the 80s, you might have forgotten this song. If you didn’t grow up in the 80s, congrats, you found a little gem here. Catchy, poppy, and maybe even a little punk? Horns + synth + marimba + belting love lyrics = one of the best love songs from the 80s.
26. “Rosanna” – Toto
Toto’s got magic I can never quite put words to. When you’re listening to one of their hits, you feel like they could bring you anywhere. And they definitely take this song places you weren’t expecting! (Does anyone else think this one would make an epic sitcom intro?)
27. “Jack & Diane” – John Mellencamp
This song would be number one if it weren’t for that line about “suckin’ on chili dogs.” Sorry, John. This love song is an early 80s classic, and it’s hard not to sing along when you hear it. Except for that one line.
28. “You Make My Dreams” – Hall and Oates
I really wish commercials would stop using this song so I could enjoy how catchy and upbeat this track is without getting a hankering for Applebees.
29. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes
So sweet, so wholesome. This duet gets funky and has one of the most memorable choruses from the 80s.
30. “All Out Of Love” – Air Supply
Air Supply was very popular throughout the decade and this is their hit that still gets airplay on adult contemporary radio stations today. What a timeless track. This is one of my favorites because of how heartbreaking the lyrics are.
31. “Woman In love” – Barbara Streisand
What a way to end our list! Barbara Streisand’s ballad “Woman In Love” from 1980 is one of our favorites, so we certainly saved one of the best for last!
There you have it, 31 of the best 80s love songs. This list can also double as karaoke options when you feel like staring down Josh from accounting or Carrie from HR and letting them know how you really feel. With that said, please use this list wisely. I don’t have a good lawyer.