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This 1980s Hits Playlist is The Bomb!

What a Feeling!  Rewind the good times with this mix featuring Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Prince, DeBarge, Sade and others.

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illustration of cassette player surrounded by things from the 80s, 80s playlist, music
Mora Vieytes
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What's your favorite 1980s song? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Take your passion, and make it happen. Pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life.” These lyrics from “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” Irene Cara’s iconic theme song to the camp classic film Flashdance (starring Jennifer Beales as an aspiring ballerina who works as a welder by day and a stripper by night), encapsulate the rose-colored optimism of the 80s.

Each generation connects with music that speaks to and captures the imagination of their sonic youth – and as a proud member of Gen X, the 80s was my era. My bedroom walls were plastered with the poutily posed posters of my Brit pop music idols, including Wham! (“Everything She Wants”), Tears for Fears (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) and Culture Club (“Time Clock of the Heart”), and their alternately sunny and angsty music helped me to dance right through the socially awkward moments of adolescence.

This playlist highlights both the hopeful and freak flag-waving message in a bottle that was the the “me” decade – when fiercely independent female artists gave us empowering theme songs and fashion inspiration, like: Sade (“Smooth Operator”) with her sultry red-lips and sleek ponytail; Tina Turner (“What’s Love Got to Do with It”), making her transformative comeback with a spiky blond wig and sauntering in a jean jacket, short leather skirt and heels; Jody Watley (“Looking for a New Love”) with her edgy tousled hair, big hoop earrings, biker jackets and tulle skirts; and Janet Jackson (“Control” and “Pleasure Principle”), emerging from the shadow of her big brothers and proving that tomboys are sexy, too, especially when you can bust a complex choreo move in chic, sleek black.

Musically, the 80s soundscape was multifaceted – from top 40-leaning R&B grooves by Luther Vandross (“Stop to Love”), Whitney Houston (“How Will I Know”) and Chaka Khan (“I Feel for You”) to blue-eyed soul staples by George Michael (“Careless Whisper”), Steve Winwood (“Higher Love”), and Daryl Hall & John Oates (“I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”). The Motown sound also evolved with the times thanks to hits by Stevie Wonder (“Part-Time Lover”), DeBarge (“Rhythm of the Night”) and Lionel Richie and Diana Ross (“Endless Love”).

In the battle for the top of the pops, Michael Jackson (“Human Nature”) solidified his status as the “King of Pop” with the debut of his gravity-defying moonwalk and the record breaking success of Thriller. And an androgynous and undeniably funky dude from Minneapolis named Prince (“When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain”) also staked his claim as music royalty, with the loosely biographical blockbuster film Purple Rain and its mind-blowing soundtrack.

During the late 80s, hip-hop and New Jack Swing ignited with artists like Salt-N-Pepa (“Push It”) and a New Edition-less Bobby Brown (“Every Little Step”). And recording artists showed they cared by joining forces to bring awareness to causes like AIDS via Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For,” featuring friends Gladys Knight and Elton John, and the star-studded single “We Are the World,” written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones to raise funds for African famine relief.

This playlist is just a snapshot of the hits and the impact 80s music had on the pop culture landscape, and I hope that listening will spark as much nostalgia and joy for you as it did for me to curate. So, push play and remind yourself that, Sis, you can still have it all. What a feeling.

 What's your favorite 1980s song? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Playlists