Are you ready to take a trip down memory lane?
Get ready to groove to the best songs from 1981.
From the electrifying “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes to the infectious beats of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, this article will guide you through the iconic hits that defined the year.
With a mix of rock, pop, and soul, these tunes will transport you back to a time of musical brilliance.
So, let’s dive in and rediscover the magic of 1981!
1. “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes
You can’t help but sing along to “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes.
Released in 1981, this iconic song quickly became a hit, reaching the top of the charts in multiple countries.
Kim Carnes’ unique raspy voice combined with the catchy melody and memorable lyrics make this track an unforgettable classic.
The song’s success can be attributed to its strong storytelling and the way it captures the essence of Bette Davis’ legendary allure.
It remains a timeless favorite among music lovers.
2. “You Drive Me Crazy” – Shakin’ Stevens
“Driving Me Crazy” by Shakin’ Stevens is an infectious tune from 1981.
It captures the essence of the rock and roll era with its upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics.
The song showcases Shakin’ Stevens’ dynamic vocal range and energetic performance style.
With its infectious melodies and driving rhythm, it became an instant hit and remains a beloved classic to this day.
“Driving Me Crazy” is a testament to the enduring power of 1980s pop music.
3. “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” – Sheena Easton
Hop on board and groove to the rhythm of “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” by Sheena Easton.
This catchy pop tune will have you tapping your feet and singing along. Released in 1981, this song topped the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom.
It showcased Sheena Easton’s powerful vocals and infectious energy.
With its upbeat melody and relatable lyrics about the daily grind, “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” remains a classic favorite that stands the test of time.
4. “Ghost Town” – Specials
Released in 1981, “Ghost Town” by the Specials is a haunting and politically-charged song.
It captures the social unrest and economic decline of post-industrial Britain.
The song’s eerie melody and poignant lyrics reflect the disillusionment felt by many during this time.
With its emphasis on unemployment, urban decay, and racial tensions, “Ghost Town” serves as a powerful critique of the Thatcher era.
It remains a timeless anthem that resonates with listeners today.
5. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
When you hear “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, you can’t help but tap your foot and sing along to the infectious guitar riff.
Released in 1981, this rock anthem quickly became a sensation, reaching the top of the charts and solidifying Joan Jett’s place in music history.
The song’s catchy melody and rebellious lyrics perfectly captured the spirit of the time, making it a timeless classic that still resonates with audiences today.
6. “Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield
Moving on to another popular song from 1981, you’ll find yourself grooving to “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield.
This catchy tune climbed the charts and became one of the biggest hits of the year.
With its infectious chorus, relatable lyrics, and Springfield’s smooth vocals, it’s no wonder this song continues to be a favorite among fans.
“Jessie’s Girl” showcases the artist’s ability to blend rock and pop elements into a captivating musical package.
7. “Woman” – John Lennon
You’ll find yourself captivated by John Lennon’s thought-provoking song “Woman” as it delves into the complexities of love and relationships.
Released in 1981, this song showcases Lennon’s introspective and vulnerable side.
With its heartfelt lyrics and soulful melody, “Woman” resonates with listeners, inviting them to reflect on the power and challenges of romantic connections.
Lennon’s raw emotion and candid expression make “Woman” a timeless masterpiece that continues to touch hearts to this day.
8. “Endless Love” – Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
If you’re in the mood for a classic love ballad, you should definitely give “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie a listen.
Released in 1981, this iconic duet quickly became one of the greatest love songs of all time.
The chemistry between Ross and Richie is palpable, and their voices blend effortlessly, creating a truly timeless masterpiece.
The emotional lyrics and heartfelt delivery make “Endless Love” a must-listen for anyone looking to experience the power of a true love song.
9. “Physical” – Olivia Newton-John
Now let’s move on to another iconic song from 1981: “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John.
This upbeat and catchy tune quickly became a chart-topper and one of Newton-John’s biggest hits.
With its infectious melody and empowering lyrics, “Physical” encouraged listeners to embrace an active lifestyle.
The song’s success not only showcased Newton-John’s versatility as an artist but also reflected the growing popularity of fitness and exercise during that time.
10. “Being with You” – Smokey Robinson
When you hear “Being with You” by Smokey Robinson, you’ll instantly be transported to a world of smooth melodies and heartfelt lyrics.
Released in 1981, this song marked a significant milestone in Robinson’s career as it became his first solo number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The track beautifully captures the essence of Robinson’s soulful vocals and showcases his ability to create timeless love songs that resonate with audiences even today.
Its infectious rhythm and poignant lyrics make “Being with You” a standout song from 1981.
11. “Centerfold” – The J. Geils Band
“Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band is a catchy and energetic track that dominated the charts in the early 1980s.
With its infectious guitar riffs and memorable chorus, the song became an instant classic.
The band’s tight musicianship and the lead singer’s powerful vocals added to its appeal.
“Centerfold” success can be attributed to its irresistible sound and relatable lyrics, making it a must-listen for fans of 80s rock music.
12. “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell
“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell is a synth-pop classic that captivated audiences with its distinctive sound and haunting vocals.
Released in 1981, it quickly became a global hit, reaching the top of the charts in multiple countries.
The song’s infectious melody, combined with its dark lyrics about love gone wrong, struck a chord with listeners.
Soft Cell’s unique blend of synthesizers and soulful vocals created a timeless and unforgettable track that continues to resonate with audiences today.
13. “Don’t You Want Me” – Human League
“Don’t You Want Me” by Human League is a synth-pop anthem that became a massive hit in the early 1980s.
The song showcases the band’s unique sound and memorable lyrics.
The infectious melodies and catchy chorus captivated audiences, making it an instant classic.
With its pulsating synthesizers and driving rhythm, “Don’t You Want Me” perfectly embodies the spirit of the era.
The powerful vocals of lead singer Philip Oakey and the emotive storyline of the lyrics further contributed to its enduring popularity.
14. “The Best of Times” – Styx
You can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia when you listen to “The Best of Times” by Styx.
Released in 1981, this song captures the essence of that era with its melodic rock sound and heartfelt lyrics.
With its soaring guitar solos and powerful vocals, “The Best of Times” became a hit and remains a beloved classic.
It’s a timeless reminder of the joy and memories that music can evoke, making it a must-listen for any fan of 80s music.
15. “Who’s Crying Now” – Journey
When you hear “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey, it’s impossible not to be moved by the raw emotion in Steve Perry’s vocals.
Released in 1981, this power ballad became one of Journey’s most beloved hits.
The song showcases Perry’s impressive vocal range and control, as he effortlessly transitions between soft verses and powerful choruses.
With its heartfelt lyrics and soaring melodies, “Who’s Crying Now” remains a timeless classic that continues to captivate listeners to this day.
16. “Our Lips Are Sealed” – The Go-Go’s
Can’t you just feel the infectious energy of The Go-Go’s when you listen to “Our Lips Are Sealed”?
Released in 1981, this song became an instant classic and a defining anthem of the new wave era.
The catchy melody, coupled with Belinda Carlisle’s vocals, creates a captivating and upbeat experience that is hard to resist.
The Go-Go’s effortlessly blend pop and punk elements, resulting in a timeless track that still resonates with listeners today.
17. “Slow Hand” – The Pointer Sisters
With its sultry vocals and smooth R&B sound, “Slow Hand” by The Pointer Sisters is a seductive and timeless track that continues to captivate audiences.
Released in 1981, this song showcases the incredible vocal range and harmonies of the iconic sister trio.
The lyrics, which explore the power of physical touch, are delivered with an irresistible sensuality that adds to the song’s allure.
“Slow Hand” remains a classic example of the Pointer Sisters’ musical prowess and enduring appeal.
18. “Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey is an anthem that has become synonymous with hope and determination.
Released in 1981, this song quickly became a classic, resonating with listeners across generations.
Its catchy melodies and inspiring lyrics have made it a staple at sporting events, karaoke nights, and even graduation ceremonies.
The song’s enduring popularity is a testament to its timeless message of never giving up and always holding onto your dreams.
19. “Queen of Hearts” – Juice Newton
“The Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton is a country-pop classic that reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1981.
With its catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics, this song quickly became a fan favorite.
Newton’s powerful vocals and the infectious rhythm make it impossible to resist tapping your feet.
The “Queen of Hearts” showcases Newton’s talent as a singer-songwriter and solidified her place in the music industry.
It remains a beloved song from the 1980s.
20. “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)” – Raydio
You can’t help but groove to the infectious rhythm of “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)” by Raydio.
Released in 1981, this song became an instant hit and remains a classic today.
With its catchy melody and relatable lyrics, it captures the universal desire for love and connection.
The smooth vocals and energetic instrumentation create a perfect blend of R&B and pop, making it a standout track from the year.
Best Songs From 1981 – Final Thoughts
In conclusion, the year 1981 was filled with an array of unforgettable songs that continue to resonate with audiences today.
From the iconic “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes to the infectious energy of “You Drive Me Crazy” by Shakin’ Stevens, these songs captured the spirit of the era.
Additionally, powerful ballads like “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey and “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)” by Raydio showcased the emotional depth and range of the artists.
Overall, the music of 1981 left a lasting impact on the industry and remains beloved by fans across the globe.
You may also like: Best Songs From 1983 (Popular Songs)