A Gen Z’s Guide to 80s Music

What music from the 80s should every Gen Z know? We have the perfect list decided by a Gen Z themselves!

Believe it or not, a lot of music today gets its inspiration from the 80s. There are a lot of hidden gems that a lot of Gen Z have never heard before. And I have a playlist full of 80s music to help educate my fellow Gen Zers.

Girls on Film – Duran Duran
The first track from their debut album in 1981, Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” should be a staple on everyone’s playlists. One of the best parts about the song is the repeating guitar riff and the bass line. It’s a catchy pop-rock 80s song that still holds up 40 years later. The band is still around and still making music so if you want to get into them, this is a great song to start out with. And if not, it’s still a great song (and my personal favourite from them) to add to your playlist.

Kashoggi’s Ship – Queen
Everyone knows Queen. With hit after hit they’re a staple in every playlist, not just 70s and 80s ones. But not everyone knows every Queen song. One of my personal favourites is “Kashoggi’s Ship” off of their 1989 album Miracle. It’s a rock song that’s just as good as their bigger hits. It’s definitely an under appreciated Queen song.

Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac is still very much around and a band that a lot of Gen Z loves. Which is why “Everywhere” makes the list. From their 1987 album Tango In The Night, “Everywhere” is a cinematic song that you can play in your car as you pretend to be the main character in an 80s movie.

Walking Down Your Street – The Bangles
If you’ve heard the song “Walk Like an Egyptian”, you’ve heard The Bangles. While I’ve never lived in the 80s, “Walking Down Your Street” just feels 80s to me. From their 1986 Different Life album (the same album of “Walk Like an Egyptian”), “Walking Down Your Street” is a song I feed deserves a place on your 80s playlist (and if you don’t already have “Walk Like an Egyptian”, add that one too)

Tainted Love – Soft Cell
I assume everyone knows this song. It’s on virtually every 80s playlist and radio hour. It has the synth that we associate with 80s music and just looking at the album cover screams 80s. If you’re from Gen Z and haven’t heard this song, do yourself a favor and give it a chance. Weirdly, you’ll probably love it.

White Wedding – Billy Idol
The song is over 8 minutes long, and every time I listen to it, it holds my attention for all of it. It’s a rock song combined with what I imagine 80s work out music was. If I was going to have a training montage, I’d be playing this song.

Transatlantic – Starship
While they’re most known for their song “We Built This City”, I prefer their song “Transatlantic” from their 1987 album No Protection. It has everything that I think of when I think of 80s rock songs. Syth, keyboards, funky guitar and bass, and the sort of screaming enthusiastic vocals. With all of that though, it still feels modern enough to me that it doesn’t feel outdated next to the current pop songs on my playlist.

Material Girl – Madonna
Everyone knows Madonna. To someone who never lived in the 80s, she is practically all I think of when I think of the 80s. It’s Madonna, arcades, and side pony tails. That’s why I think no 80s playlist is complete without her. “Material Girl” is her most popular song, and of course it is. It’s a fun pop song!

Jack & Diane – John Mellencamp
I think that this song has been used in about every feel movie montage. With the easy going guitar and chorus that echos, “Oh yeah, life goes on”, this 1982 song just feels wholesome. Which is exactly what your 80s playlist needs.

I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Of course no playlist is complete without Elton John. I first heard most of his songs from the movie Rocketman, but if you haven’t heard very many of his songs, “I’m Still Standing” is a great song yo add to your 80s playlist. It’s upbeat, fun, makes you want to sing and dance, everything a good pop song should be.

About the Author

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Elena Naze

Elena is a journalism major at Emerson College and an intern at Afterbuzz TV. She loves entertainment news and is a big fan of reality TV, Marvel, and all anything musical!