Don’t be ashamed to love these ‘guilty pleasure’ songs from the ’80s


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Everyone knows what a guilty pleasure is. They know this because they have many of their own and won’t tell you what they are.

Honestly, most of us pretend we’re cultured and sophisticated and patronize only the finest arts curated by the most discerning specialists. However, the truth is that when no one’s around, we listen to music we’d prefer no one knows about. This is because a lot of it can be defined by the musical term “stupid crap.”

To free humanity from its collective shame, we’re going public with our list of best “guilty pleasure” songs. We hope our candor will help you cope with the fact that you like to sing tearful renditions of “My Heart Will Go On” when you’re alone in your basement.

'Africa' by Toto

‘Africa’ by Toto (1982)

For reasons modern science cannot explain, everyone loves “Africa” by Toto, yet they will not disclose this publicly. This state of affairs is egregiously wrong, and you should run out onto your front lawn in broad daylight to belt out the chorus at passing cars.

'Rock You Like a Hurricane' by Scorpions (1983)

‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ by Scorpions (1983)

Face it – the first time you heard this song, you immediately boarded the good ship Scorpions. Then, you read the lyrics, and you promptly disembarked. However, those power chords and the Teutonic vocals of Klaus Meine act in tandem as a siren call, beckoning you to not only put the song on at a neighbor-vexing volume but to re-enact the moment in the music video when Meine holds his microphone the wrong way.

'Livin' on a Prayer' by Bon Jovi (1986)

‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi (1986)

Like fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi tells the story of a struggling couple who wax and wane out of various states of employment. The lyrics contain such power ballad chestnuts as holding on, making it, and not making it, and it’s easy to see it resonating with anyone who has no paycheck in their near-term future. Sadly, singer Jon Bon Jovi eventually decided he was the next Bruce Springsteen, so we stopped paying attention.

'Don't Stop Believin'' by Journey

‘Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey (1981)

In 2007, the hit HBO series “The Sopranos” ended with a scene in which “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey is playing. Even though the song was decades old at the time, it came roaring back to life with a nostalgic vengeance, and for a while you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it. Luckily, many of us already secretly liked the song, creating a rare moment in musical history in which some stupid fad was not entirely unwelcome.

'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' by Wham!

‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by Wham! (1984)

Before George Michael made a name for himself as a solo artist, he was in a teenybopper duo called Wham! that was geared towards pre-pubescent girls and trafficked in giddy, effervescent pop that you couldn’t hate even if you wanted to. The pair showed maturity with their next single, “Careless Whisper,” so people will freely admit to liking that song. Meanwhile, affection for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” remains a closely-guarded secret for many.

'Total Eclipse of the Heart' by Bonnie Tyler

‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler (1983)

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” is hands down one of the goofiest and most overwrought songs ever recorded, but mysteriously, this has always played in its favor. It has been parodied beyond recognition by disdainful Gen Xers who want you to believe they never listen to anything but Sonic Youth, but they’re overcompensating. They love this ridiculous song and will play it on endless repeat on Spotify, a secret they will take to the grave.

'You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)' by Dead or Alive (1984)

‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ by Dead or Alive (1984)

“You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive perfectly illustrates what a “guilty pleasure” song is. On first listen, it’s an inane and noisy dance tune with utterly moronic lyrics and vocals courtesy of some low-rent opera singer. Nevertheless, it will not vacate your head when you hear it because the song is, as the kids say, a “banger.” So feel as guilty as you want for liking it – that won’t get the song out of your head any sooner.

'The Final Countdown' by Europe

‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe (1986)

“The Final Countdown” by the Swedish band Europe (shouldn’t they be called “Scandinavia”?) is a simplistic song based around a single keyboard figure that goes around and around for five minutes. While that description makes it sound unbelievably annoying, that single keyboard figure just keeps on yielding fruit! The band was last seen in a television commercial for the insurance company GEICO, which can be seen as either a colossal indignity or an excellent opportunity for more people to hear the song. We believe the band has embraced the latter view.

‘Physical’ by Olivia Newton-John

‘Physical’ by Olivia Newton-John (1981)

Olivia Newton-John became a star in the 1970s, but by the 1980s she needed to revamp her look and sound. She rose to the occasion with “Physical,” a dance tune that captured the hearts of an aerobicizing-mad world, and don’t pretend you were upset when it came on the radio. When she passed away in 2022, the New York Times ran an article about her titled, “Olivia Newton-John: That Headband Was a Crown,” and we agree wholeheartedly.

‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil

‘Mickey’ by Toni Basil (1981)

Choreographer Toni Basil became an early star of MTV with her bare-bones video for the song “Mickey,” featuring her alongside a bunch of cheerleaders, and almost nothing else. The Farfisa-laden song is so infernally catchy it stamps itself on one’s memory, to the extent that the video could have been a single still shot of an empty folding chair against a white background and it probably would have been just as popular.Editor’s Note: This list was created based on the opinions of the author. The choices presented are subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences and perspectives.