Come on, get happy: Songs from the ’80s


OK, “Come on, Get Happy” — otherwise known as the Partridge Family Theme Song — is from the ’70s, not the ’80s. But if you were listening to music in the 80s, you have to admit that a lot of it was up-tempo, pretty happy stuff. With that in mind, several months ago, the Stuck in the ’80s blog asked readers to submit the happiest songs of the ’80s. The readers submitted their suggestions and the site winnowed them down to the 80 happiest songs of the 1980s.

I was an adolescent in the ’80s, so I’m reasonably familiar with the music of the decade. Consequently, some of the songs that made the list perplex me. For example, I certainly like No. 32 “Jenny 867-5309” (Tommy Tutone) but I don’t know that I’d call this song about obsession with a stranger happy. And I probably wouldn’t include Cheap Trick‘s similarly themed “She’s Tight” (No. 25). I might be OK with the inclusion of Irene Cara‘s “What a Feeling” (No. 21) if I didn’t associate it with my grandfather’s death. But I definitely cannot see the Violent Femmes‘ “Blister in the Sun” in the top 10. I mean, it’s a great song, but not the 10th happiest song of the 1980s.

Had I been compiling their list, I would have dictated some basic criteria for inclusion:

  1. The lyrics need to be positive and upbeat.
  2. The music needs to be light and up-tempo. It should probably make you want to dance.
  3. The video (this was the decade of the music video) should reinforce the happiness inherent in the song.

Of course, after being critical, I had to compile my own mini-list of the happiest songs of the ’80s. So here they are — in no particular order — starting with the ones the Stuck in the ’80s blog got right:

“New Song” – Howard Jones

This was No. 1 on the Stuck in the ’80s list, which is higher than I would have rated it. But there’s no denying that it is a happy, upbeat, quintessentially ’80s song. The video not only features classic ’80s hair and clothes, but also includes a chained mime who seems awfully happy to be there.

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper

Stuck in the ’80s brings this one in at No. 5, and I definitely agree with it’s inclusion in the top 10. This was Cyndi Lauper’s first big hit, and its title spawned a happy movie with Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt.

And the video, featuring her real-life mother and wrestler, Captain Lou Albano, was a huge hit and a veritable happy-fest. The irreverence, the dancing, the big party … all of this screams HAPPY.

“Head Over Heels” – The Go-Go’s

The Stuck in the ’80s folks include the Go-Go’s song “Vacation” in the top 10, but I would replace it with “Head Over Heels.” Despite the lack of synchronized waterskiing found in the “Vacation” video, “Head Over Heels” features Belinda Carlisle‘s signature happy dancing, not to mention her sweatshirt dress with the torn collar. The band exudes happiness, and I always want to jump and clap with Jane Wiedlin during the instrumental section.

Those are the only Stuck in the ’80s top 10 songs that I would include in my list. But there are other songs among their 80 that I would include.

“Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and the Waves

This came in at No. 15 on their list, but it is the first song I think of when I think of happy ’80s song. Now I’ve never loved the song, but it’s about as upbeat and happy as it gets.

In the video, look at how happily Katrina is dancing through the dreary, foggy streets of London. She’s positively bouncy! This may be the most upbeat song of the ’80s — although if you pay attention to the lyrics, it may be about obsessive, misguided love.

“Footloose” – Kenny Loggins

I’d rank “Footloose” much higher than No. 57. Talk about upbeat ’80s movie themes!

This song is so happy that it inspires kids who have never been allowed to dance to break into fully choreographed group dance scenes. Now that’s happy!

Finally, I would include a few more songs that didn’t even show up on their list.

“Xanadu” – Olivia Newton-John and ELO

Speaking of ’80s movie themes, where was Xanadu? This one hit at the tail end of the disco era, so it had an inherently upbeat tune. But the message was spot-on too: It was about a place where all your dreams come true.

And look at the dreams that come true in the extended video. Michael Beck gets the girl. And Gene Kelly looks positively blissful as he rollerdiscos. I say, anything that makes Gene Kelly that happy must be pretty darn happy.

“A Little Respect” – Erasure

I’m cheating a little bit here because I’m not sure that the lyrics are really that happy. (Although everything from Erasure sounds kind of happy.) But it’s the usage of the song in D.E.B.S. that makes it one of the happiest songs of the ’80s in retrospect. In the sequence, put together perfectly by Angela Robinson, Jordana Brewster is a vision of reformed-evil-loveliness.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – Bobby McFerrin

I don’t actually like this song, and I find the video annoying. But this is not a list of my favorite ’80s songs; it’s a list of happy ’80s songs. And this one has happiness baked right into the title. This bit of annoyingness might well be the happiest song of the ’80s.

So, what do you consider the happiest songs of the 1980s?

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