As Helen Reddy sang in the 70s:
You live your life in the songs you hear
On the rock n’ roll radio…
The 80s ushered in a new era, leaving the music industry forever changed, though the songs themselves retained their power to speak to us on a deeply personal level.
40 years later Puerto Rican rapper and reggaeton artist Bad Bunny dominates, which speaks not only to the public’s evolving musical tastes but also to the expanded access and opportunities of the Internet age.
Listening to all 512 songs on Boogiehead’s mashup Most Popular Song Each Month Since January 1980 in their entirety would take over 24 hours, so Boogiehead settles instead on a single representative phrase, getting the job done in a whirlwind 50 minutes. Watch it above.
For many of us, that’s all it takes to unleash a flood of memories.
Queen, Madonna, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson make strong showings, as do, more recently, Rhianna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Ariana Grande.
Elsewhere, there are reminders that fame is not just fleeting, but often tethered to a single hit.
That said, sometimes those hits have remarkable staying power.
Witness Dexys Midnight Runners’ Come On Eileen from 1982, with its prescient lyric “I’ll hum this tune forever…”
And some songs turn out to be an unexpected slow burn. How else to explain one of the third-to-last earworms on Boogiehead’s list, “Running Up That Hill” from English singer-songwriter Kate Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love?
Its appearance on the hit series Stranger Things led it to go viral on TikTok, netting the 64-year-old Bush a host of new fans in their teens and 20s as well as a couple million dollars. Talk about old wine in new bottles!
Running Up That Hill has certainly become more popular now than it was when it was released – and one factor could be that social media has changed the way people listen to music. In 1985, when Michael Jackson was the undisputed King of Pop, Kate Bush would have been relegated to “alternative” music radio stations, which were few and far between, or college radio.
Readers, what song from Boogiehead’s Most Popular Song Each Month Since January 1980 do you most wish would make a comeback? Which of the newer songs could you imagine listening to forty years from now? Let us know in the comments.
Listen to the playlist of every song featured on the Most Popular Song Each Month Since January 1980 here.
– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.