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The 100 Best Songs of 1983

A year of pop revolution–starring Run-DMC, Prince, Madonna, and many more.

It was the year pop went crazy. 1983 shook up all the old rules about how music worked. Suddenly, anything could happen. All the music that matters in 2023—it kicks off somewhere here in 1983. So many timeless classics. So much wild innovation, all around the margins. Every genre is booming. The old stylistic boundaries don’t hold anyone back anymore. It’s the year of the pop revolution. 

So let’s break it down—the 100 best songs of 1983, 40 years later. One of the most amazing, most innovative, most insanely packed music years ever. Prince took over once and for all. Michael Jackson dropped the pop blockbuster of all time. Madonna stepped into the spotlight. Lionel Richie learned to dance. Hell, Rodney Dangerfield made a rap record.

MTV transforms the way fans devour music. So do the Walkman and the boombox, putting young fans in command. Rock, rap, disco, New Romantic synth-pop, metal, electro-funk—they all start sharing bodily fluids all over the radio. It’s the most glorious year ever for one-hit wonders, especially the really shameless ones. Kajagoogoo? Men Without Hats? Dexy’s Midnight Runners? There’s loads more where those come from.

Run-D.M.C. take rap from the discos to the streets, kicking off the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. R.E.M., Husker Du, the Replacements, and Sonic Youth revitalize underground rock. Kenny Rogers dances with Dolly Parton. Echo dances with the Bunnymen. ZZ Top became MTV studs, without shaving their beards, changing their clothes, or even taking a bath. Old-school legends like Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Isley Brothers, that Bowie guy—they all figure out how to reinvent themselves.

Some of these songs are eternal classics: “1999,” “Karma Chameleon,” “Beat It,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Others are forgotten gems worth digging up. Some are acclaimed works of art that changed history. Others are underground sensations that went on to be influential later. But he only thing these songs have in common? They all sound amazing in 2023. As the Human League would say, keep feeling fascination.

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