1985 was a big year — for good, for bad, for everything. And the music. So. Much. Music.
Twenty-seven different songs reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart. VH1 launched. Whitney Houston broke big, while hip-hop and college-radio favorites, such as the Beastie Boys and R.E.M., were about to pop. Prince won two Oscars (for 1984’s Purple Rain). John Hughes movies, including The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, continued to contribute to the Great American Teen Songbook. Michael Jackson enlisted Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan and dozens more in a choir called USA for Africa (“We Are the World”). The mega-charity concerts Live Aid and Farm Aid followed. And Madonna — oh, Madonna: In the same month, the versatile one dropped “Material Girl,” and drove “Like a Virgin” to the top of the charts.
Coming up with just 18 hits to represent a year like 1985 is not easy. We culled the Billboard charts, as well as the year’s Grammy nominees and winners, and then asked the ultimate question: Does this song help tell the story of the mid-’80s? The answer was “yes” for Madonna, Whitney Houston, Sting, George Michael, Eddie Murphy, Bryan Adams and more. Let’s get back to the future.