Biggest Songs of the 1980s (CSPC)

Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Queen, Phil Collins… All these artists and many others have had an enormous impact on the music of the 80s, and have sung some of the biggest hits of this period. Do you know which song is the biggest for each artist I mentioned above, and which one dominates this decade?

The songs ranked here have been released from January 1, 1980 up to December 31, 1989. All figures are given in EAS (equivalent album sales). They include audio and video streams, downloads, ringtones but also a weighted share of the album they helped to sell.

Please keep in mind that some artists who released big hits this decade have not been studied so far, e.g. Journey, The PoliceTracy Chapman, or Lionel Richie. All figures reflect the value as collected at the time of the artist’s respective articles (CSPC article or Streaming Masters). You can check the list of artists that have been tracked at this link.

A lot of lists like this one are available inside the Data Collector, so feel free to read them to gauge how your favorite artist charts on them.

Biggest Songs of the 1980s (CSPC)

1. 1982 – Michael JacksonBillie Jean [Thriller]41,890,000
2. 1982 – Michael JacksonBeat It [Thriller]27,160,000
3. 1981 – Phil CollinsIn the Air Tonight [Face Value]25,090,000
4. 1986 – Bon JoviLivin’ on a Prayer [Slippery When Wet]23,460,000
5. 1982 – Michael JacksonThriller [Thriller]23,430,000
6. 1987 – U2With Or Without You [The Joshua Tree]23,430,000
7. 1981 – Queen & David BowieUnder Pressure [Hot Space]23,110,000
8. 1980 – AC/DCBack in Black [Back in Black]21,680,000
9. 1980 – QueenAnother One Bites the Dust [The Game]20,770,000
10. 1984 – Bryan AdamsSummer of ’69 [Reckless]20,670,000
11. 1987 – Whitney HoustonI Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) [Whitney]19,630,000
12. 1989 – Phil CollinsAnother Day in Paradise […But Seriously]19,230,000
13. 1987 – Guns N’ RosesSweet Child O’ Mine [Appetite for Destruction]19,070,000
14. 1980 – AC/DCYou Shook Me All Night Long [Back in Black]18,560,000
15. 1989 – MadonnaLike A Prayer [Like A Prayer]18,550,000
16. 1983 – U2Sunday Bloody Sunday [War]16,800,000
17. 1986 – Bon JoviYou Give Love a Bad Name [Slippery When Wet]16,520,000
18. 1984 – Prince and the RevolutionsPurple Rain [Purple Rain]15,570,000
19. 1984 – MadonnaLike A Virgin [Like A Virgin]15,210,000
20. 1985 – Dire StraitsMoney for Nothing [Brothers in Arms]14,860,000
21. 1984 – Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the U.S.A. [Born in the U.S.A.]14,800,000
22. 1987 – Michael JacksonMan in the Mirror [Bad]14,390,000
23. 1982 – Phil CollinsYou Can’t Hurry Love [Hello, I Must Be Going!]14,310,000
24. 1986 – MadonnaLa Isla Bonita [True Blue]14,160,000
25. 1983 – Billy JoelUptown Girl [An Innocent Man]13,940,000
26. 1981 – The Rolling StonesStart Me Up [Tattoo You]13,690,000
27. 1984 – Bruce SpringsteenDancing in the Dark [Born in the U.S.A.]13,530,000
28. 1980 – Barbra StreisandWoman in Love [Guilty]13,440,000
29. 1987 – U2I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For [The Joshua Tree]13,420,000
30. 1984 – George MichaelCareless Whisper [Make It Big]13,110,000
31. 1985 – Dire StraitsWalk of Life [Brothers in Arms]12,880,000
32. 1987 – Michael JacksonSmooth Criminal [Bad]12,800,000
33. 1984 – QueenI Want to Break Free [The Works]12,620,000
34. 1984 – MadonnaMaterial Girl [Like A Virgin]12,550,000
35. 1987 – Michael JacksonThe Way You Make Me Feel [Bad]12,100,000
36. 1987 – George MichaelFaith [Faith]11,890,000
37. 1989 – Garth BrooksThe Dance [Garth Brooks]11,580,000
38. 1987 – Guns N’ RosesWelcome to the Jungle [Appetite for Destruction]11,530,000
39. 1985 – Whitney HoustonHow Will I Know [Whitney Houston]11,350,000
40. 1987 – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life [Dirty Dancing]11,270,000
41. 1988 – MetallicaOne […And Justice For All]11,210,000
42. 1987 – Guns N’ RosesParadise City [Appetite for Destruction]11,050,000
43. 1987 – Fleetwood MacEverywhere [Tango In The Night]10,930,000
44. 1985 – Phil CollinsSussudio [No Jacket Required]10,760,000
45. 1984 – Wham!Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go [Make It Big]10,670,000
46. 1986 – Paul SimonYou Can Call Me Al [Graceland]10,070,000
47. 1985 – Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms [Brothers in Arms]9,600,000
48. 1984 – Bryan AdamsHeaven [Reckless]9,590,000
49. 1984 – Prince and the RevolutionsWhen Doves Cry [Purple Rain]9,510,000
50. 1983 – Irene CaraFlashdance… What a Feeling [Flashdance / What a Feelin’]9,420,000
51. 1988 – EnyaOrinoco Flow [Watermark]9,340,000
52. 1983 – MadonnaHoliday [Madonna]9,310,000
53. 1984 – Phil CollinsOne More Night [No Jacket Required]9,190,000
54. 1986 – MetallicaMaster Of Puppets [Master Of Puppets]9,140,000
55. 1981 – AC/DCFor Those About to Rock (We Salute You) [For Those About to Rock We Salute You]9,120,000
56. 1988 – Guns N’ RosesPatience [GNR Lies]8,920,000
57. 1986 – Bon JoviWanted Dead or Alive [Slippery When Wet]8,910,000
58. 1980 – Bob MarleyCould You Be Loved [Uprising]8,870,000
59. 1984 – MadonnaInto The Groove [Like A Virgin]8,860,000
60. 1980 – AC/DCHells Bells [Back in Black]8,720,000
61. 1986 – Prince and the RevolutionsKiss [Parade]8,660,000
62. 1989 – Billy JoelWe Didn’t Start the Fire [Storm Front]8,610,000
63. 1983 – Michael SembelloManiac [Flashdance / Bossa Nova Hotel]8,470,000
64. 1986 – MadonnaPapa Don’t Preach [True Blue]8,460,000
65. 1983 – David BowieLet’s Dance [Let’s Dance]8,290,000
66. 1980 – ABBAThe Winner Takes It All [Super Trouper]8,230,000
67. 1989 – Elton JohnSacrifice [Sleeping with the Past]8,160,000
68. 1980 – Billy JoelIt’s Still Rock and Roll to Me [Glass Houses]8,150,000
69. 1989 – CherIf I Could Turn Back Time [Heart of Stone]7,950,000
70. 1984 – Bruce SpringsteenI’m on Fire [Born in the U.S.A.]7,920,000
71. 1987 – Michael JacksonBad [Bad]7,880,000
72. 1980 – Bruce SpringsteenThe River [The River]7,850,000
73. 1989 – Garth BrooksIf Tomorrow Never Comes [Garth Brooks]7,850,000
74. 1984 – U2Pride (in The Name Of Love) [The Unforgettable Fire]7,740,000
75. 1985 – Whitney HoustonGreatest Love of All [Whitney Houston]7,730,000
76. 1980 – John LennonWoman [Double Fantasy]7,720,000
77. 1980 – Dire StraitsRomeo and Juliet [Making Movies]7,410,000
78. 1982 – Michael JacksonP.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) [Thriller]7,230,000
79. 1984 – Wham!Last Christmas [Music from the Edge of Heaven]6,920,000
80. 1983 – U2New Year’s Day [War]6,440,000
81. 1986 – MadonnaLive To Tell [True Blue]6,440,000
82. 1987 – Eric CarmenHungry Eyes [Dirty Dancing]6,400,000
83. 1980 – QueenCrazy Little Thing Called Love [The Game]6,380,000
84. 1983 – Bob MarleyBuffalo Soldier [Confrontation]6,320,000
85. 1982 – Michael JacksonWanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ [Thriller]6,140,000
86. 1983 – Elton JohnI’m Still Standing [Too Low for Zero]6,060,000
87. 1980 – Barbra Streisand & Barry GibbGuilty [Guilty]6,040,000
88. 1985 – Prince and the RevolutionsRaspberry Beret [Around the World in a Day]6,020,000
89. 1980 – AC/DCShoot to Thrill [Back in Black]5,990,000
90. 1987 – AerosmithDude (Looks Like a Lady) [Permanent Vacation]5,880,000
91. 1988 – Bon JoviI’ll Be There for You [New Jersey]5,730,000
92. 1987 – Pink FloydLearning to Fly [A Momentary Lapse of Reason]5,550,000
93. 1989 – QueenI Want It All [The Miracle]5,500,000
94. 1984 – MetallicaFor Whom the Bell Tolls [Ride The Lightning]5,490,000
95. 1988 – Bon JoviBad Medicine [New Jersey]5,450,000
96. 1988 – EnyaWatermark [Watermark]5,420,000
97. 1984 – Prince and the RevolutionsLet’s Go Crazy [Purple Rain]5,390,000
98. 1980 – Bob MarleyRedemption Song [Uprising]5,350,000
99. 1984 – Phil CollinsAgainst All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) [Against All Odds Soundtrack]5,340,000
100. 1985 – Whitney HoustonSaving All My Love for You [Whitney Houston]5,320,000

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Álvaro

Where’s Cyndi Lauper on this list? Omg

Martin

She ain’t been studied Alvaro. She would and should be there. These things just take time.

HARSHIT KUMAR PATNAIK

MJ just owned the solo game ..

Tony

Queen about to overtake Madonna overall, once updated.

Tony

The top three biggest sellers here are MJ, Queen then Madonna. These three are also in the overall top Five.

RLAAMJR.

Can anybody who has experienced the music phenomenon of the 80s tell me how huge Phil Collins and his band Genesis was? That despite MJ and Madonna dominion, was Phil more ubiquitous than them overall due to being a member of Genesis? Like you hear more songs from Phil and Genesis combined on tvs or radios? Is it safe to say Phil was actually more popular than Madonna in the 80s?

Best-selling artists of the 80s
Michael Jackson – 181,729,000
Madonna – 131,613,000
Phil Collins estimation: – 117,538,000 + Genesis (estimation: 25,000,000) = 142,538,000

Martin

From a UK perspective, Phil Collins was vastly more popular, more well known etc than Genesis. Genesis were certainly successful in the UK in the 80’s but it was only really with The Invisible Touch that they became a sort of household name in the UK, Collins was from the off. I knew about Collins from his first single in 1981, probably from seeing it on Top of The Pops , Genesis I didn’t become aware of until IT in 1986. While there’s no denying how successful his music was in the UK in the 80′, he was never critically… Read more »

NIck

I don’t think it makes sense to base his popularity on both Genesis and his solo career. Genesis is a band depending on Collins and other band members while his solo career is, well, a solo career. So when judging his success, I think it makes more sense to judge it solely on his solo achievements.

Martin

I think it does make sense, as it’s showing how successful he was in total. More recent artists all receive sales and streams towards their own totals, when they feature on someone elses track, often for just performing a few lines or a rap. I think it’s only fair to look at Collins overall success, as he certainly contributed to the success and popularity of Genesis, to a far greater extent (Drummer, Singer, Co-Writer, Face of the band), than a lot of these featuring artists have, to the music they gain sales for.

Travis

Then we should add all the sales of The Jackson 5/The Jacksons to Michael Jackson’s total, given without him the band would have never gained popularity. MJ was the lead singer for every song, and wrote a lot of the material.

Martin

I am not suggesting we actually add them together for these kind of lists/articles, I am just saying IMO it does make sense to look at how successful guys like McCartney, Collins, Jackson etc have been across their full careers.

RLAAMJR.

Thank you for the reply. I really don’ think Phil can become more popular than MJ in the 80s but how competitive was he against Madonna? Was the competition between them really close or not at all? Was “In The Air Tonight” #3 a really huge song in the 80s?

Has Phil been put beside and recognized along with MJ and Madonna on different forms of media as the Big Three of the 80s?

NIck

RLAAMJR, I think Madonna was more popular than Phil. Per this wesbite, she was the second most successful artist of the 80s.

https://chartmasters.org/2018/02/most-successful-artists-by-decade/#comment-32640

Michael

Nick,

Not sure why he’s not in the top 10 in the 80s rankings. But based on his 80s result he should be no 3 and not that far away from Madonna. My parents told me that his music was everywhere in the 80s. But I guess Madonna was probably bigger because she definitely received press coverage like crazy. Album sales wise, they probably in the same league.

RLAAMJR.

Maybe you can ask your parents who was bigger between the two. Please??? 🙂

Michael

Rlaamjr,

Their results speak for themselves.

Nuno

Madonna was way bigger, trust me (in sales, media exposure, cultural impact, chart positions, concert sales).

Nuno

Madonna definitely sold more albums than Phil Colins during the 80’s. In Europe one just have to look at her eurochart records. I mean, True Blue was #01 for 37 weeks – the most any other album in history selling more than 8 millions in less than 1 year. Phill only had 4 album and 23 single releases during the 80’s despite having released singles since 1980 and albums since 1981. From those singles, only 9 were certified silver, gold or platinum in at least 1 country. His best selling album was released in 1985 and his worldwide sales are… Read more »

Nuno

Phill Collins was popular during the 80’s and early 90’s and was also appealing for a more adult public. My Grandma could buy a Phil record too. He was was appealing to older people too. Michael and Madonna were more appealing to younger people (yet my parents always enjoyed them as well). Phil was more played at AC radio stations. Michael Jackson and Madonna were much more popular and famous and much more played in all kinds of radios during the 80’s (at least in South European countries – I live in Portugal but traveled often to other European countries… Read more »

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