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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Worst Songs of the 1980s

Selections include ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ ‘Lady In Red’ and ‘The Final Countdown’

bobby mcferrin 1980s

David Corio/Redferns

A few weeks ago we asked our readers to vote for their least favorite songs from the 1990s, so it was the obvious next move to dial it back 10 years and see what you guys hated in the 1980s. The results are sure to infuriate a lot of people. For the record, I personally disagree with most of these selections. In fact, I love a lot of these songs. But our readers have spoken and these are the results. Flame away in the comments section – but for the love of god, don't write an article about this on another site that says Rolling Stone editors picked these songs. 

By Andy Greene

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10. Rick Astley – ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’

It might be funny to post a video here that isn't "Never Gonna Give You Up" and pull a rare reverse Rickroll, but I think everybody got sick of that meme about three years ago. That may explain the backlash against this song. We all had to hear it a zillion times in 1987, and then in 2008 it was inescapable. The world can only handle so much Rick Astley, even if we're enjoying it ironically. Personally, I always preferred the lesser used Bel-Air. That's where you cut a story off halfway through and went into the theme song to the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." You could also pull a reverse Bel-Air. That's where you start with the show's theme song, and then quickly shift to something extremely serious. Try it some day. 

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9. Taco – ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’

Really, people? You're gonna hate on poor Taco? All he has is "Putting' On The Ritz" and you're going to take that away from him? It's not even his song. Irving freakin' Berlin wrote this song in 1929. Everybody from Ella Fitzgerald to Fred Astaire to Judy Garland recorded it. In the 1980s, über-European performer Taco recorded this sweet/creepy synthpop version of it. And it's awesome. I say everybody who voted for this song is wrong. 

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8. Toni Basil – ‘Mickey’

You people may have a point with this one. It is pretty annoying, but maybe Toni Basil deserves to be graded on a curve. Before this song came out she was primarily a choreographer and dancer. She was a really great one, working with David Bowie, Tina Turner and many others. In 1982 she took the song "Kitty" by British band Racey and remade it as "Mickey." The "you're so fine" chant was Basil's innovation though. She was a cheerleader back in high school, so Basil made the super low-budget video cheerleader themed. MTV didn't have many videos back in 1982, so they played it all the time. 

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7. Bobby McFerrin – ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’

The one-hit wonders are really getting hammered here. If it's any consolation, Bobby McFerrin isn't all that fond of this song either. He hasn't played it in years, saying he just got way too sick of it. The lyrics are inspired by a famous saying from the late Indian mystic Meher Baba. The track is completely a cappella, and it's the only such song to ever hit Number One on the Hot 100. 

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6. Falco – ‘Rock Me Amadeus’

It's one thing to attack Taco. He can defend himself. But Falco is dead. "Rock Me Amadeus" is his most lasting contribution to the world of music (at least in this country.) And you people are hating on it. For shame. Sure, the song is largely sung in German. Yes, the production is incredibly dated. All that is part of the appeal. In 1986, the song hit Number One on the U.S. Hot 100 – a first for a song in German. Falco died in a bus accident in 1998, but at least he lived to hear the Simpsons do "Dr. Zaius" in 1996. The Planet of the Apes-themed parody of "Rock Me Amadeus" could be the show's single greatest musical spoof. 

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5. Men Without Hats – ‘The Safety Dance’

Now you're going to rip into "The Safety Dance"? You aren't human if the first three seconds of "The Safety Dance" don't make you smile. The song is just pure joy – and the video is the most bizarrely Eighties-tastic thing ever created. Why is the Men Without Hats singer in a Renaissance village with midgets? Why is he all spastic? The Canadian band never had another hit other than "Pop Goes The World", but "The Safety Dance" has been used in so many movies and commercials, they continue to get paid for it. They toured with Human League this past year. Imagine how boring their set was when they weren't playing "The Safety Dance" or "Pop Goes The World." 

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4. Wham! – ‘Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)’

We're in full agreement that "Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)" isn't Wham!'s best work. That would be "Everything She Wants." But – the fourth-worst song of the 1980s? I think not. What's with the "Choose Life" shirts in the video? I always thought it was a pro-life message, but it turns out the shirt's designer is pro-choice and it relates to respecting life by shunning violence and war. The song was a massive worldwide hit for Wham!, but they broke up pretty soon after it hit. The British press has a story about an imminent reunion concert every couple of years, but they're always completely made up. 

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3. Chris de Burgh – ‘Lady In Red’

This is certainly a wussy song, but I'm not sure it's bad. It sort of has a cool vibe. It was also a huge shot in the arm to Irish singer Chris de Burgh. If you haven't heard of him, he's sort a poor man's Paul Carrack. He wrote this song about his wife Diane after seeing her in a red dress across a crowded room and not realizing it was her. Two years before the song came out, a Gene Wilder movie named The Woman in Red hit theaters. It's pretty widely forgotten, but worth checking out. What's up with Gene Wilder these days? He seems to be as off the grid as Chris de Burgh. 

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2. Europe – ‘The Final Countdown’

This has been a week of very mixed news for the fine men in the band Europe. The news that Arrested Development is returning means they will almost certainly be getting more royalty checks for "The Final Countdown," which Gob always uses as the intro to his magic act. But you people had to take away their joy by naming it the second worst song of the Eighties. You may be right though. The keyboard part is catchy in an irritating way, but the whole thing is just incredibly annoying. Europe reunited in 2003 and continue to tour. They should go out on a package bill with ASIA, Boston and Chicago. It would be confusing. 

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1. Starship – ‘We Built This City’

This could be the biggest blow-out victory in the history of the Rolling Stone Readers Poll. You really, really, really hate "We Built This City" by Starship. It crushed the competition. This isn't the first time this happened to this song. In 2004 Blender named this song the Most Awesomely Bad Song of All Time. Certainly, there's a lot to hate about the song. Jefferson Airplane was a pretty great rock band in the 1960s. They came back in the 1980s as this sleek, corporate band named Starship with some guy named Mickey Thomas as one of their singers. This wasn't their only huge hit. They also scored with "Sara" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," from the soundtrack to Mannequin. To the Woodstock generation, their success in the 1980s just seemed like the final nail in the coffin of their youth. Bizarrely enough, Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin is one of the co-writers of this song. 

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