Top David Bowie Solo Songs of the '80s

Eclectic English singer-songwriter and rock music mastermind David Bowie came to define an entire decade of music during his '70s run as a glam rock icon. However, he retained plenty of creative fuel into the '80s that have persisted decades beyond. Bowie's '80s music output demonstrated a wide swath of musical interests ranging from new wave to dance rock and sophisticated pop music of all types. Here's a chronological look at Bowie's best songs of the '80s, an era that witnessed his smooth transition into the MTV video age.

Bowie builds a bridge effortlessly between the '70s and '80s for his first major hit single of the new decade, a No. 1 U.K. pop hit in 1980 that also dominated the European charts. References to character Major Tom - along with some dreamy electronic textures - help Bowie greet the burgeoning new wave scene with characteristic elegance and melodic transcendence. The song certainly registers as a standout from 1980's, a fine transitional record that served as a versatile, confident embrace of a new era for Bowie the consummate artist.

On this excellent, moody title track, Bowie manages to combine a gloomy rock vibe with some downright energetic instrumentation - dominated by the innovative guitar work of King Crimson vet Robert Fripp. The track's grasp of an intentionally chaotic post-punk vibe remains highly satisfying more than three decades later and demonstrates once again that Bowie has always been eminently qualified to play the vast field of musical style possibilities.

Having already touched on the goth rock elements almost inherent in his crooning style many times before, Bowie slid comfortably into a full cinematic mode for this successful collaboration with film score fixture Giorgio Moroder for the 1982 film. A considerable American hit on the niche mainstream rock charts, this early 1982 offering kept Bowie squarely on the pop music radar between albums. But it's also far more than a mere diversion, offering a glimpse into Bowie's ability to merge artistic merit with blatantly commercial musical assignments.

As the title track and lead-off single from one of 1983's biggest pop albums, this song succeeds wildly on a number of levels. Most importantly, it's built on one of Bowie's most dexterous and melodic achievements from an undeniably illustrious career. The purity of the hooks and dramatic heft of the songcraft here are enough by themselves to strike pop music gold, but the addition of lead guitar strains from none other than blues-rock prodigy Stevie Ray Vaughan perfectly accomplishes another moment of masterful complexity.

Though known as one of Bowie's signature hits of the '80s - even earning a novelty mention in the nostalgic romantic comedy - this song may not be quite as remembered for being an Iggy Pop composition. Nevertheless, the symbiosis between these two rock icons helps to render Bowie's version into an enjoyably lived-in rendition of a tune that fits squarely into his vocal wheelhouse. An atmospheric, definite '80s classic that deserves its considerable notoriety.

Having always exercised a certain level of brooding darkness in his lyrical and vocal expression, Bowie executes an intriguing shift on this tune, his third consecutive 1983 single that became a major pop hit on both sides of the Atlantic. On multiple levels, the song strikes a rather joyous pose, gliding in on a memorable melody, peppy rhythm and a light spirit of fun. Philosophically religious lyrics notwithstanding, this is a track that may stand as Bowie's most inspirational pop/rock romp: "I'm standing in the wind, but I never wave bye-bye."

Following up the massive success of 1983 proved a difficult if not impossible feat for Bowie just as it would have for the most ordinary of mortals. Even so, this track from 1984's coolly received stands out as a transcendent '80s music moment full of classic Bowie touches of flamboyance and songcraft. As always, Bowie manages here to be at once soulful and detached in his unique exploration of modern British and American musical styles.

Forgetting for a moment the rather nauseating duet between Bowie and Mick Jagger on the massive 1986 hit version of "Dancing in the Street," the brilliant Bowie returned in full force for this endlessly lovely though underrated soundtrack single. Sometimes this artist's flair for oddity and independent career choices has obscured the amazingly distinct beauty of his voice and his remarkably deft touch as a composer. But this simply would not be one of those occasions.

Musically speaking, this track from 1987's employs a busy production full of the era's flourishes, but it also generates much soul in the form of well-placed lines of the alto saxophone. Such unexpected paths remain a consistent yet evolving feature of Bowie's best music, and this tune's perspective on modern civilization's disdain for the natural world creates a rich tapestry indeed for the application of his artistry. One of Bowie's greatest gifts is that he writes songs with comparative ease whether slight or dense with meaning.

Bowie's fortunes as a mainstream pop artist had already begun to wane well before his final solo album of the era, which was probably just fine with him anyway. Nevertheless, this title track deserved a better following than it received, a situation perhaps exacerbated by Bowie's upcoming drastic turn to hard rock as leader of Tin Machine. Ah well, lovers of Bowie's effortless elegance as a pop songwriter and singer have plenty to celebrate in this '80s swan song.