There’s nothing like the magic of summer paired with the timeless hits of the 80s. Whether you’re by the lake, at the beach, cruising in the car, or out in the city, nostalgic 80s songs are the ultimate summer vibe. The right music can transport you to a different world, and we’ve curated 10 upbeat 80s tracks to set the mood for summer. Let’s dive into these classic anthems that will make your summer unforgettable!

Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears (1985)

Starting off with this timeless masterpiece by Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a quintessential summer anthem. Blending nostalgic melodies with a sense of freedom, it’s perfect for carefree road trips, beach outings, and backyard barbecues. The song’s upbeat tempo and infectious rhythm, coupled with its reflective lyrics, shimmering synths, and catchy guitar riffs, create a balance that resonates with the spirit of summer. Add this one to your playlist for sun-soaked memories and adventures!

The Boys of Summer – Don Henley (1984)

You can’t go wrong with a song that has summer in its title. Originally meant for Tom Petty, this memorable hit by Don Henley, founding member of the Eagles, reflects on perfect summer days of the past. The driving beat and iconic guitar riff instantly transport listeners to sunlit days and warm, breezy nights, making it a staple for summer playlists. Ideal for long drives, beachside relaxation, and bittersweet reminiscing.

Walk of Life – Dire Straits (1985)

With its instantly recognizable lead organ intro, “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits is a feel-good summer anthem. The song’s rhythm is propelled by a steady, toe-tapping drum beat and a buoyant bass line, while Mark Knopfler’s distinctive, cheerful guitar licks add an extra layer of playfulness. Lyrically, it’s about a busker who spreads happiness through his music, referencing the joys of life and love. This feel-good narrative, paired with an invigorating soundscape, makes “Walk of Life” an uplifting soundtrack of the season.

You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (1986)

Featuring an energetic tempo and vibrant percussion, this song is perfect for summer activities and gatherings. The fast-faced rhythm and African influences, including congas and a prominent drumbeat, evoke a lively, festive spirit. Add a dynamic, danceable quality to your 80s summer playlist with “You Can Call Me Al”.

Easy Lover – Phil Collins & Philip Bailey (1985)

With its impactful intro and driving beat, “Easy Lover” will get your head bopping. The catchy melody and iconic chorus, along with its classic 80s production featuring distinctive guitar riffs and synthesizers, will add a fitting touch of nostalgia to your summer playlist.

Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen (1984)

Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing in the Dark” is an uplifting and versatile summer bop.  Lyrics like “You can’t start a fire without a spark” are both reflective and hopeful, inspiring a sense of optimism and motivation. Whether you’re lounging by the pool, having a barbecue, or dancing at a summer party, this song fits various summer scenarios, making it a staple in any playlist.

Canadian 80s Summer Hits 

Working for the Weekend – Loverboy (1981)

Emerging out of Calgary, 80s legends Loverboy sure gave us a Canadian banger when they released “Working for the Weekend”. The chorus is incredibly catchy and easy to sing along to, making it ideal for group settings and celebrations. Fun lyrics about enjoying life capture the universal desire to break free from routine and embrace leisure and enjoyment.

Summer of ‘69 – Bryan Adams (1985)

Written and recorded by Kingston, Ontario native and overall Canadian legend Bryan Adams, this nostalgic anthem is literally about summer. The relatable lyrics reminisce about that one summer and its formative events, transporting listeners back to their own memorable summers past. Blasting this Canadian classic – out on the lake or around the fire on a camping trip – is a Canadian summer tradition.

Boy Inside the Man – Tom Cochrane & Red Rider (1986)

Coming out of Lynn Lake, Manitoba, Tom Cochrane released many Canadian gems, such as “Life is Highway” – which would have made this list if it hadn’t been released in 1991. The lyrics of “Boy Inside the Man” reflect keeping our inner child alive. Its rolling beat, four-on-the-floor drum pattern, and synthesized mandolin create a perfect soundscape for driving down the highway with the windows down – not a care in the world.

Sunglasses at Night – Corey Hart (1983)

Montreal icon Corey Hart had to beg his label to record another song after his album First Offense was completed, feeling something was missing. Hart’s resistance paid off – “Sunglasses at Night” ended up being his biggest hit. This quintessential  summer anthem features a constant four-on-the-floor drum pattern and distinctive 80s instrumentation.

Check out our other articles on 80s Music: Why the Styles and Sounds Keep Making a Comeback and Top 10 Movie Soundtracks for Your Nostalgic Summer Playlist.

Written by Liam Clarke
Illustration by Holly Li