Songs from the ’80s That Peaked at #2

More often we remember songs that reached #1 on the pop charts. But what about those songs from the ’80s that were good enough to make it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 but just couldn’t make it all the way to #1?

As you know, the Billboard Hot 100 measures the popularity of songs in the U.S. based on a combination of sales and radio play (now also includes streaming). There are some surprising songs that topped this chart during the decade, but equally surprising songs that did not. Some songs ascended the charts all the way to the second position and, for whatever reason, never made it to #1 before descending. Early in the decade, there were hits that held the top spot for months at a time like “Physical”, “Endless Love”, “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Every Breath You Take” blocking others from making it. There were other times when there seemed to be a different song almost every week like the last half of 1986 having 18 different songs in 26 weeks or the entire year of 1988 having 33 different songs in 52 weeks. Many songs probably deserved their moment in the sun, but just couldn’t quite get there.

The list can include any song that reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1980-1989, but never reached #1. I decided to include any band/artist only once on the list, so if they have multiple songs that qualify, I will usually pick one and just note the others (except for number one on the list). My rankings will be based on a combination of perceived quality of work and pop culture significance, but mostly just my personal taste level both then and now (which admittedly can change daily). For added interest, I will include the song or songs that blocked each song from reaching #1. So with all of that said, here are the TOP 40 #2 SONGS OF THE ’80s (+ Honorable Mentions):

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
“Being With You” by Smokey Robinson
“Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton
“Hurts So Good” by John Cougar
“Joanna” and “Cherish” by Kool & the Gang
“Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell
“Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy
“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins
“C’est La Vie” by Robbie Nevil
“I Want Your Sex” by George Michael
“Is This Love” by Whitesnake
“Devil Inside” by INXS
“Mercedes Boy” by Pebbles
“Hands to Heaven” by Breathe
“I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” by Elton John
“Soldier of Love” by Donny Osmond
“On Our Own” by Bobby Brown
“Lovesong” by The Cure

40. “Endless Summer Nights” by Richard Marx (1988)
Blocked by: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2

39. “Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross (1980)
Blocked by: “Call Me” by Blondie
Notable details: Features background vocals by Michael McDonald

38. “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr. & Bill Withers (1981)
Blocked by: “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton & “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2

37. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by Georgia Satellites (1986)
Blocked by: “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

36. “Woman” by John Lennon (1980)
Blocked by: “Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon & “Rapture” by Blondie
Notable details: First single released after his death; Spent 3 weeks at #2

35. “Gloria” by Laura Branigan (1982)
Blocked by: “Truly” by Lionel Richie & “Mickey” by Toni Basil
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2

34. “Friends and Lovers” by Gloria Loring & Carl Anderson (1985)
Blocked by: “Stuck With You” by Huey Lewis & the News
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2; Find out more in my interview with Gloria Loring

33. “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones (1981)
Blocked by: “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross & “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2

32. “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” by Billy Ocean (1985)
Blocked by: “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston
Notable details: Featured in the film Jewel of the Nile; Was a UK #1 for a month. Had another #2 blocked in 1984 with “Loverboy”

31. “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” by Robert Palmer (1986)
Blocked by: “Amanda” by Boston
Notable details: A cover of a 1984 recording by Cherelle. Had another #2 blocked in 1988 with “Simply Irresistible”

30. “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram (1986)
Blocked by: “Jacobs Ladder” by Huey Lewis & the News
Notable details: Featured in the animated film An American Tail. Ronstadt had another #2 duet (with Aaron Neville) blocked in 1989 with “Don’t Know Much”

29. “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant (1982)
Blocked by: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
Notable details: Spent 5 weeks at #2; Read about this Flashback Video article on the song’s music video

28. “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s (1980)
Blocked by: “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2

27. “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner (1985)
Blocked by: “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” by John Parr
Notable details: Featured in the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Had another #2 blocked in 1986 with “Typical Male”

26. “Material Girl” by Madonna (1984)
Blocked by: “Cant Fight this Feeling” by REO Speedwagon & “One More Night” by Phil Collins
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2. Had two more #2’s blocked with “Causing a Commotion” in 1987 & “Express Yourself” in 1989

25. “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” by Air Supply (1983)
Blocked by: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
Notable details: Had another #2 blocked in 1980 with “All Out of Love”

24. “Say It Isn’t So” by Hall & Oates (1983)
Blocked by: “Say Say Say” by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2

23. “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey & Phil Collins (1984)
Blocked by: “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2

22. “99 Luftballons” by Nena (1983)
Blocked by: “Jump” by Van Halen
Notable details: Check out this special issue on this song including an awesome translation chart

21. “Let’s Wait Awhile” by Janet Jackson (1986)
Blocked by: “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau

20. “All I Need” by Jack Wagner (1984)
Blocked by: “Like a Virgin” by Madonna
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2

19. “Notorious” by Duran Duran (1986)
Blocked by: “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles
Notable details: Had another #2 blocked in 1984 with “The Wild Boys”

18. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by Culture Club (1982)
Blocked by: “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2; Reached #1 in 9 other countries. Had another #2 blocked in 1982 with “Time (Clock of the Heart)”

17. “Rosanna” by Toto (1982)
Blocked by: “Don’t You Want Me” by Human League & “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
Notable details: Spent 5 weeks at #2; Check out my special issue on hits connected to actress Rosanna Arquette

16. “You Belong to the City” by Glenn Frey (1985)
Blocked by: “We Built This City” by Starship
Notable details: Spend 2 weeks at #2; Written for the Miami Vice soundtrack which went on to be the top TV soundtrack of all time. Hand another #2 blocked in 1984 with “The Heat is On”

15. “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Blocked by: “The Reflex” by Duran Duran & “When Doves Cry” by Prince
Notable details: Spent 4 weeks at #2

14. “Shattered Dreams” by Johnny Hates Jazz (1987)
Blocked by: “Anything For You” by Gloria Estefan & “One More Try” by George Michael
Notable details: Spent 3 weeks at #2; Find out more about this song in my interview with Clark Datchler

13. “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung (1986)
Blocked by: “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles
Notable details: Find out more about this song in my interview with Jack Hues of Wang Chung

12. “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield (1987)
Blocked by: “Seasons Change” by Expose & “Father Figure” by George Michael
Notable details: Find out a little more about this song in my interview with co-writer Allee Willis

11. “Sowing the Seeds of Love” by Tears for Fears (1989)
Blocked by: “Miss You Much” by Janet Jackson
Notable details: Find out a little more about this song in my interview with Curt Smith of Tears for Fears

10. “Believe it or Not” by Joey Scarbury (1981)
Blocked by: “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie & Diana Ross
Notable details: Theme from the television show The Greatest American Hero; Find out more about it in my interview with the songs co-writer Stephen Geyer as well as this special TV Theme Songs article

9. “Waiting For a Girl Like You” by Foreigner (1981-1982)
Blocked by: “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (for 9 weeks) & “I Cant Go for That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates
Notable details: Spent a record-setting 10 weeks at #2

8. “Burning Heart” by Survivor (1985)
Blocked by: “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick & Friends
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2; Featured in the film Rocky IV; Find out a little more about this song in my interview with Jimi Jamison

7. “Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles (1987)
Blocked by: “Could’ve Been” by Tiffany
Notable details: Featured in the film Less Than Zero; Find out a little more about this song in my interview with Vicki Peterson of The Bangles. They had another #2 blocked in 1986 with “Manic Monday”

6. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House (1986)
Blocked by: “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” by Aretha Franklin & George Michael

5. “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” by Glass Tiger (1986)
Blocked by: “When I Think of You” by Janet Jackson
Notable details: Find out a little more about this song in my interview with Alan Frew from Glass Tiger

4. “Open Arms” by Journey (1982)
Blocked by: “Centerfold” by J. Geils Band & “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Notable details: Spent 6 weeks at #2 starting in February 1982

3. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper (1984)
Blocked by: “Jump” by Van Halen
Notable details: Spent 2 weeks at #2; Went to #1 in at least 10 other countries; One of the true iconic songs of the decade

2. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard (1988)
Blocked by: “Hold On to the Nights” by Richard Marx
Notable details: The fourth single from the 1987 Hysteria album, it went on to become one of the most popular songs of the late-80s

1. “Raspberry Beret” (1985), “Purple Rain” (1984) & “U Got the Look” (1987) by Prince
Blocked by: “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” by Wham & “Lost in Emotion” by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam respectively
Notable details: Prince had 4 other singles reach the top of the chart during the ’80s, though these three (plus “Little Red Corvette”) probably deserved to get there as well

There’s my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. I am sure there is much room for debate. Were you surprised by any of the songs on the list? Are there any singles from the ’80s that stalled at #2 that you feel I have overlooked? If so or if you’d rank any differently, please leave them in the comments section below. It has been said that second place is just the first loser, but I don’t always believe that. And these songs are evidence that #2 can still be pretty darn good. In the immortal words of Buzz Aldrin, “Second comes right after first.”

Listen to the 80s Songs That Peaked at #2 Playlist on Spotify!

About OldSchool80s 57 Articles
Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.