Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Top 250+ New Wave/College Rock Songs

New Wave/College Rock:

Top 250+ Songs

This is really two lists in one. I attempted making one list devoted to new wave and another to college rock, but they overlapped enough that it made more sense to combine them. New wave was a synth-driven musical genre in the 1980s helmed by bands like New Order, Depeche Mode, and the Cure. College radio stations helped give an audience to that music as well as more guitar-focused bands like U2 and R.E.M. While often gathered under the banner of “alternative rock,” a significant number of bands which started on the fringe had, by decade’s end become the mainstream.

More than 50 lists focused on one genre or the other (or both) were aggregated to create this list. I opted to stretch the list to 250 songs to encompass all the songs that would rank in the top 100 in one list or the other. The final list came to more than 250 songs because I included all songs featured on 6 or more lists. Peaks on the two lists, if they were separated out, are indicated with CR (college rock) and NW (new wave).

Click here to see other genre-specific song lists.

1. New Order “Blue Monday” (1983) NW #4, CR #16
2. Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980) CR #1, NW #48
3. Soft Cell “Tainted Love” (1981) NW #1
4. The Cure “Just Like Heaven” (1987) CR #13, NW #25
5. Modern English “I Melt with You” (1983) NW #7, CR #83
6. The Human League “Don’t You Want Me?” (1981) NW #2
7. Devo “Whip It” (1980) NW #12, CR #84
8. Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun” (1983) CR #2
9. Echo & the Bunnymen “The Killing Moon” (1984) CR #5
10. Gary Numan “Cars” (1979) NW #3

11. Depeche Mode “People Are People” (1984) NW #10
12. Depeche Mode “Just Can’t Get Enough” (1981) NW #15, CR #76
13. The Church “Under the Milky Way” (1988) CR #3
14. The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” (1984) CR #9, NW #96
15. Dexy’s Midnight Runners “Come on Eileen” (1982) NW #14
16. Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget about Me” (1985) NW #11
17. Dead or Alive “You Spin Me Round Like a Record” (1985) NW #5
18. Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” (1981) CR #26, NW #45
19. Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” (1982) NW #6
20. Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star” (1981) NW #8

21. R.E.M. “Radio Free Europe” (1981) CR #4
22. A Flock of Seagulls “I Ran” (1982) NW #9
23. New Order “Bizarre Love Triangle” (1986) NW #31, CR #65
24. Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls” (1986) NW #18
25. Talk Talk “It’s My Life” (1984) CR #29, NW #86
26. A-ha “Take on Me” (1984) NW #14
27. The B-52’s “Rock Lobster” (1979) NW #33
28. Madness “Our House” (1982) NW #20
29. The Cure “In Between Days (Without You)” (1985) NW #50, CR #79
30. Psychedelic Furs “Pretty in Pink” (1981) CR #28, NW #97

31. Tears for Fears “Mad World” (1982) NW #28
32. The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” (1989) CR #7
33. Kate Bush “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God” (1985) CR #14
34. Big Country “In a Big Country” (1983) NW #17
35. Midnight Oil “Beds Are Burning” (1987) CR #51, NW #82
36. Duran Duran “Hungry Like the Wolf” (1982) NW #23
37. Talking Heads “Burning Down the House” (1983) NW #34
38. Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Relax” (1983) NW #16
39. The Jesus & Mary Chain “Just Like Honey” (1985) CR #10
40. The English Beat “Save It for Later” (1983) NW #55

41. The Clash “Rock the Casbah” (1982) NW #62, CR #100
42. Echo & the Bunnymen “Lips Like Sugar” (1987) CR #20
43. Men Without Hats “The Safety Dance” (1983) NW #24
44. Wall of Voodoo “Mexican Radio” (1983) NW #74, CR #89
45. The Vapors “Turning Japanese” (1980) NW #26
46. Billy Idol “White Wedding” (1982) NW #21
47. Duran Duran “Girls on Film” (1981) NW #29
48. Jane’s Addiction “Jane Says” (1988) CR #8
49. The Jam “A Town Called Malice” (1982) CR #56
50. Thomas Dolby “She Blinded Me with Science” (1982) NW #27

51. Split Enz “I Got You” (1980) NW #19
52. Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (1985) NW #43
53. The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” (1981) NW #37
54. The Cure “Close to Me” (1985) CR #27
55. The Cult “She Sells Sanctuary” (1985) CR #25
56. Tears for Fears “Shout” (1984) NW #30
57. Yazoo “Don’t Go” (1982) CR #81, NW #99
58. Sonic Youth “Teenage Riot” (1988) CR #6
59. XTC “Senses Working Overtime” (1982) CR #46
60. They Might Be Giants “Ana Ng” (1988) CR #12

61. Love & Rockets “So Alive” (1989) CR #19
62. Psychedelic Furs “Love My Way” (1982) NW #32
63. Blondie “Heart of Glass” (1978) NW #22
64. Icicle Works “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” (1984) NW #70
65. Nena “99 Red Balloons” (1983) NW #35
66. Naked Eyes “Always Something There to Remind Me” (1983) NW #36
67. Berlin “The Metro” (1983) NW #38
68. Oingo Boingo “Dead Man’s Party” (1985) CR #35
69. The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” (1981) NW #52
70. Bauhaus “She’s in Parties” (1983) CR #17

71. After the Fire “Der Kommissar” (1983) NW #40
72. Animotion “Obsession” (1985) NW #41
73. XTC “Dear God” (1986) #31 CR
74. Camper Van Beethoven “Take the Skinheads Bowling” (1985) CR #11
75. The Sugarcubes “Birthday” (1987) #15 CR
76. The English Beat “Mirror in the Bathroom” (1980) NW #49
77. Romeo Void “Never Say Never” (1982) NW #59
78. INXS “Don’t Change” (1982) CR #53
79. U2 “I Will Follow” (1980) CR #24
80. The Fixx “One Thing Leads to Another” (1983) NW #53

81. Tom Tom Club “Genius of Love” (1981) NW #88
82. Siouxsie & the Banshees “Cities in Dust” (1985) CR #57
83. Culture Club “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” (1982) NW #51
84. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark “Enola Gay” (1980) NW #66
85. Peter Schilling “Major Tom (Coming Home)” (1983) NW #76
86. XTC “Making Plans for Nigel” (1979) NW #54
87. Missing Persons “Destination Unknown” (1982) NW #79
88. Bow Wow Wow “I Want Candy” (1982) NW #39
89. Pixies “Monkey Gone to Heaven” (1989) CR #18
90. The Stone Roses “I Wanna Be Adored” (1989) CR #22

91. The La’s “There She Goes” by (1988) CR #39
92. The Stone Roses “She Bangs the Drums” (1989) CR #36
93. The Plimsouls “A Million Miles Away” (1982) CR #71
94. Men at Work “Down Under” (1981) NW #44
95. Thompson Twins “Hold Me Now” (1983) NW #46
96. Ultravox “Vienna” (1980) NW #61
97. Talking Heads “Psycho Killer” (1977) NW #57
98. The Police “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (1980) NW #63
99. ABC “The Look of Love” (1982) NW #47
100. When in Rome “The Promise” (1989) NW #64


101. Spandau Ballet “True” (1983) NW #73
102. R.E.M. “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987) CR #51
103. Yazoo “Situation” (182) NW #84
104. The Knack “My Sharona” (1979) NW #87
105. Kajagoogoo “Too Shy” (1983) NW #80
106. General Public “Tenderness” (1984) NW #92
107. Peter Gabriel “Games Without Frontiers” (1980) CR #85
108. Squeeze “Tempted” (1981) NW #56
109. The Replacements “Left of the Dial” (1985) CR #21
110. Hüsker Dü “Don’t Wanna Know if You Are Lonely” (1986) CR #23

111. INXS “Need You Tonight” (1987) NW #60
112. The Primitives “Crash” (1988) CR #41
113. Roxy Music “More Than This” (1982)
114. The Boomtown Rats “I Don’t Like Mondays’ (1979) NW #58
115. The Clash “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (1982) CR #66
116. Erasure “A Little Respect” (1988) NW #89
117. Billy Idol “Dancing with Myself” (1981)
118. Wang Chung “Dance Hall Days” (1984) NW #77
119. The Cars “Just What I Needed” (1978) NW #95
120. Kim Wilde “Kids in America” (1981) NW #65

121. New Order “True Faith” (1987)
122. David Bowie “Let’s Dance” (1983) CR #73
123. Pretenders “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)” (1979) NW #90
124. Depeche Mode “Never Let Me Down Again” (1987) CR #75
125. Blondie “One Way Or Another” (1978) NW #68
126. David Bowie “Ashes to Ashes” (1980) CR #74
127. Haircut 100 “Love Plus One” (1982) NW #42
128. Blondie “Rapture” (1980)
129. Bananarama “Cruel Summer” (1983) NW #75
130. The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian” (1986)

131. Re-Flex “The Politics of Dancing” (1983) NW #78
132. Public Image Ltd. “Rise” (1986) CR #30
133. Siouxsie & the Banshees “Peek-a-Boo” (1988) CR #42
134. Peter Murphy “Cuts You Up” (1990) CR #44
135. Black Flag “Rise Above” (1981) CR #33
136. Pixies “Debaser” (1989) CR #38
137. R.E.M. “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” (1984) CR #54
138. Squeeze “Pulling Mussels from the Shell” (1980) NW #83
139. The B-52’s “Love Shack” (1989) CR #61
140. The Specials “Ghost Town” (1981)

141. Adam Ant “Goody Two Shoes” (1982) NW #85
142. M “Pop Muzik” (1979) NW #72
143. Men at Work “Who Can It Be Now?” (1981) NW #69
144. The Cars “You Might Think” (1984) NW #71
145. The Replacements “Alex Chilton” (1987) CR #49
146. Gang of Four “I Love a Man in Uniform” (1982) CR #72
147. Visage “Fade to Grey” (1980) NW #67
148. The Cure “A Forest’ (1980) CR #58
149. Sinéad O’Connor “Mandinka” (1987) CR #63
150. The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry” (1979)

151. The Cars “Shake It Up” (1981) NW #93
152. ‘Til Tuesday “Voices Carry” (1985)
153. Bronski Beat “Smalltown Boy” (1984) NW #81
154. A Flock of Seagulls “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph)” (1982) NW #100
155. The Replacements “I Will Dare” (1984) CR #43
156. Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized” (1983) CR #32
157. The Smiths “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” (1986) CR #86
158. The B-52’s “Private Idaho” (1980)
159. Echo & the Bunnymen “The Cutter” (1983) CR #70
160. Dinosaur Jr. “Freak Scene” (1988) CR #34

161. Pixies “Where Is My Mind?” (1988) CR #47
162. Mission of Burma “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” (1981) CR #37
163. Magazine “A Song from Under the Floorboard” (1980) CR #40
164. B-Movie “Nowhere Girl” (1982) CR #96
165. Bob Mould “See a Little Light” (1989) CR #55
166. 10,000 Maniacs “Like the Weather” (1987) CR #64
167. The Cure “Love Song” (1989)
168. The Dead Milkmen “Punk Rock Girl” (1988) CR #60
169. Julian Cope “World Shut Your Mouth” (1986) CR #82
170. The Police “Every Breath You Take” (1983)

171. Depeche Mode “Everything Counts” (1983) CR #91
172. The The “This Is the Day” (1983)
173. The Smiths “This Charming Man” (1983) CR #68
174. U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1983)
175. Simple Minds “Alive and Kicking” (1985) NW #98
176. ABC “Poison Arrow’ (1982)
177. The Go-Go’s “Vacation” (1982) NW #91
178. The Human League “Keep Feeling Fascination” (1983) NW #94
179. The Cure “Why Can’t I Be You?” (1987)
180. Nine Inch Nails “Head Like a Hole” (1989) CR #45

181. Faith No More “We Care a Lot” (1985) CR #48
182. The Minutemen “Corona” (1984) CR #50
183. Elvis Costello “Veronica” (1989) CR #62
184. Violent Femmes “Kiss Off” (1983) CR #77
185. Cocteau Twins “Lorelei” (1984) CR #67
186. Orange Juice “Rip It Up” (1982) CR #59
187. World Party “Ship of Fools (Save Me from Tomorrow)” (1986)
188. They Might Be Giants “Don’t Let’s Start” (1986) CR #94
189. Depeche Mode “Personal Jesus” (1989)
190. Morrissey “Every Day Is Like Sunday” (1988)

191. The Police “Spirits in the Material World” (1981)
192. Erasure “Oh L’Amour” (1986)
193. U2 “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (1984)
194. Duran Duran “Rio” (1982)
195. Concrete Blonde “Still in Hollywood” (1987) CR #69
196. Psychedelic Furs “If You Leave” (1986)
197. The Smiths “Girlfriend in a Coma” (1987) CR #78
198. Nik Kershaw “Wouldn’t It Be Good” (1984)
199. The Clash “Train in Vain “Stand by Me)” (1979)
200. Alphaville “Forever Young” (1984)


201. Killing Joke “Eighties” (1984) CR #80
202. Berlin “Sex (I’m A…)” (1983)
203. Violent Femmes “Add It Up” (1983)
204. Eurythmics “Here Comes the Rain Again” (1983)
205. Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Two Tribes” (1984)
206. Elvis Costello “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” (1979)
207. The Replacements “Bastards of Young” (1985) CR #90
208. R.E.M. “The One I Love” (1987) CR #98
209. Lone Justice “Ways to Be Wicked” (1985) CR #99
210. The Waterboys “The Whole of the Moon” (1985)

211. The Dead Milkmen “Bitchin’ Camaro” (1985)
212. Suzanne Vega “Luka” (1987)
213. Heaven 17 “Let Me Go” (1982)
214. Eurythmics “Love Is a Stranger” (1982)
215. Elvis Costello “Everyday I Write the Book” (1983)
216. The Romantics “Talking in Your Sleep” (1983)
217. Tubeway Army “Are Friends Electric?” (1979)
218. Culture Club “Karma Chamelon” (1983)
219. Tears for Fears “Pale Shelter” (1982)
220. R.E.M. “Fall on Me” (1986)

221. Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia” (1980) CR #87
222. Martha & the Muffins “Echo Beach” (1980)
223. X “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” (1980) CR #88
224. U2 “With or Without You” (1987)
225. The Feelies “Fa cé-La” (1979) CR #92
226. The Smithereens “Behind the Wall of Sleep” (1986) CR #93
227. Fugazi “Waiting Room” (1988) CR #95
228. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions “Perfect Skin” (1984) CR #97
229. The Jam “That’s Entertainment” (1980)
230. Joe Jackson “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” (1979)

231. The Meat Puppets “Lake of Fire” (1984)
232. Nirvana “About a Girl” (1989)
233. The B-52’s “Channel Z” (1989)
234. Happy Mondays “24 Hour Party People” (1987)
235. Joe Jackson “Steppin’ Out” (1982)
236. U2 “New Year’s Day” (1983)
237. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Higher Ground” (1989)
238. Stephen Duffy “Kiss Me” (1985)
239. Billy Idol “Rebel Yell” (1983)
240. Depeche Mode “Enjoy the Silence” (1990)

241. Yello “Oh Yeah” (1985)
242. Tears for Fears “Head Over Heels” (1985)
243. The Fixx “Red Skies” (1982)
244. Tears for Fears “Change” (1983)
245. Culture Club “Time (Clock of the Heart)” (1982)
246. Depeche Mode “Master and Servant” (1984)
247. Adam & the Ants “Stand and Deliver” (1981)
248. Howard Jones “No One Is to Blame” (1985)
249. Ministry “Every Day Is Halloween” (1984)
250. The Cure “Let’s Go to Bed” (1982)

251. Erasure “Chains of Love” (1988)
252. Elvis Costello & the Attractions “Radio Radio” (1978)
253. Madness “One Step Beyond” (1979)
254. INXS “The One Thing” (1982)
255. INXS “What You Need’ (1985)


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First posted 6/9/2017; last updated 9/24/2022.