Top 10 Gloriously Cheesy 80s Songs to Get You Motivated

Motivational 80's Songs

It’s been a while since I’ve done a music post, and this is one of those fun topics that has been lurking in my subconscious for quite some time, because:

A)  I’m on a diet.
B)  I want to start to work out more.
C)  Lately I need some extra motivation to power through my workday.

My criteria for putting this list together was to skip the really obvious choices (e.g. “Eye of the Tiger,” which is a song so terrible that it’s become ironically cool to like it) and focus more on those underrated or lesser-known 80′s gems you’re embarrassed you actually still enjoy listening to.

Time to put on your legwarmers and come with me on a magical journey back to the 80′s where we’ll review ten of the most gloriously cheesy but damn motivational songs ever made.

#10 – “I Can Fly” by Rainey

Remember when Sarah Jessica Parker was really hot? Before the huge wart on her chin was was all you can focus on when you look at her face?  Well that was back in 1985 when she starred opposite Lee Montgomery in the classic teen dance flick Girls Just Want to Have Fun (which is criminally underrated, in this 80s queen’s opinion).

Lee Montgomery as Jeff - Girls Just Want to Have Fun







One of the most essential components of any dance film worth its salt is “The Practice Montage” and the one in this film happens to be exceptionally great because  it’s set to “I Can Fly,” a dancey, upbeat leg warmer anthem by Rainey Haynes.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Listen to the full track below and step into Jainey and Jeff’s world as they practice for the big D-TV dance-off by doing The Lift—the signature move that Dirty Dancing totally stole a few years later.


Motivational Power Lyric:

Now I’m stronger than ever; I’m gonna reach for the sky!

Most Appropriate For:

  • Training for your next Olympics.
  • Overcoming your fear of flying.

#9 – “Far From Over” by Frank Stallone

Who likes to strut? Tony Manero. Who rocks a head band like it’s nobody’s business? Tony Manero.  Who doesn’t take any shit from anybody? Tony fucking Manero.

John Travolta as Tony Manero

In Staying Alive, the 1983 sequel to Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta returns as Tony Manero to do what Tony Manero does best: dance his sweet, everliving ass off.  Frank Stallone’s disco-infused “Far From Over” perfectly scores the intensity that defines Tony Manero’s struggle as a no-name dancer trying to make it on Broadway.

Watch out for the breathtaking keyboard solo at 2:35:


Motivational Power Lyric:

Back in the race, I’m movin’ in ’cause I am getting closer.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Winning back your confidence after you get fired.
  • Getting kicked out of your parent’s basement.

#8 – “Free” by Kenny Loggins

Also known as the Kenny Loggins song that isn’t “Footloose” or “Danger Zone.”

With tracks like “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Let’s Hear it for The Boy,” 1984′s Footloose is already a goldmine of motivational music, but “Free” is the standout track that cements Ren McCormack’s victory over the small, God-fearing town of Elmore City, Oklahoma.

I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t allow this?


It’s also the song that Kenny Loggins made this delightful video for:


Who knew he was such a tremendous actor?

 Motivational Power Lyric:

Heaven helps the man who fights his fear.  Fucking A, Kenny Loggins. Fucking A.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Riding your dirt bike through the middle of town while high-fiving every person you pass.
  • Telling your boss to go fuck himself/herself.

#7 – “I Still Believe” by Tim Cappello

If an oiled-up, well-muscled man playing the sax while sensually thrusting his pelvis doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

Greasy Sax Man from The Lost Boys

During the concert scene in 1987′s The Lost Boys, Tim Cappello’s “I Still Believe” helped an infatuated Michael work up the confidence he needed to chase after the beautiful but mysterious Star, as seen in the clip below:


But I much prefer this re-edited concert scene that reveals the true source of Michael’s infatuation.

Motivational Power Lyric:

I’ll march this road, I’ll climb this hill; upon my knees if I have to.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Working up the nerve to call the guy/girl you’ve been crushing on, or perhaps making a booty call to an ex.
  • Polishing your sax, if you know what I mean.

#6 – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship

If it can compel Andrew McCarthy to marry a mannequin, this song can do anything.  Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” made for a memorable ending to 1987′s Mannequin and is the perfect power ballad to round out my list.  It also reminds us why freeze frame endings are awesome.


Motivational Power Lyric:

Take it to the good times, see it through the bad times; whatever it takes is what I’m gonna do.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Getting back together with your ex.
  • Anyone who got married in the 80′s.

#5 – “Hip to Be Square” Huey Lewis and the News

Finally! Someone tells us it’s okay not to be cool. Though I’m not sure how cool it is to be named Huey…

American Psycho

This is the song that gives Patrick Bateman the boost of confidence he needs to validate his existence–by putting an axe through Paul Allen’s head.


Motivational Power Lyric:

They tell me that it’s good for me, but I don’t even care! Oh that Huey. Such a badass.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Nerds.
  • Murdering your co-worker with an axe.

#4 – “St. Elmos Fire” by John Parr

St. Elmo’s Fire wasn’t just the quintessential college movie of the 1980′s, it was also the name of this incredibly inspirational rock power ballad by John Parr written for the film.

Motivational Power Lyric:

You know you can’t quit until it’s won
Soldier on
Only you can do what must be done

Most Appropriate For:

  • Figuring out your life after flunking out of college.
  • Yuppie version: Figuring out your life after not being accepted to an Ivy League school.
  • That drunken moment right before you do something incredibly stupid.

#3 – “The Moment of Truth” by Survivor

As the ending song to 1984′s Karate Kid, “The Moment of Truth” by Survivor teaches us that you can do anything you set your mind to (especially if Mr. Myiagi is your bitch) and also that adding synthesizers to rock songs is always a good idea.  Not quite on the same level as Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best”  but it certainly gets the job done and I’m not ashamed to admit I like this song better.

Here’s some horribly-edited Karate Kid fan video so you can hear it in all its glory:


Motivational Power Lyric:

If you really believe you can make it, then the power is in your own hands.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Celebrating your football team’s victories.
  • Juicing up before the big game.

#2 – “Gloria” by Laura Branigan

If the lyrics don’t move you, the power vocals and those sweet, sweet synth beats will. “Gloria” is Laura Branigan’s powerful early 80′s opus that never fails to make me feel like I can go out into the world and grab it by the balls.  Sadly Branigan passed away in 2004, but her motivational musical legacy lives on.

Watch Laura do her best impression of a disco ball:


Motivational Power Lyric:

Gloria, you’re always on the run now
Running after somebody, you gotta get him somehow.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Single, unattractive women who constantly get rejected.
  • Working out with your Thigh-Master.

#1 – “Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara

Is it bad form to use two songs from the Flashdance soundtrack in the same list? Oh what the hell, I don’t care.  It’s the song that practically defines the dance movie genre and, if you’re lucky, wins over stuffy, blasé judges.  You can’t do a list about motivational 80′s songs without including “Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara, and that’s why it gets my #1 spot.

Watch Jennifer Beals dance her heart and soul out in the film’s ending:


Interesting factoid: The song was originally intended for Joe Esposito.

Motivational Power Lyric:

Take your passion and make it happen.

Most Appropriate For:

  • Getting ready for the big audition.
  • Strippers with lofty aspirations.
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