Hmm, I need to mull this over. My only question is that since "Born in the USA" was WRITTEN in the 80s, can I retroactively include Bruce's current acoustic interpretation? No? Dammit.
"Billie Jean" Michael Jackson - obvious? Maybe, but MJ wasn't just an artist, he was a FUCKING FORCE OF NATURE when Thriller hit. Probably the best song on that album (though I think Thriller as a piece of music is really a superbly put-together whole, MJ's best individual songs were on other albums....but that's neither here nor there).
"Debaser" The Pixies - kinda set the "loudQUIETloud" template that many indies bands followed; kicks off what is for my money The Pixies' best album
"Jockey Full of Bourbon" Tom Waits - IMO probably one of those definitive Tom Waits songs that is recognizable as his, even when it's being covered by someone else
"Radio Free Europe" REM - again, one of those seminal songs that still holds up that helped kick-start the indie rock music, which burbled under throughout the 80s before exploding in the 90s
"The Winner Takes It All" ABBA - possibly their final "great" song (though their final album, The Visitors is not a bad album by any stretch), it gains emotional resonance by using the divorce of two of the members as fodder for a heartbreaking hit song; a lot of times the English lyrics come across as a bit clunky, but IMO that just kinda gives the songs a sense of naivete (even though they're are meticulously calculated and arranged Europop)
"Copperhead Road" Steve Earle - best song to come out of Earle's "power twang" (his term) phase, blend of country rock, trad Irish, and heavy metal, and eminently catchy; starts/continues Earle's themes of life among the downtrodden and the broken promises of Reagan's America
"Guitars Cadillacs" Dwight Yoakam - can you go wrong with the mission statement of Johnny Cash's favorite country singer? (rhetorical question - no, you can not)
"Evil Has No Boundaries" Slayer - launched a thousand upside down cross-wearing, pentagram-tattoed, long-haired juvenile delinquents down the pathway towards extreme metal
"Just Can't Get Enough" Depeche Mode - yeah, I'd love to put Kraftwerk on here, but their best work was in the 70s; as it is, DM were arguably the band that really broke synth-pop to the masses, and also gives me cause to quote one of my all-time favorite reviews of any piece of music - "Depeche Mode, 'Just Can't Get Enough' - I did. You will."
"Cum on Feel the Noize" Quiet Riot - so yeah, big, out-of-nowhere cover by a journeyman hard rock band hits it big, why is this song on here? Because it set the stage for the good-time, party metal that DOMINATED the 80s. Not necessarily good in and of itself (unlike, say, "Smells Like Teen Spirit") but notable as a flashpoint for a huge movement.
EDIT - "Hallelujah" Leonard Cohen - yeah, totally had to redact the post to get this in there. Grievous omission of maybe the best popular song ever (this includes all the Great American Songbook Berlin/Porter/etc stuff)