Music from Black artists has been making waves for generations. Artists have had such a wide array of great songs in recent years. However, tracks from before the 2020s that are still popular today can truly be called iconic. Check out the five iconic tracks EnVi chose from across the decades.

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” 

When it comes to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, choosing one song is almost impossible with so many iconic hits from the legend. Jackson was always an innovator when it came to music and was never afraid to try new angles. “Thriller,” released November 30th, 1982, was a surprising turn for the 1980s. Not only was the song filled with creepy lyrics and a memorable opening monologue from horror actor Vincent Price, but the music video’s cinematography was incredibly advanced for the ‘80s. Jackson’s still shot when he became a zombie still haunts viewers in the best way possible. Michael Peters’ choreography still makes waves today as a dance people perform together when the song plays. 

Prince’s “Purple Rain”

The 1984 classic “Purple Rain” was a hit for both music and movies. Prince cemented himself as a living legend at only 25 years old with his talent in both acting and music-making. The rock-heavy song was the title song for the movie and album of the same name. With such heartbreaking lyrics that encapsulate the emotional upbringing the singer endured, the song is beautifully crafted. Though not a high-energy pop song that makes you dance, Prince makes you feel and reflect on your own life. 

Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”

You can’t have an iconic song list without this track. “Single Ladies” is still a party and club staple even 15 years later. Featuring a famous choreography created by JaQuel Knight, Beyoncé made a huge mark in the pop culture world with this favorite. Released October 8th, 2008, this song was arguably one of the most popular songs to come out that year. The early 2000s were filled with memorable songs, but this one will continue to be a fan favorite for decades to come. While Beyoncé has been a household name since the ‘90s during her time with Destiny’s Child, “Single Ladies” will always be one of the first songs that comes to mind when thinking of Beyoncé. 

Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”

Many still can’t hear or read the word “respect” without adding this song in their head. Aretha Franklin’s strong vocals were a driving force among female singers in 1967. While “Respect” was originally created by Otis Redding, Franklin’s remastered version was a huge hit. The classic, passed down through generations, is a signature women’s empowerment tune. Franklin aims to tell women that while they can be nurturing, they deserve the same respect and love they give. No matter how old you are, this is a powerful single that may be prominent at family reunions, as some Black mothers have loved the strength this song brings to themselves and their daughters.

New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain”

Ending with a song that is the definition of R&B, this track is a classic that never gets old, despite being released in 1988. New Edition gave and is still giving listeners music in many genres and doing it all effortlessly. Dabbling in hip-hop, pop, rap, and in this case, R&B, the group has been making hits since a very young age. “Can You Stand the Rain” was released with the new member of New Edition, Johnny Gill. Regardless of the changes made to the group, New Edition added another legendary track to their long list of hits. Just like the other songs on this list, “Can You Stand the Rain” is another classic that transcends decades. 

While there is a plethora of historical music from Black artists, these are some of EnVi’s best of the best. Celebrating the music listeners have loved for decades recognizes the impact felt today and in the future through these artists and their work.

Want more song recommendations from the EnVi team? Check out this list of Black artists for the summer here!