?There exists an entire subculture of music appreciation experienced and enjoyed only by a select few. That of the cartoon show theme song. For nerds like us especially, hearing certain cartoon themes bring about a wholly unique experience — nostalgia mixed with pure, childish, brain tickling joy. It’s the mental equivalent to cuddling a bunch of kittens. Cartoon themes are our songs of choice. Whereas some people might belt out a chorus of “Don’t Stop Believing” during a drunken night of karaoke, we’d sooner shout out loud a rendition of Goof Troop… bob-a-loo bop boppa loo wop, yeah. And for many 20 to 30-something year olds, the ’80s represents the greatest period of animated television, filled with both quality programming and theme songs that dance around in your head for all eternity.
The ten themes on this list represent the best and most memorable from a decade that saw robots transforming into cars and anthropomorphic rodents solving crimes. But before we get into that, there’s one stipulation for entrants on this list that needs saying before you all grab your pitch forks and nerf guns: the theme must contain lyrics, and not just a voice over. Therefore, as brilliant as they are, no He-Man and no Simpsons. Sorry to that one reader dressed in the furry loincloth wielding a replica Power Sword. You know who you are. That said, get ready to bust out the old discman and crank up the music because here are the Top 10 ’80s Cartoon Theme Songs.
Along with pretty badass characters, a damn impressive animation style and plotlines that hold up surprisingly well for today’s standards — a far as a show revolving around anthropomorphic fighting felines from space goes — Thundercats also featured one of the catchiest albeit most ridiculously worded theme songs of all time. It’s like the creators made a deal with some ancient spirits of evil who said, “Sure it’ll have a crazy cool guitar riff, but it’ll also contain the lines ‘Feel the magic, hear the roar.'” Not to mention the strange and conflicted feelings we got every time Cheetra run onto the screen. We’re still not too sure how we feel about that.
9) Alvin and the Chipmunks
By the time they got a new animated show in 1983, the Chipmunks had already received multiple Grammy Awards and countless nominations for their musical stylings. Hell, half a decade later and people still know Alvin really wanted that hula hoop for Christmas. So, it really comes as no surprise that the theme to Alvin and the Chipmunks ranks as one of the best in cartoon history. Although, while we can forgive Alvin, Simon and Theodore (do do dodododo) for forming a tune that sticks in our heads forever, what we can’t forgive is the term “squeakquel.” AALLLLVVVINNNN!!!
8) Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers
Apparently, the 1980s really had a thing for furries because this makes the third, and certainly not the last, item on this list featuring animals acting like people — except for wearing pants. For some reason, many of them choose to forgo that formality. Anyway, Rescue Rangers is only one example of Disney’s ability to create a theme song that just resonates with a particular audience. Namely, those that love crime solving but doubly so when accomplished through a detective agency staffed with chipmunks, mice and a fly. What’s even more crazy is that these guys didn’t solve only animal-related crimes, but also human ones. Can you imagine if you hired a group of detectives that solved your case, but who then turned out to be woodland creatures? I’m pretty sure heads would literally explode.
What’s truly outrageous about “Jem” is how insanely ’80s the whole thing is — from the theme song to the clothing to the David Bowie-esque hair and makeup. It’s like they threw a bunch of legwarmers, swatches, slap bracelets and Joan Jett into a compression machine and out popped Jem and the Holograms. Just looking at that intro is like taking a Hot Tub Time Machine back to ’85. But we’ll say this: you were right, Jem. The music is contagious. So very, very contagious. We kind of hate you for it.
6) My Little Pony
Yeah, yeah. You’ve won this round, ponies. Soak it up while you can.
5) Muppet Babies
As if we didn’t love Jim Henson’s Muppets enough already, along came the Muppet Babies who taught us about imagination in the cutest and most adorable way possible. It’s everything we love about the adventures of Kermit and crew except miniature. The opening theme especially stuck with us throughout the years and constantly reminds us of our much missed, simpler childhood days. Back then, when our world looked kind of weird, and we wished we weren’t there, we just closed our eyes and make believe. Now, we drink.
Before Michael Bay came along and quite literally shoved his metallic (wrecking) balls in our faces, there existed the Transformers cartoon and all was well. There really isn’t much to the song itself, but what little there is remains iconic to this day. Who would have thought that a synthetic robotic voice screeching to us about robots in disguise being more than meets the eye would forever ingrain itself into our childhood memories and not in a nightmarish sort of way. The only crappy part was the day we finally got our first car and found out it didn’t turn into a giant robot that battled other evil robots. That day sucked ass. You lied to us screechy robot voice. You lied to us.
3) G.I. Joe
Don’t play this game. You know the deal. And knowing, of course, is half the battle. Yo Joe!
Remember how we mentioned earlier Disney’s ability to create catchy as hell theme songs? Well, meet the king of the mother-f’in flock. The lyrics are actually completely bazonkers ridiculous, but it all just comes together so brilliantly under that captivating beat. Life is a like a hurricane, here in Duckburg? Racecars, lasers, aeroplanes, it’s a duck-blur? Might solve a mystery or rewrite history? DuckTales. And we know some of you readers are saying, “Woo hoo” out loud right now. Blathering Blatherskite, it’s pure genius.
1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Then next time you find yourself around a group of nerds like us, go ahead and say, “Heroes in a half shell.” Guaranteed at least one person will respond, “Turtle Power!” This cartoon series, and theme song especially, unarguably cemented the pizza-eating, ass-kicking reptiles’ status as pop culture icons forever. Hell, more people these days know Donatello as a Ninja Turtle rather than a famous artist. But what really makes this song so great, so absolutely perfect, is that it tells every single thing you ever needed to know about the characters and story down to even individual personality quirks. Seriously, if you managed to somehow run into someone that knew nothing about the Ninja Turtles — as unlikely as that may be — just speak the lyrics to them and they’re completely filled in. “Well, see, Splinter taught them to be ninja teens. Leonardo, he leads, and Donatello does machines. Raphael is pretty cool, but rude. And Michelangelo? He’s a party dude.” The craziest part is that their popularity has never gone down. A quarter century later and people are still clamoring for more Ninja Turtles and it all began with this cartoon series and this theme song. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call Turtle Power.