Kiss started the '80s in free fall and spent the first two years of the decade alienating a staggeringly large portion of the impressive rock music fan base they had built in the '70s by unabashedly chasing even greater mainstream fame.

After weathering the departure of their two fellow founding bandmates, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons demonstrated impressive levels of determination and adaptability while re-building the band into a record and ticket-selling powerhouse. To do so they had to remove their famous greasepaint, endure several more lineup changes and change up their musical approach multiple times.

Here are the Top 20 '80s Kiss Songs:

20. "Little Caesar"
From: Hot in the Shade, 1989

Nine years and seven studio albums into his career with Kiss, drummer Eric Carr finally got the chance to handle lead vocals on this rousing Hot in the Shade track. Sadly it would be the last album he recorded with Kiss, as he died in November 1991 after a battle with heart cancer.


19. "Under the Gun"
From: Animalize (1984)

With Gene Simmons largely focused on his movie career, Paul Stanley picked up the slack and kept Kiss on the comeback trail with 1984's Animalize. New lead guitarist Mark St. John may not have been the best overall fit for the band - he was gone in less than a year - but his whirlwind flurries fit in very well on the metallic "Under the Gun," which also showcases Carr's precision and power.


18. "Rise to It"
From: Hot in the Shade (1989)

Kiss' decision to make a back-to-basics album after the keyboard-infested Crazy Nights was smart, but they didn't fully stick the landing on the shapeless and overlong Hot in the Shade. The infectious opening track "Rise to It" was a notable exception, with Stanley and Simmons sharing vocals '70s style on the second verse and Bruce Kulick showing why he deserved to be the one to lock down Kiss' lead guitar job after years of uncertainty.


17. "Get All You Can Take"
From: Animalize (1984)

Paul Stanley is best known for singing about his love gun, but if you go through Kiss' catalog you'll find he also writes plenty of legitimately empowering self-help anthems. This unheralded Animalize track is one of the best, as he extols the importance of making the most of each day over a swaggering guitar riff.


16. "Radar for Love"
From: Asylum (1985)

Asylum is probably the '80s Kiss album you'd play first for time-traveling fans of their '70s heyday. It finds the band shifting away from the metal flirtations of their previous two albums and more towards their original rock and roll formula. The extended instrumental section at the end of "Radar for Love" gives new lead guitarist Bruce Kulick a welcome chance to show off his impressive skills.


15. "Down on Your Knees"
From: Killers (1982)

After alienating a large portion of their fans with three straight under-performing albums that found them flirting with pop, disco and progressive rock, Kiss finally got back to doing what they do best on the new tracks included on their overseas 1982 compilation Killers. All four are highly recommended but Stanley's braggadocious "Down on Your Knees" is the one that really deserved a spot in the band's live set lists. Most importantly, this is also where the band hooked up with producer Michael James Jackson, who would take the helm on Kiss' next two career-saving albums.


14. "I"
From: Music From 'The Elder' (1981)

Kiss had no business attempting a medieval-themed concept album, but Music from 'The Elder' is not without its highlights. On the album-closing "I," Simmons and Stanley trade lead vocals while extolling the importance of self-belief hard work and clean living - the latter almost assuredly a shot at long-gone former bandmate Peter Criss and soon-to-be-gone lead guitarist Ace Frehley - while also conjuring up a thunderous racket.


13. "Let's Put the X In Sex"
From: Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

OK yes, the lyrics to "Let's Put the X in Sex" are hysterical, like something Saturday Night Live would come up with if they were doing a parody of '80s hair metal song craft. But if you just replace all the "Love's like a muscle and you make me wanna flex" talk with humming you've got one hell of a catchy hard rock song.


12. "Who Wants to Be Lonely"
From: Asylum (1985)

Over the years Paul Stanley has proven himself particularly skilled at adapting to changing musical trends, beginning with his massive disco-influenced 1979 hit "I Was Made for Lovin' You." As the dramatic "Who Wants to Be Lonely" demonstrates, by 1985 he had the hair metal formula down cold. The garish neon outfits he wore in the song's video, however, are a bit harder to defend.


11. "Mr. Blackwell"
From: Music From 'The Elder' (1981)

As with "I," it's rather difficult to explain what connects the lyrics of "Mr. Blackwell" directly to the purportedly being told in Music From 'The Elder.' But it really doesn't matter, as Gene Simmons aims his glorious demonic venom at a "rotten to the core" villain over an inventively sinister and bass-heavy backing track.


10. "All Hell's Breakin' Loose"
From: Lick It Up (1983)

Eric Carr was far from thrilled with the way Paul Stanley altered "All Hell's Breakin' Loose," a song idea he brought to the band for their 1983 album Lick It Up. While the drummer was aiming for something akin to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," Stanley instead steered the song into rap territory with spoken verses. "I'm going, 'Oh my god what are you doing to my song?'" Carr later told Kiss Neon Glow. Here's the thing: Carr was wrong, Stanley was right and this song is one of the most exciting and inventive tracks Kiss released in the '80s.


9. "Torpedo Girl"
From: Unmasked (1980)

The undeniable success of Ace Frehley's 1978 solo album earned him a lot more real estate on future Kiss studio albums. He took lead vocal duties for three songs on both 1979's Dynasty and 1980's Unmasked. The gloriously loopy "Torpedo Girl" is the best of the bunch, as the Spaceman takes listeners on an off-kilter undersea adventure complete with gorgeous "oooh-wahhh-ooooh" backing vocals.


8. "Rock and Roll Hell"
From: Creatures of the Night (1982)

With their careers on their line as a result of several consecutive gold ring-chasing creative decisions, Kiss buckled down and delivered their hardest-hitting album ever with 1982's Creatures of the Night. It's hard not to read the desperation and determination in Simmons' throbbing "Rock and Roll Hell" in autobiographical terms. The album didn't immediately turn their fortunes around, but it definitely stopped the bleeding and has gone on to be regarded as one of the group's creative high points.


7. "Tears Are Falling"
From: Asylum (1985)

After previously earning their way back to chart-topping and arena headlining status with 1984's Animalize Kiss solidified their comeback with Asylum's lead single, the Motown-inspired "Tears are Falling." Again, we're not defending the outfits.


6. "Saint and Sinner"
From: Creatures of the Night (1982)

If you focus solely on the Gene Simmons songs, Creatures of the Night just might be the concept album Kiss intended Music From 'The Elder' to be. Over a heavy and unexpectedly melancholy music backdrop, the Demon sends a thinly-veiled shot in the direction of departing lead guitarist Ace Frehley: "Without you, it's aces high."


5. "Tomorrow"
From: Unmasked (1980)

Kiss turned off a large portion of their fan base with their turn-of-the-decade pop and disco experiments, but songs like "Tomorrow" show that the customers aren't in fact always right. Simply put, this infectious little slice of sunshine deserved to bring the band a bigger audience, not scorn.


4. "War Machine"
From: Creatures of the Night (1982)

After a few years of taking a back seat to Paul Stanley's more commercially-minded contributions to Kiss' studio albums, Gene Simmons re-asserted himself triumphantly on Creatures of the Night. Co-written by a pre-fame Bryan "Summer of '69" Adams, "War Machine" wasn't released as a single but became a can't-skip staple of the band's live shows right up until their farewell tour.


3. "Heaven's on Fire"
From: Animalize (1984)

Kiss pulled their last ace out of their sleeve for 1983's Lick it Up, removing their trademark makeup to earn themselves the support of MTV and a foothold in the new rock landscape. They punched through to the end zone the following year with the scorching "Heaven's on Fire," re-establishing their spot as platinum-selling, arena-filling headliners.


2. "I Love It Loud"
From: Creatures of the Night (1982)

All but one of the five songs Gene Simmons sang and co-wrote on 1982's Creatures of the Night earned a spot in this top 10. "I Love it Loud" is an anthem of the highest order, a defiant re-statement of the band's original rebellious spirit, and a joyous sing-a-long the they shared with their fans more than 1600 times over the next four decades.


1. "Lick It Up"
From: Lick It Up (1983)

Here's a pointless but fun question: Did Kiss really need to take off their makeup in 1983, or would "Lick It Up" have kick-started their comeback even if they had left it on? The song features the kind of deceptive simplicity of true songwriting genius, continually building momentum until it feels like the whole world is singing along with you during the final chorus, even if you're alone in your car.

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening