In 1979, Pat Benatar released her debut album, In the Heat of the Night. It was a huge hit, especially in Canada, where it reached No. 3 on the album chart. A year later, her career went stratospheric with the release of Crime of Passion, which certified 4x and 5x platinum in the US and Canada respectively, and spawned a slew of Top 10 hits. Although her output has been sporadic since the late 1980s, she’s still considered one of the finest artists to have emerged from the decade, with four Grammy Awards, two multi-platinum albums, five platinum albums, and 15 Billboard Top 40 singles to her name. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Pat Benatar songs of all time
10. Don’t Let It Show
We all know that Benatar has a powerful set of pipes, and when she chooses to let them loose on full throttle numbers like Fire and Ice and Little Too Late, they’re capable of raising the roof. But Benatar is also a woman who understands how to tackle a power ballad. On the sublime Don’t Let It Show, she sings with a tender melancholy that injects each line with enough raw emotion to bring a tear to your eye.
9. True Love
Benatar spent the 1980s cementing her status as the ultimate pop powerhouse. By the 1990s, she was ready to try something different. The result was 1991’s True Love, a bluesy album filled with the kind of smokey, sultry songs that complemented Benatar’s vocals perfectly. Its titular song is dazzling, with multilayered textures and a vocal performance that might well rank as one of Benatar’s best ever.
8. Fire and Ice
When people talk about a Benatar being a powerhouse performer, they’re talking about tracks like Fire and Ice. As Benatar lays into her frustrations with a no-good lover, you can’t help but feel a touch of pity for the fool who decided to get on her bad side. The whole thing is a majestic, roof-raising tour de force. Released on July 6, 1981, the song peaked at No. 17 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart. It also won Benatar a very deserved Grammy award for Best Female Rock Performance in 1982.
When Benatar sings at the top end of her vocal range on Invincible, it’s enough to bring the house down. That she does it so effortlessly makes it all the more impressive. Released as the lead single from Benatar’s sixth studio album Seven the Hard Way, it was a major hit, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earning Benatar a Grammy nomination the following year.
6. We Belong
As returnofrock.com notes, Benatar threw everything but the kitchen sink at We Belong. There’s the full-blown production, the huge drums, the electronic harmonica fills… there’s even a children’s church choir. If you despise the overblown arrangments of the ’80s with a passion, you’re going to hate it. If you’re able to look past the dated production to appreciate Benatar’s superb vocals, you’ll love it. Released as the lead single from her sixth studio album, Tropico, it became Billboard’s 39th biggest hit of 1985, peaking at No. 5 on the Hot 100 and No.3 on Billboard’s Top Rock Tracks chart.
5. Shadows of the Night
Shadows of the Night was composed by D.L. Byron for the 1980 film Times Square, but it ended up being cut from the movie and rejected by the record label as not commercial enough to be released as a single. Two years later, Benatar proved the doubters wrong when she changed a few of the lyrics, added a sprinkling of pop fairy dust, and took the song to No. 3 on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 15 on the US Hot 100. At that year’s Grammy Awards, she bought home the trophy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
4. Love is a Battlefield
By the time Benatar came to release Live From Earth in 1983, she was one of the biggest female artists in the world. Its lead single, Love is a Battlefield, did absolutely nothing to diminish her status. Benatar gives a fierce performance that complements the hard-driving instrumentation to perfection. There’s even the tiniest bit of funk thrown in for good measure. Named as one of the singer’s best songs by rocknrollcreative.com, it peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks atop Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks
3. Promises In the Dark
In 1981, Benatar was riding the crest of the wave. Crime of Passion, her 2nd album, had gone stratospheric the previous year, and she was about to drop another major hit in the form of her third album, Precious Time. The album sailed to No.1 on the Billboard 200 (the first and last No. 1 record of her career), eventually certifying double platinum. The second single from the album, Promises in the Dark, is a belter. After starting slowly with an elegant piano intro, it gallops full speed ahead into a guitar-driven, full-throttle piece of rock opera. Benatar’s vocal range is nothing short of spectacular. The song, which is one of the few Benatar ever wrote with her husband Neil Giraldo, peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 16 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.
2. Hit Me with Your Best Shot
Taken from Benatar’s 1980 commercial breakthrough, Crimes of Passion, Hit Me with Your Best Shot was one of Benatar’s biggest hits. On its release, it sold over a million copies in the US alone, taking Benatar to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Even today, it’s still one of her most recognized songs, having become something of a feature (for obvious reasons) at baseball and soccer games. Benatar’s performance is as astounding as ever, with the playful, sightly cocky mood of the song providing the perfect counterfoil to her hard-hitting vocals.
In at number one on our list of the best Pat Benatar songs of all time is the song that made Benatar an international megastar. As udiscovermusic.com writes, Heartbreaker, the second single from In the Heat of the Night, propelled Benatar onto the club scene and into the national spotlight. It’s little wonder. Her vocals are immense: angelic at points, full throttle at others. It spent a total of four and a half months on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 23. All these years after its release, it still sounds as fresh and vital as ever.