100. “Sugar Walls” – Sheena Easton: Nothing gets me more excited in starting the second half of the 80s’ biggest hits than Sheena Easton singing about her vagina. This subject matter made this another member of the notorious Filthy Fifteen, the second such song we’ve come across (after Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”, which I wrote about in the 1984 overview). Additionally, this is yet another song that we’ve come across written and produced by Prince for different artists. It definitely has his brand of flamboyant funk written all over it, and he can even be heard singing backup at certain bits. It’s not one of Easton’s better hits, but it’s delightfully trashy nonetheless.
99. “Sentimental Street” – Night Ranger: Somehow “Sister Christian” was not the end for Night Ranger, as they managed to achieve four more top twenty hits after that one! This one is their third and their last to make the top ten. While “Sister Christian” had a number of charming elements to make up for its condescending lyrics, this one has the opposite problem and even more so. The lyrics are fine, but this sounds like a lazy retread of pretty much every other power ballad under the sun. I guess the guitars are nice, but once again, they were much better on “Sister Christian”. Pass.
98. “Dress You Up” – Madonna: Madonna’s early hits are delightful in the way they capture a unique sense of bad girl toughness wrapped in candy-sweet melodies and production. This was surely the appeal of Madonna as an icon – as a performer, she sounds really great here, accompanied by dance-pop production by Nile Rodgers, who also performs an exquisite guitar solo. Lyrically, it’s a collection of fashion-related euphemisms for sex, most of which are blatantly silly (“Let me cover you with velvet kisses / I’ll create a look that’s made for you”). Still, I find it to be among some of the most underrated of Madonna’s 80s catalog, which is too bad – it’s perfectly pleasant and captures her energy so succinctly!
97. “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” – Don Henley: I’ve got be the only person who really, really does not like this song. Some of the lyrics are pretty intriguing, especially in what sounds like a biting era-specific critique of the American government and its repercussions on a dystopian-like future… or something. The imagery of, “Wild-eyed pistols wavers who ain’t afraid to die” sure is something, anyway. It’s too bad, though, that this single is bogged down by Henley’s pathetic warbling throughout and the just-as-tuneless generic Yamaha backup instrumental. And I still don’t know what the line, “All she wants to do is dance” repeated ad nauseam has to do with any of the above, anyway. It’s just a perplexing song… but I’m sure it made more than a few people dance, anyway.
96. “Penny Lover” – Lionel Richie: Okay, I’ve listened to enough Lionel Richie singles at this point that I can tell that he’s basically running on autopilot at this point. Lines like, “When I’m all alone, it’s you that I miss / Girl, a love like yours is hard to resist” could have come from any number of his previous hit singles… as it stands, though, it comes from “Penny Lover”, easily the weakest and most forgettable of his 80s ballads I’ve come across so far. And believe me, that’s saying something. His breathy talk-singing at the outro, though, is actually a nice touch and keeps this from being a total waste. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. I’m ready for Richie to start doing something interesting now…
95. “Fortress Around Your Heart” – Sting: As the latest in a recent trend of popular musicians breaking away from their band to embark upon a solo career, here is the first hit single we’ve seen here. It’s a follow-up to “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” (which I’ll talk about later), and it’s pretty nice. Instead of the reggae/ska tones of The Police, this one opt for more of a contemporary radio rock feel with jazz undertones. Since the decade in pop music has so far been enamored with war imagery in their lyrics and music videos, this particular song builds copiously upon the “love is war” metaphor. Literally every line plays into this metaphor, and most of them actually avoid being overtly embarrassing and obvious (“Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I’d laid”). The chorus in particular is pleasant. In general, it’s refreshing to hear a song about a struggling romance wherein the speaker actually promises to make an effort to make it better – without women performing all of the emotional labor. Once again, it’s nice – the kind of song that I wish The Police had spent more time on instead of their weird stuff.
94. “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” – Aretha Franklin: It’s always so weird to remember that Aretha Franklin actually had a successful career into the 80s – I’ve always felt her to be so connected to the 60s through early 70s, in my mind at least! While I’ve always personally preferred “Highway of Love” of her 80s hits (more on that one later), this one is not without its charms. It’s electro-funk keyboard backing is so indelible of the 80s and the chorus is catchy and fun as hell. Unfortunately, I’ve got to say that Aretha herself brings this one down a tad. She’s always been a terrific vocalist, but her performance here lacks a clear focus or drive. She just kind of rolls with the punches, which isn’t always a bad thing – pop music can always use a bit of improvisation – but it just comes off a tad sloppy here. Still, it’s innocent enough for the occasional play.
93. “Private Dancer” – Tina Turner: Much like “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, it was initially a little bit disappointing to hear Tina Turner play it so safe with contemporary slow R&B production, especially after loving the energy from her early tracks. But there’s a lot more to love here, especially when switching over to the album version, as opposed to the single edit. The backing instrumental is incredibly smooth, jazzy, and pleasant – to no surprise, as that is Dire Straits providing support for Turner! Not that she couldn’t hold her own, though. The best part of the song for me comes with the third chorus, when she pitches upward a couple octaves into a sudden, incredible burst of energy that really elevates this song to tremendous levels. This is the song that I wish “What’s Love” was – it displays her versatility so gracefully and effectively, with an incredible chorus to boot (“I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money / I’ll do what you want me to do”). It’s sleek, powerful, and unexpectedly sex-positive. It all sounds good to me!
92. “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen: Is there a single song in the history of pop music that has been so famously, inexplicably misinterpreted? I guess I can see how the folks in charge of Reagan’s reelection campaign would listen to this song’s impassioned chants of, “Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.” and just run with it. Truthfully, though, this song is sad as hell. The narrative it draws comes from a number of tragic narratives of citizens who fought for their country in Vietnam and were thereafter stripped of their working class identity and forgotten by their own country. Sure it’s impassioned, but it’s also angry as hell. I honestly can’t see how anyone could take a verse like, “I had a brother at Khe Sahn… They’re still there, he’s all gone” and then continue to view the final line, “I’m a cool rockin’ daddy in the U.S.A.” with all earnestness. I don’t know. I do admit it’s not among my absolute favorites from the guy, but there’s no denying that iconic keyboard riff, those pounding drums, and the achingly beautiful vocals from Springsteen himself.
91. “Jungle Love” – The Time: Interestingly enough, every song that we’ve covered from this list so far has been a top ten hit. Meanwhile, “Jungle Love” peaked at #20. I don’t quite understand the formula for how this would occur, but I’ll digress. This song is most famous for having been featured in Purple Rain, which I presume makes up the bulk of its success. It is yet another song to have been co-written and produced by Prince, and like other Prince productions I’m pretty sure I can detect his voice in the background vocals (listen to Sheila E.’s “The Glamorous Life” for another example!). This also further exemplifies just how much of a reach he had with the pop/funk/R&B industry of the 80s, which is super cool to fully take in. Anyway, this song is predictably funky and bouncy, excitable synths and drum machines that never wear out their welcomes. The lyrics themselves are a bit lacking, with lines ranging from lazy (“know ya” is rhymed with “show ya” more than a couple times) to plain creepy (“I wanna take you to my cage / Lock you up and hide the key”). Nonetheless, as far as party songs go, one could do a whole lot worse.
90. “Do What You Do” – Jermaine Jackson: The Jacksons have long been associated with Motown at this point, so it’s understandably shocking that Jermaine Jackson would continue upon his solo career with a single release from Arista. Scandalous! Well, not really. Unlike the effortless catchiness of 1980’s “Let’s Get Serious”, “Do What You Do” is pretty middle-of-the-road R&B ballad that is somehow even more milquetoast than Lionel Richie’s output. It just sounds so sterile and soulless in composition, with Jackson only mildly putting out a bit of an effort. The lyrics themselves are also a tad dull: “Why don’t you do what you do / When you did what you did to me… I was crazy for you, you were crazy for me / How could something so right, go so wrong?”. At least the tinny keyboards are strangely charming.
89. “Fresh” – Kool & the Gang: I don’t know why Kool & the Gang would ever return to their slow, boring ballads when it’s clear that uptempo funk jams were always their calling card. To be fair, this one is a tad on the lesser side, at least compared to the group’s earlier output. It’s clear that they have toned their sound down for appropriate radioplay, which is fine. Even though many of the lyrics were clearly an afterthought (“I have seen her maybe once or twice / One thing I can say, ooh, she’s very nice”), the pop-laden synths more than make up for it, especially around the chorus. It also latches onto yet another ear-grabbing hook to add to their catalog, heightened by fun and friendly backup vocals. The Gang wins my heart yet again!
88. “California Girls” – David Lee Roth: First thing’s first: I knew from the first second of the absolute butchering of the Beach Boys’ original lovely intro to this song that I would absolutely hate this cover. I don’t know why they would even add it in at all, given that it’s been reduced to a collection of cheap-sounding Casios. But really, the only reason why this song did as well as it did is due to the novelty factor of the former leading man of Van Halen to embark on his own debauchery-laden pop adventure (oh yeah, and the music video, too). Predictably, Roth can’t hold a note to save his life, which proves especially embarrassing during the chorus when he inexplicably reaches into his falsetto range to match the notes belted out by the Beach Boys imitators as backup vocals – who are also bad. “California Girls” has never been among my favorite of Beach Boys tunes, but at least Brian Wilson’s sumptuous production helps to almost forgive Mike Love’s lyrics. This is just a sleazy headtrip from start to finish… and not even an enjoyable one. This is cheap, schlocky, and not the least bit of fun.
87. “What About Love” – Heart: This is considered Heart’s “comeback” single, and it honestly ain’t bad. Sure, the rawness that defined their “Barracuda” days is long gone, replaced instead by in-the-now arena rock guitars, spacey synths, and polished studio production. Nothing about the lyrics make it particularly exceptional, but Ann Wilson’s powerful vocals prevail nonetheless, and they fit perfectly with a song such as this. The song sort of goes off the rails with her aimless vocalizing during the outro, but it’s not enough to kill the song as a whole. This is fine!
86. “Lonely Ol’ Night” – John Cougar Mellencamp: This might just be the first of John Mellencamp’s singles I’ve come across so far that seems to be lacking in any definitive personality. Regardless of what I think of “Pink Houses”, “Jack & Diane”, and “Hurts So Good”, it’s hard to confuse them from one another and they feel very much of his Brand. As for this one, I feel like this could have been recorded by just about anyone. There’s a throwaway line here and there about the universal symptom of loneliness and the sad songs on the radio that reflect this, but overall I don’t get very much out of this one. To top it all off, it feels like Mellencamp’s guitar-playing here is on the most autopilot I’ve heard from him so far. A tad disappointing, but nothing outright terrible.
85. “Who’s Holding Donna Now” – DeBarge: Although pretty much every Debarge single I’ve come across so far has left me lukewarm at best, I still look forward to them nonetheless. I think a lot of this has to do with El Debarge’s uniquely androgynous vocals, which are often the highlight of its song. Would this song be the one from the group that I would finally, truthfully enjoy? Well, no. The treacly, generic 80s production feels dreadfully dated, generic, and just plain boring. The lyrics themselves are little more than insipid heartbreak poetry that could have been cut from any fabric. El remains the one factor that keeps this one even mildly interesting, but unfortunately I’m gonna have to pass on this one.
84. “Lay Your Hands on Me” – Thompson Twins: This one is a bit tricky! See, there are two versions of this song that one could choose from: the original UK release, with a sophisti-pop production, or the US release, with a tightened, electric-guitar laden sound courtesy of Nile Rodgers. The former version contains these tropical sounding synths and drum machines, the likes of which I found to be the strongest attributes of the otherwise average “Hold Me Now”. Placing the US version side-by-side with “Hold Me Now”, though, leaves one in disbelief that they could have possibly come from the same band – it’s just that much more polished and layered! My personal preference is toward the stronger beat of the US version, though I may be in the minority on that point. In either case, this is a much stronger track than their breakout single, with sharper lyrics (“I see your face and sense the grace / And feel the magic in your touch”) and stronger vocal performances to boot. Not sure why this one doesn’t get as much regular rotation on oldies stations than “Hold Me Now”… it certainly deserves it more.
83. “Method of Modern Love” – Hall & Oates: Hall & Oates have become such reliable staples on these charts though these past few years, I’m anticipating how it’s gonna feel to come across a year where they’re nowhere to be seen. Listening to this track, though, it pains me to say that this day might just come sooner rather than later. While the bass on this track is cool and funky, it’s pushed to the background by a variety of wacky, kitschy keyboard sounds that just don’t emit any sort of coherent tone. The fact that this comes from the guys who gave us such suave production like that in “Kiss on My List” and “I Can’t Go For That” just hurts. The chorus is also one of their more annoying ones, consisting almost solely of “M-E-T-H-O-D-O-F-L-O-V-E”, being spelt out for some reason. Not that the lyrics in the verses clear it up very much – unless there’s some deep meaning to something like, “Style is timeless and fashion’s only now / We are the ways; no one needs to show us how” that I’m just not getting. And incoherent rapping from Daryl Hall at the end… oy vey. At the end of the day, though, this is obviously one of their weaker tracks, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was a sign of their inevitable descent from the charts.
82. “I’m on Fire” – Bruce Springsteen: 1985 was a huge year for Bruce Springsteen, thanks mainly to the enormous success of his Born in the U.S.A. album. I already covered the title track a bit earlier, but with as much as I’ve always enjoyed that one, it’s not nearly among my absolute favorites from the album. “I’m on Fire”, on the other hand, sometimes moves me to tears. It’s short, sweet, and simple, with a backing instrumental that consists of little more than lightly layered guitar, drums, and soft synths, echoing the pained emotional performance of Springsteen himself. At its core, the lyrics lay out a plea from Springsteen to the object of his sexual desire. What makes this different from many songs of similar themes, though, is the inner vulnerability that Springsteen emits so clearly and casually. Sure, the “bad desire” within him might be little more than a need for hot, passionate romance, but he also makes clear the loneliness and inner despair universal to so many of us (“At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet / And a freight train running through the middle of my head”). It is equally romantic and sensual as it is somber and melancholic, which is absolutely genius considering that this song runs under three minutes. This short length, along with its tone, AABA format, and general feel of its sound reminds me of something Roy Orbison would have released in his heyday – or in the 80s, had he discovered the magic of synthesizers. This comparison is one of the highest praises I could give a song, I think. I love this.
81. “Angel” – Madonna: I guess I should confess right now that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Madonna’s second album, Like a Virgin. Apart from a few tracks here and there, the majority of the record felt like little more than filler to support the big singles. Thus, it surprised me to find out that “Angel” was actually released as a single, at it feels like such a lesser song in comparison to the other singles released from the album. Sure, the dance-pop synths are what to be expected, as is Madonna’s carefree performance – this is all pretty standard. Yet for Madonna, who is known for her huge, ear-grabbing hooks, this one feels pretty limp. In particular, the “eyes/surprise/realize” rhyme scheme in the pre-chorus bothers me for reasons I can’t quite comprehend. Even sadder, this one is produced by Nile Rodgers, whose production I’ve loved pretty much consistently, up until this point. I’ll give this one a pass for fitting smoothly on an 80s playlist with little disappointment, but I also wish it were something more substantial.
80. “Solid” – Ashford & Simpson: Okay, this one is kind of cute. It’s one of those mid-tempo pop-R&B hits that has been lost in the sands of time after its core audience moved on to different entertainment fare. Basically, Ashford & Simpson are a married couple who recorded this song to brag about how great their companionship is (“Solid as a rock
That’s what this love is; that’s what we’ve got”). In all seriousness though, as cheesy as it can get – “the thrill is ha-ha-ha-ha-hot” – I can’t hate this one ’cause it sounds like they’re just having so much fun. It goes on for a little longer than necessary and I can’t help but feel it would work better as a slightly more uptempo disco track (I’m sure that remix is out there somewhere…), but it’s fine and even kind of fun!
79. “Some Like It Hot” – The Power Station: While the name of this song didn’t ring any bells, once I pressed play I was immediately brought back to a brief scene in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Yeah, that was probably the peak of Power Station’s relevancy. I actually didn’t even realize that a Duran Duran-Chic-Robert Palmer supergroup even existed! In all seriousness, though, this is fine. The production is from not just Nile Rodgers but also Bernard Edwards – I think this might be their first major work together since the disco days. It’s tamer than I was expecting, but the guitar work is groovy and even the horns are pretty charming. The lyrics are perplexing, though. The chorus – “Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on” – promises some kind of sexy situation… though the verses indicate that marriage and children is the decision that our hypothetical protagonist is up against? I don’t know. Once again, it’s fine – it’s catchy for a listen or two, before the record is shoved into the back part of the collection.
78. “Valotte” – Julian Lennon: Now that we’ve run out of posthumous John Lennon tracks to exploit, guess it’s time to give a couple spins to the work of his son. It’s not hard to see why people would gravitate toward this song: he not only sings like his father, but the drifting piano-led production sounds like something Lennon Sr. would compose. It all honesty, this is pretty lovely. It’s a pretty standard heartbreak song, but there are a few pretty lines here and there that keep this interesting. The opener (“Sitting on the doorstep of the house I can’t afford / I can feel you there”) and the pre-chorus (“Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar / Wonderin’ if we’re really ever gonna get that far”) are among my favorites. The melody itself is also very lovely, the verses fold upon each other naturally, and Lennon’s performance is vulnerable and emotionally resilient. Yeah, this is really, really nice stuff, and I can’t believe I’ve never heard this lovely tune until now.
77. “Too Late For Goodbyes” – Julian Lennon: Well, I knew it was a little too good to be true. This was the follow-up to “Valotte” but only in the States, as in the UK the singles were released in reverse order. I almost wish that we would have gotten this one first, as the greatness of “Valotte” would have had a much grander impact after following up… this. Okay, let me be clear – this isn’t bad. I actually quite like it pretty well – Lennon’s vocal chemistry is on par here, once again, and the instrumental is peppy, bright, and balanced by some fun bass guitar flourishes. Lyrically, though, this falters. While “Valotte” sounded like poetry, this one just sounds goofy and a bit unfinished, frankly. The “why/cry/die/fly” rhyme format that makes up the entirety of the song feels sloppy, too. It’s fine for a breakthrough pop single, but it doesn’t go that one step beyond that I know Lennon is capable of. Yeah, this one is getting shoved to the back as well… sorry, Jules.
76. “Freedom” – Wham!: Alright, we’re in the Wham! era now… we’ll get to covering some of Wham!’s bigger hits from this year, though that’s not to say that this song wasn’t already huge on its own. Until this point, the duo had been juggling number-one single after number-one single between the US and their home country of the UK – which is a big deal! The star of this particular single is, of course, lead vocalist George Michael, who also wrote and produced the track. With the bombastic horns, percussion, and keys, this sounds a lot like an outsider’s try at a Motown track – which sounds silly, but somehow works pretty well here. Michael gives a competent performance throughout the verses, but really, it’s all about that chorus. When he belts out, “I don’t want your freedom, I don’t want to play around”, it really feels like the song is much bigger than its relatively innocuous “a fool in love” theme. On the contrary, it sounds like an anthem which is certainly what Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were going for. I’ll admit that it isn’t great and the novelty factor of the production unintentionally sounds a bit corny. Still, I always have a good time with this one.
75. “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and the Waves: Much like “Y.M.C.A.” and “Go Your Own Way”, it’s hard to imagine a time when this song was inexplicably connected to some piece of media or pop culture. As far as I’m concerned, having been born six years later, this time never actually existed. In any case, this is one of the most sunshiney, happy-go-lucky tunes that has ever passed through my eardrums. All you need to know is that chorus: “I’m walking on sunshine, whoa-oh / And don’t it feel good”. The pop-rock production, replete with handclaps and a peppy horn, is infectious all around. The powerful vocals of Katrina Leskanich don’t hurt either, and thankfully she never over-sings. On the contrary, she and the other bandmates just sound like they’re having the time of their lives. A song as sugary sweet as this could have easily gone off the deep end into total obnoxious territory, but this somehow just feels warm and comforting no matter how many times I give it a spin. This rocks.
74. “Summer of ’69” – Bryan Adams: Ugh… Bryan Adams. In case you didn’t give a read to my overview of 1983’s top 100 songs, I’d like to make it abundantly clear that I am not a fan. But even the most raging Bryan Adams haters often consider “Summer of ’69” to be amongst his “good” songs. My thoughts: it’s basically a lukewarm version of the types of nostalgic heartland rock that Bruce Springsteen has been perfecting for a few years at this point. I can understand there being a certain amount of pride in recounting the days spent in the town in which one grew up. But I think that’s where my problem lies – when Adams sings, “I got my first real six-string… Played it ’til my fingers bled”, I don’t get a sense of genuine enthusiasm, longing, love… or anything, really. While it’s not quite as bad of a performance as “Straight From the Heart”, I just have a hard time believing that these were the “best days of [his] life”. But to add some positives to this experience, I do enjoy the slightly more jangly guitar-playing here, and the empowered tone of the bridge does stir a little something in me. Even though I don’t like Adams quite so much, this really isn’t so bad…. just a tad boring.
73. “I Can’t Hold Back” – Survivor: Uh… Survivor? So, despite the common misconception, the band behind Rocky III‘s anthem are not quite the one-hit wonder one would assume! But of course, if the epic riffage on “Eye of the Tiger” isn’t enough to push the band’s sound over into exceptional territory, a midtempo power ballad probably won’t do the trick either. This is just lame and so, so vanilla. This is their first single from their new vocalist and I’m not at all sold by his performance, nor by the painfully average-quality lyrics (“I can feel you tremble when we touch / And I feel the hand of fate reaching out to both of us”). Even when the guitars and synths really kick in with the tempo, it all just feels like dreadful autopilot. It’s a mess, but not even an interesting mess. Sigh… oh well.
72. “No More Lonely Nights” – Paul McCartney: Gosh. So far, with a handful of obvious exceptions, this list seems to consist mainly of chart veterans who are slowly, clumsily slinking their way into relative obscurity. It’s the mid-80s and I seriously thought we’d be done with Paul McCartney by now, but I guess Michael Jackson revived his career a tad. Anyway. This midtempo ballad isn’t really anything to write home about, but it’s a nice enough listen anyway. The best thing about it is that it comes from the soundtrack album for McCartney’s failed film Give My Regards to Broad Street. I haven’t seen the film, but it looks like a painful mess and totally My Thing. But anyway, the song. Uh, the guitars are fine and delicate and McCartney’s performance is… standard. Like I said, it’s nice – what more do you want?! Oh heck… I think I should move on.
71. “Be Near Me” – ABC: So, ABC is this English New Romantic/sophisti-pop act that claimed a handful of top ten hits on the British charts before the States caught wind of them. Strangely enough, this single only made it to #26 in the UK, while it broke through the top ten in the US. Typical of British synthpop, the production is lush and magical, with a clean and delightful little keyboard riff that, strangely enough, reminds me of shopping at a supermarket. It’s the same weird kind of nostalgia I got with the piano in Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” – I can’t quite explain it, but it makes me feel nice. Other than that, the rest of the instrumentation is nicely layered and the vocalist’s timbre is pleasant as well. That’s probably the best descriptor of this song as a whole, actually: it’s pleasant. It does lack that little extra something to be truly remarkable, but it’s bright and fun just as it is, regardless.
70. “Would I Lie to You?” – Eurythmics: Well, this is a… change of pace for Eurythmics. At the same time, though, this was probably the first true hint of the eclectic musical genius of Annie Lennox. Similar to what Wham! did a few entries up, Eurythmics abandon their synth-pop roots in favor of a more clean-cut old school R&B approach. I dig the pronounced guitars and organic percussion, as well as Lennox’s vocal performance, which is probably the richest and most multi-faceted we’ve heard from her so far. Where this song falters, of course, is the lyrics – the chorus in particular is pretty weak and unmemorable (“Now would I say something that wasn’t true? / I’m asking you, sugar, would I lie to you?”). Even the verses are pretty weak (“I’ve packed my bags, I’ve cleaned the floor / Watch me walkin’ out the door”), but what the song lacks in form Lennox more than makes up for in prowess and energy. She really steals the show here and fixes what could have easily been an embarrassment of a song.
69. “Misled” – Kool & the Gang: Kool and the Gang just keep on keepin’ on, don’t they? So, I’ve been seeing some comments here and there calling this a sort of Michael Jackson ripoff, specifically biting its style from “Beat It”. Personally, I can’t really see it – the only comparison I can make is that they are both primarily pop-R&B tracks with a strong electric guitar backing. Kool and the Gang have always been more pronounced in their funk undertones anyway, and it’s certainly the case here. I actually find this to be a pretty under-appreciated song from the group – the guitars are badass, the rest of the instrumental collaborates well, the lyrics are strange as hell (“She’s as heavy as a Chevy / Pure excitement, misled”), and Robert Kool himself sings them well. I particularly love his occasional moments of falsetto, as well as those odd, crazed shrieks that pop up in the background every so often. Really, what more could you want?
68. “Voices Carry” – ‘Til Tuesday: Of course, the bulk of this song’s success could be attributed to its music video, which inserted a more literal narrative of an abusive relationship and got a bunch of play on MTV. I was surprised to find, also, that this was meant to be a song between two women, a version which was scrapped to avoid controversy. What I would give to give a listen to that version! The song as it stands isn’t too bad and frontwoman Aimee Mann has enough charisma and emotional resilience in her voice to make lines like, “I try so hard not to get upset / Because I know all the trouble I’ll get” sound really well. I could imagine a song like this being pretty cutting edge for its time, both for its sound and its content, but the production comes off as dated which makes it just a pretty good song, as opposed to anything great. Still, it’s worth sticking around for Mann’s emotional flares at the outro. And the video is well worth a watch, too, if only for its historical relevance.
67. “Glory Days” – Bruce Springsteen: And now for another of Springsteen’s greatest hits. The introductory guitars (which continue through the rest of the song’s entirety) are instantly classic. Moreover, the keys that accompany this main riff seem inseparable from the rest of the song, carrying on with the same kind of honky-tonk country feel so organically and effortlessly. Springsteen, of course, is awesome, opting for more of a friendlier, swinging feel to his vocals, unlike the harsh yelps of “Born in the U.S.A.”, nor the quiet drone of “I’m on Fire”. The theme of the song is one that has been covered time and time again through the ages: “Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by”. It actually makes me wonder whether Springsteen is treading on old clichéd ground, or if he’s inventing them himself in real time. In any case, the song is resonant without feeling overtly trite, and the instrumental outro really brings it all home. There’s no denying how great this tune is and how well it’s held up over time.
66. “Run to You” – Bryan Adams: This is the second of four Bryan Adams tunes on this chart alone, so it’s probably best I jut get used to it and I leave my automatic bias at the door. So, “Run to You” is a song that deals with a love affair from the perspective of the cheating mate, which automatically comes off as a tad reprehensible (especially folling something like “Voices Carry”). Nonetheless, I think where the lyrics succeed is at portraying the tension between emotional love and unfailing lust (“I know her love is true / But it’s so damn easy makin’ love to you”). Even though the chorus comes off as a tad heroic, it also doesn’t quite make it clear that we’re supposed to be on this guy’s side… which is cool, I guess. Musically, though, this basic drums-and-guitar setup feels a tad derivative – which is probably the reason why I often confuse this one with as a Tom Petty track. This is far from the worst that Adams has to offer, but he also seems like such a non-factor, it doesn’t quite matter. Which I guess is a win.
65. “All Through the Night” – Cyndi Lauper: My girl Cyndi is back! In contrary to the infidelity anthem that is “Run to You”, “All Through the Night” covers the topic of unconditional, everlasting love, which I’m a sucker for if they’re done right. The synths on this one are lovely and Cyndi’s voice – intricate in the verses, lush and powerful in the chorus – really sells it completely. The vocalizations in the outro bring it all back home; it’s just the type of song perfectly manufactured to give me the warm fuzzies. I actually had no idea that this was a cover song, and while I don’t doubt that the original has its charms, this particular recording lies too close to my heart to ever hand it over. I’m so glad that tracks from She’s So Unusual are continuing to do well enough to cross over into the next year, because I could never get tired of listening to cuts from this record.
64. “Don’t Lose My Number” – Phil Collins: Although it’s over ten years, this is the second song covered on this Billboard Year-End challenge wherein the singer demands someone else not lose his number. If you don’t know the first, you probably don’t listen to enough music. Anyway, this song is perplexing. The protagonist is running from some unnamed organization or crime syndicate of some sort, and just when it seems like he’s getting away, “They heard him shout, then a blinding light”… and then he’s gone? Collins has stated that these lyrics were largely improvised, and frankly it’s obvious that’s the case. Musically, it’s a pretty standard 80s rock cut, with generic drum machines and synths that could have been pulled from any other pop-rock song from the past two or three years. Collins performance is also nothing to make any sort of fuss over. In any case, the chorus – “Billy, don’t you lose my number / ‘Cause you’re not anywhere that I can find you” – recalls a simpler time when one’s exact location could not be determined by their phone calls. Sigh.
63. “In My House” – Mary Jane Girls: Ah, yes, another Filthy Fifteen record! And honestly, this one makes the least sense out of the ones that have been covered so far (we won’t be covering all fifteen, but maybe I’ll make a future post on them all…?). Written and produced by Rick James – who also formed Mary Jane Girls – this song definitely contains some vital sexual overtones, but is also relatively innocuous to be suitable for house parties. This song is catchy and all and the funky production really works to its benefit. At the same time, though, I can’t help but feel it pales in comparison to their earlier, more risqué single “All Night Long”. Still, there’s no denying the appeal to this one – the vocals and melody are absolutely charming and the recording as a whole makes for some truly great party material.
62. “Smooth Operator” – Sade: And now for one of the greatest pop songs of all time… well, for me, at least. Seriously, melding jazz and soul and making it palatable for an 80s audience is a massive undertaking for a band, yet Sade perfected it. I’m not even totally sure what I love about this. I guess the saxophone just does it for me, as does Sade’s silky smooth vocals. I just love how she sings, “No place for beginners or sensitive hearts… No place to be ending but somewhere to start”, as well as the line, “His eyes are like angels, but his heart is cold”. It’s funny how there’s hardly any reference of sex (not one that’s totally oblique, anyway), yet once that chorus kicks in, it’s instantly the most erotic thing I’ve ever heard. Not much else to say about this one; I know my love for it is totally based on personal taste alone, but the sheer level of replay value on this one has got to count for something.
61. “Axel F” – Harold Faltermeyer: While it’s true that the number of instrumentals in the Hot 100 has dropped significantly since the previous decade, 1985 gave us two in the top 100 tracks alone – and both are from movie soundtracks! Here is the first, which many folks around my age might actually know from a different “artist” (we don’t mention it by name around these parts). It’s pretty inextricable from Beverly Hills Cop, with its very title named after the film’s protagonist, but even without that important tidbit of knowledge, I can still listen to this and have a good time. Harold Faltermeyer used five different types of synths to record this and I can only imagine how cool it must have been to listen to this in the 80s, knowing that it was mostly made by machines and is still pretty rad to dance to. Nowadays, it feels very, very, very much like a product of its time – but in less of an annoying way and with more of an irresistible, naive charm. That main melody alone plain reaches for the stars and makes me wish I was a kid in 1985.
60. “Head Over Heels” – Tears For Fears: I recently gave a much deserved relisten to Tears For Fears’s acclaimed album Songs From the Big Chair – and it remains as solid and lovely as ever before. “Head Over Heels” has always been a particular favorite of mine, having been introduced to it amongst a flurry of other 80s songs my mom played for me as a child. Those opening piano chords alone stir something in me I just can’t describe, especially once the guitar kicks in to harmonize with the riff. At its core, this is a love song that is as much about romance as it is about uncertainty thereof (“I’m lost in admiration, could I need you this much? / Oh, you’re wasting my time”). I especially love in the second verse when the instrumentation swells and gets a tad more ambitious, coupled with even more peculiar lyrics (“It’s hard to be a man when there’s a gun in your hand”). And then the song ends with a melodic string of “nah nah nah”s that are, somehow, so, so beautiful. What a glimmering star of a song.
59. “Better Be Good To Me” – Tina Turner: Okay, now this is what I’m talking about! In following Turner’s work throughout the years, it’s pretty clear that her strong suit is in upbeat, feisty numbers. While she nails the slower tune every so often (see: “Private Dancer”), it’s clear that songs like these are more of her wavelength. And as predicted, she sounds wonderful here, emitting each and every line with confidence that feels so natural, fierce, and feminine. Where I think this falters, however, is in the production – when the music doesn’t sound totally simple and generic, it sounds tinny and abrasive. The guitars are a nice touch, though, and I would love to watch Turner perform this live with a full backing band. Honestly, she’s the main factor that keeps this from falling flat on its face – thanks to her, it’s a good track!
58. “Material Girl” – Madonna: As a kid, it was a tad weird to me how different Madonna sounded in this record from every other song I knew of hers (especially in the chorus). Not that her nasally, valley girl voice annoyed me much – she is playing a character after all! As it stands today, I appreciate this song more than I actually enjoy it. There are numerous elements of the production that appeal to me, such as the guitar riff that pops in after the choruses (courtesy of Nile Rodgers – again!). The synths are catchy, and the song itself is a fun lampooning of the Reagan-era materialism that seemed to define this decade (“‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right”). Nonetheless, the end product itself comes off a bit too chintzy for my tastes and Madonna’s hand in this one isn’t as strong as in previous singles. It feels relatively empty – which is maybe the point, I guess. But yeah, the fact that it has one of the most egregiously famous uses of the “girl/world” rhyme scheme doesn’t help matters either.
57. “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” – Tina Turner: And now the final (and most successful) Tina Turner single of this year. I’ll just go out on a limb now and state that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a fine final installment to the trilogy, certainly better than its reputation suggests. And Tina Turner is awesome in it! Nonetheless, I’ve always been pretty lukewarm on this particular soundtrack single. Not only is this a slower number from Turner (which I’ve already state I don’t particularly prefer), but it feels too slick, polished, and unambitious. It definitely sounds like the kind of song that would play over the beginning or end credits of a film, but it doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Mad Max franchise at all. Hell, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” as a title just sounds a hell of a lot more badass than the song that it ended up being. I guess the keyboards on this one are nice and I enjoy the booming drum effects in the chorus. Turner sounds great, but that goes without saying. The children’s choir at the end also takes some final points off at the end there. Final verdict: it’s… okay.
56. “Obsession” – Animotion: For some reason, I had this impression that “Obsession” was one of those really deep cuts from the 80s, one where you had to be “in the know” to be aware of. I’ve just now found out that it actually had pretty heavy rotation on MTV and was a top ten hit – not so deep of a cut now, I guess! Anyway, I’ve always loved this trashy piece of garbage. I have no idea who Animotion are, but judging from this track alone it’s clear that they’re trying to bank on the Human League’s male-and-female vocal format. It’s basically the pinnacle of the decade’s synth infatuation – it sounds so sleek and studio-polished, there’s no sense of funk or limberness to be found anywhere here. The lyrics are just hilarious: “Like a butterfly, a wild butterfly / I will collect you and capture you”. Not to mention that legendary chorus – “You’re my obsession / Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?”. It tries to loosen things up with a radical guitar solo at the outro, but it just sounds sloppy and amateurish more than anything else. Anyway, none of this matters anyway ’cause I put this on every single 80s playlist I’ve ever made… guilty pleasure, I guess.
55. “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” – Sting: As the first single from Sting’s solo debut album, this song was our first taste of what Sting would sound like without the rest of the Police backing him up. And… well, it’s not too much of a radical departure. Okay, the most obvious change is that this has more of a jazz-infused backing, as opposed to the watered-down ska that the Police built their careers around. I won’t lie, I do like the lush loveliness of this new style, with the saxophones especially sounding particularly great. The lyrics detail the importance in moving on after a relationship has ended (“You can’t control an independent heart /Can’t tear the one you love apart”), and I can’t help but feel he could have found use for that advice before writing and recording “Every Breath You Take”… but I guess it’s too late now. This one is alright – not much else I’m in the mood to say about it. “Fortress Around Your Heart” is the superior of the two singles, for sure.
54. “One Night in Bangkok” – Murray Head: If a collaboration with Tim Rice, Murray Head, and two members from ABBA sounds like the weirdest, campiest, most unmarketable concept imaginable… well, you wouldn’t be incorrect. “One Night in Bangkok” is part of a concept album from this group, based on a musical called Chess. After a truly bizarre orchestral introduction, they compare the atmosphere of the titular city to a game of chess, both to its benefit and to their chagrin. Murray Head actually had a previous Hot 100 hit nearly fifteen years earlier with “Superstar” (from Jesus Christ Superstar) – here, he raps… very, very badly. Nonetheless, this is a catchy song, with some infectious synth licks in the chorus and a totally ear-grabbing chorus (“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster!”). But still, this song suffers from a serious case of 80s Orientalism, wherein the sound and feel of the culture is used as a costume or observed through the eyes of a well-intentioned foreigner. I still enjoy it, but I would be hesitant before praising it quite so much.
53. “The Boys of Summer” – Don Henley: Well, I guess this makes up for “All She Wants to Do is Dance”. I’ve loved this song ever since I was a kid – my love for it heightened by the Ataris’s 2003 cover, which is how I heard it first – and I’m pretty certain that this is the best thing to come out of any member of the Eagles. The guitars are pleasantly shimmery, Henley’s usually grating voice fits the attitude well, and the record as a whole is dripping with absolute nostalgia. Seriously, if a song like this can make eleven-year-old me pine for a simpler time before I even know what such a phrase entailed… that’s the work of a powerful tune. That chorus in particular is one of the most beautiful of this year; even if the verses weren’t so simplistically magical, that chorus alone would be enough to move me to tears. And placed next to all of the extravagance and bombast of the mid-80s’ music, this almost seems like an anomaly – something that should have been in the cultural consciousness since ten years earlier. Frankly, I’m just glad it exists. And for what it’s worth, I still appreciate the Ataris’ version of this song so much for very different reasons… but the older I get, the more of a reliable friend the original has always felt to me. Thanks a lot, Don.
52. “Suddenly” – Billy Ocean: Following up the chart-topping catchiness of “Caribbean Queen” wasn’t going to be an easy task, but at least Billy Ocean tried it out… with a slow ballad. Okay, there’s another follow-up single that we’ll talk about later, but for now, there’s this. Like “Caribbean Queen”, this one can be pretty corny at times; the line, “One thousand words are not enough to say what I feel inside” feels particularly clunky. Nonetheless, I do appreciate that Ocean understands his range and doesn’t try to push this one over the edge (something that Lionel Richie often tries). While this isn’t in my own personal tastes, I can totally see myself spinning this one if I were ever in an 80s R&B ballad kind of mood. He sounds pleasant and fits well with the swelling strings and melodic piano. Not bad!
51. “Raspberry Beret” – Prince and the Revolution: 1984 spoiled me – I’m actually kind of disappointed that this is the only Prince song that that appears on this year’s chart. In all actuality, out of all the Prince songs that we’ve covered so far – including the ones he didn’t perform – this one might sound the least like his style. It’s noticeably poppier, with the strange inclusion of violins performing the melody hook, alongside drum machines and less pronounced guitars and bass. The tune itself is totally charming, with verses that don’t seem to follow any sense of rhyme or rhythm – until they all tie together in a totally anthemic chorus. Prince himself, as always, steals the show. He sings about women in a way that no other men from this era would even dare of touching, particularly the lines, “She wasn’t too bright / But I could tell when she kissed me, she knew how to get her kicks”. Simply put, it’s one of those naturally perfect pop songs that doesn’t have to try too hard – it has just enough ingredients and melds them together in just the right way. Prince just makes it look so damn easy.
50. “Separate Lives” – Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin: Uhhh… so, this is the first number-one single we’ve come across on this list so far. Obviously, my goal to properly review every number-one single means I must keep this one brief… but I don’t have much to say about it in the first place. This is boring as sin; Phil Collins’s dismal vocals and those treacly keyboards are a match made in hell. I hate this – let’s move on.
49. “Missing You” – Diana Ross: “Missing You” is a tribute to Diana Ross’s friend Marvin Gaye, who was murdered the previous year. Listening to this for the very first time, I am very, very confused. It starts off as a genuinely sentimental ballad, with lyrics (penned by Lionel Richie) that detail the pain and confusion that often accompany the death of a loved one. Sure, the production is as sterile as any other run-of-the-mill R&B ballad of the day, but I can forgive that. At least until around the final third, when the horns kick into a “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”-style breakdown that suddenly takes the song out of its element. I guess the record had to find some way to bring the attention back to Ross – but that spoken word monologue may as well had come out of any number of her 70s cuts! It’s all so exhausting. It has enough to enjoy about it to keep me from outright hating it, but it sure is a pitiful excuse for a tribute track nonetheless.
48. “The Search is Over” – Survivor: And now a third hit single from Survivor?? Good grief. This is a pretty by-the-numbers power ballad – nothing to really love, but nothing to get all fumed up about either. I will admit that the vocalist does has some excellent chops, especially in the chorus when he sings, “Now I look into your eyes, I can see forever”. Sure it’s corny and the kind of stuff that hair metal couples would play as their wedding first dance. But it’s rather inoffensive, too… I don’t know, it’s fine.
47. “You Give Good Love” – Whitney Houston: Whitney, my queen! I love whenever these charts introduce an artist that I’m certain will be around to stay for quite a while. Whitney Houston is a pretty big deal, and most of this is due to those powerhouse vocals. I had to remind myself that Houston was only twenty-one years old when she recorded “You Give Good Love” – which is honestly one of her weaker singles! Not by her fault, though. Her vocal delivery is as impressive here as anywhere else, but the unexciting keyboards aren’t doing her any favors. At points, it honestly just sounds like the keyboardist is throwing as many sounds against the wall as possible to see what sticks. Anyway, I already know that we’re in for some amazing stuff soon, so I’ll just consider this a placeholder for now…
46. “Strut” – Sheena Easton: While “Sugar Walls” might be the Sheena Easton song that folks remember from this year, if any, “Strut” was actually her big one from ’85. I didn’t mention this earlier, but this song and its predecessor were actually the two major singles that marked Easton’s move away from adult contemporary fare into a more pop-oriented, sexually mature direction. This alone demonstrates the immediate impact that artists like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper had on the music scene of the era – that’s the 80s for ya! Anyway, this song is also notable for the feminist direction these lyrics take, with a chorus that berates its male subject: “Strut pout, put it out, that’s what you want from women”. The bridge before the final chorus also states defiantly, “I won’t be your baby doll”. The synths and horns are a nice touch, Easton sounds good, and the song overall is catchy as hell. However, I also can’t help but feel that this just sounds pretty derivative of Easton’s previous pro-woman discography (such as “Modern Girl”) and it reeks of studio heads’ pining for another such hit (and receiving exactly this). But this is probably just me.
45. “Sussudio” – Phil Collins: And now for the second number-one hit of this list… and the one that probably makes the least amount of sense. For what it’s worth, the made-up word “sussudio” is literally meaningless – Collins implemented it into this song and gave it this title simply because it sounded cool. Lyrically, it’s basically a simple little ditty about Collins’s being enamored with a particularly groovy woman (“If she called me, I’d be there / I’d come running anywhere”). But the words aren’t particularly the most prominent part of this song, nor is Collins’s sub-par performance of such. With this, it’s all about the lush and peppy production, replete with horns and guitars as well as some very 80s-sounding keyboards and drum machines. The main riff sounds curiously like Prince’s “1999”, yet somehow retains it own sort of dorky personality that one wouldn’t dare accuse it of ripping off the performer. The main issue, though, is that this song kind of just runs on autopilot after a while – once the second chorus finishes, the rest of the song sort of folds upon itself with Collins vocalizing limply over the instrumental, which doesn’t do anything particularly interesting from that point onward. Still, it’s innocuous enough for a typical 80s party playlist, and harmless enough that I don’t mind it having topped the charts for a single week.
44. “Never Surrender” – Corey Hart: And now for another surprise – the singer of “Sunglasses at Night” is not a one-hit wonder?? So many lies, my entire life. But it’s certainly easy to see how this one had fallen into total obscurity. Instrumentally, it’s pretty standard 80s pop-rock in the vein of Rick Springfield, though with even less bite. The song deals with the act of persevering in the face of adversity, but the lyrics and even the melody itself are both pretty clunky. The chorus is full of tired clichés and empty phrasings (“When the night is cold and dark / You can see, you can see light / ‘Cause no one can take away your right / To fight and never surrender”). Once it reaches the climactic sax solo after the second chorus, I just don’t care anymore. That pretty much sums up this one for me: I don’t care. Definitely worth placing within the lower tier of this year.
43. “Freeway of Love” – Aretha Franklin: So this is the single that would bring Aretha Franklin back into the pop charts, after nearly a decade away, introducing her to a whole new generation of listeners. I do have to say that this transition from her traditional soul sound into the contemporary pop-R&B sound of the 80s is done so magnificently with this single alone. Although the breadth of her voice isn’t quite given room to shine here, this is compensated by some truly impassioned synthesizers, which wear the decade on its sleeve to its benefit. Not to mention that short little saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons himself! Even though Franklin has definitely aged a bit, her seasoned vocals are warmly welcomed here; I especially love the line before the prechorus (“Drop the pedal and go… go… go”), as well as the outro which finally allows her to ad-lib and effectively show off her vocal chops we all know and love. This one is fun and I’ve little by way of complaints!
42. “All I Need” – Jack Wagner: And now for a true one-hit wonder. Primarily, Jack Wagner is an actor in many popular soap operas of the 80s and 90s, but tried his hand out at a pop career. This was successful (at least temporarily) as this song somehow made it all the way to #2! Overall, it’s sleepy and inoffensive as they come. A low-tempo love song from a pretty-boy vocalist with a slightly decent voice and generic keyboard backing. That’s literally all that’s worth saying about this one. I guess I’m thankful that he wasn’t as awful as when, say, John Travolta attempted something similar back in the day. But that doesn’t make this particularly good either. Just boring.
41. “Things Can Only Get Better” – Howard Jones: Oh my god!! I’ve been looking for this song for literal years, but the fact that I only knew its “whoa-oh-oh” hook and the melody to the pre-chorus never helped matters. I knew this challenge would be good for something. Anyway, Corey Hart should probably be taking notes, as this is how you do a pick-me-up anthem. The production is sharp and interesting, with a jumpy bass leading the way and some cool ‘n’ groovy keyboards following along and keeping things fun. With all this laid on top of one another, Jones is almost a non-factor to the quality of the track, but his songwriting is tops here as well. I especially love the lines, “It may take a little time, a lonely path, an uphill climb / Success or failure will not alter it”. But even if the verses weren’t so fittingly well-written, the wordless vocal hook that I know and love the best will keep me hitting replay button. This is some good stuff, and I’m so glad I’ve finally found this song!!
40. “Nightshift” – Commodores: It’s nice to see Commodores come by around these parts again… although this time, Lionel Richie is nowhere to be found, having been replaced by new lead singer Walter Orange. Hmm. Anyway, it’s looking like the 80s are overdue for their cash-grab tribute single of the decade, so we might as well get it with Commodores’s song in memory of the deceased of 1984, Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. Honestly, though, this feels a lot more sincere than past tribute singles like “Three Stars” and “Rock and Roll Heaven” (there’s a blast from the past!). The production is lush and lovely and the singing is very pleasant as well. It’s also worth noting that members of Commodores were actually close friends with both Wilson and Gaye, and were actually against the label’s decision to release this as a single. So the interpolation of Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” actually feel very genuine and heartfelt. While I have every reason to remain cynical about these kinds of singles exploiting the tragic deaths of others, at least I can be sure that “Nightshift” is not worthy of my chagrin.
39. “We Belong” – Pat Benatar: While I’ve yet to review “We Belong” on this site, I did talk about it briefly in the past, in relation to Ximena Sariñana’s cover version. I ended the review – which I wrote over a year ago – by mentioning that there are numerous other Benatar songs that I would choose to listen to over “We Belong”. I almost want to go back in time just to hit myself over the head for that statement. “We Belong” is far and away her best single, with its fluttering synths in the verses, the pounding tribal drums in that iconic chorus, and Benatar’s understated yet powerful vocals tying it all together. There are so many good lines strewn throughout this song, but a personal favorite is, “I’ve invested too much time to give you up that easy, to the doubts that complicate your mind”. That melody is still one of the best of the whole decade and… yeah, okay, the children’s choir at the end is still a bit much. But it’s also one of the very few instances where the presence of a children’s choir doesn’t make me want to stab my eardrums – so that’s a plus! Anyway, I’m really glad I finally, completely warmed up to this song. It took me damn long enough.
38. “Neutron Dance” – The Pointer Sisters: And here we are with the Pointer Sisters making me want to join a jazzercise class… again! Honestly, though, this is very much in the disco tradition of implementing a fun, danceable beat in order to disguise the fact that, lyrically, this song is actually pretty cynical and even a bit depressing. The verses contain such lines like, “Someone stole my brand new Chevrolet / And the rent is due, I got no place to stay”, and the chorus makes a pretty explicit references the neutron bomb that was making the rounds in the news at this time. But all this is accompanied by the peppiest, most uptempo synth-laden production that the Pointer Sisters have been known for the past few years. Honestly, this isn’t too bad, but it sounds far too much like their earlier hits (especially “I’m Too Excited” and “Jump (For My Love)”) for me to give too much of a damn. Still, it’s fun and totally worthwhile party music.
37. “You’re the Inspiration” – Chicago: Through all my years of following the history of pop music (I’ve been doing it to some degree since I was about eleven), “You’re the Inspiration” always seems to be acknowledged by many as the apex of Chicago’s lameness. I mean, yeah, this ballad is limp as hell. The production is generic and sounds like a thousand other ballads on the radio at the time. The lyrics are pathetic and read like a Hallmark card (“You’re the meaning in my life; you’re the inspiration… No one needs you more than I need you”), and Peter Cetera’s singing of them is as nasally and unappealing as it’s ever been. But while I’d argue that Chicago has been pretty lame for about a decade at this point, I would still say that I prefer this track over something like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”. At least there’s a sense of musical foundation that this builds upon… even if that foundation is derivative and boring. But yeah, this song sucks, I guess.
36. “The Wild Boys” – Duran Duran: Woohoo, more Duran Duran! So, I guess I should admit now that my introduction to Duran Duran came when I was around twelve, when my mom got their Greatest Hits CD for her birthday. Over the course of a few years, we listened to it over and over again until the tracks started to skip. Nonetheless, “Wild Boys” was always one of those tracks that I’d listen to begrudgingly – my mom enjoyed it, but I always found myself spacing out. Now that I’m older, I finally understand what it is that I found so distasteful – it’s that damn production! Nile Rodgers has done some nifty stuff through the years, but the stuttering remix of this song (replete with its consistently annoying chants of, “Wild boys! Wild boys!”) is just so aesthetically unappealing. The drums are pounding, but in a way that always sounded pretty stiff, and singer Simon Le Bon always sounded raspier and flatter than usual in the chorus. I do like the series of lines, “You got sirens for a welcome, there’s bloodstain for your pain / And your telephone been ringing while you’re dancing in the rain”, but the majority of the lyrics are relatively sub-par. Nevertheless, this isn’t quite egregious enough for me to outright hate… but it is along the lower rung of Duran Duran singles, at least for me.
35. “A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran: So, this song is not only distinctive for being Duran Duran’s second or two number-one singles in their career, but it also remains the song written for a James Bond film that has hit the top spot. That’s pretty cool! While I’m not much of a Bond song connoisseur (except for “Goldfinger”… and “Nobody Does It Better”… and “For Your Eyes Only”…), I totally dig how the song uses contemporary production tricks to interpolate the snippets of the brassy James Bond theme into its 80s rock/synthpop atmosphere. With the aid of legendary Bond song writer John Barry, these lyrics are also on par with the best of the bunch (“Dance into the fire / That fatal kiss is all we need”). While I wouldn’t name it among the best of the Bond songs (although I would totally understand why anyone would), there’s no denying its catchiness and unparalleled ability to breathe some new life into a twenty-year franchise.
34. “Sea of Love” – The Honeydrippers: Riding along the wave of nostalgia comes the Honeydrippers, the doo-wop revival band formed by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. Besides his unmistakable vocals, though, there’s nothing here that would tie this sound to the ragged edges of the Zep. “Sea of Love” is, of course, a cover of the 1959 song from Phil Phillips, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned at all on this site! Like a lot of traditional R&B of its day, “Sea of Love” is a stiff, simple little number about being swept away by love. While the Honeydrippers’s version remains relatively unchanged, it is distinguished by its additional of lush strings and bass to its arrangement, as well as an electric guitar solo. It retains its old-timey nostalgic value, which is mostly nice, although the lines, “Do you remember when we met? / That’s the day I knew you were my pet” have aged… poorly. Overall… it’s okay.
33. “One More Night” – Phil Collins: This is yet another number-one single that I will undoubtedly cover in more detail for my Every Number One Single challenge. For now, though, I will state that this is surprisingly appealing for a Phil Collins soft ballad. Then again, the guy did make “Against All Odds”, so maybe this shouldn’t be as surprising as I’m making it out to be. Okay, it’s not great by any means… I’m not even sure if its any good. All I’m saying is that those 80s-tastic keyboards are just cheesy enough to make me forgive the inanely repetitive chorus. I dunno, I’ll think about this one for a bit longer…
32. “Rhythm of the Night” – DeBarge: Regrettably, I still haven’t seen The Last Dragon and it’s one of the most painful movie blindspots for me. Nonetheless, I am pretty familiar with “Rhythm of the Night”, the single wherein Debarge finally makes a successful bonafide pop crossover a lá Lionel Richie. This song always seemed like one of those defining points of the entire decade – just play someone this song and they’ll have a good idea of what the 80s were all about. Still, the party gimmick of this song feels a bit clunky at times and El Debarge’s wonderful vocals feel depressingly undercut at points. Still, it’s all about that chorus, which always makes the rest of the song well worth a listen. Not that the mildly calypso-infused instrumental isn’t also a huge plus in its own right!
31. “Oh Sheila” – Ready For the World: And yet another number-one single that I’ll get more into once I work on a full-length review. In any case, this is one of the best Prince impersonators out there, and a pretty campy, sexy song to boot. Those synths are bangin’ as hell, meshing well with the intense drum machines and the radiating horniness of frontman Melvin Riley. I just can’t help but sing along whenever it comes on… yes, including the random sex grunts in the bridge.
30. “You Belong to the City” – Glenn Frey: Oh boy, that lone saxophone on the intro is so, so smoooooth… and the inclusion of the riff with the main synth hook somehow comes off as neither clumsy nor disjointed. Glenn Frey (formerly of the Eagles) actually played all of the instruments on this record except for the sax… and it an’t bad. Even though I’ve literally never seen a single episode of Miami Vice, the mere sound of this track gives me a good impression of what the appeal was. Sure, the lyrics don’t amount to very much, but they still sound cool as hell (“You look at the faces; it’s just like a dream / Nobody knows where you’re going, nobody cares where you’ve been”) and emit a certain brand of urban-oriented ennui of which Bob Seger would be proud. Not too bad for a first-time solo track from the former leading man of a band I’ve always found pretty dull.
29. “Lovergirl” – Teena Marie: This song is yet another of my mom’s favorites – most of my memories associated with it are either in her car or at family house parties. There are a lot of really cool elements to this one: the Rick James-esque funky bassline, the Niles Rodgers-esque guitar licks, the cool synths, the fierce vocals courtesy of Teena Marie herself. There’s no denying this is a catchy little pop number, with the intensity heightened by the fiery chorus and Teena Marie’s anthemic vocalizations. I don’t even mind the “girl/world” rhyme scheme this time around! Some of these lyrics come off as really a bit odd (“Coffee, tea, or me, baby”, “Hook, line, and sinker, baby, that’s how you caught me”), but they mostly just add to the fun, unique personality of this track as a whole. It’s a shame that Teena Marie didn’t quite manage a second huge hit (though her earlier “Square Biz” is also some good, poppy fun). Judging from this song alone, it’s clear that the potential was all there are she deserved to be bigger.
28. “Loverboy” – Billy Ocean: I’m not sure if whoever is in charge of compiling this year-end list intentionally grouped this song one spot above the similarly titled Teena Marie song. But in any case, oh my god, this is good!! Certainly surprising for a track from Billy Ocean, who I’ve up ’til now considered lukewarm at best. Some of these lyrics are a bit shaky for my liking – the mere word “loverboy” tends to make my stomach turn – but boy does Ocean sing them like his career depends on it. I especially love the, “yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah” leading up to the chorus. The synths are an interesting inclusion, especially since they often work when paired with that electrifying guitar, but quickly take a turn for the awkward right after the second chorus. Nonetheless, this one has me dancing in my chair from start to finish. It’s an overproduced mess, but at least it’s a charming overproduced mess!
27. “Miami Vice Theme” – Jan Hammer: Remember when I mentioned in my “Axel F” review above that there were two instrumentals on this list? Well, this is the second one. It topped the charts in late ’85 and was the last instrumental to do so for almost thirty years! Verdict? It’s… okay. The synth washes are big and booming, very textured and replete with this almost mysterious kind of atmosphere. Like “You Belong to the City”, it’s understandable just listening to this theme how Miami Vice was the epitome of cool in the mid-80s. Nonetheless, after about the first fifteen seconds or so, the entertainment factor just fades off into a mildly pleasant track. It’s a fine listen, but there’s not enough going on there in which to be fully invested, and it’s much too short anyway. I can see how this appealed to a large enough number of people to give it the top spot on the charts, but I can also see how this peak only lasted a single week.
26. “Cool It Now” – New Edition: Ah, now here is one of the defining points of the 80s for me (I know, there’s like a hundred of these). Only in this decade would it make total sense to accompany the backing drum machines and synth-buzz with a mousey-voiced 16-year-old lead singer and a backing troupe of other crooning youngsters. But really, though, New Edition struck gold with this one. The hook is undeniably sticky and instantly catchy, with both lead singer Ralph Tresvant and the backing vocalists matching each others’ energies perfectly. They tried to go for this dynamic with the earlier single “Candy Girl”, but that one was probably a bit too punchy to work effectively. Here, they opt for a more melodic route to magical results, and better yet with a song that emphasizes not being too pushy with a love interest (some advice that everyone can benefit from). Even the rap breaks are pretty neat, if silly. This is just fun as hell!!
25. “Everything She Wants” – Wham!: It can’t be underestimated how big of a year Wham! had in 1985. This one also hit #1, so I’ll keep it brief, again. Wham! had a lot of really good songs during their brief existence, but this one is one feels a bit more on the mature side. Here, George Michael has trapped himself in a loveless marriage and the confusion is totally concrete in his performance. The synths here are dated, sure, but they’re also sophisticated in a way that just feels right for the song. Overall, though, that chorus is just really fun to sing along to at karaoke nights, so there’s that.
24. “Heaven” – Bryan Adams: And now for another number-one song! I’m probably really showing my age now, but I definitely prefer the DJ Sammy & Yanou dance cover of this song from 2001. Yeah, I know, I’m awful. But the truth is, everything I find so drab and boring about Adams could be properly encapsulated here. The melody in the verses and chorus are pretty nice, but after reading that co-writer Jim Vallance was inspired by Journey’s “Faithfully”, I can’t help but hear this as a stiffer, less resonant “Faithfully”. And Adam’s voice still annoys me… okay, that’s all I’ll say before I cover this in a longer review!
23. “Saving All My Love For You” – Whitney Houston: And another one – Whitney’s first chart-topper! Honestly, while I’ve always loved Houston’s vocals on this one, it has also always been along the middle rungs of her ballads for me. Lyrically, this is about an affair with a married man – sort of a “Me and Mrs. Jones” from a heterosexual female perspective. The lyrics are pretty standard forbidden love stuff, but the depths of her voice and the emotions that she puts forth are just exquisite. This would’ve definitely been a lesser song in the hands of anyone else – Whitney spins this into gold.
22. “Part-Time Lover” – Stevie Wonder: Looks like Billboard decided to cram a whole bunch of their number-one singles into the same section of the chart… Anyway, this always sounded like Stevie Wonder’s try at Hall & Oates’s “Maneater”. His crossover to pop has been a rocky one for sure, but this one is actually strangely pretty fun. There’s a bit of dark humor to this cheating situation, which actually makes this one of the more interesting singles of Wonder’s career in a while. The synths may sound tinny and cheap, but his easy-going personality makes this a odd little dance floor staple.
21. “Shout” – Tears For Fears: Guess what? This song also went to number-one! This makes my job so easy. Anyway, I already mentioned that Songs From the Big Chair was a totally solid album, but this song alone is a hell of an opener. The industrial-sounding synthesizers are like nothing else on this list and the growing intensity of the track as a whole has me hooked from start to finish. Add onto this the impassioned vocals from Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, and you’ve got a truly powerful piece of sonic art. This may not be my favorite of the number-ones this year, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most interesting.
20. “We Are the World” – USA for Africa: Oh hell yes, top twenty! And we’re kicking it off with yet another number-one single… and possibly the worst of them all. Cloying, condescending, and just totally bad, this is musically boring, lyrically sappy, and goes on for way, way too long. Sure, some individual performances here are pretty good (looking at you, Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper), and I’m glad that the publicity did what it did to spread awareness of humanitarian aid. At the same time, though, I can’t help but feel that this might have done more harm than good in the long run… but I’ll get into more detail on that later. Anyway, this record sucks.
19. “The Heat is On” – Glenn Frey: This is the second single from Glenn Frey on this list (though this one only went to number-two), and… yeah, I prefer the other one. The saxophone riff is catchy as sin and the overall rhythm is as infectious as one would expect from a soundtrack single from an 80s comedy. Nonetheless, these lyrics are just so, so bad. Lines like, “The heat is on, on the street / Inside your head, on every beat” and “The shadows high on the darker side / Behind the doors, it’s a wilder ride” ultimately don’t translate to anything at all. The record as a whole contains this intense mood that fits with the action-packed flavor of its instrumentals, but I think the lyrics only work as just another instrument to add to the equation and not anything actually meaningful. Moreover, Frey’s vocals are so much better on “You Belong to the City” – here, he just sounds like a sub-par Kenny Loggins. Boo!
18. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” – John Parr: And back on the number-one single train! The pumping synths on this one are totally great, especially accompanied by the shredding guitar. I’ll admit that John Parr isn’t the greatest vocalist (possibly why he couldn’t succeed at getting another hit), but he can emit this melody really well, especially in that absolutely triumphant chorus. This must have been somebody’s favorite song, considering that it hit the top spot for two weeks – the way I see it, though, it’s just passable 80s cheese.
17. “Cherish” – Kool & the Gang: Okay, from this point on, I’m no longer going to try to make rhyme or reason of Kool & the Gang’s recording choices. I’m just going to ride the wave… maybe some ocean waves, the likes of which open up this track. Honestly, while the vocals are merely a husk of what Kool and his Gang had accomplished in the past, they aren’t too bad and are at least fitting to the words and tone. It’s the treacly Casio keyboards that kill this one for me, especially at the intro when it lays down some intense chords that, nonetheless, are about as threatening as a yapping puppy. The lyrics are about everlasting love – pretty much all you need to know there. To me, this sounds like a watered-down version of “Joanna”, which also isn’t the best but at least has some more interesting instrumental choices. I dunno… I’ll probably just forget I ever listened to this one.
16. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds: Oh, right – 1985 was the year of The Breakfast Club. I never really thought much about that movie, but this is probably far-and-away this best thing to come out of it. It’s cool and breezy, yet triumphant and melancholic all in equal parts, which is weird. I want to say that I love this song, but I think I probably just love the signature “hey, hey, hey, hey” parts. Nonetheless, it’s a nice little number of which I’ll go into more detail at a later date. I feel like this song is supposed to remind me of high school – and maybe it would have if my high school experience wasn’t just utterly uneventful – but mostly it just reminds me of car rides with my mom… which is good enough, I guess.
15. “The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis and the News: 1985 was also the year of Back to the Future! Damn, we sure got a lot of number-one singles from movie soundtracks this year. Anyway, maybe I was speaking too soon when I claimed to be giving up on Huey Lewis & the News. While this song isn’t great by any means and still contains a fair share of the Huey Lewis corniness I just can’t completely get behind (“Don’t need no credit card to ride this train”), I can’t deny its charm. The synths contain just the right amount of cheese and the whole song just feels to naive to hate. I dunno. It’s fine!!
14. “We Built This City” – Starship: Well, this is conflicting. “We Built This City” (which went to number-one this year) is widely considered one of the worst songs ever. It’s not all that hard to see why with just a single listen: the synths are tuned all the way up, to create this aggressive, clunky atmosphere that is just jarring. The lyrics, uh… could be better. But in any case, I like this. The melody is perfectly catchy, and the song itself is a subtly sad homage to San Francisco as it once was, before the “corporation games” set in. Living in San Francisco during the late stages of the tech boom… I feel that. And no, I don’t care that this used to be Jefferson Airplane. This song is good.
13. “Can’t Fight This Feeling” – REO Speedwagon: And now for REO Speedwagon’s second number-one hit, after “Keep On Loving You”. And really, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to compare the two – they are both power ballads about love for another that have a similar sound to them. Honestly, I prefer this one, even though it arguably it’s the one that has aged the poorest. Still, the melody is beautiful, the lyrics feel better structured, and Kevin Cronin’s voice even sounds better. Not to mention that these lines just make my heart swell: “I say there is no reason for my fear / ‘Cause I feel so secure when we’re together / You give my life direction; you make everything so clear”. Sigh.
12. “Easy Lover” – Philip Bailey and Phil Collins: It’s so eerie to me how much this sounds like an Earth, Wind, & Fire single being filtered through a Collins-era Genesis filter. Anyway, I feel like this is objectively a good song, yet for me… it’s missing that something special. Don’t get me wrong: those energetic guitars and synthesizers mesh supremely well with Collins’s and Bailey’s playing off of each others’ vocal performances. The melody as a whole kicks ass and it’s the kind of song that was just bound to be an instant classic from the first listen. Nonetheless… I’m just not amazed by it. I definitely wouldn’t complain if I saw this on an 80s party playlist and I’ll gladly ride the wave. But then again, you probably won’t find this on my Best of 1985 playlist anytime soon. Sorry.
11. “Everytime You Go Away” – Paul Young: Um… so, I guess 1985 was the year when they were just letting anyone go to number-one, right? No, all honesty, this is a surprisingly lovely cover of the Hall & Oates song of the same name. The beginning keyboard washes has whispers of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face”, but once the sitars come in a few bars later, the song takes on a life of its own. The production here is so, so smooth, and although Young doesn’t have too great of a voice, he works with his strengths to emit lines like, “Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you” with genuine vulnerability. Yeah, this is really pleasant.
10. “Take on Me” – a-ha: Woohoo, top ten!! And what better way to kick off the top ten than with one of the most ubiquitous pop singles of the whole damn decade. I’ve listened to this song countless times through my life, and it never gets old. The synths are sparkly and iconic, and that buildup in the chorus is just beautiful. Over time, I’ve come to acknowledge some of its flaws (like how the lyrics make no goddamn sense), but it never feels like enough to change my opinion of this. Since this is a number-one single, I’ll cover it in more detail later… but anyway, I love this.
9. “Crazy For You” – Madonna: Recording a ballad was an odd choice for Madonna, who had done solely dance-pop at this point – but gave her a number-one single! I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for this one. It’s a teenage lust ballad at its core, but she offers a unique bit of introspection on the whole song, while also keeping things aesthetically appealing. I am especially a fan of the chorus, which just might be one of my favorites from this era of Madonna’s career. Really, it’s the kickstarter for a future of much more interesting music to come from this pop starlet.
8. “Money For Nothing” – Dire Straits: Ugh… so yeah, this is another number-one single that I’ll write more about later. But that second verse alone just makes my stomach churn – and yes, it is because of the homophobic slur in the second verse, and no it doesn’t make it okay that it was a “different time” or that it fits the character or whatever. Besides this, though, the song is extremely uninteresting – it’s basically a lot of talking and a limp melody over some basic guitar chords. The most interesting parts come with Sting’s contributions, but those are so few and far between that this record. This is basically a bunch of aging, out-of-touch rockers complaining about god knows what – as a whole, it just plain ain’t worth it.
7. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears For Fears: This was the first of Tears For Fears’s chart-toppers. While it’s not my favorite of their songs from this year (“Head Over Heels” holds that honor), it’s not hard to see “Everybody”‘s charms. The shimmering synthesizers at the beginning make way for emotional bombast that just seems to hit all the right buttons with little to no effort. The lyrics are just so lovely and vibrant as well. I especially love the line, “Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure / Nothing ever lasts forever”, as well as the bridge that begins with, “There’s a room where the light won’t find you”. It’s all totally lovely stuff – hook layered upon utterly blissful hook.
6. “Out of Touch” – Hall & Oates: The end of an era has come – this would have been the final of Hall & Oates’s number-one singles. The melody is lovely, especially in the chorus, working well with the prominent, glossy synths. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of substance here. I don’t quite know what lines like, “You’re out of touch, I’m out of time / But I’m out of my head when you’re not around” are supposed to mean… or any of the lyrics here, for that matter. Also, this feels relatively stiff and sterile for a Hall & Oates single; this coupled with “Method of Modern Love” almost signals that the end is nigh for the duo. Sad but true.
5. “I Feel For You” – Chaka Khan: And now for the highest ranking song on this list that did not make the number-one spot – this one only hit number-three, but stayed on the charts for twenty-six weeks, which was forever at the time. First, I’ll use this space to briefly talk about the representation of women in this year’s chart! With a slight improvement from last year, we have thirty-three tracks on this list that are credited to women, be they solo or in a band/group. That’s a third of the chart! Not exactly 50/50, but we’re getting there. And this number is continually being boosted by the increase of female solo performers – despite the fact that the Second British Invasion has brought a whole bunch of men into the scene, the increased popularity of artists like Madonna and Tina Turner balances that out. Fun! So, Chaka Khan is another one of these popular performers that crossed over the pop scene this year. “Feel For You” (a cover of a Prince song from his debut album) is a fun little number – heady synths are coupled with brief inflections of horns and harmonica (from Stevie Wonder!) that create a lovely little atmosphere. Although we all know that she can really belt it out, Khan makes the smart decision to keep her vocal chops on the down-low – it certainly fits the mood better. Of course, what everyone remembers is the introductory rap from Melle Mel. I could only imagine that something as simple and jumpy as this goofy inclusion must as been mind-blowing in 1985. Anyway, this song is an absolute powerhouse, and I feel so happy for Chaka Khan.
4. “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner: One of those “love it or hate it” kinds of 80s power ballads. In all actuality, this may be the power ballad to end them all. It’s overblown in all the right ways, from the extravagant buildup from verse to pre-chorus, to the anthemic chorus accompanied by a gospel choir of all things. I’ve always found Foreigner to be a pretty insipid band, and the fact that this is one of their most ambitious efforts as a band only proves this. Nonetheless, that pre-chorus is the resonating type that I wish I would have written (“Can’t stop now, I’ve travelled so far / To change this lonely life”), and the quiet synths undercutting everything are just lovely. It’s not enough for me to love, but I sure as hell can’t stop pushing play.
3. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham!: Okay, so Wham! singles… this was one of the biggest and continues to be one of the most recognized of them all. Its infectious bounciness is off the charts, from the very first utterances of, “jitterbug”. Of course, George Michael steals the show once again, with bright, sparkly lyrics practically bouncing off the record… er, audio file. Furthermore, the retro instrumentation (horns, tambourines, keyboards, all that) clashes wonderfully with the fluffy-pink melody, replete with just about every note within Michael’s range. It really is the perfect bubblegum pop song, and although it’s not suitable for every occasion and is far from my preferred Wham! track… I like it just fine.
2. “Like a Virgin” – Madonna: Ah, “Like a Virgin”. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Madonna’s sophomore album of the same name, but I think only ’cause so few of the tracks lived up to the promise of the lead single. There’s so much to love about this, but mainly Nile Rodger’s vibrating production and Madonna’s sly interpretation of these lyrics. The melody is totally timeless and her, “Like a virgin – hey!” is one of my favorite music moments of her whole career. I’ll talk more about this when the time comes to write a full review, but there’s really no debating the purely iconic nature of this one. Smart, sexually liberated women were such an anomaly in the pop industry at this point – Madonna helped to open that door just a bit further.
1. “Careless Whisper” – Wham! / George Michael / Wham! ft. George Michael: And here we are now, folks: the number-one song of 1985, courtesy of Wham!… well, George Michael, at least. Okay, Wham! featuring George Michael – as little sense that makes. Honestly, it’s just a matter of international releases, which messes up the consistency of record labels. But anyway, let’s be real: everyone remembers this song for that saxophone. That sax solo – courtesy of Steve Gregory – sure is sexy. But placed alongside Michael’s pained vocals and the downtempo, tropical production, they suddenly take on much darker, sadder undertones. It’s all about that bridge, though: “We could have been so good together / We could have lived this dance forever / But no one’s gonna dance with me – please stay”. Chills. Still, while I like this song a decent amount, it doesn’t hold a candle to some of their other material (“Everything She Wants” is a favorite for sure), and I’m certain that the only reason that this got as big as it did is due to Wham!’s decision to make a 180 with their typical bubbly pop style at the very height of their careers. Still, I have no qualms with it being as big as it was – it’s a sleek, sophisticated number, and further exemplifies just how talented of a singer/songwriter/producer George Michael truly was.
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