Wednesday, September 3, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 10

64.  "Straight Up"--Paula Abdul
Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

The first of two songs on the list recorded by choreographers-turned-singers, except Paula was able to work out multiple chart hits before her descent into reality show laughingstock.  Certainly helped her cause that she didn't debut with a novelty song.  "Straight Up" is a stark and sly dance number with a pat of audible rock influence.  Not everyone could relate to taking it assways from a guy named Mickey, but few are those who haven't wondered if the reality matches the perception.

Keep It?  NO

"Fame"--Irene Cara
Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  4

Miss Cara wasn't going to snag an Oscar for her performance as Coco in the movie Fame, so she settled for singing the winner of 1980's Best Original Song.

With just four words, "Fame" nails the narcissism that serves as the impetus behind every pretender--to be adored for being everything except for what they actually are.  "Baby, look at me."

All the breast-beating bravado, the arm-stretching desperation, the fist-clenching passion, the eye-rolling ecstasy...contortions become convictions as the songstress gives breath to these (rather dubious) dreams. 

Irene Cara was the queen of 80s soundtracks.  Everybody knows Fame, everybody knows Flashdance, but how many bodies know DC Cab?  You don't know DC Cab?  As soon as you finish this, watch DC Cab.  It stars Mr. T!  He of A-Team fame.  He of "Treat Your Mother Right" fame.  He of "Snoopy doll dressed like Mr. T fame."  You have to see DC Cab.

63.  "Whip It"--Devo
Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  14

"Whip It" exposed Devo to the molasses masses.  Sure, their cover of "Satisfaction"--and subsequent appearance on Saturday Night Live--made them visible, but there's a difference between celebrity and ubiquity.  After "Whip It" hit, Devo were pretty unavoidable on both radio and MTV.

A great deal of the appeal came from simple misunderstanding.  Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale took inspiration from Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow, but it sure does for all the world sound like they're talking about beating off, and that is funny, and I get that and I don't have to read to get that.  WHIP IT GUD!

Keep It?  NO

"Explosions"--Devo
Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  (not released as a single)

Wait, not a single?  Don't care.

Assembly-line new wave packed full of so many awesome elements should be justly celebrated.  All the parts are here, all the parts have been thoroughly greased, so why don't more people manufacture "Explosions"?  Hell, even the band themselves only played it once in a live setting.

62.  "Take My Breath Away"--Berlin
Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

The creative team of Tom Whitlock and Giorgio Moroder penned several tunes for the massive Top Gun soundtrack, including this winner of the 1986 Oscar for Best Original Song.  (But not, sadly, "Playing With the Boys.")  People fell in love to "Take My Breath Away."  Suppose in some parts of the world they still do.  Suppose the smitten parties manage to keep straight faces throughout, even.  I prefer my love songs to not include processed fart sounds pitched for comical emotionalism, thanks.

Keep It?  NO

"Danger Zone"--Kenny Loggins
Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Whatever regrets I feel for taking the name of our god Giorgio in vain, all wash away as soon as I bear witness to this glorious Whitlock/Moroder offering.

Top Gun is a love story.  A love story about pilots and fighter jets.  Not pilot and female non-pilot.  This is what helps "Danger Zone" earn its wings.  Kenny Loggins's presence on the shortlist for Least Intimidating Male Singer of the Decade* notwithstanding, this is a straight-ahead blaze-blue thriller.  I can't think of a better song to play in preparation for...anything.  Flying, mountain-climbing, baking a pie.  The task need not be Herculean to require a trip thru the Danger Zone, baby.

(*totally Christopher Cross's honor to lose, by the way.)

61.  "Mr. Roboto"--Styx
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

To quote my mom when she found out she was pregnant for the seventh time:  "Unbelievable."

The reason I have positively zero qualms with any of my replacement choices can be found here, at number 61.  People voted this sci-fi duncery onto a list of the top 100 songs of the 1980s.  A song that I'm pretty sure those same people, if pressed, could only remember four whole words from.  A song that, oh save me Jebus, was taken from a concept album.  A song wherein Dennis DeYoung attempts a Freddie Mercury impression.

Styx had every right to shat out this gleaming metallic turd.  We as listeners are every bit as entitled to inform Styx that they did, in fact, shat out a turd.  Appearances are irrelevant.

Keep It?  NO

"Venus"--Bananarama
Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Mmm-hmm.  The very best pop numbers make me wanna run off and lick a beehive clean.  Without the bees themselves in the vicinity?  Preferably.

Shocking Blue's original was creepy-crawly goddess worship that somehow never lit the "silver flame" in my gut.  Bananarama right that wrong in spectacular fashion, cooking up a scorching quesadilla of a chorus and extinguishing the blaze with even more fire.

"Venus" is more ludicrously fun than building a water slide inside a volcano. 

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