Saturday, September 13, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 20

24.  "Take On Me"--a-ha
Released 1985
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Watching an episode of The Facts of Life while eating a Jell-O Pudding Pop wasn't as 80s as "Take On Me."

Placing a Glo-Worm in the Easy Bake Oven until bedtime wasn't as 80s as "Take On Me."

Voicing an argument between a Pound Puppy plush doll and a Darth Vader action figure wasn't as 80s as "Take On Me."

The 80s were the decade that saw the music video come into its own--as a promotional tool, primarily; as an artform, occasionally; as a way to end Billy Squier's career, certainly.  No song on VH-1's original list is as tethered to its video as "Take On Me."  The simple girl getting caught up in a world she has no business being a part of, the dramatic chase sequence, the hero's noble sacrifice and determination to join a world he has business being a part of...millions worldwide were captivated, probably more than we should have been.  The revelatory visuals (brought to us by the respective magics of pencil drawing and rotoscoping) coupled up with earnest Norwegian synth-pop and together they raced and soared towards a gentle finish, as the impossibly high range of singer Morten Harket threw glitter up into winds gusting at 40 MPH to celebrate the fortuitous union.

a-ha never scored another hit in the States (although they remained gods in their native land) and after seeing the follow-up to "Take On Me," I'm glad they didn't.  "The Sun Always Shines On TV" is a really good track, but the video starts off all wrong.  We see the same couple from "Take On Me" walking along in a forest at night, so obviously something good is about to happen.  Suddenly, Harket begins flashing back into his black-and-white comic book self.  Realizing that his dream of remaining flesh and blood is dying out, he flees the scene, hoping to find a comic book store open at that hour.  Love story over.  BOOOO, that's why Germany fucked your bitches, you snowy motherfuckers.

Keep It?  YES

23.  "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"--Cyndi Lauper
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Lauper was less a singer, more a supernova.  Girls together outrageously having the type of good times where no winds up injured.  The kind of fun where anyone who feels upset or offended by it is a Gold Star Level douchenozzle who deserves to have an entire building collapse on top of them.    How many stories tall should the building be?  It matters not. 

Keep It?  YES

22.  "Just Like Heaven"--The Cure
Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  40

Lovers kiss with spiced breath.  Bodies warmed by winter sun embrace at the behest of a merrily enchanting bird-song.

Almost wild to consider that this is a song by the Cure.  'Cause it's awesome.  The Cure are pretty hit-miss--Robert Smith's watery expeditions serve as either refreshing uses of negative space or torturous abuses of sound itself.  Clearly, "Just Like Heaven" is a beach-side cottage where all my friends live inside the shells that decorate the walls.

(Many of those same friends would throw sand at me if I didn't mention Dinosaur Jr.s' masterful cover, which manages the rare feat of being its own beast while retaining the soul of the original.)

Keep It?  YES

21.  "Beat It"--Michael Jackson
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Dance music and rock music have had two truly world-shaking meet-ups:  Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" and Michael Jackson's "Beat It."  Light up sidewalks all y'all desire.  Light 'em up with your desire.  I'll be over here dancing in the pitch black.

When people talk MJ's masterpiece, they tend to favor "Billie Jean."  I however am a "Beat It" advocate; dare I say, one of its most strident.  It's not just the presence of hard rock guitar--be it Lukather's or Van Halen's--"Beat It" is a marvelously arranged lesson plan that isolates all the key points and explains them so effortlessly the student doesn't realize they learned something vital to their survival.   Something other than, "Wear a condom 'cause bitches be crazy."

Keep It?  YES

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