Sunday, September 7, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt 14

48.  "Born In the U.S.A."--Bruce Springsteen

Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  9

The ebullient synths certainly seem to suggest jingoistic joy.  But just several extra seconds of scrutiny--which itself proves troublesome for a troubling amount of us--tells a different story.  One of a young man from Podunk sent off a hero for wartime and sent back a pariah for peacetime, now just one of the millions denied even a modest living in "the greatest country in the world."

The likes of Ronald Reagan could never fathom how any good-hearted, honest-living, hard-working citizen could be anything less than prosperous in the land of plenty, so of course when he heard "Born In the U.S.A." for the first time he felt a phantom warming sensation in the middle of his chest.  Thankfully, Springsteen refused to humor him.

For his brutal slaying of the Mental Health System Act alone, I deem Reagan one of history's worst leaders.  The anniversary of his passing should be celebrated here in the States like Grito de Delores is in Mexico.

Keep It?  NO

"In a Big Country"--Big Country

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  17

From the sky, onto Skye--"Sha!"

The joy is contained within the journey...correct?  To climb a mountain, and not fall.  To emote the words, and not sing.  To rhyme "discarded" with "wanted."  That is what it means to be alive.

The tracked-to-death vocal do their damnedest to lose me in a fog, but those guitars (not bagpipes) acts as guiding lights, so soon enough it's out of one thick and into another.

47.  "We're Not Gonna Take It"--Twisted Sister

Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  21

Oh come on, all y'all disillusioned youths.  A group of heavy metal drag queens and circus clowns know that pain.  When life is dispensing full nelsons, kick the shins and apply a cross-face chicken wing.

I was rapidly approaching seven at the time this song began to set up shop on MTV.  The source of my greatest angst was not being able to stay up as late as I wanted to, which was forever.  And why couldn't I stay up forever?  Because of school.  And here was this band dropping out of the ceiling and telling school to kiss its ass.  No shock, then, that I cottoned to the Sister's anthem.

Getting older and listening to some of the songs I dug back then sans their accompanying video, the fatal flaw found in many of them is simple:  they're so goddamn rote.  I mean, for anyone who's aspiring to rebel against the system by taking a magic marker to a stop sign (either DON'T above or WAR below) this is their battle cry.  Me personally, I'm not strapping up and heading out alongside any song that doesn't realize destiny is by definition a predetermined state that cannot be picked nor controlled.

If it sounds like I'm nitpicking, I am.  Forty-somethings may blast this in their Prius' and bang their heads and feel tough, but they're not.  They can't even pick a decent fucking car to drive around in, and I'm supposed to respect their taste in music?

Keep It?  NO

"Eighties"--Killing Joke

Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

"Eighties" is a trampling preserved for all-time.  Fluid carnage that impresses most of all with the stamina it displays.

Twenty-three pounds of incendiary self-indulgence and untrammeled avarice is what you get when the free world is led by divisive greed-mongering cretins whose greatest thrill is derived from playing on the worst fears of the dreadfully narrow-minded.  Dog eats dog then eats the cat.  "I have tended my garden to ostentatious abundance," he sniffed.  "Now I want yours."

46.  "Every Breath You Take"--The Police

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Leave it to VH-1!  The Police have two songs worthy of inclusion on this list, and neither of them happens to be this annoyingly misinterpreted aggregate of clunky parts.  The continued popularity of "Every Breath" at weddings is testament to people either refusing to listen to lyrics or just possessing the comprehension skills of dirt.

Keep It?  NO

"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"--The Police

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Some of the finest heart palpitations I've ever sat through.  Not even the collapse into faux reggae can ruin what is for me the best song the Police ever put together.  Not even that episode of The Office where Karen sings it to Jim hurts, because A) Jim ended up with Pam anyway and B) Scrantonicity rules.

Now, a case can be made that this song also possesses the stalk-y overtones that make "Every Breath You Take" so distasteful.  I would argue that it has undertones instead.  And that makes a difference.

The piano riff is what turns the grey to white, and the synth swells are well-played and well-placed.  Goddamn, the keys have me rooting for this inept would-be Casanova, hoping that his intentions aren't of a "-cidal" nature, and that love will bring him closer to the stability he craves.   Yeah, I'm kind of a romantic like that.  I just hope she remembers to aim for the pelvis if things go awry. 

45.  "Nasty"--Janet Jackson

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Industrial rhythm and blues.  The drums straight up Barry White Driver (!!) asses into mats.

Aretha asked for respect; Janet demanded it.  Her harsher attitude stemmed from unpleasant personal experiences involving men approaching her in the street, feeling no compunction whatsoever about objectifying an attractive woman standing right in front of them.  For any woman put in that situation, the overwhelming feeling tends not to be anger, but helplessness.  Such men can be dangerous, we realize, so direct retaliation is not recommended.  What can a girl do?  Transfer the bad vibes.  Take control.

"Gimme a beat!"

I love that part.

Janet taking time out of her busy song to inform some uncouth cad of her actual first name is one of the most magnificent things I've ever heard in any song, ever.  Yes, ever.  No, my first name ain't hyperbole.

Keep It?  YES

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