Wednesday, September 17, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 24

8.  "Like a Virgin"--Madonna

Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Madonna's first number one is an awkward sentiment at its core, one that is exquisitely of the time.  (A parallel example is "Afternoon Delight"--only in the 1970s would a man realizing that he and his wife can have sex at a time of day other than morning or evening be considered song-worthy.) How, pray tell, is one like a virgin?  How could someone relive that feeling?  That anxiety, that excitement, that disappointment, that relief?

You can't.  Which isn't really the point.  The effort, the risk, the willingness to expose one's self all over again in an attempt to recapture a more innocent time in life--that's not the point either.  The point is the pre-chorus, which makes me want to start punching floral arrangements at a funeral.  Maybe even hop up onto the casket and bust out a buffalo stance.  With Galaxy Black leggings on, ya bish.

Or maybe the point is that confident women--especially sexually confident women--freak lots of folks out.  Don't know why, exactly.  (Do know why, vaguely.)  Would Madonna have caused half the sensation if her name had been Nancy?

Keep It?  YES

7.  "Sweet Child O' Mine"--Guns N' Roses

Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

For a speck of time, GNR reeked of heavy metal's salvation.  Even their ballads crashed into radio rogue-wave style.

Thinking about "Sweet Child" for longer than is necessary--three seconds--may result in unease over Axl Rose's reduction of the woman he loves to a child.  Better to appreciate the waxing rapturous over his lover's eyes and smile, rather than her tits and ass.  (The woman so honored was future ex-wife Erin Everly, and you will also do yourself an enormous favor by refusing to research that relationship.)

Best of all to focus on the legendary main riff--one of the most captivating ever played on the electric guitar--and the solo, which really does act as a second voice for the song.

Keep It?  NO

"West End Girls"--Pet Shop Boys

Released 1985
U.S.  Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Synth-hop heaven courtesy of two pasty English dudes.  The class concerns of the waste land Neil Tennant half-spoke/half-sung about meant little to us in the States, but the bass line meant the world:  a heartbeat visible from underneath the skin, a hypnotic sound-turned-vision that enticed listeners to dark corners inhabited by darker souls.  "West End Girls" still sounds better than anything on modern pop radio.

6.  "I Can't Go For That"--Hall and Oates

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Smooth and glistening.  Y'know, like a marble toilet.  Gonna be a beige night on the throne, baby.  Why goodness, is that saxello I hear?  Mmm, better fill the tub up with some KY.

Gossamer music for gossamer tastes.

Keep It?  NO

"Private Eyes"--Hall and Oates

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Damn, 1981 was a good year for these two.  They would also score big with "Kiss On My List," another song that leaves "Can't Go For That" in the dust.  "Private Eyes" is pretty much "Kiss" with hand claps, so...advantage.

There's a pizza party underway, and my entire body received an invitation.  VH-1 viewers love them some finger foods apparently.  Not me, baby.  Gimme that flash-bang piano-driven pop testament to the futility of donning disguises around those who know you best and love you even more any day over glitzy white-boy R&B that I forget three seconds after the final note's been played. 

5.  "When Doves Cry"--Prince

Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

That moment when Prince proclaimed, "Bass lines are nice--for the humans."  Dude basically reinvented pop music with each successive single.  Pretty much everything else on the radio sounded Monday to Sunday compared to a Prince song.  I would not be surprised to learn that at the tender age of five, he played Boulez' Second Sonata on a homemade piano.  And that he was the one who built the piano.

Despite the distinct lack of heartbeat, "When Doves Cry" is one of the most emotional songs Purple Jebus ever made real.  The fanciful words glide atop the stark backdrop, unafraid to smudge or sharpen in service of the bigger picture.  Poor birds with crushed wings are still beautiful, still able to sing, whether the skies are still and quiet or dripping down dabs of moisture. 

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