Tuesday, September 2, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 9

68.  "Fight the Power"--Public Enemy

Released 1989
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Chuck D's stentorian exhortations punctuated by Flava Flav's buoyant exclamations always went over like pineapple on pizza.  The riotous brilliance of the Bomb Squad--the in-house production team who possessed an uncanny ability to detect the musical qualities of explosions--basically took all the descriptors (confrontational, uncompromising, provocative) and transformed them into verbs.

"Fight the Power" was written for, and is forever synonymous with, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, an unforgettable film about simmering racial tensions in modern-day Brooklyn.  The opening credits show Rosie Perez (in her big-screen debut) performing a mesmerizing dance/boxing routine as the song blares --wearing door knockers, no less!  The undiluted aggression onscreen basically separates the mice from the lions; viewers are either riveted or repelled.

People jumped at the chance to call out Chuck D. for his takedown of two beloved white American icons, but no one mentioned his jab at Bobby McFerrin, which at least showed a willingness to call out what he perceived as weakness in his own people.  (It is worth noting that Chuck has since explained that his attack on Elvis was directed more towards the racist culture that made possible his ascension in the industry at the expense of the black singers and musicians that Presley acknowledged as his greatest influences, and not so much towards the man himself.  John Wayne, however?  Motherfuck him all day.)

Keep It?  NO

"Rebel Without a Pause"--Public Enemy

Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

James Todd Smith couldn't live without his radio.  Carlton Ridenour couldn't live without letting everyone know radio was scared to death of him and his group.

"Yes--the rhythm, the rebel."

Chuck D's monumental mic presence wasn't enough.  The Bomb Squad had to insert that whistling trumpet from the JB's "Grunt" to overwhelm the speakers.  That fucking beat is why I put "Rebel" on my list over "Fight the Power."  Raw.  Relentless.  Rap is crap?  How?  "Rebel Without a Pause" is basically rock 'n' roll, anyway.

67.  "Keep On Loving You"--REO Speedwagon

Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Kevin Cronin's hair represented so much of what was foul about the 1980s:  overblown, decadent, shameless, and stuffed full of drugs. 

"Keep On Loving You" was REO's first hit, after nine years of soupy boogie-rock that just refused to make them millionaires.  Turns out, the gold was buried underneath the towers at AOR radio stations!  What's AOR?  Why, that's "Adult-Oriented Rock," basically rock music that's molted its exoskeleton.  This, and the slightly less piss-dripping "Take It On the Run," were the smash singles from the diamond-certified Hi Infidelity; fittingly, persevering past serial philandering is the concern of "Keep On Loving You."

I'd never claim a couple shouldn't try and work through the obstacles in their relationship, no matter how seemingly indomitable--I wish them well, in fact.  I am ardently opposed to whiny balladry that rhymes "maybe" with "baby" at the beginning of the song.

Has the woman stopped passing out pussy, even?  Kev's proclamation of eternal devotion is nice, but it's wasted and sad if the affection aren't reciprocated 100%.  If this were a better song, I might even feel disappointed.  As it is, I can only feel only despair.  Despair for the children.  The children conceived to this disaster.

Keep It?  NO

"Star Power"--Sonic Youth

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Of course I found a way to put Sonic Youth on this list. Who the fucking flip are you reading, again?  Don't you by now realize that if I ever got hold of a shirt featuring Snoopy as Joe Cool wearing a Sonic Youth tee, I'd never take that goddamn thing off?  Some joker even put my last name on Urban Dictionary, that's how legendary of a fangirl I am.  

I've said so much about "Star Power," all that's left is this:  Kim Gordon's most glorious pre-blonde moment contains all the ecstasy of sex toys inserted into every moist orifice.

66.  "Just Can't Get Enough"--Depeche Mode

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Aw, what a cute li'l kickstarter.  Some enterprising soul could easily create a viral sensation setting footage of meerkats in motion to this song.  As intellectually-undemanding as a game of Connect Four, as memorable as a rice cake, as bubbly as Miss Piggy singing underwater.

Keep It?  NO

"Never Let Me Down Again"--Depeche Mode

Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  63

The beat's all.  The head is the bass drum, the heart is the snare.  Everywhere else is in thrall to the beat, and their shouts of appreciation complete the composition.

The moment that the sweat-slickened skin has reached maximum elasticity is one to live for.  That terrifically dramatic pedal-smash to finish out the last lengths of what has proven to be a revelatory ride.

65.  "I Want To Know What Love Is"--Foreigner

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

What an odd impact this one makes on me, even thirty years later.  Only guzzling from a 24 ounce cup of gas station coffee then biting into a handful of Old Bay-dusted popcorn compares....

....Or dozing off on a bed constructed from lightly-flavored yet heavily-scented cotton candy.

Belief--despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.  An open heart in a closed-off world.  To know.  To feel.  Vulnerability is to be encouraged and celebrated.  In!  My!  Life!

Why are the Thompson Twins in the cotton-candy bed with me all of a sudden?  I didn't request their presence.

Keep It?  YES

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