The 1980s has a bit of an advantage on other decades, in that generally the things people like about it are the same as the things people don’t like about it. I don’t much like terms such as “guilty pleasure” and “so bad it’s good”, but the 1980s did cheesy and overblown so damn well and was proud of it. While it’s often said to have had a feeling that “greed is good”, there is a bit of a “go out and GET IT!” feel to some of these tracks, with Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ and Irene Cara’s ‘Fame’ being good examples of this, and the shamelessness of it goes in its favour. The bright, multicoloured style of much of the 1980s is still appealing today, although the gaudy clothes, heavy make-up and sprayed hair and perms – and that’s just the blokes – look peculiar at times.
The 1980s was a great decade for electronic music, from synthpop to the beginnings of dance/club music, and in terms of great pop songs being number one hits, it was very strong. The artist who had the most was Madonna. She would become known as the Queen of Pop, and it’s fair to say her star was born here. She has some of her very best work here, with ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘Into The Groove’ and ‘Papa Don’t Preach’. Even the ones that aren’t as well remembered these days ‘True Blue’ and ‘Who’s That Girl?’ are quite good. While he had been around for some time, this was the decade the self-proclaimed King Of Pop Michael Jackson became a superstar, with ‘Billie Jean’ arguably being the song that cemented it.If the 1970s had a large number of comedy records, the 1980s… had a few too, but what it stands out for is having a lot of charity records, with the Band Aid – ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ setting a standard that, to be honest, the others didn’t live up to.
There are some memorable one hit wonders. Some are remembered very fondly, such as ’99 Red Balloons’ by Nena and ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka. Then there are those which crop up regularly on those 100 Worse Hit Number Ones Of All Time list, such as Joe Dolce Musical Theatre, St. Winifred’s School Choir and Renee & Renato. There are also a handful of tracks which you probably couldn’t get away with in any other decade, like Phil Collins covering The Supremes, Kajagoogoo and songs that were an odd combination of being schmaltzy in a rather smug way, Jim Diamond and Chris De Burgh tracks being the worst offenders.
My pick of the bunch:
1) Madonna – Like A Prayer
2) The Jam – Going Underground
3) Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
4) The Bangles – Eternal Flame
5) Black Box – Ride On Time
6) Madonna – Into The Groove
7) Blondie – Atomic
8) The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
9) John Lennon – Imagine
10) David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes