In times like these I turn to cheesy music to help get me through, and no decade has stinkier musical cheese than the 80s. I do not believe in guilty pleasures, we like what we like. And while I can talk your ear off about a lot of great underground contemporary music, right now in my time of need I want the musical Doritos and aural RC Cola of my youth. Here's the 80s pop I'm stuffing my ears with right now:
Level 42 "Something About You"
I don't know what it is, but this song just SOUNDS exactly like the 80s. While there is some decently funky bass lurking here beneath the mannered English singing and smooth harmonies, it's still a shiny, glittery piece of 80s pop cubic zirconia. I think I still hear this song in waiting rooms from time to time, the perfect forum for smooth 80s pop music.
Bobby Brown "My Prerogative"
I'm not ashamed to admit that this song taught me the meaning of the word "prerogative." It's got maybe the biggest, dumbest, catchiest rhythm groove of any song to ever hit the top 40 this side of "Louie, Louie" to boot. Bonus points for the prominent keytar in the video.
Laura Branigan "Self Control"
There's a certain kind of darky, synthy 80s pop music that I just can't get enough of. Chuck Eddy referred to the genre as "flashdance" in one of his books, the music of late nights on rain-slicked streets. That world is directly evoked in this video, and Laura Branigan's voice sounds weary of desire in a world made of steel, made of stone. (Sorry, couldn't resist the reference.) As a kid I loved the effects laden guitar that hits hard after the "Oh Oh Oh" bridge. This song seemed to be about an adult world that I could barely even comprehend.
Hall and Oates "Out Of Touch"
Hall and Oates made some pretty awesome jams in their early days, and recently they have undergone a bit of a renaissance, and deservedly so. But man, they started letting their sound get wrapped up in the Big 80s sound circa 1984, draining much of their soul roots in the process. (The video even uses a giant drum set to drive the big-ness of it all home.) On this song they really do master that sound, in all of its overproduced, synthetic glory.
Journey "Who's Crying Now"
People like to remember Journey for their romantic power ballads, whether it's the sappy "Open Arms" or the epic "Don't Stop Believing." They often forget about this song, where I imagine a sleepless Steve Perry at 3AM sitting on his dark stoop smoking a cig and contemplating the dark side of love. It's so wonderfully moody.
Talk Talk "It's My Life"
The arc of New Wave is long, but it bends towards Talk Talk.
Sade "Smooth Operator"
It's like Roger Moore-era James Bond and Sonny Crockett combined in song form. Also includes sultry sax, which was never better than it was in the 80s.
Mick Jagger "Just Another Night"
Okay, this one I don't actually like, I just think it's fun to gawk at just how awful and ridiculous Mick Jagger was in the 80s. It is funny to think that at this point he thought he could ditch the Stones and strike out on his own, when without Keef his music is flimsy at best. And don't even get me started about the ballet shoes.