Livin’ the Eighties, Eighties, Eighties…

Let’s post some badass ’80s dance-synth pop-new wave songs up in here! I’ll get it started, but I hope you all will chime in with suggestions. Feed me your more obscure dance gems! Share the gold!

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Duran Duran – “Save a Prayer”

This song is one of my favorite Duran Duran singles. This was filmed in Sri Lanka, and I don’t know what the footage of them running around with elephants and half-naked little boys has to do with uh…a one-night stand? Still, the point is that Duran Duran wrote some awesome, catchy, dancey pop music in the ’80s and you’d do yourself well to check it out.

This is off their famous album Rio, which as my friend informed me, “is supposed to be their masterpiece”.

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Eddie Money (w/Ronnie Spector) – “Take Me Home Tonight”

Eddie Money always has a pretty good sense of humor in his videos (for his early ones, at least). But this was Eddie Money’s biggest hit, and it’s pretty serious (as in, it’s good but he also doesn’t fuck around in the video, ‘numsayin’?). And whenever it comes on TV or anything else, I have to watch it. At first I thought the song was just cheesy and that I was horrified by it. But I realized it is incredibly catchy and straight-to-the-basics pop songwriting.

There’s also a sax solo, and some mysterious woman (Ronnie Spector) who doesn’t appear that much but sings a tiny little part and…man it’s quite weird how this song works so well!

It’s pretty nuts. See if you can resist!

Note the old-school arena Eddie’s standing in. What happened to those ridiculous octagon-type stages for popular bands? You know, the 360-degree stadium seating, a la Def Leppard? I mean, if you’re going to have a big pop act, you might as well…

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Madonna – “Borderline”

Madonna’s music was good before she went insane. As far as ’80s pop goes, her songs are pretty legit. But everything she’s done since then is (to me) pretty unappealing.

Let me recount a conversation my friend and I had about Madonna:

Moi: You a Madonna fan?

Mystery friend: I don’t like her image. I think it’s sacrilegious and unnecessary.

Moi: That’s true, but some of her older music is pretty cool.

Mystery friend: And you can thank her producers for that.

Well, touche good sir! But regardless, stuff’s pretty on point for ’80s dance. “Borderline”, the pinnacle of ’80s style!

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Michael Jackson – “Smooth Criminal”

What I never realized as a teenager is that the insane appeal Michael Jackson has is massively inflicted by his insane dance ability. And not only that, Michael Jackson’s videos have the most ridiculously incredible choreographed dance possible. I personally have almost no interest in choreographed pop-music dancing, but every single pop musician after Michael Jackson is trying to copy him (to little success).

But the choreographed dance thing doesn’t work by itself. MJ was a fucking masterful dancer, this is something I can see now looking back at his videos. Other pop stars try to mimic him, and even ridiculous superstars like Madonna can reach a pinnacle of physical ability and not match him. So I have to ask, why do these other modern pop stars deserve their pop status? I think being a pop star is a curse, but these people want it and generally don’t show anything close — nowhere fucking near — the natural charisma and integrity possessed by Michael Jackson. He wasn’t a musician, but a pop spectacle. Learn the difference.

Also of interest: his albums and movies and videos always created this weird dark fantasy universe where Michael was like some strange, dangerous alien (kind of like his real life today). And he dances his way through ordeals, or represents the events through his dancing. It’s actually a pretty cool idea, and completely unique to Michael Jackson. His videos (at least for Dangerous and everything before it) feature this kind of interplay between friends and enemies that you won’t see in any other videos. His dancing becomes symbolic — like it’s a trance that almost ensnares you, which is positively strange, considering it’s pop-music not shamanism!

It’s pretty clear the more extravagant hip-hop videos of the mid-late ’90s are trying to copy these cinematic elements. But again, it works for Jackson because when he did it, it was so damn unique, he was throwing multiple elements into it (good songwriters, unique vocals, outstanding choreography and dance performances and high budgets) and he had this crazy charisma that was so off-the-wall. It’s like if Steve Vai could dance or something (and let someone else write his songs and choose his wardrobe, you know what I mean?).

I don’t think Michael put as much thought into this, so much as pure effort. And the videos and what he wrote for them just reflect his off-the-wall (crazy?) personality. But put it all together and you have some really zany, unique shit. Michael Jackson seems to have been an experience, and a performer who thrived on music videos as a medium. Like Madonna, he’s selling himself on something that requires a physical acknowledgment– a visual sensory transmission to go with the music.

Michael Jackson (and perhaps the machine that surrounded him) was a completely innovative force in pop music. I feel like the Lisa-Marie marriage was perverse in that Jackson is the legitimate heir to the Elvis legacy; as the definitive musical reformer, heretic and unfortunate freak show of generations. Pop music today is just rehashing and regurgitating stuff that Michael Jackson and Madonna did way more effectively 20 years ago. But ain’t that always the case?

(Damn, MJ videos seem to be disabled from embedding, so you’ll have to go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WjOn5TNjBM to see it.)

MJ would be pretty rad presently if he gave concerts with a ninja mask on, so as not to reveal his constantly mutating appearance. Thus would leave us reveling in our individual interpretations of the hideous visual display that has become his face. Realistically, though, I think he may have had it.

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on December 15, 2007.

2 Responses to “Livin’ the Eighties, Eighties, Eighties…”

  1. 1) MJ is a dance icon. So’s his little sis, Janet, whom you should include on this list. Her “Pleasure Principle” is one of my all-time faves. The video is simple, the synth beats hot, and her look is 80s rocker. (The entire “Control” album is amazing!) Also, it’s funny you mention MJ as being “off the wall,” as that’s the name of his fantastic, FANTASTIC late-70s album.

    2) DURAN DURAN IS ONE MY ALL-TIME LOVES! Simon LeBon rocks my world.

    3) Who said Madge is sacriligous? She’s a pop GENIUS.

  2. (1) That’s interesting, I haven’t heard any of that (but honestly, that’s probably because the Jacksons freak me out a little bit. They reinvented plastic surgery as much as any brand of pop music…)

    I think if I could dance like anyone, it would be MJ circa the early-mid 80s. It’s just too fucking original. (In the 90s he went insane, what with the crotch-grabbing)

    (3) Ha! Let’s just say he goes by the handle, “fieldsurgeon”.

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