Tom Breihan passed a notable milestone this week in his The Number Ones series: he finished the 1980s. Most days I just glance at the comments. But Monday, as Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” closed out the decade, I read deep into them, enjoying commenters’ various picks of favorites, most hated, most overlooked, etc tracks.
I don’t participate in the comments section, so I’ll share some of my picks here.
My top 10 Number One songs of the 1980s:
1 – “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince & The Revolution, 1984. Not my favorite of his songs (my favorite peaked at #2), but my favorite of his number ones.
2 – “Open Your Heart” – Madonna, 1987. Just a perfect little pop song augmented by a fabulous video.
3 – “Out of Touch” – Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1984. Another tough choice from many H&O choices. Like “Let’s Go Crazy,” it’s not my favorite H&O song, but it is a very close second to a track that also peaked at #2.
4 – “Miss You Much” – Janet Jackson, 1989. This feels more like a ‘90s song since most of the singles off Rhythm Nation peaked after the turn of the decade and they were so influential on the music of the ‘90s. But this hit in late 1989, so it’s a legit ‘80s track.
5 – “Down Under” – Men at Work, 1982. Maybe THE essential song of the MTV era.
6 – “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson, 1983. Again, tough to choose from many options. This suffers just a bit because I’ve never been sure if I like it or “Beat It” more.
7 – “West End Girls” – Pet Shop Boys, 1986. I’m always a little surprised and pleased when I remember this hit number one.
8 – “Owner of a Lonely Heart” – Yes, 1984. An odd song, both in general and in Yes’ discography. It was odd in a good way, though, and remains an absolute jam.
9 – “When Doves Cry” – Prince, 1984. One of the first songs I can remember that haunted me after I heard it for the first time because it was so good.
10 – “Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League, 1982. This along with “Tainted Love” were massive songs to me as I shifted toward picking my own music rather than just listening to what my mom played.
Just missed: “Like a Prayer,” Madonna; “Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper; “Beat It,” Michael Jackson; “Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes.
Biggest surprises from reading through Breihan’s 1980s entries:
1 – How freaking huge Phil Collins was. I remember him having a ton of songs, but did not remember him being as massive as he truly was. Seven number ones as a solo artist, with two more top tens. A number two hit in “Easy Lover” with Phillip Bailey. Another number one and five top tens with Genesis. That’s nuts! It’s easy to make fun of Collins for a variety of reasons. And some of those songs are true crap. But a few are still pretty solid. He deserves to be in the pantheon of ‘80s artists whether or not he is your cup of tea.
2 – A new appreciation for George Michael. I was never a huge fan. It was interesting to read about his development as an artist, how he was one of the few white artists to make Black-influenced music that came off as authentic rather than a rip-off of Black culture, and how visionary he was in carving out his career.
3 – The Heart song “Alone.” I had always thrown this in with all the other crappy power-ballads of the era. After reading Tom’s write up I was convinced that it is a freaking beast of a song. I’ve cranked it way up the two or three times I’ve heard it since I read about it.
Now, for balance, here are my ten least favorite number ones of the 1980s.
1 – “Kokomo” – The Beach Boys, 1988. There are a lot of legit choices for worst number one song of the 1980s. To my ears, this blows all the contenders away. This is a truly wretched track that sums up the disaster that was The Beach Boys under Mike Love’s control.
2 – “Do That To Me One More Time” – The Captain and Tennille, 1980. A song that seriously makes me want to vomit. And that’s before knowing how dark and sad their private life was.
3 – “Wind Beneath My Wings” – Bette Midler, 1989. Hot garbage.
4 – “Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis, 1982. Garbage.
5 – “Endless Love” – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie, 1981. A true piece of crap. This was somehow supposed to represent teenagers being in some kind of forbidden love? The fact it was number one for a million weeks is a crime against humanity that Lionel still needs to be held accountable for since he wrote it.
6 – “Say You, Say Me” – Lionel Richie, 1985. A song that makes no sense, lyrically or musically.
7 – “The One That You Love” – Air Supply, 1981. I will shit on Air Supply any time I get a chance.
8 – “Ebony and Ivory” – Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, 1982. It’s is frankly stunning that two of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music could make something this bad.
9 – “Hangin’ Tough” – New Kids on the Block, 1989. Set back white boys like 100 years with this bullshit. They might have sold more records, but NKOTB could never hold New Edition’s collective jock.
10 – “Lady” – Kenny Rogers, 1980. Guess who wrote this? LIONEL FUCKING RICHIE, THAT’S WHO.