As expected, my three month trial of Apple Music has turned into a giant Music Nostalgia Machine.
I’ve been adding songs to a playlist cleverly called Pop Stuff. If I Think of a song, I add it. Most of them were songs I liked but not enough to buy the albums they were on because I was cheap and/or picky.
Here’s the list so far because, as has been established, I like lists. The songs are in the order I added them, which is random.
Save a Prayer. Duran Duran’s weirdly soothing mix of synths and guitars is both very 80s and yet timeless.
Don’t You Want Me. This was notable in being the first all-synth song to go #1. That seems positively quaint today, but in 1981 it was the first taste of what was to come.
The Safety Dance. The video is silly, the song is silly, the name of the band is silly, but it’s just so catchy. Also, synths because the 80s.
Ray of Light. From 1998, this may be Madonna’s best song. Effervescent, propulsive and vocally exciting.
Got to Get You Into My Life. I always liked this Beatles song. I think the brassy horns did it because as a kid I didn’t know what brassy horns were, I just knew I liked them.
Something About You. What lifts this song is both the soaring falsetto of keyboardist Mike Lindup and the funky bass of Mark King. The video features King as this weird pantomime character that turns seriously creepy toward the end of the song. I have no idea what they were going for.
Beat It. Never had enough interest in Jackson to commit to his albums, but really liked “Beat It.” The start of his vocal tics doesn’t diminish it.
Billie Jean. More tics and as David Letterman pointed out in 1982, he totally says “chair” instead of “child.”
Voices Carry. This song doesn’t hold up as well as I thought it would, but the chorus is still sweetly sung.
Radio Ga Ga. A guilty pleasure of sorts. The video, which intercuts clips from Metropolis, doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s fun to watch, especially the bits with the band in the flying car. Most of them look vaguely uncomfortable.
Under Pressure. This song is a lot weirder than you probably remember. Freddie Mercury vamps it up while Bowie treats it Very Seriously.
We Will Rock You. Queen enters arena mode. And it works.
We Are the Champions. Arena mode, but quieter.
We Belong. Pat Benatar turns nice and this is a nice song.
White Rabbit. Amusingly subversive, the way Grace Slick’s vocals build to a crescendo is still really effective.
I Want You to Want Me. A fellow student was constantly playing Cheap Trick in Drawing & Painting class, so I pretty much knew their first two albums by heart. This song is even slighter than I remembered. Surrender is better.
Heat of the Moment. Asia was one of those “supergroups” that had the unfortunate luck of peaking with their debut, making everything after a bit of a disappointment. This song is still catchy and serves as a kind of template for what some call the widescreen music of the 80s.
Beds are Burning. Peter Garret has a weird voice and dances like a chicken, but this song delivers its message about the plight of Australian aboriginals in a slick package. Also the other band members were all really hot. I’m just sayin’.
A Horse With No Name. The lyrics are silly (“the heat was hot”) but the layered vocals are as smooth now as they were in 1971.
The Reason. The jewel robbery of the video bears no relation to the content of the song, but that’s okay. There’s nothing outstanding here, but it all fits together so well it doesn’t matter. Plus more hot band members. Just sayin’.
She Loves Everybody. One of the newer songs on the list. I don’t recall how I came across Chester French, the short-lived duo, but this song (and video) are amusing and catchy. I like catchy music. I need to find a synonym for “catchy.”
Skyfall. As Bond themes go, this is one of the best. It’s theatrical, Adele’s vocals lend it the proper gravitas, and the orchestration works perfectly. The lyrics range from opaque to silly, fitting with Bond, really.
Empty Garden. Elton John’s tribute to John Lennon. This one really takes me back to 1981.
(Just Like) Starting Over. The above inspired me to get this, Lennon’s fun take on renewal, which gleefully changes style throughout, not to mention Lennon’s occasional riffs on Elvis. Enough time has elapsed that listening to it no longer makes me feel sad.
9 to 5. Short, catchy and perfectly calibrated to the movie that it served as the theme for. In the 1980s Dolly Parton could do no wrong.
Can’t Smile Without You. Barry Manilow came out as gay at the age of 73. I hate to tell you this, Barry, but we kind of knew. This is classic Manilow–big, schmaltzy, but also kind of irresistible.
Waiting for a Girl Like You. My favorite Foreigner song. I love the icy keyboards.
Can’t Fight This Feeling. Another guilty pleasure. A bit too slick for its own good, this REO Speedwagon hit is terrific in small does.
Angel of the Morning. I love the brief martial drum in Juice Newton’s cover.
Africa. I know there’s some Toto song I really liked back when they were big (around the time of Toto IV). I thought this was it, but listening to it, I’m not so sure. Maybe it was Rosanna?
Take On Me. Everyone remembers the video, but I’m still impressed at how lead vocalist Morten Harket climbs through the octaves during the chorus.
Hold Me Now. Not sure if guilty pleasure. But dare I say it–catchy? The Thompson Twins also serve as an early example of inclusiveness.
Some Like It Hot. Power Station was another supergroup that debuted big, then disappeared (they did do a second album about a decade later). The song opens with big, crunchy percussion and Robert Palmer growls and croons his way through this with aplomb.
Sledgehammer. Everyone remembers the video, but the song itself is an amusing delight all on its own.