Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 2

Well, after a rather long pause – the second round.  This takes us through to Valentine’s Day on each of the years in question.  The ground rules and such are here.  The new additions here?

“Rock With You” by Michael Jackson (1980) – The clear number one of songs that were number one on a particular day I care about, this was the second #1 from Off the Wall, one of the greatest brand extensions in pop culture history.  He died as a rather creepy serial weirdo, but it is impossible to explain to the kiddos how big a deal Michael Jackson was.  His canon still holds. (48 points)

“Down Under” by Men At Work (1983) – Honestly, there are very few songs which evoke the decade like this one. The video is unforgettable, and honestly – it still shapes my mind of what Australia actually looks like. Needless to say, I do not read a lot. (44 points)

“The Tide is High” by Blondie (1981) – Seriously, Blondie almost seems too good to lump into a survey of pop songs. Deborah Harry’s studied super-cool indifference is extremely magnetic, charismatic from anti-charisma as it were. This is probably my favorite of their big hits. (42 points)

“Centerfold” by The J Geils Band (1982) – The best popular song Boston has ever produced by among the best bands it has produced. It was the number one in the Top 40 flashback Sirius did this past week. There is nothing that is not compulsively listenable or singable about this. Off topic, power rankings from Boston (42 points)

1. Centerfold
2. Love to Love You by Donna Summer
27. You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor
772. Summer Girls by LFO

“Celebration” by Kool and the Gang (1981) – If you have ever been to a wedding in the States, this might have happened. The song has aged well in its intended form. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be profound. If Earth, Wind and Fire were not a thing, Kool and the Gang would be way up there if all you wanted to do was be happy. (38 points)

“Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club (1984) – Boy George was the first androgenous pop star I remembered. While this is not the band’s best song – it’s awfully close. Hell, “Time won’t give me time” from that song probably explains the conundrum of life better than anything any philosopher has written. The video datelines “Mississippi, 1870” which contradicts how I pictured Reconstruction. It is hard to listen to this without smiling. (38 points)

“So Emotional” by Whitney Houston (1988) – She’ll come up a lot in this series. I have written about her before when she died. This was probably her fastest song – and certainly one which does not underline her chops. But it’s less croony qualities work really well. Honestly, when you see how hard dealing with stuff was for her, it is striking just how natural and easy this stuff looked. (38 points)

“Need You Tonight” by INXS (1988) – Actually, I remember the “Mediate” second half of the video more. INXS was one of the better more consistent acts of the decade – with a distinctive sound. This was their biggest hit, with a VMA winning video (back when that was something which you’d remember). (38 points)

“Two Hearts” by Phil Collins (1989) – I like Phil Collins. This is not something I will defend. It clearly will color the rankings here. He is often derivative of his influences, but fortunately those influences are things I like too. This is a pretty clear attempt to reach back to 1960s Britpop – and it actually works on that dimension. (38 points)

“Got My Mind Set on You” by George Harrison (1988) – This is a pretty silly, kind of indefensible song. But it’s George Harrison – and there is so much cheeky charm, that you kind of go with it. It has the same spirit of the Beatles. The Beatles, especially early, evoked smiles – this made me smile. (37 points)

“My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown (1989) – 1989 is really the year I got into pop music generally. This was near the top of the pops at the time – I think the Don’t Be Cruel record was one of the first tapes I owned. This was actually kind of risque 27 years ago. Of course, it looks quaint now. (37 points)

“Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes (1984) – Obejctively, one of the best pure songs on the list. I don’t have the same affection as for others – and it’s my list dammit. But this is a legitimately outstanding prog rock piece. (36 points)

“Open Your Heart” by Madonna (1987) – Honestly, this qualifies as lesser Madonna for me. This is still ridiculously evocative and the song itself is not bad. But really, looking at other stuff which she did in the 1980s, there were better songs. Of course, there is the peep show – ever the marketer. (36 points)

“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson (1988) – The third single from Bad. This is a lesser Michael Jackson entry – which actually shows how high his floor was in his heyday. (35 pts)

“Straight Up” by Paula Abdul (1989) – For better or for worse, this unleashed Paula Abdul on the American psyche, and thus made her eligible to be a has-been by the time American Idol rolled around. The bonus Arsenio Hall appearance here is an extra point. He was cool once (?) (35 points)

“I Can’t Go For That” by Hall and Oates (1982) – We discussed them in the first entry of this series. The videos are just so awkward. This is not one of my favorite songs of their. (33 points)

“That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick and Friends (1986) – It’s pretty soppy, and the video has a lot of overacting. It’s a pleasant enough song – but it’s real virtue is Elton John’s curious wardrobe choice here. I am not sure whether Laurence Fishburne used it as inspiration for his gear on Pee Wee’s Playhouse, but I’d understand. (33 points)

“Africa” by Toto (1983) – Toto is one of those bands who have done more songs than you think. That 99 song, “Hold The Line”, “Rosanna”. This is their best though, and the video shows some of the characteristics of more ambitious stuff as MTV inspired these things to be more cinematic, and thus sillier. (32 points)

“At This Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters (1987) – Given that it’s revival was launched by a TV show (Family Ties), it had to have a high rating for 80’s zeitgeist. It’s a good song, but one I don’t remember honestly without looking it up otherwise. (30 points)

“Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott (1987) – This is a song I like better than I should, given the genre and tempo. It is pretty dated now – but somehow the smoothness works for me still. (29 points)

“I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner (1985) – Despite the extra points for Lou Gramm’s rather spectacular hair, this is a pretty lousy turn for a fairly entertaining 70s rock band. The part when the choir comes in is particularly snort inducing. (24 points)

“Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes (1980) – Like “Please Don’t Go”, this song really reads 70s more than anything. It is funny and cheesy, but hard to rank up there at all. (23 points)

“Could’ve Been” by Tiffany (1988) – The other big Tiffany hit, and does not age well at all. The earnestness combined with the tempo combined with her just not being that talented makes this hard to sit through. (22 points)

“When I’m With You” by Sheriff (1989) – The 80s were all about rock ballads. This is a particularly bad one. (20 points)

The Big Board

Song Artist
1 Rock With You Michael Jackson
2 Down Under Men At Work
3 Faith George Michael
4 Like a Virgin Madonna
5 Centerfold J Geils Band
6 The Tide Is High Blondie
7 Walk Like an Egyptian Bangles
8 Karma Chameleon Culture Club
9 Celebration Kool and the Gang
10 So Emotional Whitney Houston
11 Two Hearts Phil Collins
12 Need You Tonight INXS
13 Every Rose Has Its Thorn Poison
14 My Prerogative Bobby Brown
15 Got My Mind Set on You George Harrison
16 Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes
17 Maneater Darryl Hall and John Oates
18 Open Your Heart Madonna
19 Say, Say, Say Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
20 Straight Up Paula Abdul
21 The Way You Make Me Feel Michael Jackson
22 That’s What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick
23 Physical Olivia Newton John
24 I Can’t Go For That Hall and Oates
25 Africa Toto
26 At This Moment Billy Vera and the beaters
27 Shake You Down Gregory Abbott
28 Say You, Say Me Lionel Richie
29 (Just Like) Starting Over John Lennon
30 I Want to Know What Love Is Foreigner
31 Escape (The Pina Colada Song) Rupert Holmes
32 Could’ve Been Tiffany
33 When I’m With You Sheriff
34 Please Don’t Go KC and the Sunshine Band
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