Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

See list criteria here.

20.  America”, Neil Diamond– Neil Diamond was not my favorite artist growing up, but his music has grown on me as I have aged.  Where I would have turned him off in the 80s, now I will listen to his music, and all of his songs have strong choruses.  I like the patriotic aspect of this song also.

19.  “Morning Train (Nine To Five)”, Sheena Easton– This song was huge at the time (maybe to the point if overplay), and it has catchy (almost monotonous) beat.  You could count on hearing this song on the way to work every day for about two years.  “For Your Eyes Only” was also a very good song released by Sheena Easton in this year, and it was hard to choose between the two.

18.  “Young Turks”, Rod Stewart  I was never a big Rod Stewart fan what with the whole stomach-pumping rumors and all (Yes, I know it was all untrue now, but we did not have Snopes back then, and we were stuck with the rumors we had.  By, the time the truth was revealed, the damage was done).  That all being said, this song has a strong melody, and his voice does not sound so much like sand paper in this song.

17.  “Leader of the Band”, Dan Fogelberg– I always really liked this song, and it was easy for me to apply it to the relationship that I had with my own father.  Since his death, it only seems to apply better.  Same Old Lang Syne” was also a great song that was released in the same year and charted higher than “Leader of the Band”, but I just like “Leader of the Band” more.

16.  “Shake It Up”, The Cars– This is the first great Cars’ song of the 80s.  It has the quirky, syncopated style that eventually style that eventually becomes a staple of Cars’ music.

15.  “Arthur’s Theme”, Christopher Cross– I doesn’t get much more melodic or sing-able than the theme from the movie Arthur, though it is a little on the soft rock side of the scale.  It will always be one of the best movie theme songs.

14.  “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, The Police– This is another upbeat and very good release for the British punk band.  It is the kind of tune that stays in your head in a good way.

13.  “Jessie’s Girl”, Rick Springfield– I have always thought of Rick Springfield as ‘Bruce Springstein without the edge’.  This was a huge hit at the time with a chorus that was easy to sing along with.

12.  “Who Can It Be Now?”, Men at Work– This is the first song released by the quirky group from Australia, and is my second favorite Men at Work song.  I have fond memories of this group because it was my ‘gateway drug’ from Country to Pop music.  I was a big fan right up to the point that I rented their “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” concert video.  My ‘gay-dar’ was not as precisely tuned at that time, but when I saw Colin Hay and the rest of the members of the band prancing around on the stage, I slotted the band with what became an ever growing number of androgynous, quasi-gay 80s bands that put out decent music, but whose concerts I would never go to.

11.  “Urgent”, Foreigner– This was the first hit off of Foreigner’s mega album “4”.  The percussion and keyboards (keyboards supplied by the great Thomas Dolby) has a nice syncopated quality that usually causes the listener to tap his foot or nod his head.

10.  “Our Lips Are Sealed”, The Go Go’s– This was the lead song off The Go Go’s debut album “Beauty and the Beat”.  Belinda Carlisle lent her nice, sexy vocals to the band’s sometimes overly energetic style.  This song stayed on the charts for over a year, an impressive feat for any 80s hit.

9.  “You Make My Dreams”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– This is second song from the early 80s powerhouse Hall and Oates, and is the last single to be released from “Voices”.  Like several of the other songs.  This song almost has a 50s doo-wop feel to it, and I like it better than the Mega-hit “Private Eyes” which was the first song off of the album of the same name.  “Private Eyes” is a little too-cool-for-school for me, and it does not have the staying power of its predecessor.  I chose this song over “Kiss On My List” which I also like a lot.

8.  “The Tide Is High”, Blondie– The main problem that I had with Blondie was Debbie Harry and her ‘Children of the Corn’ eyes.  I found her hard to look at, but she was a beauty compared with that horse-faced Toni Basil.  The Tide is High is a pretty mellow song for this group, but I like it better than anything else that they released.

7.  “Endless Love”, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie– With this song, Lionel Richie began to make a name for himself outside of the Commodores.  It is still Ross’s best selling hit, and the harmonies between Ross and Richie are superb.  The only downside to it is that it was title song of a dreadful movie starring Brooke Shields.

6.  “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, Pat Benatar– Pat Benatar is the best and most prolific rocker-girl of the early 80s, and this song is vintage Benatar, complete with ricochet sounds.  She is one of the few rocker-girls that did not seem screechy to me when she would belt it out.

5.  “The One That You Love”, Air Supply– For some reason, Air Supply decided to confuse all of its fans in 1981 by releasing a song with the very pronounced chorus ‘Here I am, the one that you love’ and another song named “Here I am” that only used these words at the very first of the song, and had a chorus that said, ‘Just when I thought I was over you….”  This was all unnecessarily confusing, though I like both songs.

4.  “Celebration”, Kool and The Gang– This song held the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100 for six weeks, and charted for over a year.  Its disco-funk chorus, of course, had a great beat and base line.  This song is still a staple at most wedding receptions.

3.  “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey– This release from the great Journey album ‘Escape’ is the signature song for the band today.  It is another of the harder songs that are more associated with Graham Nash by many Journey fans than Steve Perry.  The song recently received a revival when it was featured prominently in the last episode of The Sopranos.  “Who’s Crying Now” was also released this year.

2.  “Keep On Loving You”, REO Speedwagon– This is a truly great song by a band that would become an 80s power ballad staple.  “Take It On The Run” was also recorded in this year, but for me, there was no question which of the two was the best song.  It was played on MTV’s first day, and still can be heard regularly today.  It was released on the album Hi Fidelity, and was one of two great songs on this album.

1.  “In The Air Tonight”, Phil Collins– This is my favorite Phil Collins song ever, and one of my favorite songs of all time.  It is dark and edgy, and led to one of the greatest urban legends of all time.  Supposedly, Phil had written the song about an evil man who had allowed one of his friends to drown when they were on a trip to the beach.  According to the legend, Phil later invited the evil man to a concert, and sang the song to him.  Of course, when Phil was asked about this, he did not know what the hell the reporter was talking about.  He simply expressed the truth that this song like “Against All Odds” was written during a tough divorce from his wife.  I’m sure that he and Ben Folds could get together and write a song that would force the listener to commit suicide.  True greatness.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 100 Creepy People #91-100

Creepy Person #100- Brad Pitt

Why Brad Pitt?  He has really grown as an actor in the past decade, and I like him in most of the roles I see these days.  His creepiness is by association.  He is dating Angelina Jolie who is also creepy by association.  She was married to Billy Bob Thornton (one of the creepiest people on the planet), and together, they forged a bond based on creepiness (more on this later).  That kind of creepy does not wash off.  It’s always there in the back of your mind, and no matter how beautiful she may be, you are still only one relationship removed from being in bed with Billy Bob himself (shiver).

 

Creepy Person #99- Paula Abdul

Paula is weird, and she may have a substance abuse problem.  She often looks and sounds like the female version of a letch as she fauns over the contestants of the show be they male or female. Like several of the women on this list, she is using everything she can in a losing battle to fight the effects of aging.

 

Creepy Person # 98 Constantine Maroulis

Since he was the genesis of this whole idea, I honestly thought he would come in at a higher spot, but he just does not have the fame or the creepy ‘cred’ that many of those above him do.  I still believe he is the creepiest Idol contestant in the history of the show, and I will say again, that I would not let my daughter travel to a state where I knew him to be.

 

Creepy Person #97 Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen is what Constantine Maroulis would be if he could really pull chicks.  He has plowed ground in an unending furrow from coast to coast, but that was not enough.  He married Denise Richards (hot!), but that was also not enough.  No, this guy who had Denise Richards at home and could have had pretty much any woman ‘for free,’ still went out and bought hookers, so much so, that he is fairly notorious for it.  I’m sure there is a Ven diagram where my jealousy toward him and my feeling that he is creepy begin to occupy the same space.  This fact only makes me feel dirty and creepier.

 

Creepy Person #96- Mariah Carey

I’ve seen the concert rider.  Green M&Ms, a toilet that has never been used, and that is just the first paragraph of six typed pages.  Guys will put up with a lot for a beautiful woman, but crazy wears you out pretty fast, if it does not kill you in your sleep.

 

Creepy Person #95- Jerry Seinfeld

All of Hollywood may ignore it, but just because you are famous does not make it alright to be a pedophile.  She was 17 when they started dating.

 

Creepy Person #94- Ben Folds

I love everything I have heard by this guy, but the more you listen to his lyrics the more you realize what a screwed up SOB he is.  It takes a lot of pain to write like that, and most people could never convey those feelings half as well or as tortured as he does.  I give any relationship he is in about a 2% chance of success, in fact, give me the under on that bet.

 

Creepy Person #93- Mr. Rogers

I have a friend who loves this guy.  First off, watching that show and seeing him follow the same process from beginning to end each day would leave any child a little OCD.  He looks like the type of guy who knows how many steps it takes to get him to the corner of his street.  The dress only adds to the creepiness.  Not once in all of the years he was on television did he seem to be affected by fashion trends.  It was the same thing everyday.  No one could be like that all of the time.  He is the poster boy for people saying, “He always seemed like such a nice person.”  Nice until they dig up all of the graves, that is.

 

Creepy Person #92- Pokemon

I know this is not a person, but there is definitely something creepy and insidious about Pokemon.  Kids seemed to be captivated by this primitive animation that could have taken lessons from G-Force.  And, the never-ending card game that went along with it whose only purpose was to get kids to buy more of the game was creepy.

 

Creepy Person #91- Nick Nolte

Nick Nolte is Gary Busey Light, a lighter slightly less offensive and creepy version of the original.  He still gets the DUIs and looks like he stinks, but not as bad as Busey.  I think the photo says it all .

Top 100 Creepy People Criteria

Top 100 Creepy People 10-1

Top 100 Creepy People 21-30

Top 100 Creepy People 31-40

Top 100 Creepy People 41-50

Top 100 Creepy People 51-60

Top 100 Creepy People 61-70

Top 100 Creepy People 71-80

Top 100 Creepy People 81-90

Top 100 Creepy People 91-100

Lists

 

The End of the Music Industry as We Know It

Find my latest American Idol article here.

This week we were treated to another example of the musical apocalypse that is already upon us.  Paula Abdul’s new song is a hit?  Ryan Seacrest reported that her new single off Randy Jackson’s album was the most downloaded song on I-tunes.

Amazing.  Simply Amazing.

For me it just shows just how far the industry has fallen in such a short amount of time.  Of course the internet gets most of the blame, but is it solely to blame for an entire industry’s implosion?  I say that the Abdul song is evidence to the contrary.

I saw this happen once before to another genre of music.  I used to really like Contemporary Christian Music (CCM for those really into it).  Dallas had a radio station that was probably the best in the genre (KOJO later to become KLTY).  At the time, there was difference in the tone of CCM, not just the lyrics.  When tuning past the dial, I could tell when I passed KOJO, just by the style of the music without even hearing the words.  The songs were strong on melody, with often powerful or fun choruses that were easy to sing along with (and no, I’m not talking about the ‘praise music’ that came along about a decade later).  Artists like Michael W Smith, Phil Keagy, Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, and later the great and greatly missed Rich Mullins.  These artists put out good songs, and were good (in some cases great) musicians.

The problem came when KLTY was bought out by Word music, the biggest producer of CCM which was based in Waco, and then Las Colinas (Dallas).  When this happened, the music on the station changed.  The station simply became a clearing house for anything Word music produced.  At the time, I referred to the music as “bubble-gum.”  It was largely a collection of monotonous, upbeat songs that reminded one of anything else that was being pushed on any pop station.  The melodies became cute, and less pleasing to the ear.

I dropped out.  The station began to insist on playing the same sub-par groups and music on an hourly basis, most of the time twice an hour.  I moved on musically.  Later, the “praise music” crazy swept through CCM, but the producers never got it.  Far about a decade the same dozen or so songs were recorded and released by everyone in the CCM industry.  What a beating.  The producers never understood that aside from the religious overtones of the praise music, these songs were popular because they had strong melodies, and often very powerful choruses.  They could also be sung, in contrast to most Mariah Carey songs.

CCM preceded pop music into the same abyss.  It is popular for people in the music industry to criticize the 80’s.  These are often the same producer types who have been shoveling the same pile of musical s— at the public for the past two decades.  They are all style over substance.  It is more important that music reflect attitude than music.  Whenever the odd sing-able tune is released, it usually becomes a mega-hit (Arms of the Angel, Sarah McLachlan, for example and there are others), but the musical consumer is lucky to get one of the songs per album (and oddly, album sales are really in the toilet).

There are no more Chicago 17s out there, an album that produced a string of hits, and was listenable from cover to cover.  The industry needs to go back to the 80’s and reintroduce America to good music with strong melodies produced by groups that are musically superior, not just good looking.

Will all of this save the music industry?  Probably not.  They have already lost a generation, and the internet is currently dealing it a death-blow, but there is still money to be made out there and creative ways to do it.  The place to start the reinvention of this industry is with the music, however, and there are artists out there already producing the music (see Ben Folds).  All industry needs to do is find them and promoted them.  Paula’s song is not terrible but it’s not that great either.  It is like anything you might hear from Britney Spears in the past few years (this would be the music that I am criticizing).  Its popularity is a reflection of the dearth of choices out there right now.  I’ve got a friend who coined a phrase a few years ago that would apply well to this situation.  I paraphrase:  “Her song is just the shiny turd in the bucket of s—.”

The popularity of American Idol and its artists show a desire from the public to hear good music, but you’ll notice that those who do well Idol, not only sing well, they choose good music.  This can be seen in the 1 billion times a season that someone talks about “song choice” on the show.