Sometimes these things just write themselves, like, say, when you start thinking about 80s music... this one's a gimme:
- Rick Springfield, Don't Talk To Strangers. ...and then General Hospital made him a star, and what had seemed merely amusing became stifling. This vaguely stalker-ish, obsessive midtempo number is tuneful enough... but it's a good indication of the late seventies, early eighties dismal, dark aspect of pop music at that moment. Love hurts when only one's in love... or perhaps, that's because it isn't.
- Aerosmith, Don't Wanna Miss A Thing. ... there's just this fine line between "comeback" and "sellout" that's best indicated by recording a power ballad for an overwrought oversold summer film (cf "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship... which I have a soft spot for, but admit is dreck). You can't really walk away from this Aerosmith ballad - which, it should be noted, refers in the film to Liv Tyler - and not shake your head at the unfortunate shamelessness of Steve Tyler's vocal. Then there's the soppy, sweeping strings...and the music video.
- Wang Chung, Everybody Have Fun Tonight. Look, this is about more than "everybody wang chung tonight." You could, seriously, get away with that lame lyric (remember, we're talking about the era when Talk Talk released the single "Talk Talk" from their album... Talk Talk), but you can't escape the cheerless, forced frivolity implicit in the title. You shouldn't have to tell everyone to have fun (or like Kool and the Gnag, so relentlessly insist on "celebrate good times, c'mon"), it should, really, be ocurring organically. It's not... and those poor fellas in Wang Chung have been paying for it ever since.
- Def Leppard, Love Bites. ...and bleeds, and brings me to my knees... just atrocious. Just to be clear on the guidelines... I don't hate all power ballads. Just this one. And maybe a few others (which is a separate issue from "girls name" ballads like Boston's "Amanda")
- Cascada, Evacuate The Dancefloor. I didn't say everything was going to be eighties, did I? This brings up an amusing moment from J in B, who always points out to me that Michael Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor is a terrible song because it links dancing - a peaceful activity, really - to violence and mayhem. I like the song, myself... but his point makes sense to me when I think about why "Billie Jean" bugs me so much. And, in any case, Cascada's current single, equating love of a dance song with a painful disease, seems an even worse, far more inappropriate metaphor ("stop, this beat is killing me"???). This is why we love Madonna for "Spotlight" and "Into The Groove" and now "Celebration" - if the groove is infectious... it should be in a good way, not a scary one.