November 2011

Madonna – “You’ll See” – (1995)

While Ray of Light might have been pretty impressive, its predecessor, the compilation album Something to Remember wasn’t exactly trash when it came to 90s-Madonna (this was one of a few new songs on the album). If you listen, you’ll notice a flamenco-sounding guitar and some weird chimes – which basically means it was released in the mid-90s. Madonna had just come off of years (like 10) of being as provocative and controversial as possible and this single was a step out of that light. Yeah, it’s a ballad, but it’s upbeat enough to hold my interest. And the singing is pretty good too.

Pat Benatar – “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” – (1980)

The “official” video that is on YouTube for this song is horrible. Literally, it’s fans screaming at a concert for more than the first entire minute – at which point I hit “back” and looked for another video. This is Pat Benatar’s signature song and it’s really the only one I can tolerate, although it’s seriously wearing on my nerves as I listen to it right now. It was a Top Ten hit and it’s popular at sporting events and you’ve probably heard it a thousand times.

Duke Tumatoe – “Eat Me- I’m a Turkey” – (2001)

Duke Tumatoe – aka Bill Florio (a former member of REO Speedwagon) is a blues guitarist/singer who appears regularly on The Bob & Tom Show. Yes, the only Thanksgiving songs I know are comedic. This song is the story of a turkey who is gladly willing to give his life to be eaten on Thanksgiving. So, enjoy this Thanksgiving song… even though Thanksgiving was yesterday.

Adam Sandler – “The Thanksgiving Song” – (1992)

Adam Sandler first performed this song on Saturday Night Live in 1992 and it appeared on his debut album a year later (although the album version was recorded at a live event elsewhere). There aren’t many Thanksgiving songs and this is one of the more popular. It’s funny and childish and simple – but hey, it’s Adam Sandler (and that’s a good thing).

Michael Jackson – “Thriller” – (1982)

“Thriller” is one of the biggest songs from the biggest album there is. I don’t even know where to start. So I guess I’ll start with what people associate it most with: the music video. It’s actually more of a short film, running over 13 minutes (for a song lasting less than six). Of course, there’s the jacket that Jackson wears in the video – that red and black – which was designed by the wife of the music video’s director: John Landis. It’s the most influential music video. The video was selected to be included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The song (and video) both feature the spoken vocal track from Vincent Price (which is pretty weird if you think about it). I’ve seen this called a “novelty song” which I think is a bunch of crap – funk, disco, pop, okay. But novelty? Sure, it has a distinct Halloween feel but because so much time has elapsed since its release there’s no way to separate our (my) perceptions of the song as a stand-alone or as part of the video.

Anyway, title tracks don’t come better than this, and while “Billie Jean” topped our Top 100 Songs of the 80s list, this song (and everything associated with it) might well be the thing that word-association tests of “Michael Jackson” elicits most.

Ellie Goulding – “Lights” – (2010)

“Lights” was released as a single in March of 2011 from Ellie’s debut album (released about a year prior). The music is very in-line with what is popular today – a sort of electronica-pop mix (but with a distinct British feel). As would be expected from a song that sounds like this, it charted better in the U.K. than it did in the U.S. – but it’s catchy and very well done. Her voice is infectious and the music encourages you to sing along.

TLC – “Creep” – (1994)

This was TLC’s first #1 – it also won them a Grammy and is considered one of the premier songs of the 90s. The music video could not be more 90s – with a mixture of color and black and white footage of the girls performing a choreographed dance. There are also bright colors and tilted camera angles. This song is pretty good, but I still like “Waterfalls” better.

Thomas Dolby – “Hyperactive!” – (1984)

According to Thomas Dolby, he wrote this song for Michael Jackson to record, but instead, he decided to do it himself. I imagine Dolby walking up to Michael with this song in hand and right before he starts talking, he retracts his hand, turns around and walks into a studio and records the song. All the while, Michael Jackson stands there confused and then leaves and makes Thriller. This was a minor hit in the U.S., only hitting #62, while it was Top 20 in the U.K. and Canada. You know what’s disappointing? This song (nor any of his other songs, so far as I’m aware) was never recorded in Dolby Digital Surround Sound.

LMFAO feat. Natalia Kills – “Champagne Showers” – (2011)

This was LMFAO’s follow-up single to their massive hit “Party Rock Anthem.” It fizzled it and was overshadowed before it even had a chance to catch on. “Party Rock Anthem” was such a massive hit that this song was stuck in its shadow since its release. No one wanted to hear it. They wanted the big single. And by the time this was given an opportunity, their third single from Sorry For Party Rocking was released. It’s not as good as the first two, but it had the timing right and caught on and receives/d a lot of airplay. This is catchy, but it’s no “Party Rock Anthem.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Under the Bridge” – (1991)

This song put the Chili Peppers into the mainstream (it hit #2 on the Hot 100) and is widely considered an amazing song. It’s certainly not the most fun song RHCP ever did, but, lyrically, it might be the best. It’s far more mellow than any of their other hits and almost doesn’t even seem to fit in their song catalog… but people say it’s their best.

Lita Ford – “Kiss Me Deadly” – (1988)

Lita Ford was kind of like a hardcore version of Pat Benatar. Ford and Joan Jett were once in a band together, and as Joan went toward the punk scene, Lita stays focused on rock. This is her most famous song apart from a duet she did with Ozzy Osbourne. This song just missed our Best Rock Songs of the 80s countdown that ended last week.

#1 – AC/DC – “Back in Black” – (1980)

So for our #1 rock song of the 80s, we go to the beginning of the decade for AC/DC’s rebound album. Bon Scott was the lead singer of AC/DC beginning in 1974 and when he died in 1980, the band brought in Brian Johnson. As Scott’s awesome lyrics helped launch the band into the big time, he wasn’t someone that could easily be replaced. This song was their tribute to him and it rocks. It was a Top 40 hit in the U.S. – which is good, but not great. But it was songs like this that shot this album to the top. Back in Black went on to sell 49 million copies – making it the second highest-selling album of all time. Which goes to show you the boundary-less appeal of AC/DC – a hard rock and heavy metal band that made it big in the mainstream. It’s the greatest rock album of all time. Period. And it’s title song is the best rock song of the 80s.

#2 – Aerosmith – “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” – (1987)

I just realized that three of the top five songs on this countdown were from 1987… as if that was some kind of high-water mark in rock music. I don’t think that’s it, but it was still a pretty good year. This song was a very important part to Aerosmith’s career – it marked their comeback from the brink that they teetered on for most of the 80s. Yeah, Run-DMC helped them out somewhat but this was them on their own. And this was the first single from “Permanent Vacation” and while it only barely cracked the Top 15 on the Hot 100, it was still a huge hit that receives regular airplay today. It’s one of those songs that everybody knows and Steven Tyler’s inspired lyric delivery is certainly not a hindrance. What’s it really about? I don’t know, but if you caught Steven Tyler’s appearance on American Idol this past season, I think I have an idea…

#3 – Van Halen – “Jump” – (1984)

Is there a more famous synth line in a rock song than this? I don’t think so. 1984 is Van Halen’s best album and this might be the best song on it (I really like “I’ll Wait”). The brilliant part of this song is that Van Halen managed to take two of the most popular genres of music in 1984 and combine them into one massive hit (it was a #1 for about a month). That is, they took synth pop and stadium rock and threw them together. Also, it has really simple lyrics (how many times can you yell “jump!” in about four minutes?) that are easy to sing along to. This is pop music songwriting at its best.

#4 – Guns N’ Roses – “Paradise City” – (1987)

“Paradise City” was the third top ten single from Guns N’ Roses, peaking at #5 in 1988. I don’t quite think this qualifies as their “most widely known” song but it’s fairly iconic. You’ve got Slash, slashing it up on the guitar and Axl Rose screaming the lyrics. Half of this song is at performed at warp speed, which is pretty cool. The only bad part? It’s by Guns N’ Roses – so if you didn’t get to see it live back in the day, you’re probably out of luck. Because Axl Rose is kind of a walking ___(negative noun of your choice here)___ and it will be a miracle if they ever perform as a band again.