October 2012

Michael Bolton feat. Kenny G – “Missing You Now” – (1991)

Hey, imagine that, another track from Michael Bolton’s Time, Love & Tenderness. Is it just me or does Michael Bolton, when he’s speaking in the video (not singing) sound like Kevin Costner? They even kind of looked alike (back then at least). For that extra 1980s touch, enter Kenny G with that kickin’ sax in the background. This is early 1990s Adult Contemporary at its finest – which I consider part of the 1980s. Fun facts: the song peaked at #77 and Teri Hatcher was in the music video.

Warrant – “Cherry Pie” – (1990)

This oh-so-subtle glam rock song about… erm… dessert, is, perhaps, Warrant’s best-known song. It was a top ten hit in the U.S. The video is fairly memorable for the band in a big white room and an attractive woman dancing around while being sprayed by a hose and eating cherries. Oh yeah, subtle. Apparently, according to Jani Lane (Warrant front-man) he wrote this song in 15 minutes, which isn’t too terribly hard to believe once you’ve listened to it. It’s fairly basic and high-schoolers everywhere loved the dirty, innuendo-laced lyrics (although some were more blunt than others). Sounds just like every 80s hair band.

Maze feat. Frankie Beverly – “Twilight” – (1993)

This awesome instrumental track from 1993 sounds a lot like mid-1980s hip-hop to me. Maze was (or, I guess, still technically is) an R&B/Soul/Funk group from San Francisco. They formed in 1976. Their most recent studio album is 1993’s Back to Basics. And the final track on that album is this super slick, rockin’ instrumental hit. All right, it was never a hit – never even charted. But it did appear on a Gran Theft Auto video game. And I’ve seen a single release date of 1989 somewhere, but it didn’t appear on a studio album until 1993.

Genesis – “I Can’t Dance” – (1991)

So apparently it’s the entire We Can’t Dance album that sounds like it’s from the 80s, and not just this song or that. This was a #7 hit in the U.S. and U.K. (how weird. I wonder if that’s ever happened with another song, peaking at #7 on both continents. Maybe, but I’m sure as hell not gonna look). The song has a bluesy feel which doesn’t really sound like the rest of Genesis’ soft rock feel from this era.

Bryan Adams – “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – (1991)

Does this sound like it’s from the 1980s? Yes. Does it also kind of sound like it’s from the 1990s? Also yes. While this was a massive #1 for Adams in the U.S. – it was also the #1 song of 1991. It won two Grammys and was nominated for an Oscar for its use in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It’s a solid soft rock hit with music that could’ve been lifted from a song by Bette Midler.

Alias – “More than Words Can Say” – (1990)

Mmm, power ballads – they scream 1980s but so many came out in 1990 and 1991 that we might as well consider those years part of the previous decade. “Here I am, at 6 o’clock in the morning” is the opening lyrics and a similar line is repeated at increasing volume and intensity throughout the track. No this is not the same “More Than Words” that was released in 1991 by Extreme. Completely different songs. This was a #2 in the U.S. and a #1 in Canada, the band’s home country. Unfortunately, the band would not equal the success of this song.

Depeche Mode – “Personal Jesus” – (1990)

This song, which is a great example of Depeche Mode’s signature sound, was their first big hit in the U.S. since 1984. It’s one of their best known songs and, like many of their other songs, it completely rocks. 1990 was not a high watermark for music – yet this album, Violator, tries very hard to convince you otherwise. But the staggering amount of awful pop music from the likes of Sweet Sensation and New Kids on the Block (etc.) overwhelm the awesome stuff like this.

Billy Idol – “Cradle of Love” – (1990)

This very 1980s Billy Idol song was actually released in 1990. Why do I say it sounds very 80s? Because it sounds just like “White Wedding,” that’s why. This was a #2 on the Hot 100 and a #1 on the mainstream rock chart. It remains one of Billy Idol’s best known hits. The music video was directed by David Fincher and received heavy airplay on MTV, helping the song’s success.

Concrete Blonde – “Joey” – (1990)

“Joey” was the biggest single from Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Concrete Blonde. The belted chorus of “Joey if you’re hurting so am I” (or whatever it changes to after subsequent verses) may sound somewhat familiar when you hear it come from the somewhat raspy vocal chords of Johnette Napolitano – even if it doesn’t in text. It was a top 20 on the Hot 100 and a #1 on the Modern Rock chart. Does it sound like it came from the 1980s? You betcha.

Duran Duran – “Come Undone” – (1993)

This is an awesome song. It has an almost inspirational feel to it – listen to the way the lyrics are delivered: they build and build to a steady beat and then Tessa Niles comes in with her background vocals for a second and then Simon Le Bon is back to hit a crescendo. It’s great. It was a top ten in the U.S. – hitting #2 in Canada (the highest charting country for the song). But then we’re back to the Duran Duran thing of me assuming everything they did came out in the 80s. Sorry guys, your sound is and always has been, almost the same.

Wilson Phillips – “Release Me” – (1990)

This was the second single from Wilson Phillips’ debut album – and their second #1 hit. It is also the second-best song they have (after “Hold On”). But – it really doesn’t sound too dissimilar from their other songs if you don’t listen too closely… wait a second, I think I might actually like this more than “Hold On.”

Jesus Jones – “Right Here, Right Now” – (1991)

This is one of a handful of tracks that were actually the genesis of this list. It’s also one of the best songs on this list. In the U.S., the British band Jesus Jones is known for this and… well that’s about it. A #2 hit on the Hot 100, it was a super smash in the early 90s – but as far as rock songs go, it differed drastically from the very popular rock scene at the time: grunge. Which is why I always forget it came out at that time. It receives more airplay on adult alternative and adult contemporary radio stations than it does on pop music stations (and it did then, if I remember correctly). And in my eyes, all adult contemporary music came out in the 1980s. And it kind of reminds me of “In a Big Country,” which is from 1983. It’s too happy to be from a time that tried its best to be unhappy. Great tune.

Whitney Houston – “All the Man That I Need” – (1990)

Why does this song have a 1980s feel? Because it was originally recorded in 1982 by Linda Clifford. Whitney covered it for her 1990 album I’m Your Baby Tonight. This was a #1 for Ms. Houston – the 4th biggest of her career, which is weird because it’s nowhere near her 4th best song. In fact, if you told me I had to karaoke this song without a prompter, I would be lost. I probably couldn’t even produce the melody on command. This one’s just lost in the shuffle of late-80s/early-90s love songs.

Bryan Adams – “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” – (1995)

This is about as mid-nineties as this little list is going to get. This song was featured in the movie Don Juan DeMarco with Johnny Depp. The melody of the song is used throughout the film, as are Spanish versions of the song – which has a very Spanish feel (and, now that I’m listening to it, no 80s-feeling whatsoever). The flamenco guitar is really good (performed by Paco de Lucia). It was a #1 on the Hot 100 and released again in 1996 on Adam’s album 18 Til I Die.