February 01, 2013

Son of F5 #1: Pop rocks!

It's February. February has four weeks. Therefore, February has four Fridays. Four, February, and Friday all start with F. Hence, it's time again to go overboard with the alliteration and announce Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity the Fifth. F5 write specifically about myself, rather than my opinion about this or that: favourite books, movies, postal codes, and whatnot. This time round, instead of one topic per post, I've decided to take the "4" motif to another extreme, and list my Four Favourite . . . blank, filling in the blank with a different theme each week.

My first thought was to start off with an easy one: my Top 4 Favourite Podcasts. Then, I remembered that I did just that last year, and the list hasn't changed. Sigh. All the good ideas have already been taken.

My Four Favourite . . . Pop Albums of the 1980s

It's no secret amongst friends, family, or the Faithful Readers of this blog, that I love the music of the 80s. Heck, I'm blogging a year-long series on 1983's music alone.

  1. Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms: I wrote an extensive review of this amazing album on its 20th anniversary in 2005. My opinion hasn't changed. (Just to show how ever-changing the pop industry is: where I wrote "where will Britney or Justin be in 2025? Do we care?" how many readers forgot that Justin Bieber was as yet unheard-of?)
  2. Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual: The orange-haired, squeaky-voiced New Yorker's debut album is a quintessential part of the soundtrack to the 1980s. Lauper set a record when the first four singles from this album charted in the Billboard Top 5, and you have to be well into the second side (for all of you listening on an LP, as I did) before you hear something unfamiliar. In later years, I was surprised to find out how many of her signature tunes were actually rather obscure covers: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," for example, was originally a punk song by the late Robert Hazard, sung from a male perspective, before Cyndi modified the lyrics and turned it into a kind of feminist pop anthem. (And, to give her credit for getting it past me for so long, I didn't grasp the meaning of "She Bop" until well into my 20s.)
  3. Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair: My affection for this album has less to do with the quality of the music—which is good, and indeed is the reason I ever wanted the album in the first place—but the quality of the recording. Big Chair was an early full-digital recording. Despite the multilayered arrangements saturated in reverb, the mastering is crystal-clear, and the brighter sounds blast right off the disc. The most notable tracks are the singles "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Head Over Heels," as well as the non-single tracks "Working Hour" and "Listen"—the lead-out of the latter being particularly beautiful. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album in the dark, at high volume, with headphones.
  4. Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A.: I had a little trouble deciding on my fourth album, but if it comes down to the sheer volume of replays, then this one wins hands down. I wore the grooves off it: there's a permanent skip in "My Hometown." And, as I've noted in the past, I discovered Dire Straits when I mistook "Walk of Life" for "Glory Days," so I have Spirngsteen to thank for introducing me to my favourite music, sort of. Born in the U.S.A. was a stylistic departure from the Boss' previous work (especially the bleak Nebraska, its immediate predecessor), heavy on synthesizers, and featuring upbeat, anthemic songs rather than the more pessimistic fare of earlier albums. 30 years later, the title track is still a staple at Democratic political conventions—and still being mistaken for a patriotic anthem. Born in the U.S.A. was my favourite of Springsteen's albums, at least until I heard Born to Run.

I could go on; there are so many worthy contenders—Thomas Dolby's The Golden Age of Wireless, Phil Collins' No Jacket Required, Duran Duran's Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, just to name a few. For picking favourite music, the 80s was a target-rich environment.