You know a love affair with a particular era has translated to the next stage, that of a permanent state of swooning admiration where each beat, every lyric and chord change becomes a part of your existence. Music has an innate nature to make memories fonder and evolve into successive eras and generations as we mark our own sweet passages on this earthly plane.
For this writer and music afficianado, the 1980s continues to be that infectious discography for the ages where emotions soared higher than an eagle, lyrics truly gave us gooseflesh and vocal performances ensured a place in historic registers of popular culture. So even as I use the past tense referring to the point when the music came into heavy rotation, its influence is spontaneously addressed for the absolute present and eras to come.
To begin with, TAKE MY BREATH AWAY by BERLIN off 1986’s superhit TOP GUN soundtrack has always been an iconic and wholly original composition. Its arrangements, use of synths and above all the carefully written and delivered lyrics make it a winner. Also it’s just one of the most passionate declarations of the rolling and thunderous impact love of any sort can produce in us.
Speaking about duets next, UP WHERE WE BELONG off AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN soundtrack employs the delicacy and practical beats congruent with its lyrical elements to come up with an unforgettable melody, made sweeter by the talents of Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, the latter of whom has already placed herself in the pantheon of greats with her contribution to I’VE HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE off DIRTY DANCING. Irene Cara is our next muse as her high-spirited jolt of living life to the fullest comes in handy for FAME and FLASHDANCE (WHAT A FEELING!); Oh, how I have loved the inspirational latter title for years and have recently warmed up to the former’s joie de vivre. The fact that many of these songs are from original movie soundtracks just tells us about the surplus of talent attached to them.
Since I’ve talked about the abundance of open-hearted emotions in most of these songs, the ballads are exceptionally well-crafted. Be it HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU? by Michael Bolton and THE POWER OF LOVE by Jennifer Rush, both of which have also received raw and beautiful covers by one of my favourites Laura Branigan, or ETERNAL FLAME by THE BANGLES. The acoustic value of this track and the layering of the vocals from velvety soft to falsettos is equally arresting as the melody, use of strings and harmonies.
The rock brigade then hops onto the stage as customary synths, drums and impactful guitars create the vulnerable and peerless template for bands like EUROPE vis a vis one of my all-time standards CARRIE, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN and HEART OF STONE. Then HEART takes us by storm with its excellent vocals and hall of fame benchmarks as ALONE, WHAT ABOUT LOVE? while making us go back to its ’70s catalogue and discover the greatest hits’ potency on BARRACUDA and CRAZY ON YOU.
And while DOUBLE VISION, FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME and URGENT are good introductions to FOREIGNER, the uplift that comes from I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS is monumental, one of those songs that come within a lifetime to sweep us by its transcendental power. This song has done the same for me for over a decade and a half. The choral section, the lyrics, the pensive atmospherics and serenity it generates make it unforgettable. For once that last term fits an artistic creation ever so comfortably.
To top it off is the sensual use of guitars and vocals on I WANNA BE ADORED by THE STONE ROSES. Its central hook and instrumental prowess had me obsessed for many years and now to finally make it a part of my playlist means everything.
Last but not the least is the certifiably classic NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW by STARSHIPS, written by songwriting champion Diane Warren, with vocals and a composition that will always remind us about why the 80s were best when it came to music.
But we take few exceptions and include some benchmarks from the 90s as well. That roll of honour includes ROXETTE with IT MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE, again a personal favourite that was made ever so identifiable by featuring on PRETTY WOMAN. Tina Turner’s enduring appeal and powerhouse voice takes WHATEVER YOU WANT to the same dimension of ubiquity for this listener as her unshakeable discography that I keep quoting as one of its kind while I DON’T WANNA MISS A THING lets AEROSMITH rip into the very heart of the matter with Steven Tyler’s unbelievable performance and Diane Warren’s simple and effective words. It’s a true-blue blockbuster of a song, for sure.
Also I would be remiss to not include the pull of Donna Summer’s sustained notes and overall artistic beauty on DIM ALL THE LIGHTS as also its cover by Laura Branigan, both of which I thoroughly enjoy.
Coming back to Ms. Branigan, l have to recommend all discerning listeners to be immersed in the profundity of her two ballads CRY WOLF and DIDN’T WE ALMOST WIN IT ALL, both of which I now deem as among her signatures because the melodies and singing are so vulnerable, beautifully sincere and mature. Just like SHATTERED GLASS takes her peak 80s glory to its joyous pinnacle.
I close this essay by giving shout outs to three new tracks. SIDELINES by PHOEBE BRIDGERS is a hushed melody backed by piano notes, HOLD MY HAND by Lady Gaga recreates the 80s vibe for TOP GUN: MAVERICK’s original soundtrack while the fierce pounce of Demi Lovato’s rocker SKIN OF MY TEETH is a great addition to our current playlists. The latter especially reminded me of Hole’s CELEBRTITY SKIN.
So keep reading my pieces as more musical offerings come our way. Remember, a good listener matters. So it is with music.