Popular

22
Jun 09

THE POLICE – “Every Breath You Take”

FT + Popular47 comments • 3,717 views

#522, 4th June 1983, video

I guess the mid-paced slog of a rhythm which dominates “Every Breath You Take” is meant to suggest its narrator’s implacability – the unresting patience of a stalker. Rock is a generally lively medium though and it takes some craft to build a “classic song” out of stony resolution, so credit to Sting and crew for that much at least. It must have been quickly obvious that “Every Breath” was going to be with us for a lifetime, a grey new fixture in the hall of fame.

19
Jun 09

NEW EDITION – “Candy Girl”

FT + Popular37 comments • 3,278 views

#521, 28th May 1983, video

“Candy Girl” is one of those irritating records that I feel I ought to like more than I do. Certainly within the schema of Popular it should be a pretty ‘important’ single – it’s the first number one with rapping on, for goodness’ sakes. The only problem is that Maurice Starr’s use of the old Jackson 5 playbook is so flagrant and calculated it overshadows anything else going on in the track.

12
Jun 09

SPANDAU BALLET – “True”

FT + Popular73 comments • 4,382 views

#520, 30th April 1983, video

The effect of “True” – potent for some, emetic for others – is a function of how it rubs two impulses up against each other. One is a yearning for depth and the authentic, in the form of soul music. The other is a wish to make your records gleam, to emphasise their sleekness and luxury. Understand this combination and you understand pop in the mid-80s. On the one hand, “You are Gold!” On the other, “Always believe in your soul!”

27
May 09

DAVID BOWIE – “Let’s Dance”

FT + Popular144 comments • 6,756 views

#519, 9th April 1983

One of the odd things about Bowie is how panicky he seems to get when he’s in fashion. The image of him as a “pop chameleon” is surely at least partly cover for a flight-reflex that kicks in when one of his stylistic changes really takes off. In the mid 70s, tasting superstardom on the back of his deviant glam image, he sidestepped into black US pop, making Young Americans and baffling his fans with “plastic soul”. Close to a decade on, and again the fountainhead of art-pop influence, he made exactly the same move, borrowing sounds and musicians from black pop to make a record that’s an exercise in knowing glossiness.

24
May 09

The Video Age

FT + Popular29 comments • 1,041 views

Quick poll time:

Should I embed YouTube videos in the posts on Popular?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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(The first two categories are designed to separate people who want the videos as part of the “package” of the song being discussed, and people who just want a way to hear the song. i.e. with the latter option we’d include embedded clips all the way back to Al Martino if we could find ‘em.)

22
May 09

DURAN DURAN – “Is There Something I Should Know”

FT + Popular68 comments • 4,406 views

#518, 26th March 1983

“Is There Something” – released between albums to maximise chart returns – is by no means Duran Duran’s finest moment. The chorus is a chant in search of a hook, and the shamefully half-hearted middle eight is a collection of atmospheric blurts in search of an editor. It’s also – one notorious line aside – the least exciting of Duran’s mid-period hits. It lacks the gleeful absurdity of “Rio”, the sleaze of “Union Of The Snake”, the shameless drive of “Hungry Like The Wolf”.

20
May 09

BONNIE TYLER – “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”

FT + Popular109 comments • 7,140 views

#517, 12th March 1983

Pop repeats itself first as the sublime then as the ridiculous. “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” – especially when you watch the gauzy video – comes across as a big budget remake of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. Pianos, crescendos, abstraction, abjection. But bigger isn’t always better.

Or isn’t it? Jim Steinman is pomp rock’s master of scale: why settle for a delicate bas-relief when you could have Mount Rushmore every time?

18
May 09

MICHAEL JACKSON – “Billie Jean”

FT + Popular/144 comments • 10,451 views

#516, 5th March 1983

Michael Jackson came to the title “King of Pop” in the style of a medieval ruler, carving out his realm piece by piece across a hard year of campaigning. He won some of his new subjects when he performed this song as part of a Motown anniversary special: others when he formed common cause with Eddie Van Halen or Paul McCartney. His fiefdom suddenly extended across my school playground with the release of the “Thriller” video and its body popping zombies. Through it all the album and its spin-offs sold, and sold, and sold. “Billie Jean”, its Wikipedia page claims, has now topped 800,000 sales as a digital download, a format invented close to 20 years after its release.

15
May 09

KAJAGOOGOO – “Too Shy”

FT + Popular59 comments • 3,774 views

#515, 19th February 1983

People who look back on the eighties and despair or scoff are probably thinking of hits like “Too Shy”, the very definition of flossy, flimsy, flouncy faux-funk foolishness. It’s a record so evanescent that you half-suspect it was specially created and retconned into history by a cabal of budget “Hits Of The 80s” compilers. (OK, no, that would have been “Big Apple”)

13
May 09

MEN AT WORK – “Down Under”

FT + Popular147 comments • 7,107 views

#514, 29th January 1983

A curious feature of Britain’s number ones is how they mirror the history of global travel: “Summer Holiday” in the 50s, Demis Roussos in the 70s, and now Men At Work’s paean to the Australian diaspora, spreading back along the old hippie trail and into Europe. “Down Under” is a song for anyone who’s ever felt the happy shock of familiarity in a strange place.