As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 1984!
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax”
Hugely popular and still pretty racy even by today’s standards, FGtH’s first hit was pretty much entirely manufactured hit maker Trevor Horn, aka ”The Man Who Invented The Eighties.” The final recording features only the band’s lead singer and cost well over $100,000 to produce. Though everyone involved certainly got their money’s worth. Also, obligatory mention of that scene in Zoolander.
Michael Jackson – “Beat It”
Jackson’s signature achievement, Thriller gave The King Of Pop his title, and “Beat It” was one of his many ornate throne rooms. Though CBS Records had to blackmail a hesitant MTV to play an African American’s music video, “Beat It” was an instant phenomenon whose success was practically contagious: A timely reworking of the track gave Weird Al Yankovic his first hit.
Van Halen – “Hot for Teacher”
You gotta love this silly, splendid, and totally cunning hard rock classic. It made hating Van Halen seem unreasonable, like you had be an Elmer Fudd kinda guy to turn your nose up at these Buggs Bunny-styled rascals. And here’s a funny, sad bit of trivia: Waldo’s voice was played the late, great Phil Hartman, the SNL genius who doubled as Troy McClure.
Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A.”
If you think this song is something that should be played when drones decimate a village in the middle east, you’re kind of missing its point. But you wouldn’t be alone. “Born In The U.S.A.” is Springsteen’s most misunderstood song, the lyrics highly critical of the Vietnam War and it’s aftermath. But that message is doomed in the opening seconds. The snare shot and synths have an incredible rallying effect, urging you to pump your fist in hypnotized affirmation to whatever he’s saying, which is easily audible during the chorus, at which point being American sounds like the best shit ever and fuck those Ruskies.
Madonna – “Like A Virgin”
Madonna’s like a hundred years old now, so when she tries to be young and sexy and edgy it gives me the willies. But in her heyday, she was all that and more, which is why this iconic eighties track hit number one and solidified Madonna’s status as a pop superstar.