Happiness can’t be bottled, success can’t be packaged, but nostalgia and all the bliss that comes with it certainly can be packaged, as this delightful compilation 80’s One Hit Wonders demonstrates. The selection is wide and varied but all in all they are fun to listen to.
The compilation kicks off with Robin Beck’s melodramatic ballad First Time, a prime cheesy prom night song material that must be the grandmother of giant weepy ballads that go on and on until they threaten to smother and destroy everything in their path. Hollering “It began while I heard I love you… FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!” brings back so many memories of big hair, too much make-up, and all those wasted years sighing over Pretty in Pink, I’m sure. And then it’s on to even more embarrassing cheese with Boy Meets Girl’s Waiting for a Star to Fall. “Trying to catch your heart is like trying to catch a star!” Dang, if this is how good it feels to enjoy music that is embarrassingly uncool today, I’ve better live the rest of my life in shame.
There’s also Charlene’s embarrassingly corny but oh-so-haunting ballad I’ve Never Been to Me, which is given a second life of cool when it’s featured prominently in that delightful 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. Altogether now, my fellow fans of cheese:
Oh, I’ve been to Nice and the Isle of Greece
While I’ve sipped champagne on a yacht
I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo
And showed ’em what I’ve got
Now, let’s see some lighters in the air!
I’ve been undressed by kings
And I’ve seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see
I’ve been to paradise
But I’ve never been to me
And who can forget the embarrassing spoken bits of that song?
Hey, you know what paradise is?
It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It’s that little baby you’re holding,
It’s that man you fought with this morning
The same one you’re going to make love with tonight
That’s truth… that’s love!
What were they thinking when they came up with the words for that spoken bit, I will never know.
Thankfully, it’s not all cheese and drippy sentimental goo as there are also catchy higher-energy classics like Indeep’s Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, Animotion’s Obsession, Coffee’s Casanova, and the Reynold Girls’ insanely fabulous I’d Rather Jack to shake my head and hands to. Pseudo Echo’s Funky Town rounds off the most embarrassing dance party one could ever throw today. Other tracks on this compilation are the Maisonettes’ singalong-friendly Heartache Avenue (altogether now: “Ooh-ooh-ooh!”), the Pinkees’ hell-no-1970s-ain’t-dead Danger Games, the Lotus Eaters’ The First Picture of You, Rosie Vela’s awesome Magic Smile, Furniture’s “close your eyes and imagine that we’re Billy Idol” Brilliant Mind, Toto Coelo’s silly I Eat Cannibals, Angry Anderson’s Suddenly, Keith Marshall’s infectious Only Crying, Jonathan Butler’s cheesy Lies, Whodini’s Magic’s Wand, and Trans-X’s apparently ageless Living on Video whose influences on future dance acts of the 1990s like KLF are too apparent.
As a compilation, 80’s One Hit Wonders does a superb job in capturing the many different sounds of some of the most enjoyable songs of that era’s flashes-in-the-pan. There are electronica, soul-R&B, slushy ballads, rock, New Romantics sound, and a little punk in a splendid little package. This compilation is too enjoyable for words from the get go and my only complain is that there are only nineteen tracks here instead of forty-nine. Sure, it will take a strong, strong heart to admit loving music from an era when macho men have hairy chests and wear Speedo and skimpy shorts without shame, hair is as big as the Eiffel Tower, and it’s cool to slather red blush on one’s cheeks until one resembles a pink teddy bear. Maybe I’ll throw a party to show off this CD after all.