Ah, the New Romantics. Now that was an era, wasn’t it? When guys abuse more eyeliners, hairspray, and hair extensions than ever before, wear indecently tight cutoffs on MTV, and yet never have to worry about how people perceive their sexuality. When music is horribly melodramatic and bombastic, when pretty boys with raccoon make-up squeal at the top of their voice about love and rot. It was horrible and adorable all at once, the 1980s.
The New Romantics Are Back! is MTV Asia and EMI Asia’s compilation of what they deem 36 of the “fashionable hits” from the “stylish 80’s”. I don’t know how anyone can call the ’80s stylish, which is a sign that the people that compiled this CD don’t know a thing they are doing. How can they omit A-ha’s Take on Me, for example? That song is a classic! Who can forget Morten Harket’s courageously cheesy kettle whistle falsetto in the chorus? And that video! It is blasphemy that A-Ha is not included, and same with Limahl. Where is Limahl? Nik Kershaw?
Instead, I get bizarre inclusions like the vile Johnny Hates Jazz’s Shattered Dreams and Danny Wilson’s cringe-inducing Mary’s Prayer. Spandau Ballet’s inclusion is a given, although personally I can’t stand them and their treacly ballads, of which Gold is included here. And don’t get me started on Go West. What the heck is Go West doing here, with We Close Our Eyes, of all things? At least they didn’t put in Phil Collins, I guess, although Climie Fisher’s Love Changes (Everything) makes up for it in causing me to bleed inside from pain.
Anyway, let’s examine the double-CD compilation a little closer.
Disc One is a better CD, as it has some of the better (and cheesy) tracks that I don’t hear on radio nowadays. Duran Duran kicks off the show with Wild Boys, and I cringe in shame when I remember how I thought Simon LeBon was so hot back then. Naked Eyes’s Always Something There to Remind Me (those ridiculous bells at the ending refrains of the song!) is still wonderfully corny and listenable like I remembered, and OMD’s Enola Gay is still a fabulous track. I still love ABC’s dramatic but cute The Look of Love as much as I did all those years ago, and oh, oh, there’s Billy Idol! He was so hot when he had his brief ten seconds of fame, and White Wedding is a perfect track to be included here. Damn, that man can still sound so sexy on that song after all these years. Heaven 17 insists that (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing and I am reminded that there is nothing like wearing tight jeans and having big hair while insisting that the world owes one a revolution. They were all so silly then, how cute.
Other tracks in Disc One include Too Shy by Kajagoogoo, Bad Boys by Wham! (just what are they doing on this compilation?), Lies by Thompson Twins, Yazoo’s Don’t Go (still annoying), the unbearably corny Dancing with Tears in My Eyes by Ultravox, Thomas Dolby’s fab She Blinded Me with Science, Talk Talk’s It’s My Life, Adam and the Ant’s really infectious Prince Charming, Erasure’s Sometimes, Go West – uurgh, Living in a Box – yucks, and of course, Philip Oakey’s Together in Electric Dreams. Gawd, Philip Oakey was so inexplicably big with that era’s Stock-Aitken-Waterman, Giorgio Moroder.
Disc Two is where it gets really wrong. Personally, I wish they included Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon instead of Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. And what is Roxy Music’s More Than This doing here when Avalon is ignored? Human by Human League is a decent choice, but Don’t You Love Me? is their more definitive hit. Then there are sorry tracks from Johnny Hates Jazz, Scritti Politti, Climie Fisher, Cutting Crew (yes, that annoying Journey-sounding (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight), Danny Wilson, and other artists that should be left forgotten and ignored. The sole saving graces are Fleur’s understated and stripped down Doot Doot and the Dream Academy’s irritating but so-darned-infectious Life in a Northern Town.
While it is fun to listen to some of the 1980s hits and indulge in some pleasant nostalgia while singing along like nobody’s business, any “New Romantics” compilation that overlooks Tears For Fears, A-ha, Nik Kershaw, Irene Cara, Beats International, Nena, and Cyndi Lauper deserves no respect from me. (Yeah, I know some of those are not New Romantics, but then again, many of the acts on this CD aren’t New Romantics either!) It is not the 1980s without a high-pitched guy shrieking “Take on me, take me on, I’ll be gone, in a DAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!” – it is just not right or done, people. So there!