Taylor Swift’s latest album, 1989, is on track to sell one million copies in its first week, which means you’ll end up listening to it whether you want to or not. The track list includes a bone tossed to country stations, a cover of the Miami Vice theme titled “Style,” and the Lana Del Ray rip-off, with “Wildest Dreams.” It’s basically a synth-backed ode to an era that Taylor doesn’t remember, an era of excellent music.
Swift has said she was influenced by the sounds of the late eighties, which inspired us to go back and listen to the original stuff. The result? A 1989 mixtape we’ll want to listen to in another 25 years.
Track 1) Like a Prayer – Madonna
Just what a Tipper Gore-terrorized MTV needed: Madonna in a bustier on her knees in front of Jesus. Any controversy (the video included Madonna coming the rescue of a wrongly accused black-man) just made the video more popular – and seminal. Madonna has been juxtaposing piety and sex for years. What can we say? It works.
Track 2) Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
The final year of a rough decade brought the world “Beaches,” the movie for people who thought “Steel Magnolias” could use more Bette Midler. Its anthem, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” will live on forever as Track 4 on the CD of harp-and-saxophone instrumental covers (between “My Heart Will Go On” and “Yesterday”) that’s always playing at your local strip-mall sushi joint.
Track 3) Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx
Combine “Wind Beneath My Wings” schmaltz with the creepiness of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and you’ve got a love song for psychopaths.
Track 4) Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison
Before Bret Michaels was the slightly dazed yet aggressively lascivious host of Bret Michaels: Rock of Love, he was the lead singer of Poison. (If this is a surprise to you, avail yourself of Wikipedia.) This pseudo-Springsteen, heavy-on-the-imagery hit was more than enough to elicit some teenage tears. It’s still touching in a weird way. How was this ever cool?
Track 5) Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young
Riding the wave of socially-conscious, emotionally-manipulative rock music, Neil Young turned up his amp and offered some less than specific political commentary. At least it’s better than Billy Joel's “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” We still haven’t gotten that mumblefest out of our heads.
Track 6) The Best – Tina Turner
It’s impossible to disagree: A heavy synth beat, horse-dancing, and Tina sporting her biggest-ever hair is the best.
Track 7) Show Don’t Tell – Rush
Canadian prog-rockers Rush released “Show Don’t Tell” as the first single off the album “Presto,” marking a return to a guitar-based (rather than synth-based) sound. It’s an appropriately New-Age - “You can twist perception/Reality won’t budge” - bit of eighties stadium rock, and we whole-heartedly recommend it for all your air-guitar needs.
Track 8) A Girl Like You – The Smithereens
The Smithereens were never really in contention for “Best Band," even within their genre, but whatever they lack in shredding wizardry or a well-honed artistic drive, they make up for with unrelenting earnestness. “A Girl Like You” is nothing novel, but still alluring as hell. Our number one pick for cruising in your ’87 Buick GNX T-top.
Track 9) Me, Myself, and I – De La Soul
In this rumination on the self, iconic hipsters-before-their-time De La Soul are down about high school, but honestly, seem to be having a good time in t-shirts-over-long sleeves, copious chains, and the best, most architectural flat-top fades we’ve ever seen.
Photos by Big Machine Label Group