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The Greatest Year in Pop Music?

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When I saw that Mark Hemingway was calling 1984 the greatest year ever in pop music, my first thought was: “Is he talking about ‘Sunglasses at Night’?” Turns out, he was! Mark mentions that Corey Hart track and many others (mistakenly labeling Hart a “one-hit wonder”: have we all forgotten “Never Surrender” already?). By the way, Frankie Goes to Hollywood were not only not one-hit wonders, but their lesser hit, “Two Tribes,” was far superior to their bigger smash, “Relax.” Moreover, John Waite can hardly be called a one-hit wonder: “Missing You” was his big solo hit but he also had hits with his band The Babys.

Okay, okay, 1984 was also the year of Prince’s Purple Rain. And Van Halen’s 1984 and U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, which wasn’t as good as the albums before and after it, though it contains the classic track “(Pride) In the Name of Love.” And Born in the USA — which is far inferior to Bruce Springsteen’s best albums (Darkness on the Edge of Town, Born to Run). And the Cars’ Heartbreak City, which gave us two of the worst hits of the era, “Magic” and the unspeakable crime against human nature “You Might Think,” and is not fit to shine the hubcaps on the band’s legendary eponymous debut album of 1978, upon which seven of nine tracks are stone-cold classics. Mark also cites Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (error: no such album, the song of that name was on She’s So Unusual, from 1983) and Madonna’s Like a Virgin, two albums that were big hits but aren’t especially good, plus the Footloose soundtrack (ditto).

All in all, a lot of okay albums and a couple of classics. Now, 1983 — that was a spectacular year for pop. Synchronicity, Let’s Dance, Van Halen’s “Jump” (released in December, a month before the album 1984), “Come on Eileen,” “She’s a Beauty,” the Kinks’ “Come Dancing,” “True,” “Our House,” “The Safety Dance,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Always Something There to Remind Me,” Men at Work’s “Overkill” and “It’s a Mistake,” Human League’s “(Keep Feeling) Fascination,” Duran Duran at its best, Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It” and “Uptown Girl,” “Hold Me Now,” “Talkin’ in Your Sleep,” “Promises, Promises,” “Break My Stride,” “Pink Houses,” and on and on.

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