With pop music having been constructed in the 60s then reconstructed in the 70s, where did that leave music in the 80s? Well, on the edge of a precipice, commercialism was suddenly the new ideal and as a result music was splintered into a battle between shiny and gritty pop; it was a time to choose sides. Nonetheless, the archetypal 80s song was a shiny pop tune, the impact of video changed the perception of a pop single and as such for the first time a song had to look as good as it sounded, if not better. This lead to a change in pop aesthetics and musicians were also compelled to be actors, albeit playing lovelorn miserabilists or sexual predators. This certainly wasn't A hard days night. There was a movement in mainstream pop music from nihilism to self-obsession and hedonism. The 80s mirrored the cultural movements of the time.The yuppie-fication that was happening in the job market was also seen in the music scene and for perhaps the first time the advent of musical careerists was a fact of pop life. Not to mention the amount of soap opera stars who started releasing spectacularly terrible singles, though theres an exception to every rule, which is a tale for another time. The cult of the personality of the superstar also took place, with a not-so-subtle shift away from the idea of the band as the gang, ranging from the sublime - such as Prince and Madonna - to the ridiculous; Billy Idol and Vanilla Ice anyone? Artists were increasingly looking at branding and marketing to see where they would fit in the puzzle and how they could make as much money as possible. As a result production values changed, in the mainstream innovation was less important and the slickness of the records to a large extent created a sense of blandness. Where the innovators of the 70s used synthesisers as the means to create new sounds and ways of telling stories, in the 80s, for many, they were a cost effective method of not having to pay for the manpower of musicians. But this isnt a tale of despair and mediocrity, the decade pumped out song after song and many of them were magical. Here well explore artists who either flicked two fingers at the 80s and had their heads firmly in the past or the future and sounded devastating, as well as those who were proud to show that commercial pop isnt something to be sneered at. As per usual, there is one song per artist and here begins the debate...
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What makes music fantastic? Star quality, amazing music, breathtaking lyrics and the ability to bring something new to the table, even if that means a new take on the classics. That's what I love to listen to and write about.
As well as writing for What Culture, I occasionally write a blog http://tedney.blogspot.co.uk and sometimes use Twitter, but sparingly @TedneyNash