Monday, March 2, 2009

The State of Music in 1980


Music today is VERY different than what it was in 1980. How different you might ask? Just listen to the music playing right now. You are listening to the Grammy award nominees from the year 1980. 1980 was a weird year for music because you still had a bit of disco, still had that easy rock sound going, and then you had the very beginnings of 1980's pop music sound that would later dominate. Anyway, here are the nominees for the major categories from the 1981 Grammy Awards (which included all music released in 1980) with some thoughts on each category. I wish I could publish the addresses of the Grammy voters you can mail them some Anthrax but I'm assuming they are beyond contempt.

1.) Album of the Year: "Christopher Cross" by Christopher Cross

* Hmmm...I am sort of ashamed to admit that I bought this CD years ago mainly for one song, "Ride Like The Wind", mainly because it featured Michael McDonald in it. To my surprise , it contained two somewhat decent songs in "Sailing" and "Never Be The Same". Yet, all the other songs are really just bad mellow rock songs.

Other Nominees:
Billy Joel - Glass Houses
Pink Floyd - The Wall
Frank Sinatra - Trilogy: Past, Present, Future
Barbra Streisand - Guilty

* Looking at the other nominees, its a true mixed bag. I doubt you'd ever see Pink Floyd and Frank Sinatra in another category together. Looking back, Pink Floyd's The Wall has stood the test of time and yielding at least three classic songs (Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, Comfortably Numb, and Hey You). That Frank Sinatra album yielded one classic song as well, "New York New York", which is played after every Yankees win...but that's really about it. The Billy Joel album had three radio staples on it (You May Be Right, Don't Ask Me Why, and It's Still Rock and Roll To Me) and the Barbara Streisand album was written by the Bee Gees and had two AM Radio staples (Guilty and Woman In Love).

2.) Record Of The Year (best overall song): "Sailing" by Christopher Cross

* "Sailing" is a guilty pleasure though you'd be caught dead to play this anywhere other than your bedroom quietly weeping. I do love the piano breakdown in the middle with that weird drum machine.

Other Nominees:
Bette Midler - "The Rose"
Kenny Rogers - "Lady"
Frank Sinatra - "Theme From New York, New York"
Barbra Streisand - "Woman In Love"

* Oh baby, what a list of really bad yet good songs. No wonder the 1980's were ripe for the taking by bands like Human League, Tears For Fears, and Rick Astley. "The Rose" is just a really sad song that I don't know anything about. "New York, New York" was Frank Sinatra's final hit though it sounded like it was from 1955 and not 1980. "Woman In Love" epitomizes the soft rock sound and has this really thick sound and also one of the oddest guitar/synthesizer riffs you'll ever hear. I do want to single out "Lady", not only because it was written by Lionel Richie, but also because I learned how to play the opening piano part when I was 8 years Kenny Rogers was the bomb.

3.) Song Of The Year (best songwriter) - "Sailing" written by Christopher Cross

* God damn, this song won a lot of awards. I can't tell you what its about other than sailing. At least N'Sync thought it was cool enough to cover live while flying around at a random awards show.

Other nominees:

"Fame" (Michael Gore & Dean Pitchford)
"Lady" (Lionel Richie)
"Theme From New York, New York" (John Kander & Fred Ebb)
"The Rose" (Amanda McBroom)
"Woman In Love" (Barry Gibb & Robin Gibb)

* Looks pretty much like the same batch of songs as Record Of The Year with that song "Fame" thrown in there. "Fame" actually has on the better guitar solos from that era in it if you decide to last that long listening to the song.

4.) Best New Artist - Christopher Cross

* My goodness, Christopher Cross wins again. His career was much like Fred Lynn and Jerome Walton. Had a terrific start and then flamed out quickly (though Cross had three more hit songs...Think Of Laura, All Right, and the immortal "Arthur's Theme" aka the "if you caught between the moon and New York City" song)

Other nominees

Irene Cara
Robbie Dupree
Amy Holland
The Pretenders

* The Pretenders definitely had the longest career. Irene Cara just did that "Fame" song and not much else. Robbie Dupree did that song "Steal Away" which is sort of catchy (on the above playlist). I have no idea who Amy Holland is or if she's even alive.

5.) Best Pop Vocal Performance - Female - "The Rose" by Bette Midler

* Apparently there was a movie also called "The Rose" that this was from. Again, I haven't seen that. Did I mention how depressing this song is?

Other nominees:
Irene Cara - "Fame"
Olivia Newton-John - "Magic"
Barbra Streisand - "Woman In Love"
Donna Summer - "On The Radio"

* I love that song "Magic". It starts off a little scary and then gets happy and then gets scary when she starts singing the "have to believe we are maaaaagic" part. I loved Olivia Newton-John but couldn't tell you why since I was 4 years old at the time. Donna Summer's "On the Radio" song will now be in my head the rest of today and I will jab Q-tips in my ears to get it out.

6.) Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male "This Is It" by Kenny Loggins

* In a way, Michael McDonald helped two different artists win Grammys. He has the coolest part about this song. I admit this song would be in my top 250 songs of all time for that reason alone. Kenny Loggins voice is pretty whiny but in a good way here.

Other Nominees:

Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross
Kenny Rogers - "Lady"
Paul Simon - "Late In The Evening"
Frank Sinatra - "Theme From New York, New York"

* Again, just the same nominees over and over again although you get a pretty good Paul Simon song in here with "Late In The Evening". I love a song with a good bass line and horn part.

7.) Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group - "Guilty" by B. Streisand and Barry Gibb

* This was the time when there were true duets (not Justin Timberlake or Rhiannon popping in to sing the chorus). I heard this song yesterday on the radio and its one of those guilty pleasures (no pun intended). Plus it has the Bee Gees singing backup so that makes it charming as well.

Other nominees:
Ambrosia - "Biggest Part Of Me"
Pointer Sisters - "He's So Shy"
Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes - "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer"
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band - "Against The Wind"

* Again, you can see how much the Grammy's loved soft rock (or hated guitars and drums). These are all pretty much AM radio staples and the Kenny Rogers song has a soaring chorus. Poor Bob Seger...he's written so many good songs but gets nominated for this one. The Ambrosia song has pretty cool high voice part in it too. "He's So Shy" starts out musically like a bad porno scene.

8.) Best R&B Song - "Never Knew Love Like This Before" (Reggie Lucas & James Mtume)

* This is a pretty good song sung by somebody I can't remember right now (good in terms of 1980). Sort of a transition between disco and 80's pop. I like the screams of "Never" at the end of the song too.

Other Nominees:

"Give Me The Night" (Rod Temperton)
"Let's Get Serious" (Lee Garrett & Stevie Wonder)
"Shining Star" (Leo Graham & Paul Richmond)
"Upside Down" (Bernard Edwards & Nile Rodgers

* Hmmm...I'll have to admit that I'd take Upside Down or Give Me The Night as better songs than the one that won. "Give Me The Night" is just a classic odd 80's song and "Upside Down" has just a great vibe and beat to it (check out that funk guitar at the end). "Shining Star" is a goofy song in the soft rock mold.

9.) Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group "Against The Wind" Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

* Well at least Bob won an award here. I still think its a pretty boring song.

Other Nominees:

Blondie - "Call Me"
Pink Floyd - The Wall
The Pretenders - "Brass In Pocket"
Queen - "Another One Bites The Dust"

If you're looking at purely vocals, how can you deny Freddy Mercury or Deborah Harry? How?!?
Well that's it for the year in music 1980. I threw a few other songs from 1980 in there for you to cringe at.

Until next time...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post. Enjoyed that one. Clearly you are man that knows music.