Yes, I have been mostly sticking to some of the more obscure musical sidebars of my time in the 90s, and I usually post about movies that are not as nearly mainstream as if I ran a Ghostbusters fan site with all of the love and bile fans invoke. That’s largely because a lot of sites post top tens and information about the massive hit makers. It is easy to get lost in the flow of listicles about Back to the Future, no matter how much I absolutely love those films.
But I am also a lover of popular culture, and that means I often also dig things that were extremely popular. My younger and more edgelordy self would hate that I’m admitting to liking any of these songs, but hey. I somehow know every word, and whatsmore, I actually get excited and sing along when they come on. So here’s some bubblegum pop hits from the 1980s that decorated lockers and walls of teenagers across America.
10. Mickey – Toni Basil
Cheerleaders, catchy drum beats, repetitive lyrics that you know after the first round? Check, check, and check. I discovered “Mickey” at a tender time when I was on the verge of trading in my childhood Country boots and slipping on my teenage heavy metal sneaks. The song had been out for some time, but it hadn’t entered my orbit, but I did like cheerleaders, so the music video piqued my interest about as much as Olivia Newton John’s outfit in “Physical. “
I had no idea she was the topless “Indian Girl” in the uniquely weird Greaser’s Palace (1972) until years later or I would have been even more excited by the video. I remember seeing it on cable and thinking it was weird, but I have always been a fan of topless women riding horses in films. It is “Art,” capital A, or as Betsy Russel said of filming Private School (1983): “I got the feeling the only reason they shot it so many times was so the producers could keep watching my tits bounce around.” See, obviously Art.
I also loved that it was used as a high-energy spell in season three of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
9. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go – Wham!
Before George Michael was caught in a Beverley Hills public restroom sting, he was an international sex symbol. And Andrew Ridgely wasn’t too shabby himself. Together they jitterbugged across the stage in t-shirts reading “CHOOSE LIFE” which would confuse the hell out of angry people on both sides of the abortion issue when it was really a Katharine Hamnett activism shirt commenting on the death and destruction of war.
8. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow
At 15, Annabella Lwin became an international sex symbol with 1982’s “I Want Candy.” After hearing her singing along to the radio in a dry cleaner, a talent agent asked former Adam and the Ants members and former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLauren to audition her. And Bow Wow Wow was born in New Zealand. She posed nude for album art at fourteen, which caused her mother to push for an investigation by Scotland Yard. Bow Wow Wow broke up, reunited, and have had reunion tours.
And “I Want Candy” is still a banger.
7. Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder
I just love this song so I wanted to add it. It is poppy, fun, and awkwardly perfect. And the dancers in this performance are GOLD!
6. How Will I Know – Whitney Houston
Before Whitney Houston was the absolute force of nature people fell in love with in The Bodyguard (1992) and becoming “the Voice,” she was a pop princess with eternally catchy hooks that did next to nothing with the amazing vocal talents she possessed. Still, I would sing along to her early songs every time they came on as long as I was alone and no one knew I wasn’t listening to Megadeth.
5. Bust a Move – Young MC
While I preferred “Principal’s Office” to the much more popular tune “Bust a Move,” it was the more popular of the two. And, really, after BAM, “Principal’s Office” never had a chance. High school shenanigans couldn’t hold a candle to a rap about 1989’s version of Tinder.
4. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cindy Lauper
Cindy Lauper is a national treasure and must be protected. She was the first female artist who had five top-five songs from a debut album when she released She’s So Unusual in 1983. She had the right amount of punk styling, pop fun, and radical weirdness to be a massive hit maker. And she seemed to have a hell of a time doing it, too.
It’s not just anyone who can release a song that spawns a film with Shannen Doherty, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kristi Summers. But then, Cindy’s not just anyone.
3. Party All the Time – Eddie Murphy
When you are on top of the world and trying to focus on your music career, what are your priorities? Do you join in a sing-a-long with some of the greatest artists in the world to be part of a global musical phenomenon? Or do you hang in your studio trying to make your album? If you’re Eddie Murphy, you’ll hunker down in the studio and avoid anyone who asks you to join “We are the World.”
I love Eddie, but man, that was a decision.
2. Shake Your Love – Debbie Gibson
The artist formerly known as Debbie Gibson goes as Deborah now. Or at least she did for a while, trying to shed her teenage pop teen persona. Or at least that is how the massively awesome 2001 horror-comedy Soul Keeper presents it. In reality, she has had a great career as a musician and actress, and is still going strong. And yes, I really do love Soul Keeper (2001). It’s a gem.
1. Hangin’ Tough – New Kids on the Block
When it comes to bands that were manufactured to be massive pop culture phenomena, New Kids on the Block is high on the list. They were everywhere. They had every teen girl kissing posters and every teen guy punching those same posters in their little sister’s rooms. Some guys would also kiss and make up with the posters they punched in pop-denial, too. Such is the world of pop music.
What was I saying again?
Oh yeah. They were kind of a big deal. And little Donnie Wahlberg’s career would bottom out on 250+ episodes of Blue Bloods while his brother Marky Mark would dabble in film.