The 10 Best 80s Albums by One Hit Wonders
One of my most charming qualities is my musical elitism. You know what I mean. The way people act when they don’t like someone’s music and mistakes that opinion for fact? That’s me! It wasn’t always this way, but somewhere along the line I just got fed up with hearing the same shit all of the time. The nature of pop-radio, it seems, is to shove a song down your throat and then ditch it like a pencil with a dry eraser. Like remember Iggy Azalea? Yeah. She’s a private contractor now. You don’t even know if I’m kidding, is the wild thing! And I know you won’t look it up because you don’t care! Nobody cares! We all just heard the song a thousand times!
And I talk this trash like my taste backs it up. It doesn’t. Really. I don’t listen to Neil Young, Dr Dre, Sleater Kinney or Kasey Musgraves. The music I back is typically forgotten or underground greats, but in my defense... someone’s gotta do it! I have my head planted firmly up the ass of the 70’s punk movement, the 90’s Britpop scene, the Paisley Underground, “sophistipop” greats… and all the while I believe--in my heart of hearts--that this was the real shit. You know what I mean? I also believe that the 80s was the best decade in musical history. Yeah. That 80s. The most ridiculed decade in music history until the 90s.
I love the fake synthy beats, the finding-its-feet singularity of the New Wave, and just the unmistakable air of fun found in seemingly all of the music at the time, even in slower ballads.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I love 80s music too! Don’t Stop Believing, right?!”
No one has ever listened to a Journey album. You like the hits is what you like! Now, what if I told you that nine times out of ten--well, maybe seven--the albums put out by the big one-hit-wonders of the 80s were full of songs just as good, and in most cases better than their singles. I kid you not. Your parents lied to you as did mine. I have nothing to gain from going to you about this. If you’re a fan of 80s music in any capacity, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check these out if you’re able. And this isn’t the well-trod Talking Heads, Tears for Fears, Talk Talk, Pet Shop Boys territory, either! These are albums no one talks about! And it kills me! Anyway, yeah. Let’s get into it.
Mr. Mister - Welcome to the Real World
Their Hit: “Broken Wings”
Mr. Mister is a group I can see a lot of people not giving a chance, but their 1985 album, Welcome to the Real World is immaculate. As I say a lot--frankly, too much--is that sometimes the lame hit is the one that sticks, and that’s what happened here. “Broken Wings” is the only snoozer on this thing. The opener, “Black/White” is a high-gear jam, and from there the mood is held with the head-bobbing “Uniform of Youth,” and then refuses to slow down with “Don’t Slow Down” immediately afterward. Their second most hit, “Kyrie” is a far better single and another highlight here, and it’s a damn shame it doesn’t get half-as-much airplay that “Broken Wings” does.
Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless
His Hit: “She Blinded Me With Science”
So, two for two here I’m going to sound like a contrarian, but my God, is “She Blinded Me With Science” an AWFUL song. It’s a dud! It’s aged like peeled avocado and barely would fit the tone of a Ned’s Declassified reboot. I heard a lot of good things about Thomas Dolby though, back in my New Wave phase, but because I hated the song so much it took me awhile to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. Dolby brought a certain level of panache to the movement, like some mad musical scientist. His songs are immersive and well-written--in particular I’ll cite “Flying North” and “Commercial Breakup”--and his fluke hit is thankfully relegated to bonus-track status. He was like a Buggles for the sophisticates, and it’s a shame his music has so largely been forgotten. I wonder if the new stuff’s any good. I’d also like to say that his follow-up album, The Flat Earth, is even better and “Hyperactive” is a far-better single than “Blinded.”
The Weather Girls - Success
Their Hit: “It’s Raining Men”
I don’t know why I’m revealing this choice so early on in the rankings. You think I’m full of shit. Here’s the thing though, readers. I’m not. I’m so not. The funny thing about listening to these people--people being one-hit wonders--is that it’s so difficult to gauge what any one is about from one song. This was my relationship to The Weather Girls. I had no idea what to expect listening to it, but it’s a super fun dynamic this duo had going for them. They were two large women--one in her thirties, the other was in her forties--and they beat the odds achieving mainstream-success with their fun, devil-may-care attitude about food, friendship and romance, leaving them better-remembered than a lot of artists at the time. It’s just a fun album that I promise will put a smile on your face with a unique blend of pop and soul music, as well as the very unique dynamic the two share. I don’t know how long their schtick would hold out but, for this album at least, it was great.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners - Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
Their Hit: “Come on Eileen”