Now That’s What I Call Music 2
This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.
Released- March 26th, 1984
The Smiths exist! The world is a better place for this alone. The Now albums represent Virgin and Universal records output at this moment in time, with other labels joining as they became more successful, so there are glaring holes where certain acts should be.
One month old, I believe I had been spending most of my time screaming, drinking milk, and crapping myself. Which actually covers the majority of my entire autobiography.
If I had to save one track from this album, and all the others had to burn in a fiery pit, that track would be… Run Runaway by Slade. I get to keep all the other Smiths songs. I regret losing 99 Red Balloons, but I get to keep 99 Luftballons, and I’m a sucker for German language versions. It kills me to part with the spastic funk of Hyperactive by Thomas Dolby, but until the world respects Slade with the credit they’re due, I must fight for them.
Track by track breakdown
Queen : “Radio Ga Ga”
Queen can still do no wrong at this point. In fact, until the whole let’s wait until Freddie’s dead and then shit all over our legacy debacle, I’m not sure Queen had a low point. Anyway, hand claps, rising verses, Live Aid, etc. It’s a corker.
Nik Kershaw : “Wouldn’t It Be Good”
Hmm. I want to hate it, but the weird counter harmonic synth stabs and surprisingly mournful melody won me over. I never expected to like a Nik Kershaw song. Just shows what I know.
Thompson Twins : “Hold Me Now”
If I could excise the sentimental streak in me that makes me love this song, I would. I can’t, so this is one I love, and hate myself for loving. Musically atrocious, emotionally brilliant.
Matt Bianco : “Get Out of Your Lazy Bed”
Scat over the sounds of an epileptic playing a Casio VLtone keyboard mid fit. It’s terrible and simultaneously entertaining. How this got released is a mystery to me. But it’s far from dull.
Carmel : “More, More, More”
Out of the context of this album and era, a piecemeal bit of Motown revivalism, but when you’re otherwise bombarded by synthesisers and super clean production, refreshingly different. An aural palate cleanser.
Madness : “Michael Caine”
Still Madness, still fun. Never quite worked out if this song is about anything, or if it’s just for the love of Maurice Micklewhite.
Flying Pickets : “Only You”
I love a world where weird shit like this is a thing that can succeed. Gareth Malone goes pop!
Nena : “99 Red Balloons”
Better than Heroes by David Bowie. Better than Kill the Poor by the Dead Kennedys. Better than The War Song by Culture Club. Marginally better than Ronnie Talk to Russia by Prince The very best song about the cold war.
Cyndi Lauper : “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
Has done more to harm feminism than anything I can think of. The least fun song about fun ever written.
Tracey Ullman : “My Guy’s Mad at Me”
Her music is far from great. Madness did the same song much, much better. Her musical reach these days is approximately zero, but this woman launched The Simpsons, and therefore has her name carved into the stone tablet of pop culture forever. Also, the video is one of those ones where the lyrics are acted out literally. Which is literally brilliant.
Matthew Wilder : “Break My Stride”
Synth reggae- there’s still ground to be broken here. Far from brilliant, but definitely enjoyable.
Julia & Company : “Breaking Down”
Jazz disco. Not mined by Daft Punk recently. I wonder why?
Joe Fagin : “That’s Livin’ Alright”
America gets Billy Joel, we get this hybrid of Joel, Status Quo, and the theme from Only Fools and Horses. An answer to the question, ‘Whatever happened to British cultural supremacy?’
Hot Chocolate : “I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)”
Dull dull dull and medically inaccurate.
Snowy White : “Bird of Paradise”
Exactly why I’m not reviewing the 70’s pop music scene. A bland rock ballad, with some masturbatory solo noodling in the middle. This is what kills off rock music. Inch by inch. Four bad tracks in a row. Starting to lose my mind.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood : “Relax”
I think I love what this song stands for way more than I actually like the song. I’m not sure I have ever listened to the whole of it. It wins on a noble cause and upsetting sad little bigots.
Eurythmics : “Here Comes the Rain Again”
Atmospheric, forward thinking and about a minute and a half too long.
Howard Jones : “What Is Love?”
Badly programmed synthesisers making cheesy noises over some cod philosophical balladry. Leaves me longing for Haddaway, which is a decade away yet.
The Smiths : “What Difference Does It Make?”
“But still I would jump in front of a flying bullet for you.”
Fiction Factory : “(Feels Like) Heaven”
A flavourless sparrow fart of a song that left my head as soon as it ended.
Re-Flex : “The Politics of Dancing”
This hasn’t aged well at all. It sounds like an average David Bowie b-side with a title that’s clever until you think about it for more than five seconds.
Thomas Dolby : “Hyperactive!”
The sort of song nobody else could write. Jitter funk with a killer sense of humour. Have listened to this maybe 200 times and have never got bored of it.
China Crisis : “Wishful Thinking”
Slow this song down about 10bpm, and get Michael Stipe in and you have a late era REM song. So not mind blowing, but forgivable.
David Bowie : “Modern Love”
David Bowie can do no wrong in my eyes. However, he is very capable of doing average, especially in the 80’s. I’d prefer some Tin Machine.
Culture Club : “It’s a Miracle”
Yes, it truly is. How this song got released, it’s a miracle. And dreams are made of emotions. Lyrics like that make me wonder if Boy George’s fashion sense was deliberately provocative, or if he is just intellectually subnormal.
Rolling Stones : “Undercover of the Night”
Thirty years on, it’s actually quite pleasant to hear them making an effort. I assumed this was around the point they started phoning it in. Rhythmically exciting if aimless.
Big Country : “Wonderland”
A promisingly big bombastic opening, followed by a song which ruins that promise by going precisely nowhere. Big Country are now touring town halls near you!
Slade : “Run Runaway”
Slade never get enough respect. I don’t understand why T Rex get so much love over this superior glam band. Probably because Marc Bolan had androgyny while Slade just dressed like tits. Anyway, this is a cast iron tune, nursery rhyme lyrics over a great driving beat. Slade is not just for Christmas, kids, it’s for life.
Duran Duran : “New Moon on Monday”
Are Duran Duran less good than I remember? I’m worrying I’ve been operating under a misconception here. Again, not a very exciting song. Come on Le Bon, you’re better than this!
Paul McCartney : “Pipes of Peace”
John Lennon was the lucky one. The 80’s destroyed the consistent brilliance of Fab Wacky Macca Thumbs Aloft’s back catalogue. If you make it more than a minute in without seriously considering self harm, you’re stronger than I.
Final mark- 14/30 or 46% genius
Edit: Another person’s more intellectual perspective