From Seattle, Florida to Miami, Washington, these are the biggest hits of the land chosen by balding neophytes who’ll be in the pharmaceutical business within the next 5 years. So let’s get right to it:
25. Like A Prayer – Madonna
Madonna made everyone her bitch by the end of the decade, always thinking one step beyond her audience. And she knew it wouldn’t take much to freak people out – a video featuring a stigmata, kissing a black Jesus and oh yeah, dancing in front of burning crosses. I wasn’t sure about that one, but once the video aired and controversy ensued, Pepsi canceled her ad campaign but let her keep the money. What a boss!
24. Heaven Help Me – Deon Estus
OHW – and a song you’d hear waiting in line at a drug store, so I’m gonna label it Rite-Aid Rock (RAR). Deon was a bass player from Detroit who got some primo music lessons from the Funk Brother James Jamerson. He parlayed that into a gig with Harvey Mason, singing on his album M.V.P. in 1981 and singing lead on his first recorded version of the song Spell. After he traveled to Europe hooking up with a new pop group called Wham! UK, he became their secret ingredient anchoring their marshmallow pop with a funky bottom. When it came time to record his debut, his pal, George (Michael) not only co-wrote but also produced and sang on the Top 5 Heaven Help Me, as well as giving Deon an opening slot on his Faith tour.
23. Straight Up – Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul’s debut album was a flop in 1988. The first two singles didn’t go anywhere. But then as 88 became 89, she had a miraculous turnaround with some rare record support making this song the first of 4 #1 singles. Her boyfriend, Arsenio, made a cameo in the video too.
22. Cryin’ – Vixen
What the Bangles were to pop, Vixen was to hard rock. An all-girl band is rare enough but to find one in the boys club of hair metal was like finding a record needle in a haystack (or the lead singer’s hair.)
21. More Than You Know – Martika
Kids Incorporated was a music kid’s show that aired from 1984-1994, but I have yet to meet someone who watched it. It was a launching ground for singers Fergie, Rahsaan Patterson and Marta Marrero aka Martika. Her debut yielded 3 Top 40 hits with this one as the first, reaching the top 20 in the US & UK.
20. Your Mama Don’t Dance – Poison
I get the feeling the only reason they covered this song was that someone awoke from their cocaine stupor and heard “Outta the car, long hair” while a tow truck backed their car out of aisle 4 of a Travelodge pool. Again.
19. I Beg Your Pardon – Kon Kan
Can con is short for Canadian content, which assures Canadian artists that they have a 60% chance of getting their music played on Canadian radio, which is why we’ve heard of the Barenaked Ladies. Also Kon Kan, who mash up an original retro disco track with a sample of Lynn Anderson’s Rose Garden. It will reach #15. They also get some points for adding the hard to find National Lampoon sample, “Do you want to Hustle? Do you want to salsa?”
18. You Got It (The Right Stuff) – New Kids On The Block
I dated a girl in high school who loved these guys. She was 17 at the time. I told her she was a little too old for that teeny bopper stuff. She told me that I reminded her of Donnie. I think of that every time I watch The Sixth Sense.
17. Superwoman – Karyn White
Karyn White had a boatload of hits in the late 80s and early 90s. Then by the end of the 90s, she dropped out of the music scene and is now a SuperRealtor – *finger snaps*
16. You Got It – Roy Orbison
Roy had been a big star in the early 60s but became a casualty of the incoming British Invasion even as some of those bands idolized him. His worthy late 80s resurgence as a Traveling Wilbury and his classic Mystery Girl album saw Roy get his last Top 10 hit, 23 years after his last one. Sadly, he didn’t get to experience that as he passed away in December 1988.
15. Just Because – Anita Baker
We needed Anita. We need more Anitas. We almost didn’t get her. Her mother abandoned Anita as a toddler and her foster parent died when she was 12. She struggled her entire life just to survive, so the fact that she eventually “made it” was remarkable, due not only to her talent and perseverance but fulfilling her destiny.
Anita was one of only 5 Black female artists in the 80s with a #1 album as Giving You The Best That I Got spent 4 weeks in late 1988 on top.
14. Stand – R.E.M.
R.E.M. didn’t want to be a cult band with college rock cred. They wanted to sell out arenas. So they created very simple, sometimes incredible dumb songs, usually one per album to get some radio airplay, hence this track and eventually Shiny Happy People.
13. Don’t Tell Me Lies – Breathe
Here are some facts about the band, Breathe that you may not know. Their debut album spun off 3 Top 10 songs, this one being the third. They had two more Top 40 hits from their 2nd album, Peace of Mind. David Glasper was being groomed for a solo career but he nor the band ever released any more material. [Correction – David self-released a CD in 2014.]
12. Dreamin’ – Vanessa Williams
RAR – might even hear this walking through a casino buffet line. Vanessa was the first Black woman to win the Miss America crown, so of course, we all looked at our watch counting the minutes before someone took it away. Vanessa would eventually resign, not because of the death threats and hate mail, but because of nude photographs of her and another woman posed together. Gasp, I know, especially because that sounds like a Nicki Minaj album cover.
Vanessa would shoot down the haters and enjoy a successful career in acting, fashion designing and music. This would be her first Top 40 hit reaching #10.
Fun fact – One of the Miss America 1984 judges was Rod McKuen who wrote Seasons In the Sun. Make your own joke up here.
11. Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses
“Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” That’s not a long walk from here to Kid Rock. How interesting that in 1989 utopia consisted of hot chicks and quality landscaping.
Are you feeling like Bill Murray lugging the pastor’s clubs in the rain? Don’t worry the storm is almost over…
OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder
PFK – Perfect for karaoke
RAR – Rite-Aid Rock