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The Best Song of the 1980s

I always get a chuckle out of these “definitive” lists that come about about the best of something. The best of anything is in the eye of the beholder or the ear in this case. Music can be a touchy subject, and like art, there are plenty of snooty people around who think their tastes in music are somehow superior. Admittedly, my bar for music is fairly pedestrian. If it sounds good to me, I like it, and if it doesn’t, I don’t. It really is that simple to me. Of course, that’s how I approach most things. I don’t get bent out of shape if someone disagrees with me. I really don’t care. Someone hating something I enjoy doesn’t make me like it any less. It actually makes the contrarian in me positively giddy.

Each generation has its coming-of-age music, which tends to get the most fanfare in every musical era. For most people, that’s when they are most receptive and attuned to new music. Teenagers have ample amounts of time to find and consume new music, and that music becomes the soundtrack of their lives. It captures the aura of their youth and they return to it again and again as they get older to relive those moments. Sadly, some folks stay stuck in that musical era and stop discovering new music that they would otherwise enjoy. One article I read says that we’re less receptive to new music as we get older. That sounds about right, but it doesn’t mean we have to ignore all of the great music that is sure to come in the future.

I came of age in the 1980s, the decade that gave us Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson (the solo version). The 80s produced some excellent music, and some of it has aged well, but I’m not one of those people who only listens to the 80s channel on SiriusXM. I certainly enjoy dabbling in nostalgia (anyone who reads a few posts here knows that), but even I admit that a good chunk of the music from that decade did not age well. Some songs I liked when they were popular in the 80s I absolutely dislike now (e.g. Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”). Yes, the 1980s were my era so to speak, but even I roll my eyes when I hear someone exclaim that the 80s produced the best music. In reality, I’m not sure any decade can make that claim. Each is good in a different way (yes, even the 1970s, which I think was personally one of the worst decades for music).

Anyway, looking back at the music from the 80s, it’s hard to pick a “best” song. I’m sure I could poll my fellow Gen-Xers and get a different answer from each person, but for me the best song of the 80s is “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, a rather obscure group from the era. The song was released in 1985 and was part of the iconic movie, The Breakfast Club. Simple Minds almost didn’t record the song because they didn’t write it, but the songwriter, who was a fan of the group, eventually convinced them to record the song. It became their only number one hit in the U.S. If ever there was a generation-defining movie, The Breakfast Club was it (I liked it much better than the slacker morass of Reality Bites nine years later). I like the song because it defined that particular time in my life, which was all about transitions and leaving things behind.

That year, 1985, was a transitional year for me. I moved from my small school where I had spent eight years to a larger high school. Things changed rapidly. Familiar faces disappeared in the diaspora of teenage angst, and new friends emerged. Despite the excitement of change, I never fully appreciated or embraced it. I’d go onto to spend the next four years feeling like a fish out of water (really, who didn’t feel that way in high school), but I kept coming back to this song. It connected with me on a different level, and even to this day, when I hear this song (yes, it’s on my playlist), it makes me happy, which is what good songs should do.

That’s it, the best song of the 1980s. Don’t try to change my mind. Be glad I didn’t give you my other musical opinions like how I think the certain singers and groups are grossly overrated. That’s a fight for another day.

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