During CJS’s impromptu 80s Week, we’ve covered two of the three biggest markers of 80s culture: fashion and movies. The fashion was pretty appalling, all things considered, but the movies consistently rank among our all-time favorites. But what of that all-important third marker? Yes, we have yet to touch on the ubiquitous song stylings of this decade.

Until now, that is. However, rather than devote thousands upon thousands of words to the already well-worn subject (you probably have VH-1 in your home – just watch that some Saturday if you want to re-live the 80s for several hours), we’ll narrow this down substantially.

Using an all-important and highly esteemed committee of one, I’ve chosen what I believe are the 3 Best Songs of the 1980s, and 3 Songs that Deserve a Fiery, Miserable Death in a Plane Crash to Hell. Why take a measured, nuanced view of an entire decade when you can boil it down into 6 probably unrepresentative elements instead, right? Let’s get started.

The 3 Best Songs of the 1980s

1. “Send Me An Angel” by Real Life

I hate to be so obvious right from the get go, but what else would you expect from a website called the Cru Jones Society? Three reasons this song finds itself in the god spot. First, the boss use of synthesizer coupled with the wailing, falsetto vocals of the female backup singer radiates 1986 from every corner of its being. If you wanted to bottle the 1980s and sell it as a scent, you’d capture the essence of this song and stuff it in a glass jar. Then you’d count your money because that would smell amazing.

Second, anytime you can turn a semi-cheesy 80s electro-pop song into an excellent punk rocker, that’s a song that warrants praise. Third, watch that video we linked in the title. Then name me one other song where people dance on bikes. You can’t. Victory to Real Life. And the makers of RAD, of course.

2. “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama

Hey, speaking of synth-pop, we have this multi-colored gem by the girls from Bananarama. Can we just pause for a moment and breathe in the delightful weirdness of the name “Bananarama”? What the hell does that even mean? A lot of bananas? A banana festival? Did these girls just get stoned and think all those “A”s one after another look hilarious? Who names a band this?

More importantly, I got hooked on the song “Toxic” by Britney Spears recently for reasons I can’t fully explain. That song has a crazy hook that embeds itself in your brain and won’t let go. The roots of that song are firmly entrenched in the style of “Cruel Summer” that hits you with its hook right in the opening notes. I’m not sure what instrument even makes those opening notes (it sounds like electronic hand bells), but it works. Combine it with a sneaky awesome bass line, and you’ve got 80s pop joy.

3. “Photograph” by Def Leppard

Why is this here? Several reasons, I’m glad you asked. The biggest is that as much as I’ll never understand the weird homoerotic fascination with glam bands (this works both ways, by the way – men dressing as women, and women finding these cross dressing yahoos irresistible), this genre more than any other rules the 80s. You can’t have a list like this without at least one hair metal song.

Why Def Leppard? That “What has 9 arms and sucks?” joke is still funny, even all these years later. Lead singer Joe Elliott can actually sing. And most importantly, this song isn’t “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” which, thanks to Coyote Ugly and every strip club you’ve ever been to, has been played approximately 11 billion times more than it should have on this earth. “Photograph” has a big ol’ WHOOAAA-OHHH! that you and your drunk friends can belt out while maintaining its status as an ode to jerking off. Just like every great song.

3 Songs that Deserve a Fiery, Miserable Death in a Plane Crash to Hell

1. “Livin on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

How many weddings have you been to in the last 12 months? Take that number, multiply it by 4, and you’ve got the minimum number of times you’ve heard this song just by living in society. Whether it’s some annoying group of drunk bitches at the local watering hole or a bored segment producer for the local sports highlight show, this is the song that won’t die.

And before some smartass points it out for me, this song has an even better WHOOAAA-OHHH! than “Photograph” that just begs you to wail right along. This is even a better overall song than “Photograph.” So why is it here? Plain ol’ personal taste, I guess. True, this song was almost certainly played at my own wedding, but I think my rage boils for it because ever since I became cognizant of pop culture, Bon Jovi has been there doing the exact same fucking act. Bret Michaels said that he wrote the same song over and over again until it stopped going #1. I think Bon Jovi subscribes to the same theory, but somehow their fucking shit has never stopped going #1. Tell me how “Have a Nice Day” is fundamentally any different from any of the vagina buttrock songs they came out with 25 years ago? How does this culture never get tired of Bon Jovi? I’ll never figure it out.

2. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time eviscerating this song considering I know basically my entire audience inexplicably adores this song with every fiber of their being. I used to get in arguments with CJS Regular Deuce about Journey that can summarized thusly:

“Dude, Journey fucking sucks.”

“No way. Journey rules.

“Journey sucks.”

“Journey rules.”

We’d go on like that for about five minutes. So instead of starting a brand new round of that via Internet, I’ll just count myself as weird for this one. But make no mistake: I loathe this song and its dime store sentiment, non-sensical rhyming, and Steve Perry’s howling cat vocal register more than just about any other song in existence. With one exception…

3. “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell

You know who has the best rendition of this song? Beldar Conehead when he narfles the garthok. I have no problem with this song’s tale of a lover scorned and eerily prescient AIDS undertones, I just hate the musicality of this song. Soft Cell is the perfect name for this band because this song has no kick to it. There are no drums, there’s no edge, and the singer has no chutzpah in his voice whatsoever.

The singer seems to be impervious to the admittedly impactful lyrics he spouts off, and not like in a Reel Big Fish ironic way. His voice and his inflection indicate that he has no idea what he’s singing about, and that just plain pisses me off. This could be a cool song if the lead singer had a clue, but he doesn’t, so when you take that with instrumentation that sounds like a menu screen from an NES game, you’ve got the ultimate choice for songs we as a society should never hear again. Unless you need to narfle the garthok.

edagger@crujonessociety.com