Various Artists

Entertainment Weekly Greatest Hits: 1984

by Ben Varkentine

25 September 2000


Thoughts on listening to this CD:

Music remains music. From Bill Haley’s’ rock combo to Christina Aguilera’s aural pornography. Whenever one generation questions the pop culture of the next, the answer is, if isn’t for you. And the reason pop stars seem to have gotten younger and younger is that people got hip to the fact that it is very difficult to be an adult pop star. Ever since the ‘70’s and (God help us) “progressive rock,” we have seen the pitfalls of grown men and women trying to play at children’s games by making them “respectable.” And we put down what is beloved by others because we don’t want to admit that we are all susceptible to what Noel Coward called the potency of cheap music. We want to believe that the soundtrack to our lives is better than the sound track to theirs, whoever we or they might be, when in fact it’s just another part, a different scene in the same play.

cover art

Various Artists

Entertainment Weekly Greatest Hits: 1984

US: 26 Sep 2000

I get tired of people, especially those poor saps who had the misfortune to be teenagers in the ‘60’s, telling me what ‘80’s music was. Whenever rock critics or “social commentators” of a certain ilk mention the pop of that era, it’s almost always with a certain smugness that puts down the music as “overly technological,” which, as we all know, automatically translates to “devoid of feeling.” Those of us who like it are not really being serious, we’re being clever, or even (God help us again) ironic.

The truth is, these are people who have fallen into the “My nostalgia can beat up your nostalgia” trap, and who don’t realize that if they had been there when “Dylan went electric” they would have passed Pete Seeger the ax he used to try to sever Dylan’s connection to his amp. In other words, reactionaries unable to separate the tools from what is made with them.

I love ‘80’s pop. Not because I’m being clever or ironic, and certainly not because it was devoid of feeling. Don’t tell me that “Hold Me Now,” or “Missing You” or “Drive” is devoid of feeling just because electronics were used to create them. When you say that, when you write that, you are in essence accusing anyone who was ever moved by those songs of having feelings that are invalid.

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