38. “Heartbreak Beat” by the Psychedelic Furs
In a stunning example of hubristic hyperbole, Columbia Records saw fit to promote the fifth album from the Psychedelic Furs, Midnight to Midnight, as the band’s “masterstroke.” It had been around two-and-a-half years since the group’s previous album, and their profile had risen significantly thanks to one of their songs lending a title to a high profile John Hughes movie. They even rerecorded the song for the flick, drawing ire from many longtime fans who found the new version to overly slick and commercial. Turns out that was a mere precursor to a full-on adoption of a glossy, thick production style on Midnight to Midnight. This “masterstroke” drew even more scathing assessments and the group’s cachet withered in college radio circles (although programmers still found their singles pretty irresistible). I actually listened to Midnight to Midnight fairly recently, and it is pretty bad overall. But I absolutely adore “Heartbreak Beat,” the lead single from the album. It’s bombastic, emotionally over the top and simply has too much going on in it. The lyrics are ludicrous (“And the beat don’t stop/ And we talk so tough/ And there’s a perfect kiss somewhere out in the dark/ But a kiss ain’t enough”), and Richard Butler, never a subtle vocalist, delivers them with a grandly self-important brio. And yet it all works wonderfully for me, the broad overkill pushing to a place where the song becomes weirdly sublime.
37. “Not My Slave” by Oingo Boingo
Around 1987, Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo was starting to do pretty well with movie work himself. Like the Psychedelic Furs, Oingo Boingo could claim the title cut of a John Hughes movie, but Elfman was branching out even further, composing the scores for several fairly high profile films. His longstanding collaboration with Tim Burton began with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, and he also provided the music for Back to School, Wisdom and Summer School. Around all that film work, he somehow found time to reconvene Oingo Boingo and record the band’s fifth studio album, Boi-ngo. “Not My Slave” was the second single culled from the album, and it’s a fairly characteristic track, driven by a rollicking energy and riding its hook so mercilessly that it gets a little dull before the song is up. This is the first of two Oingo Boingo songs on the countdown.