Best Songs of 1982 – Rolling Stone

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All-time classics, buried treasures, cult favorites and one-of-a-kind wonders – from Prince and Duran Duran to Kate Bush and the Go-Go’s to Replacements and REM

Welcome to 1982: the year that invented pop music as we know it today. One of the most experimental, innovative and incredibly bountiful years in music ever. Hip-hop takes over with “The Message” and “Planet Rock”. New wave synth-pop invaded the Top 40. Disco and funk experienced a high-tech boom. Indie rock takes off with REM and the Replacements. Prince claims his throne as the coolest man alive. Madonna is dancing from Detroit. Thriller drops. New stars, new beats, new noises explode every week on MTV. So do some of the most tragic haircuts in history. Synthesizers. Rhythm boxes. Walkman. After 1982, the music will never be the same again.

Of course you can go to the cinema and see HEY Where Fast times at Ridgemont High. Or head to the arcade to play Pac-Man. But the real fun is on the radio, where crazy new sounds mutate and evolve at lightning speed. All styles of music are booming. The children take over. 1982 kicked off the future of cross-cultural mix and match that we all now live in.

This upstart network, MTV, has 24 hours to fill, so it’s forced to play these art-fop weirdos that no one has heard of, because they’re the ones making the videos. Except the music video accidentally stars New Romanticism provocateurs like Duran Duran, ABC and Culture Club. Radical ideas about art, gender, race, sexuality are in the air. The old stylistic boundaries are collapsing. All over the world, rebels are checking each other out on the air and looting each other’s towers.

Veteran stars realize it’s time to move on or die, so legends like Marvin Gaye, George Clinton, Lou Reed, Stevie Nicks, Aretha Franklin get inspired to make their boldest music in years. African music goes global via King Sunny Ade. The beatmasters get their hands on new toys to play with: the 808, the DMX, the Linn LM-2, the Jupiter-8. Rush for electro. The metal accelerates. Hardcore punk takes a huge creative leap. Toto bless the rains in Africa. There’s go-go, ska, country, reggae, hi-NRG, goth. A flock of seagulls? They arrived.

So let’s break it down: the 100 best songs of 1982, 40 years later. The hits, the flops, the flukes, the deep cuts. This list is full of all-time classics, still sung around the world: “Don’t You Want Me”, “Billie Jean”, “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Little Red Corvette”. There are also buried treasures, cult favorites, unique wonders. Some of these melodies are influential works of art. Some are incredibly sleazy pop scams. And one is from Billy Idol. But each is excellent, and each has helped invent the pop landscape we inhabit. So this is one of the greatest years in music. As modern English would say, the future is wide open.

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