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The Best Albums of 1987


What if I told you the two biggest hit songs of 1987 were by Gregory Abbot and Billy Vera & the Beaters?

Well they were. The songs in question are “Shake You Down” and “At This Moment,” two tunes I haven’t given a second thought to in the intervening thirty years. If you had asked me to name the top hits of the year without doing any research I never would have thought of these two. Go a little further down the list and you’ll start to find artists you may associate more with the era, like Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, and Bon Jovi. If you know me well, you probably know that not many of those folks are likely to make my list of the best albums of the year from thirty years ago. If you don’t know me well, check out last year’s article about the Best Albums of 1986 and the previous year’s highlight of the top long-form recordings of 1985. That should drive the point home. Since I turned 17 in 1987, I not only developed some intense attachment to the popular art forms of the time, but I also learned a bit of distaste for the stuff that I found less appealing. I’m sure most people who take art seriously go through this at some point in time and over the next few years it would develop for me pretty significantly.

Despite this, you should find some of my choices for the best of 1987 to be accessible enough.

Take a deep breath and dive in!
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The Best Albums of 1986

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1986 was a real mixed bag overall. There was plenty of bad news, including the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the continued proliferation of the AIDS virus, the Iran-Contra affair coming to light, and racial tensions made worse at Howard Beach. Icons appeared for the first time, including Oprah Winfery’s show entering syndication,  the video game Legend of Zelda being released, and Pixar Animation Studios opening. Oddities such as “Hands Across America” and Geraldo Rivera’s embarrassing live opening of Al Capone’s “vaults” helped inject curiosity and bemusement. Platoon, Aliens, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were among the top box office hits of the year, but so were Karate Kid Part II and The Golden Child.

The Billboard singles charts were pretty uneven too. The well-meaning, but saccharine remake of Burt Bacharach’s “That’s What Friends are For” was the biggest hit of the year and bizarre recordings like Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” and Madonna’s pean to unwed teen mothers “Papa Don’t Preach” also hit the top spot. Despite the steadily mediocre quality of much mainstream music as the ’80s progressed, I have steadfastly believed 1986 to be one of the greatest years in my lifetime for pop and rock albums. For this reason, this year’s look back of thirty years will include twice as many honorees as last year’s look at the best of 1985.

Join me, won’t you?
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The Best Albums of 1985

With the new year upon us, we here at Le Blog have been putting a little attention on looking back 30 years at the pop culture of 1985. As the resident music enthusiast, I’ve decided to write a quick opinion piece naming my favorite albums of that year. I was 15 years old at the time, so my options were pretty limited then, and only a couple of these are records I was familiar with soon after their release. Most of the popular top 40 type music of the mid 80s was frothy fun and if you look at the top-selling singles of the year you’ll find undeniable pop gems like George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” A-ha’s “Take on Me,” and Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” USA for Africa’s “We are the World” was one of the most played tunes and included a huge contingent of what were current stars. It’s not a particular favorite of mine, but it seemed like an appropriate top image for this article. There is plenty of popular music from 1985 that I have warm feelings for despite its general glossy sheen, however. While some of my all-time favorite albums show up the next year, there was also a general turn toward a more shallow kind of dance pop and the dreaded hair metal groups. That leaves 1985 as a sort of last stand of mainstream music appealing to me.
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