My Least-Favorite Musical Period


A friend recently sent me a copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” insisting that I listen to it.

I barely got through it.

Of course I’ve heard “Thriller” all the way through before. I think. I’m pretty sure. I think, given the amount of times I’ve heard the hits through my life, I’ve probably lapped the album over and over again. Despite never owning the album until recently, it was a clear part of my childhood. Mostly due to ubiquity, but there you have it. I also consider “Billie Jean” to be The Best, and I constantly rework the chorus to “Wanna Be Starting Something” to fit my daily activities (such as “Wanna Be Carvin’ Pumpkin” or “Wanna Be Fartin’ Something”).

But all of that aside, this album… I can’t do it. And I think I know why:

That musical period — the big rock and pop of the early 80’s — is my least favorite period.

The years between 1981 and 1991 showed the rise of U2 (one of my least favorite bands), Bruce Springsteen (who got started earlier, but became a super-duper star at this time… either way never did it for me), as well as the low-point of the Rolling Stones. The Ramones struggled, the Clash broke up, Van Halen used synth keys AND broke up, and KISS took off their make-up. David Bowie and Mick Jagger made the video for “Dancing In the Street,” arguably the most embarrassing duet since “The Girl Is Mine” by Jackson and McCartney. On the other end, I never got into Metallica, or the underground hard core and punk scenes, or any of the bands mentioned in “This Band Could Be Your Life.”

…I think, technically, “Dancing” is more embarrassing because of a.) the video, b.) the clothes worn in the video, c.) the fact that these were once titans of the industry who clearly seem lost in their strange homoeroticism, and d.) the video again. BUT this last trip through “Thriller” reminded me of how awful (awful awful AWE-FULL) “Girl is Mine” remains. All the things embarrassing (yes, I’m embarrassed for the people involved while I passively listen) elements of “Girl is Mine” actually trickle their way through the remainder of the album, specifically synthesizer. Truth be told, as much as I enjoy “Wanna Be Starting Something,” my eyes almost rolled out of my skull when those “horns” first popped up. Sooooooooooo shitty.

Oh, there are many band and albums I enjoy from this period. “Purple Rain,” much of the early R.E.M. albums, and lots of singles. But there’s always things to enjoy in things you claim they don’t enjoy (like how I hate U2, but I can still list 8 songs I like). I think that era was the height of the pop single, with artists producing radio-friendly hits which play for a few minutes before changing to another artist.

I’m not sure where this leads me other than away from “Thriller.” Maybe someday I will feel differently. But I don’t know how differently I’d have to feel to allow synth horns.

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