Chart Flashback

Chart Flashback

How do 19-year-old hits by Tiffany, Michael Jackson, and Billy Idol hold up today? Whitney Pastorek gives 'em another listen

MALL WONDER Cheered at the Galleria, jeered at the Six Flags in Houston — it was Tiffany's world in 1987
Image credit: Tiffany: David Redfern / Redferns / Retna Ltd.
MALL WONDER Cheered at the Galleria, jeered at the Six Flags in Houston — it was Tiffany's world in 1987

This week in '87: Hangin' at the mall with Tiffany

Billboard's Top 10 for the week ending Nov. 7, 1987:

10. ''It's a Sin,'' Pet Shop Boys
I am neither British nor Catholic, so much of the Pet Shop Boys' oeuvre makes little to no sense to me; still, there's really nothing to object to in this song, and that's up to and including the sort of evil-wizard-unleashed-upon-the-airwaves nature of the thunderclaps. I've always been a sucker for big epic songs with slightly ancient and/or post-apocalyptic flair, like ''Rock Me Amadeus'' or ''The Final Countdown,'' and actually, the similarities between this track and Europe's biggest hit should not be underestimated in any way. I'm not accusing Neil Tennant of doing anything wrong, though. The more songs like this, the better. B+

9. ''Let Me Be the One,'' Exposé
Oh my God, you guys, Exposé got back together. Yes! They now join the proud ranks of every single other band that broke up ever, except for like Nirvana or something, and I'm sure the decision is motivated only by a love for their girl-group art and not at all by a need for cash, and I hope if any of you attend a state fair at some point next summer you'll let me know how they're doing, okay? (Actually, I should know better than to openly mock any semi-obscure group in this column; you guys probably all have Exposé T-shirts or something.) Anyway, this isn't their best song — that would totally be ''Seasons Change'', a song I can very clearly remember making me cry, although not because of Gavin McMillan but rather this boy named Matt who I adored before Gavin moved to town (and who, OMG, I just Googled, and he's a senior vice president of something, gracious) — and it's maybe a little too one-note for my tastes. Literally. You're a group; can I get some harmony up in here? No? C+

8. ''Brilliant Disguise,'' Bruce Springsteen
Mmm. Bruce Springsteen. Sitting in my kitchen. Singing to me. Good times. At least until the end of the video, where we get entirely too close. Too close, Bruce! Teeth! Teeth! I am not comfortable enough with my sexuality to have your face this close to mine! As for the song... well, jeez. Can I get a decent Springsteen song on this damn thing, ever? I'll start with the positives: I like the bass line in the chorus. A lot. It's unexpected, and therefore cool. And that completes our rundown of the positives. I think it sounds a little too much like ''Tunnel of Love'' (same general rhythmic strumming over glum-yet-poppy beat). I spent a lot of years thinking he was saying ''bridge in the sky'' instead of ''brilliant disguise,'' which I recognize now is really stupid seeing how that's the title of the song. And listening to it now... I dunno. I guess I'm a sucker for the E Street Band. You people have to understand I'm hard on Bruce because he's good, okay? B-

7. ''Breakout,'' Swing Out Sister
Oh, hello, one-hit wonder!! (Yeah, I said it.) This song makes me laugh. It starts off all foreboding and mysterious, but stop! There's nothing at all to worry about! We are just here for the happy dancing time, and we are going to party, karamu, fiesta, forever, etc.! We have a horn section on our keyboard and we are not afraid to use it! So, breakout! P.S.: This video is goin' out to all you kids suffering from Project Runway withdrawal. B-

6. ''(I've Had) The Time of My Life,'' Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
All right. I have no idea what to do here. If I give this song a really good grade, like I'm itchin' to do, then I lose all credibility (oh, wait). If I try to grade it objectively, then I betray everything I know and everything I am, all in the name of ''journalism.'' Well. That settles it. I cannot change who I am, or the fact that I have seen Dirty Dancing an estimated 7.3 billion times and can therefore tell you at any moment in this song what is happening in the movie, especially the part where Jerry Orbach comes over and shakes Johnny's hand and says, ''When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong,'' and, you know, the lift. Oh! The lift! So unnecessary, but so glorious! I'll always remember being at camp the summer after this movie came out, sitting out on the front porch before dinner and listening to the songs from this soundtrack — ''Overload,'' ''Yes,'' ''Be My Baby'' — waft out of the girls' cabins and over the trees on an endless loop. Maybe that's the coolest thing for me about Dirty Dancing: In the same way Baby found herself drawn to the staff housing at Kellerman's by ''Where Are You Tonight,'' I got sucked into the Arkansas hills by ''In the Still of the Night,'' played on a crappy boombox at sunset. ''(I've Had) The Time of My Life'' may be the most inane song ever written, but give it credit for the memories, at least. And the sax solo. B

5. ''Bad,'' Michael Jackson
Ooh. [Insert sharp intake of breath here.] Michael Jackson. You are so hardcore. Dude, I don't know what to say. I mean, how are you supposed to follow Thriller? You can't. It is completely and utterly impossible. And frankly, for all his problems, the fact that the guy came up with something as totally acceptable and in many ways awesome as the Bad album — well, maybe we don't give him enough credit. Seriously: Here we have a beat unlike anything else on this chart, combined with Michael's unmistakable vocal stylings (''jamon!'') and maybe the greatest first line of any song ever (''Your butt is mine...''). You've even got a video directed (although presumably not choreographed) by Martin Scorsese, a video any good film scholar should watch to see how it clearly influenced his work in the vastly underrated Gangs of New York. My only quibble is that I wish Jacko had written different lyrics for this track, just because making two records in a row with a song about fighting might lead people to think, you know, you're overcompensating for something. B+

[I would also like to give a brief shout-out to ''Weird Al'' Yankovic, whose did such fine work on ''Eat It'' and then was forced to step up his game once again on ''Fat''. In the '80s, it seemed these two artists just existed to make each other better. Too bad Michael couldn't keep up.]

4. ''Little Lies,'' Fleetwood Mac
What's with all the disguising around here? What were we all so intent on hiding from one another in 1987? Why couldn't we just be open about our feelings? Here, I'll start: I love Stevie Nicks' dress in this video. Lots. Not the hair so much, though. I also like the smooth flow of Christine's vocals, and the wah-wah of whatever the hell that is that plays the intro. Also I like the tinkly little keys in the background, and all that other foggy kind of Fleetwood Mac-y stuff they stuffed in here. EW's own Paul Katz would like to point out that this song is very hard to dance to. ''Is it fast? Is it slow?'' he asks. I don't know, Paul. I just know I like Stevie's dress. B

3. ''Mony Mony,'' Billy Idol
Oh, that snarl! This song is fine, but for some reason it will always remind me of stupid radio DJs and, by extension, ''Bang a Gong'' and ''Workin' for the Weekend,'' neither of which was a song I particularly enjoyed. Ride your pony, etc, yeah, bleah. Half a bonus point for the sheer existence of ''Dancing With Myself.'' B-

2. ''Causing a Commotion,'' Madonna
This song is off the Who's That Girl soundtrack, and now I feel like it is only proper (based on my earlier Dirty Dancing rhapsodizing) that I admit something: I've never seen that movie. I've also never seen Desperately Seeking Susan. I have, tragically, seen Evita, and very happily enjoyed A League of Their Own several times. Also Dick Tracy. But Madonna's early film work... Gosh, I don't know. Maybe part of me just thinks it's too late now, and were I to watch those movies without the benefit of being 13 or whatever, I'd just watch them in a boring adult way. Or, maybe, I just never really liked Madonna as an actress all that much. Whatevs. About the song: Kicky little slappy beat, love the way it goes right into the chorus, but the verses are sluggish. Also, w/r/t this live performance, I could really do without the skit. B-

1. ''I Think We're Alone Now,'' Tiffany
EW's own Paul Katz would like to point out that the reason this song was so popular was its use over some sort of pizza-girl-boob montage on Growing Pains, which, tragically, I am unable to find on the Internets. ''It was pizza porn, it really was,'' he says. I don't know, Paul. I just know that I once attended a New Kids on the Block/Tiffany concert at Astroworld, the Six Flags amusement park in Houston, and Tiffany got booed off the stage by the overcaffienated audience of rabid pre-teen girls. I feel really bad about my participation in that. Even though I wasn't the one doing the booing — I was there for purely ironic reasons only (and because I had a season pass) — I'm guilty by association. Therefore, I plan to apologize to Tiffany here in this Chart Flashback, where I have not yet dispensed an A, by saying mallrat, schmallrat. You know you loved this song. A

Originally posted Nov 03, 2006