1) Everything In My Heart – Corey Hart
2) Truly – Lionel Richie
3) How To Dance – Bingo Boys & Princessa
4) Lost In Emotion – Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam
5) Strokes of Genius – Christina Aguilera vs. The Strokes (Mash-Up)
This week’s countdown starts with Corey Hart, and he’s by far my favorite Corey from the 80’s (sorry, Mr. Haim, Mr. Feldman, and Mr. Parker). I actually lived in Canada for a year when I was in 5th grade (in a teeny-weeny but beautiful town called Bobcaygeon, immortalized in a song by The Tragically Hip), and let me tell you, there was a Corey Hart vs. Bryan Adams rivalry going on, that’s gotta rank along Cyndi Lauper vs. Madonna, Debbie Gibson vs. Tiffany, and N’Sync vs. Backstreet Boys as the most heated in pop music history. For me, it was a no-brainer. As much as I liked “Summer of ’69,” it was Corey, Corey, Corey all the way.
He was a Canadian James Dean, coolness personified, as far as my 5th-grade self was concerned. I think it all started with his “Never Surrender” video. In it, he runs away from home (in a very similar fashion to Pat Benatar in “Love Is a Battlefield”), and he finds himself walking along the dark, dark city streets in a leather jacket, brooding all the while. At one point, he exchanges a long, meaning-laden look with a lady of the night, and I swear, that was the moment I realized that sex existed… Anyhow, “Everything In My Heart” isn’t quite up there with “Never Surrender,” but it’s quite a decent ballad.
Corey is followed by arguably the best 80’s balladeer of them all, Lionel Richie. There’s something about “Truly” that brings me to the edge of tears almost every time I hear it. Much of it, of course, is Lionel’s voice, which is vocal velvet itself. It makes the schlockiest of lyrics seem like the Word of God newly delivered. It takes a lot to move me deeply early in the morning, but “Truly” did the job, and then some.
Only a minute later, I was tapping my toes in the subway car, looking like a fool I’m sure, all thanks to “How To Dance.” I don’t think it was all that big of a hit, but it’s gotta be one of the best dance jams in the early 90’s. It’s awesome, with Princessa trying to convince the uptight dance instructor that dancing isn’t about following directions, it’s about following your heart. Absolutely irresistible.
“Lost In Emotion” follows a similar vein in 80’s freestyle fashion. I’ve always liked this song, and I’ve always wondered what happened to Lisa Lisa, who looked uncannily like Paula Abdul. I remember Lisa Lisa being on Geraldo Rivera’s talk show one time talking about how she’d never resort to coming off slutty and cheap for her career (I think the show was on the depictions of women in pop music or something similar). Lisa Lisa seemed quite articulate and down-to-earth, which may explain why her career dissipated while the loopy, medicated Paula is still just here for the music, dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Interesting, don’t you think?
Finally, there’s “Strokes of Genius,” one of the first mash-ups I’ve ever heard. The combo works quite well, turning Christina into a rock star of all things. It’s far better than the unmashed “Genie in a Bottle,” that’s for sure.
Overall, this is a great countdown, with no clunker among them. In the end, I couldn’t choose between two very different but two equally fantastic songs. So in an unprecendented Morning Countdown tie, I present you the two co-winners:
Truly – Lionel Richie
Bingo Boys+Princessa – How To Dance
Bonus: Here’s the “Never Surrender” video. The “look” comes around the 2:40 mark; it’s not quite as epically puberty-inducing as I remembered, but hey, I don’t care. Corey Hart all the way.