Looking Through Time: 1983
With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 1983.
David Bowie - Let’s Dance
Bowie had just successfully launched his way into the 1980s with his album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and was ready to begin working on his next album, which he considered to be a side project. Let’s Dance ended up sporting several of Bowie’s major hits such as its title track “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” “China Girl” and “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” resulting in one of Bowie’s most successful albums to date. This album opened up Bowie to an even wider audience and remained one of the decade’s most prominent albums.
Let’s Dance sold over 10 million copies worldwide and its title track rose to number one on both the U.K. and U.S. charts. Even though Bowie was now incredibly prominent and successful, he had reached a point of being pigeon-holedd into a category of mainstream attention. Bowie’s subsequent releases showed heavily his lack of faith in this direction, resulting in a much-needed break from the spotlight. Although the latter half of the 1980s presented a major challenge for Bowie, Let’s Dance remains his best selling album and aided in rising him to an even higher level of critical reception. - Scott Perdue
The B-52’s - Whammy!
Although The B-52’s would garner a stronger response with their later 1989 album, Cosmic Thing, which featured their most recognizable hits “Love Shack” and “Roam,” Whammy! proved The B-52’s were still a relevant dance-centric band. Whammy! provided both the band and the decade with multiple dance hits such as “Legal Tender,” “Whammy Kiss,” “Butter Bean” and “Song for a Future Generation.” The B-52’s provided MTV with a healthy stock of fun and unconventional music videos from this album, and was presented as the first album where all five bandmates’ voices were featured, evident in the song “Song for a Future Generation.” This album also aided in getting the band back on track from the mixed response of Mesopotamia, proving that The B-52’s hadn’t lost their signature quirky touch.
Even though Whammy! was considered less successful then The B-52’s two previous albums, High Fidelity and Wild Planet, it was able to keep The B-52’s relevant and refreshed, setting them up for huge success with their later decade-defining album, Cosmic Thing. - Scott Perdue
Culture Club - Colour By Numbers
The second album released by Culture Club, Colour By Numbers is widely accepted as their best album, even by lead singer Boy George. Colour By Numbers features several of Culture Club’s hits such as “It’s a Miracle,” “Church of the Poison Mind,” “Victims,” “Miss Me Blind” and the world-wide instant hit “Karma Chameleon,” arguably their most recognizable song. While incorporating a variety of cultural influences, George’s flamboyant and androgynous personality remained a huge focus for their image, helping them to distribute their message of love and acceptance. Colour By Numbers takes on a far more soulful and activist quality thanks to the powerful back-up vocals from Hellen Terry, especially those featured on “That’s the Way (I’m Only Trying to Help You)” and “Church of the Poison Mind.”
Selling over 16 million copies worldwide, Culture Club rose to new heights and proved that the band was relevant beyond just their quirky and nonconformist style. MTV gained several exciting and colorful music videos from this album and Culture Club, Thanks to the videos’ success, they became even more of a pop culture splash. Colour By Numbers remains an important moment in history, speaking to the struggles of sexual orientation and racial disparity that occurred in the decade, wrapped up in a well-rounded and diverse assortment of spectacular tracks. - Scott Perdue
Cyndi Lauper - She’s So Unusual
Moving forward after her unsuccessful attempt at leading the band Blue Angel, Cyndi Lauper dissolved the band and caught a break to record a solo album. Calling back to the heyday of older-style girl groups, Lauper infused her music with grooves inspired glam oldies backed by her signature singing voice. The album sports several hits such as the unforgettable, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “All Through the Night” and “Money Changes Everything,” along with many others. Presenting a care free and goofy persona, Lauper promoted dancing, self-expression and being yourself no matter how odd you are.
Selling 16 million copies worldwide, She’s So Unusual transcends its silly messages and was able to become one of the decades biggest dance influences. The instantly recognizable “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” among several other music videos were featured in heavy rotation on MTV, helping to launch the fledgling Lauper to the forefront of the flamboyant, expressionism pop movement. Lauper’s debut album was able to effectively maintain its position on the charts among other already-prominent bands such as Culture Club, receiving several awards. Although the album is often underappreciated due to its kitschy and humorous approach, She’s So Unusual is a significant mark on the decade and deserves more praise than it is given. – Scott Perdue
The Police - Synchronicity
As one of the most recognizable bands of the British Invasion, The Police were just coming off the success of their latest album, Ghost in the Machine, and were on track to release one last album. Lead singer of the group Sting was feeling as though it was time he pursued a solo career, and was ready to send the band off with a huge bang. Infused with themes of death, murder and love, Synchronicity bounces through several different tones ranging from romantic to sadistic, while also utilizing a variety of world-music influences. Arguably their most recognizable hit, “Every Breath You Take” makes an appearance on this album. Written from the viewpoint of a stalker, ironically this song was able to transcend its darker undertones and become one of the decade’s most prominent love songs. Other songs featured on the album such as “King of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger” were also able to rise the charts quite successfully.
Synchronicity rose to the number one pot on the U.S. BillBoard 200 and the U.K. Albums Chart. Impressively, the album sold over eight million copies and was able to win a total of three of the five Grammy awards that it was nominated for at the 1984 Grammy awards. The substantial success of this album garnered The Police the title of “The Biggest Band in the World” by several critics. Although Synchronicity was the fifth and final album released by The Police, the tracks on this album cemented their legacy and brought a whole new sound to the rock frontier. - Scott Perdue
Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues
Breaking from their long-term partner, Brian Eno, in hopes of being able to produce their own studio album, the Talking Heads collected themselves and attempted to emulate their recent success with their previous album Remain in Light. Speaking in Tongues gave the band their first top ten American hit “Burning Down the House,” and provided an oddly charming viewpoint on love through the song “This Must Be the Place” which wa also able to effectively hold its own on the singles chart. Other songs on the album such as “Girlfriend Is Better” and “Swamp” featured innovative beats and elevated songwriting. The synth work and strange grooves developed on this album were revolutionary, able to reach dark tones while still generating danceable, funky music. In fact, Speaking in Tongues remained on the dance charts at the number two spot for six weeks.
The Speaking in Tongues tour generated inspiration for the band’s live show documentary “Stop Making Sense,” which later became an incredibly popular soundtrack album of the same name. One of the band’s most successful albums, Speaking in Tongues, is considered to be a fan favorite rivaling the critically praised and admired Remain in Light, and provided the decade with a major source of dance tracks. - Scott Perdue
U2 – War
In a decade in which alt-rock heavyweights like R.E.M., the Smiths and the Cure revolutionized music, U2 may have stood above them all. After getting their footing with their first two records, U2 released War, the first of three classic albums that the band would release in the 1980s.
After some mild efforts at the start of the decade, U2 took a turn with War, a protest album. The first song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” recalls the real-life incident in which British Soldiers attacked unarmed civilians in a 1972 protest in Northern Ireland. The song has become a timeless classic, and deservedly so thanks to its historical context and excellent musicianship throughout. “New Year’s Day” is in a similar vein, alluding to the Polish Solidarity movement occurring at the time. “Drowning Man” and “Seconds” also take on darker lyrical themes. But as dark as War is at times, it also has a handful of heartwarming moments such as “Two Hearts Beat as One,” one of the few true love songs that U2 did, and “40,” an uplifting final track based on the words of Bible Verse Psalm 40.
U2 was exploring new ideas in 1983, and their efforts come out brilliantly on War. The timelessness of War would help to pave the way for both U2’s success as a band and the success of alternative rock as a genre. - DJ Bauer
Scott Perdue is a freshman majoring in film/video. To contact him, email email@example.com.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Freshman / Broadcast Journalism