YISEL’S TOP FIVE FROM: 1984

YISEL’S TOP FIVE FROM: 1984

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Another year, 5 more songs. Read on to see who made it to 1984’s list:

1. “99 RED BALLOONS” BY NENA FROM 99 RED BALLOONS

“99 Red Balloons” is a hit in translation. Both the German and English versions are by Nena. The original German version was released in 1983, and a year later the English version came out. The original title, “Neunundneunzig Luftballons” literally translates to “Ninety-Nine Air Balloons.” Though the song keeps the same ideas as the translation, it’s not a direct translation and does alter some words to fit the rhythm. Nena released the English language version in 1984 and it quickly became a hit. The song was written as a story in which a person decides to set free 99 balloons just for fun. However, the balloons are mistaken for UFOs. Pilots are sent to check out these unidentified objects. Once the pilots find out that the supposedly dangerous floating objects were only balloons, they decided to put on a show and shoot them. The story of the pilots makes its way to different places in the world. This leads to a war between different nations that have decided they are more powerful and want to prove it. In the end, there is no victorious nation, but the cities are devastated. The guitarist, Carlo Karges, got the idea for the lyrics at a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin after seeing some balloons being released. The bass line from this song is hard to erase from your brain once you’ve heard the song. The energy of singer Gabriele Kerner, or as most people call her, Nena, elevates at the chorus while the song starts to take speed.

 

2. “PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE” BY DEPECHE MODE FROM SOME GREAT REWARD

“People are People” was the band’s first hit single in the US. I see the lyrics of the song as a call for people to be more understanding of other people’s differences. The song has a dancy synth-pop sound accompanied by a variety of tape loops. When the band was recording this song, they actually went into the kitchen of the studio for pots and pans to create all the percussion sounds you can hear in the song. The members of the band recorded the sound of the different kitchen supplies falling down the stairs to create different rhythms, and then created the loops with them. Martin Gore, lead vocalist, keyboardist and guitarist of the band, wrote the song; however, he claims that it is one of his least favorites songs because since the lyrics are very simple and direct, it doesn’t offer the listener the option to interpret the song. Gore considers the song a “nice, commercial” song, but I believe it actually has the power to bring people together over its musical joy and the inevitable desire to dance it creates.

Depeche Mode - People Are People (Official Video)

3. “THE KILLING MOON” BY ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN FROM OCEAN RAIN

The first time I heard this song was in the film Donnie Darko. The strange film needed a suitable mysterious ballad, and there it was, “The Killing Moon,” a perfect song for the opening sequence. Vocalist Ian McCulloch claims the lyrics for the chorus came to him in a dream. When he woke up, all he could remember was the lines “Fate / Up against your will / Through the thick and thin / He will wait until / You give yourself to him.” After that, the band started experimenting with Bowie’s chords for “Space Oddity,” playing them backwards. However, they ended mixing up the chords and coming with was is now “The Killing Moon.” The band also took some musical inspiration from Russian music written for the balalaika (a three-stringed triangular guitar-like instrument.) The orchestral sound during the chorus is a double track combination of cellos and keyboards. The video includes the band in a dark space illuminated only through a window while also cutting to clips of a person wearing a hooded cape who could be seen as representing fate or even death.

Echo & The Bunnymen - The Killing Moon (Official Music Video)

4. “HEAVEN KNOWS I’M MISERABLE NOW” BY THE SMITHS FROM HATFUL OF HOLLOW

It’s so hard to choose which song by The Smiths from 1984 to make my top 5. In 1984 the band released their first studio album, which features many of their most known songs and some of my favorites The Smiths songs: “This Charming Man,” “How Soon is Now?”, “What Difference Does it Make?”, and “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I want,” to name a few. However, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” wins of these songs. Yes, it is a very depressing song: some might say it’s a song about Morrissey’s eternal dissatisfactions. Yet I find it very moving. There is an ease in knowing once in a while you can be miserable and you are not the only one, that it’s a feeling we all share and sometimes need to experience in order to find our ways towards happiness. Johnny Marr wrote the music in an hour in a New York hotel. Though the lyrics talk about depression, the music, in my opinion, creates some ease and features a playful guitar sound. The title was a play on “Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now,” a song by ‘60s English singer Sandie Shaw, who in 1984 covered The Smiths’s song “Hand In Glove.”

The Smiths - Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now (Official Music Video)

5. “I WANT TO BREAK FREE” BY QUEEN FROM THE WORKS

Written by bassist John Deacon, this song is an anthem against oppression. It’s mainly about women’s oppression, as demonstrated by the video when the band, dressed up as women, can be seen cleaning the house or taking the role that has commonly been forced on women—the housewife. The band then captures the subjugation of women through household labor in juxtaposition with the lyrics. The video is also a parody of British soap opera Coronation Street. In the USA the video was very controversial due to the band’s cross-dressing to the extent that MTV banned it. Musically, the song lacks a chorus and instead features three verses, one bridge, and an outro. Another surprise is that the solo, which most people might assume is played on a guitar, is actually played on a synthesizer by musician Fred Manel, known for contributions to albums such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Alice Cooper’s The Alice Cooper Show. In general, I consider this a song that poses complex questions about the relationship between freedom and love. Can you be free in a relationship where you feel trapped despite loving your partner? And how can you escape and still be with who you love? Further, the song is a delight to sing along as are many of Queen’s songs.

Queen - I Want To Break Free (Official Video)
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