Tag Archives: Pop Rock

25: Just For You (Neil Diamond)

Album: Just For You
Artist: Neil Diamond
Year: 1967

1. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon
2. The Long Way Home
3. Red Red Wine
4. You’ll Forget
5. The Boat That I Row
6. Cherry, Cherry
7. I’m a Believer
8. Shilo
9. You Got to Me
10. Solitary Man
11. Thank the Lord for the Night Time

I am an unabashed lover of Neil Diamond despite the fact that nearly all of his songs are complete fluff, with the rest being as cloying as possible. The passion he’ll imbue banal lyrics is admirable, and the guy can write a solid melody.

Just For You is his second album and it looks more like a greatest hits collection. Red Red Wine and I’m a Believer became famous because of UB40 and The Monkees, respectively, but he’s got six other pretty big hits here. And the non-singles aren’t too shabby either.

You Got to Me and Thank the Lord for the Night Time have significant harmony sections that my friend and I used to sing together late night at Perkins. Yes, we were those people. At least we tried to keep the volume down.

30: The Big Room (M2M)

Album: The Big Room
Artist: M2M
Year: 2002

1. Everything
2. Jennifer
3. Don’t
4. Payphone
5. What You Do About Me
6. Love Left For Me
7. Miss Popular
8. Wanna Be Where You Are
9. Leave Me Alone
10. Sometimes
11. Eventually

Alright, hear me out.

Norwegians Marit Larsen and Marion Raven released their first album, Shades of Purple, while still in high school to pretty good success. They had a top 30 hit in Don’t Say You Love Me here in the states, and it went top 10 in several other countries as well. Mirror, Mirror, my favorite song of theirs, also did okay. They were popular among the Disney Channel crowd, released a ton of music videos, and toured relentlessly, or as much as teenagers can. Their songs consisted of pretty standard pop hooks and melodies, but their ballads were pretty bad.

Still in their late teens, they released The Big Room. They toured with Jewel, who was promoting This Way at the time, and I got to see them live. Their energy was infectious, they both play instruments, and their songwriting seemed a little more pointed than your average teen pop band, so I picked the album up. It really is well done.

Unlike their first effort, they wrote and were the lead writers on every song here, and it shows. They were obviously mature for their age, but still teenagers. I love this line from Jennifer:

She’s a fragile girl
Skin like porcelain
Shame on you, if you would hurt her

She’s adorable
Oh so vulnerable
I wish that somebody would drop her

On one hand, she idolizes this girl and doesn’t want her love interest to treat her poorly. On the other hand, she desperately wants this girl to break in some way so her love interest might turn his attention to her. Nothing terribly new, but refreshingly honest.

My favorite song, easily, is Don’t Say You Love Me. I’m sure a significant part of that is that I lived this song when I was a teenager. She is in love with a guy who also loves her back, but he’s too afraid to break up with his current girlfriend to be with her. She won’t let him cheat with her, but wants to be as supportive as possible. I was that guy, and was grateful I had someone mature and supportive on my side.

The girls also aren’t afraid to use some profanity on the album, though because their market was primarily young girls, there is some censorship.

While there’s not much here as far as top-tier music, it is certainly consistent in quality and energy from beginning to end, which is why I’ll spin the whole thing on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the studio broke up the band shortly after I saw them in concert due to poor sales, and they’re both now in solo careers. Marit’s has been much more successful, which is nice to see because she certainly has the better voice.

43: Sports (Huey Lewis & The News)

Album: Sports
Artist: Huey Lewis & The News
Year: 1983

1. The Heart of Rock & Roll
2. Heart and Soul
3. Bad Is Bad
4. I Want a New Drug
5. Walking on a Thin Line
6. Finally Found a Home
7. If This Is It
8. You Crack Me Up
9. Honky Tonk Blues

Is there anyone that sings really corny lyrics with as much earnestness as Huey Lewis? You can just tell how much he is feelin’ it when belting out lines like “neon lights, and the pretty, pretty girls, all dressed so scantily.” It’s a good thing, too. Because if he didn’t believe in his songs, they wouldn’t be near as good.

Nostalgia likely boosted this rating a little bit as it’s the first album that I memorized the lyrics to as a child. Every song on here begs you to sing along, especially Bad Is Bad with the “a rit-dit-dit-dit-do-wa-wa” in between verses. Heart and Soul is my favorite song of his after Power of Love. And while I’ve grown just a bit tired of them due to radio overplay, I still enjoy I Want a New Drug and If This Is It.  The album’s weakest offering is the last song (where have we heard this?), a cover of a Hank Williams song that should have been left a Hank Williams song. Huey’s version sucks the life right out of it despite it being competently produced.

I’m not a big fan of the band’s other two big selling albums, Picture This and Fore! Huey’s range is pretty limited and I think he used all of it up on this album. But I still dig it.

44: Thriller (Michael Jackson)

Album: Thriller
Artist: Michael Jackson
Year: 1982

1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
2. Baby Be Mine
3. The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney)
4. Thriller
5. Beat It
6. Billie Jean
7. Human Nature
8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
9. The Lady in My Life

I was tempted to place this album higher simply because it might be the best pure pop album ever. But it’s still pop music, and I have to be in a rare mood for it. I must admit, though, that usually when I listen to this album I am still in awe at Michael Jackson’s talent. I don’t much care for Off the Wall, and while I like Bad quite a bit, there are a few songs I skip so it didn’t make the countdown. Thriller doesn’t miss a beat.

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ is a perfect start to the album, showcasing Michael’s musical talents and showing off the best of 80’s synthesizer beats. Baby Be Mine is a sweet if unmemorable ballad. The Girl Is Mine is annoyingly catchy, like I Want it That Way by the Backstreet Boys, only with better singers. I roll my eyes when Michael and Paul have their “talk” but it fits with the silliness of the song.

After that the album gets epic. Thriller is what pop is all about, and the music video was mesmerizing when I was growing up. Beat It is a great sing-a-longer, though I’ve soured a bit on it over the years, mostly because the chorus is repeated one too many times. But all is forgiven with Billie Jean, the best example of Michael’s singing and writing. A very personal song, emotionally resonating, but poppy enough that it doesn’t change the attitude of the album. Human Nature is a fairly new song for me, but one I’m pretty nuts about. And P.Y.T. is catchy as well, much like the first song on the album.

Unfortunately, the album ends with a whimper, as The Lady in My Life is too slow and too boring, especially at this spot. It’s not a terrible song, but it does nothing to distinguish itself and it’s one I sometimes skip. Still, like the best of pop music, it’s hard not to be in a good mood after spinning Thriller.

45: New Miserable Experience (Gin Blossoms)

Album: New Miserable Experience
Artist: Gin Blossoms
Year: 1992

1. Lost Horizons
2. Hey Jealousy
3. Mrs. Rita
4. Until I Fall Away
5. Hold Me Down
6. Cajun Song
7. Hands are Tied
8. Found Out About You
9. Allison Road
10. 29
11. Pieces of the Night
12. Cheatin’

Did you know Gin Blossoms started their career in 1989 and are still touring? Did you also know that in 24 years they’ve only released five albums?  That’s amazing to me, and I have to imagine that it was this album, their second (along with, perhaps, some rabid Empire Records fans), that has allowed them to coast on their laurels for all this time. Sporting six singles over three years, New Miserable Experience was certainly anything but for the band.

The music has pretty standard pop melodies, but the lyrics have more originality than most. My favorite song is Allison Road, but I dig pretty much everything on the album to some degree. Lost Horizons and Until I Fall Away are among my favorites. I didn’t care for Hey Jealousy when I thought the song title was “Hey Jessie.”  I liked it immediately when I learned the real lyrics. Funny, that.

I haven’t listened to any of there other albums, though I like the singles just fine on Congratulations, I’m Sorry.