Monday, July 18, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Girl Groups

It was nearly impossible to look at a pop chart in the '90s and not see a girl pop group. From Wilson Phillips to Destiny's Child (and En Vogue, TLC, Spice Girls and All Saints in between), it was the decade where a trio or foursome of ladies was a ticket to chart gold. In the '00s, the concept faded in the US, although it remained big in the UK, thanks to Atomic Kitten, Sugababes, Girls Aloud and The Saturdays.

Although girl groups weren't as big in the '80s, there are a few great examples. Now, I'm not talking about girl bands--the territory of acts like The Bangles and The Go-Gos are a whole separate issue. These acts are singers only, like most of the acts I named above. Two albums, in particular, rise up as great examples of dance pop from both the decade's early post-disco era and its later, higher-paced sound that helped set the template for early '90s dance pop.

The Pointer Sisters - Break Out (1983)
The Pointer Sisters had quite a few hits in the '70s, but their biggest success came with the release of this album. Six tracks were released as singles, four of which reached the top 10 in the US. "Jump (for My Love)" was the album's biggest single, hitting #3 in 1984. The bubbly, synthesizer-heavy song was memorably used in the 2003 film Love Actually, which coincided with a remake by British girl group Girls Aloud. "Automatic" hit #2 in the UK and #5 in the US. It's a little more subdued and as such, I don't think it's quite as fun. I'm more a fan of "I'm So Excited," a song they brought forward to Break Out from their previous album. Although it had been a single and hit #30 earlier, it was re-released and it did even better, hitting #9 on the Hot 100. The song blends obviously synthetic and more natural keyboard sounds, which form the song's insistent melody. "Neutron Dance" was another top 10 hit, although it sounds the most dated of the album's big singles. Funky "Dance Electric" is also worth a spin, Best: I'm So Excited, Jump (for My Love), Dance Electric.

Exposé - Exposure (1987)
Miami-based Exposé got their start with this high-energy outing, which, like the Pointer Sisters' album, generated four top 10 hits. The album is mostly dance pop, drawing also from the Latin "freestyle" sound that was big at the time. "Come Go with Me," "Point of No Return" and "Let Me Be The One" are all similar and all similarly fun uptempo pop songs. "Point of No Return" is particularly good with its stabbing synthesized bass notes. Lots of other songs on the album fall in this vein. The biggest departure though is "Seasons Change," a saxophone-backed pop ballad which, when released as the album's fourth and final single, became the group's biggest hit when it topped the Billboard Hot 100. Best: Seasons Change, Point of No Return, Come Go with Me.


El MarvelOso said...

Break Out is being released as a deluxe set in August. Finally remastered!

ww_adh said...

Oh shoot! If only I'd waited. Oh well.

A1 said...

yes to Pointer Sisters.
But, and it's big BUT
both True Confessions and WOW!!albums, singles were endless and they were a major impact in my teenlife!!

ww_adh said...

Bananarama wasn't as big in the US. They only had 3 top 40 hits, including "Venus," which hit #1, and those were all from different albums, so it would be hard to include a particular album from them.