“Love Is a Stranger” — Eurythmics — 1982
Before the powerhouse single that was “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”, there was the haunting Eurythmics tune “Love Is a Stranger”. I distinctly remember my music video introduction to the amazing Annie Lennox. Being only 11 years old, androgyny was a whole new concept for me. Eurythmics plotted the music video for just such an effect on 80s naivete. “Love Is a Stranger” begins with Annie Lennox in the back of a car (chauffeured by bandmate Dave Stewart), looking like a Jayne Mansfield-esque pin-up with a tumble of white blond curls, gorgeously applied make-up, flawless skin and the most ethereal pale blue eyes we music video junkies had ever seen.
Then there was the clear, angelic voice with just a hint of devil lurking beneath. As the song’s driving force becomes heavier, the music video enters more dominant and sexual territory. Annie tears off her wig to reveal slicked back bright orange cropped hair. After some shiny patent leather and a wig of straight black tresses, we get back to that cropped hair and no make-up, transforming that gorgeous pin-up into a distinctly more masculine form. It blew everyone’s minds–and even sparked questions about Annie’s gender. According to Eurythmics Video Visionaries, the music video “Love Is a Stranger” “was initially banned by MTV for its ‘gay’ content (which actually involved Lennox in male drag; MTV had to be convinced).” Lady Gaga would not have existed without Annie Lennox and Eurythmics’ ground-breaking videos.
“Hungry Like the Wolf” — Duran Duran — 1982
Hitting #11 on MTV’s list of 100 best videos ever made, “Hungry Like the Wolf” was a genre-defining 80s music video. While many bands were filming performance videos or trying to figure out what to do with the format, Duran Duran got director Russell Mulcahy to put together a sexy and exotic music video. Shot completely in the jungles of Sri Lanka, “Hungry Like the Wolf” was a completely different animal from other 80s music videos. Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon told The London Paper in 2009 that “it was the first time any band had been on location.”
Visit YouTube to see 80s pop music video, “Hungry Like the Wolf”.
For Duran Duran, music video saved the radio star. “Hungry Like the Wolf” featured sexy lead singer Simon LeBon in a hunter/prey chase with a tiger-painted Indian woman in the Sri Lanka wild. The video also featured bustling villages, markets, elephants, and John Taylor shirtless. “Hungry Like the Wolf” got endless play on fledgling music video network MTV, and the buzz from the mini-movie forced the radio stations to give Duran Duran airtime. This ground-breaking 80s music video also won the very first short form video Grammy award. “Hungry Like the Wolf” put Duran Duran on the musical map–and also the fashion scene. Fedoras and khaki shirts with epaulets were all the rage, and Duran Duran were on their way to being 80s pop icons.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” — Cyndi Lauper — 1983
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was so popular in 1983 it overshadowed future pop diva Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. While Madonna was breaking down the barriers of sexual mores, Cyndi Lauper was following a more eccentric, free spirit vibe. The 80s music video “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” introduced us to Cyndi’s quirky girl power awesomeness, shaking up the notions of what a pretty girl could look like. Her bright red hair teased big and shorn on one side, Cyndi danced through lower Manhattan streets in boots and Donna Reed dresses, covered in metallic jewelry and multicolored make-up. She’s joined by a multicultural group of gorgeous girls, each sporting their own particular brand of 80s fashion mash-ups, and then the whole city gets into the act.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was a low-budget wonder, using volunteer actors that included Cyndi Lauper’s real life mom, as well as wrestler “Captain” Lou Albano. The AP recently quoted Cyndi saying the late Albano took her up the music charts “from 10, to 5, to 4 to 1, to minus 5 and back up to 1 again.” Exposure to the MTV audience helped Albano as well, increasing his popularity in the 80s heyday of the World Wrestling Federation.
One of the best 80s music videos, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is still as infectious as ever, the ultimate girl power anthem with irresistible party-like-it’s-1983 colorful energy.
“Billie Jean” — Michael Jackson — 1983
Michael Jackson was already a pop icon with an enormous fan base when he released the celebrity stalker parable “Billie Jean”. The 80s music video added a creepy paparazzi character to the controversial lyrics about a fan claiming Michael to be the father of her son. While the lyrics created their own buzz, the innovation of the music video of “Billie Jean” threw people into a frenzy. The black leather suit with pink shirt and socks, the sidewalk squares that lit up when Jackson danced across them, and the killer dance moves wowed audiences across the globe. I remember blowing out the laces on my shoes from repeatedly mimicking Jackson’s up-on-the-toes dance maneuver.
According to Blender magazine, MTV didn’t originally want to play the music video for “Billie Jean”. Allegedly gearing its programming towards cable’s early audience of middle class suburbanites, MTV didn’t play the music videos of many black musicians. CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff had to strong-arm them into acceptance: “I said to MTV, ‘I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos,” Blender quotes. “And I’m going to go public and f–king tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy.'” Whether the legend is true or not, the “Billie Jean” music video soared to great heights with frequent MTV airplay, an explosive stepping stone to Jackson’s iconic pop music video icon status.
“Love Is a Battlefield” — Pat Benatar — 1983
The Top 13 notes that Pat Benatar was the first female artist played on MTV in 1981, with her music video “You Better Run”. This was the kick-off to her successful 80s stint on MTV, which included iconic music and dance video “Love Is a Battlefield”. Though 30 years old, the pixie-ish Pat Benatar portrayed a teenager who gets kicked out of her suburban home, leaving her sad younger brother behind. She turns to prostitution in the city, but eventually stages a rebellion with the other girls against her pimp–a synchronized dance rebellion, of course.
Pat Benatar’s rock anthem voice paired with the pop/dance vibe of “Love Is a Battlefield” earned the artist her 4th Grammy and a legion of fans. The heavy airplay of the 80s music video for “Love Is a Battlefield” fueled Benatar’s popularity, and led to both admiration and satire of the now iconic over-the-top 80s punk streetwalker fashion and tough-girl shimmying dance moves. The “Love Is a Battlefield” music video helped solidify Benatar’s edgier persona; as she’s quoted in Bitch magazine: “Most chick singers say ‘If you hurt me, I’ll die’…I say, ‘if you hurt me, I’ll kick your ass.”