Enya’s “Only Time” is one of her most iconic songs, instantly recognizable not just because of its initial chart success, but because of its ubiquity in commercials and TV shows ever since. (It is the music to a mac and cheese commercial as you are reading this.) It was even used in news coverage of September 11th. It’s unmistakably Enya.
“White Kross” (sometimes spelled as “White Cross”) is the final track from Sonic Youth’s critically acclaimed fourth album Sister, released in 1987. The song’s ferocious, oddly tuned guitars and Thurston Moore’s speak-singing suggest metal or industrial or another extreme genre. Yet the song’s attitude is clearly “punk,” and the sound is clearly Sonic Youth’s own, that it took more than 30 years for someone to give it the true extreme-music treatment.
Bonnie Tyler’s biggest hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a power ballad that embodies of so much of what made the ’80s the ’80s. The lyrics are melodramatic, the recording might have a few too many instruments on it, Tyler really sings the song, and the accompanying video is full of big hair, wind machines and absurd visuals. “Total Eclipse” was written by Jim Steinman, the songwriter most famous for launching Meat Loaf’s career. His lyrics can be just a tad over-the-top – he originally planned to write “Total Eclipse” about vampires. (Of course he did.) But Tyler’s gritty voice sells Steinman’s words, and she takes what could have been full-on camp and makes it feel impassioned and real.
“Come Undone” wasn’t even supposed to be a Duran Duran song. Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and keyboardist Nick Rhodes were creating it for a potential outside project when singer Simon LeBon heard the song and started to write lyrics to the song pretty much immediately. The band were nearly done with their next album, but the song happened so quickly that they were able to squeeze it on to the release. It their last truly global hit to date.
The first track on Ani DiFranco’s self-titled first album, “Both Hands,” establishes everything about Ani that we’d come to know and love: a powerful but sometimes idiosyncratic delivery of allegorical lyrics paired with unconventional acoustic guitar playing. The song is stripped down and raw, but somehow also majestic.
Perhaps Depeche Mode’s most iconic song, at least for the general public, “Personal Jesus” manages to combine singer Dave Gahan’s sex appeal with a sinister undercurrent of dominance and submission. Songwriter Martin Gore wrote the song after reading about the relationship between Priscilla Presley and Elvis, and how utterly one-sided it was. In Gahan’s delivery, though, the relationship seems considerably more appealing. The original video, set in a brothel, also emphasizes the sexual side of the relationship over its more troubling aspects.