This release kicked off a 26-year career that saw every album (six in total) achieve multi-Platinum status. Most of those records came out between 1984 and 1992, with eight and 10-year gaps between the final two albums. But through it all, Sade’s smooth jazz meets R&B groove hit a consistent sweet spot.
My 12-year-old self never appreciated Wham! back in 1984 when they were one of the biggest things in music. I dismissed them as bubblegum pop, unworthy of serious consideration, even before I started regularly seeking out and listening to music.
I held the same opinion of Wham! as I discovered George Michael’s Faith (1987) and Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990), two albums of sophisticated songcraft that I loved and took as a sign that Michael had put aside his embarrassing past to become one of pop’s great artists.
That all changed with 1984’s Private Dancer, an album that launched Turner to international superstardom and marked a departure from her R&B roots toward a much poppier sound. Recorded in England with a rotation of producers, the album spent nearly 40 weeks in Billboard’s top ten and went 5X Platinum in the U.S.
My process for these Decades posts starts with combing through a variety of sources for the year in question (1984, in this case), including Billboard charts, Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll, critics’ lists, Rolling Stone guides and the like.
I set aside the albums I know well for my own best-of list, then assemble a list of titles with which I’m not familiar, giving precedence to the ones that show up most often. When I’m down to my final list of 10 or 15, I listen to each all the way through at least once, sometimes more than once, before posting.
Run-D.M.C.’s self-titled debut was one of the first new-school hip-hop albums, replacing the disco-influenced tracks of the late 70s and early 80s with spare tracks driven by staccato drum machines and more aggressive rhyming. You can hear the seeds of both Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys on this record.