Today I heard the song True Blue by Madonna, and it was like my entire adolescence came flooding back to me. Why, oh why, did we spend our childhoods coming up with complicated, intricate routines to the popular songs of the moment, yelling at each other like dictators when somebody messed up, and THEN insist on performing them for whomever we could hold captive for a few minutes? I keep waiting for my friend Dorie's 8-year-old daughter to start busting out the made-up dances with her friends, because I refuse to believe that it was a uniquely 80s phenomenon. Or was it?
Of course we really didn't understand what the songs were talking about because at that age you really don't know anything about love (unlike now, when we all have every facet of it completely worked out) so all of our interpretations of the lyrics were completely literal. For example, at the part in True Blue when Madonna sang "your heart fits me like a glove," you had to pretend to put on a glove.
True Blue was one of the all-time greats, but let's explore the other songs that caused my friends and I to pretend we were rock stars. Thanks to iTunes for helping jog my memory.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston
First of all, every girl who made up a dance to this song in the 80s fanned themselves to the line, "I wanna feel the heat with somebody." And this is a perfect example of how all 80s songs seemed to have that kick-it-up-a-notch moment, where the song took itself to the next level and you had to respond by doing the same with your frenetic dancing. This song's moment was: "Don't you wanna dance say you wanna dance don't you wanna dance... with me baby!"
How Will I Know by Whitney Houston
"How will I know if he really loves me?" It's really not at all surprising that the generation that listened to this song in elementary school came to, twenty years later, require a book called He's Just Not That Into You. Her backup singers told us "don't trust your feelings" and warned us that "love can be deceiving." And Whitney herself didn't even know how SHE'D know; she was "asking you, 'cause you know about these things!"
Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles
I'm sorry to tell you that my friend Michelle and I performed our routine to this song for show-and-tell in the third grade. I'm further sorry to tell you that my friend Katie and I performed it at my dad's 40th surprise birthday party. I remember it well: I was wearing a pink and white dress and had only been told about the party that morning so that I wouldn't accidentally tell my dad about it. My parents' mocking friends urged Katie and I to do the dance, and before I had consented, the DJ (because what's a 40th birthday party without a DJ?) started playing the song. So we started doing the dance and then their friends tried to do it along with us. I remember thinking they were just really fun; now I realize that alcohol must have also played a part. The entire thing is captured on tape somewhere in my parents' house. Thank God VHS is now almost entirely obsolete. Also, can we all agree ahead of time that we'll have a few cocktails and encourage our children to bust a move for us at our 40th birthday parties?
Manic Monday by The Bangles
"Wish it was Sunday, 'cause that's my fun day, when I don't have to run... day." Nice songwriting, ladies.
Eternal Flame by The Bangles
While we're on the topic, I feel compelled to share that while my girls and I never made up a dance to Eternal Flame (it was a slow song, after all) I knew exactly how my music video for it would have been, if I'd sung the song. I still remember every chilling detail: It would have been me sitting on a stool in a dark room, with a spotlight on me, wearing black leggings and a big Esprit sweater, with all my hair in one giant side ponytail, staring up at the camera and singing the entire thing with the dead seriousness that a song like that warrants. I was maybe eleven years old and I couldn't imagine anything more ethereal and beautiful. I told Steve about this once and he laughed so hard that he spit his drink on me.
Shake Your Love by Debbie Gibson
This was a very popular one to dance to, although I remember not really understanding how exactly to shake love, let alone shake YOUR love. I listened to it again and realized that "I just can't shake your love" loosely translates to "I just can't get over you." Who knew?
Lost in Your Eyes by Debbie Gibson
Okay, I didn't make up a dance to it, but I remember thinking that there could never be a more tragic song ever written. This may still be true.
Straight Up by Paula Abdul
"If you're only playing games I just have to say-ay, a bah bah bah bye, bah bah bah bah bye." You tell him, Paula. Her comments nowadays on American Idol make about as much sense.
Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul
I liked this song until I saw the video and realized that it was apparently Paula's story about trying to make it work with that big cat... person.
Forever Your Girl by Paula Abdul
What a great beginning: "Hey baby, you gotta remembah, a baby forevah, and evah and evah..." Let's hear it once again for the modern day Dostoyevsky.
Cold Hearted by Paula Abdul
Admit it: You'll be like 50 years old and you'll hear this song and you'll stop everything in order to sing: "You could find somebody better, girl (doo, doo, doo doo). He will only make you cry (doo, doo, doo, doo). You deserve somebody better, girl (doo, doo, doo, doo). He's got cold in his eyes." You might actually sing the correct lyrics at the end, which are apparently, "He's as cold as ice," but I prefer my misheard version.
Step by Step by New Kids on the Block
Now, the problem with making up dances to NKOTB was that I could never figure out which one of them I wanted to be. I sort of wanted to be the dreamboat (Joey), but then as soon as I saw Donnie I knew that I was really destined to be the badass in denim. Remember how great the ending to this song was? Well, allow me to remind you. "Step one, we can have lots of fun... step two, there's so much we can do... step three, it's just you and me... step four, I can give you more... step five, doncha know that the time has arrived... HUH!" I defy anyone who grew up loving NKOTB to sing that entire part with a straight face, particularly Jordan's inexplicably soprano tendencies.
What a Feeling by Irene Cara
I had some crazy gymnastics routine to this one, involving uneven bars and somersaults. I was obsessed with that song. FlyingJ and I both thought she was singing "take your pants down and make it happen." Since I was dancing to it wearing a leotard, I suppose I was in compliance with this order.
Dance routines and lip syncing were pretty much all that I did with my friends for a good couple of years, so there must have been more songs that we decimated, but those are the ones that I can remember for now. I need to call Katie and see what she remembers. And apologize for making her dance at my dad's birthday party in order to entertain all his drunk friends. Do they make a Hallmark card for that?