Category: Movies, Television, & Music

The Ultimate Late 80s/Early 90s Adult Contemporary Playlist

We spent Saturday night at my sister’s up in the Philadelphia ‘burbs and attended a costume party in celebration of my brother-in-law’s birthday. We had a great time chatting with their neighbors and friends. Clay and I originally set out to be Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but over the course of the night, we morphed into recent Powerball winners from Houston (check out my Instagram for photographic evidence). I learned that platinum blonde is not my color and Clay learned that it is extremely difficult to eat hors d’oeuvres while wearing a fake beard. And on the drive home the following morning, Clay and I put our Amazon Music subscription to good use and spent the three hours working together the most epic late 80s/early 90s adult contemporary playlist.

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This was the music on the radio while our parents drove us to practices, sleepovers, and the roller skating rink. When we listen to these songs today (usually in a grocery store), we’re not only met with nostalgia but also the realization that these are actually pretty damn good songs. Perhaps your mom would fan herself while watching a Michael Bolton music video on VH1 or your dad would belt out the chorus of I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) with the passion of Jean Valjean. And if you were anything like 8-year-old me, you preferred the adult contemporary station on your battery-operated boombox and thought it didn’t get much better than Bette Midler in Beaches.

There is a particular sound associated with adult contemporary music from this era (we set the parameters of music released between 1987 and 1993) that evokes an ethereal vibe (probably the pan flutes) that instantly puts me in a good mood. This list features too many saxophone solos to count (does anyone else think that there are far too few saxophone solos in popular music today?) and enough synthesizer to power Cleveland. You will see that Michael Bolton makes the list twice because we couldn’t agree on the best Michael Bolton song during that period and that we didn’t discriminate based on age, race, or creed.

The Ultimate Late 80s/Early 90s Adult Contemporary Playlist

And just for fun – here are the best music videos from the list. Enjoy!

King of Wishful Thinking by Go West. After you watch this deliciously early-90s video, be sure to check out the shot-for-shot remake that Jimmy Fallon and Paul Rudd did earlier this year.

Fun fact – this song was Donny Osmond’s comeback hit after a radio station promoted it via a mystery artist campaign – read more about it here.

The “We can work it out!” in a pained yell at 2:37 is EVERYTHING and gives me life.

What are some of your favorite adult contemporary songs for this era? Did any of your favorites make the list? Do you disagree with any of our selections? Let’s talk grocery store music…

My Favorite {Good Mood} Songs

Last night, after spending the entire day running around the District, we dragged the kids to see the National Symphony Orchestra play on the west lawn of the US Capitol. We sat on an old Toy Story bedsheet as we ate Shake Shack underneath the stars while listening to works by Aaron Copland, John Williams, and Adolphus Hailstork.

It was hotter than a pepper sprout and the air was sticky but for 90 minutes, we were surrounded by notes, chords, and even spoken word. It would have been easier to just take the kids home after the Air & Space museum closed but I was determined to give them this experience – especially because it was free. And I really wanted to see the National Symphony Orchestra because music has the ability to illustrate and evoke emotions beyond words. And what better place to experience such a feat than within steps of the US Capitol?

Jack Kerouac told us that “the only truth is music” and according to Jane Austen, “without music, life would be blank…” so when my friend, Kait, sent out a bat signal for posts about favorite songs as part of her September blogging challenge, I knew I’d participate. My focus is a bit more narrow because I am focusing on my favorite good mood songs. You know, the type of songs that embody a flickering neon pink positive vibes only sign. Some just beg us to get up and dance. Others have us sitting down with a goofy smile. And a few are so transformative that they can turn around our mood for the day.

My Favorite {Feel Good} Songs

Harry Belafonte – Jump in Line. This song is pure vacation. You can find me scrubbing toilets and mopping floors with Jump in Line streaming through headphones. You can also find me humming this song poolside while sipping a pina colada –  my feet moving back and forth with the beat.

AC/DC – Back in Black. I don’t think it is possible for me to complete a workout without listening to at least the opening riff of Back in Black. Whenever I want/need to feel like a badass, I turn on this song, channel my inner-Brian Johnson and let the good times roll.

Regina Spektor – FidelityThis album was so important to my early twenties and I will forever be indebted to Fidelity to getting me through some of the darkest moments of Clay’s first deployment. Back then – I would play this song to brighten my mood and it’s impossible for me to hear her over-annunciate heart and fall without a smile on my face. On a related note – Samson was one of my go-to sad/pensive songs during that time and continues to be to this day.

Queen – You’re My Best Friend. I like to imagine this song playing during the slide show that showcases the story of Clay and I – from when we were teenagers – to now – to when we’re super old and hitting the buffets at 4pm in pants with elastic waistbands. But since the opening credits of The Break Up features this song, perhaps it isn’t the best choice for our soundtrack. Oh well – it’s a damn good song and it makes me smile.

Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance. How can you not love this song? It’s so 80s, it’s so fun, and it just begs you to dance while singing along with the lyrics.

The Beach Boys – Kokomo. I was nine when I first saw The Beach Boys in concert at the Arizona State Fair. Yes – they have better songs than Kokomo but there is just something about this song. Is it is the saxophone solo? Perhaps. Is it the name-dropping of Caribbean islands? Maybe. Whatever it is – Kokomo is just a fantastic feel good song.

More feel good songs…

  • OutKast – Hey Ya!
  • Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
  • Billy Joel – Only the Good Die Young
  • Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
  • MIKA – Grace Kelly
  • Pink – So What