Was pop music ever more MELODRAMATIC than it was in the 80’s?

Big thundering, climactic choruses… life or death relationship lyrics… tortured emotional vocals… the kind of songs that either lift you to heaven or drag you to hell.


For my money the indisputable winner is Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.


Other examples are Heart’s “Alone”, and Tina Turner’s “The Best”.

Agree or disagree? Help me create a list of most dramatic pop songs.

I think you can’t go more melodramatic and pompous than Phil Spector went in the sixties. And of course all that bombast in the eighties somehow owed to him (minus the synths).

ETA: just saw “The Best” by Tina Turner mentioned. Try her Spector produced River Deep, Mountain High.

Oh, Hell Yeah! Johnny getting killed on his motorcycle, car wreck, Vietnam, getting eaten alive in a cave, you name it. Fuck, the 80’s were pretty tranquil by comparison.

Five years later on you’ve got the world at your feet
Success has been so easy for you
But don’t forget, it’s me who put you where you are now
And I can put you back down too!

Don’t You Want Me

Ray Peterson: Tell Laura I Love Her (stock car race) 1960:

Mark Dinning: Teen Angel (car stuck on railroad track) 1959:

Melodrama? Heck, here are ten just off the top of my head. In no particular order:

Mel Carter - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me

The Four Tops - Bernadette

Dusty Springfield - You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Ray Peterson - Tell Laura I Love Her

For understated melodrama, you can’t beat Cherish by The Association

Dr. Hook - Sylvia’s Mother (Okay, that was pretty tongue in cheek)

Bloodrock - D.O.A.

Coven - One Tin Soldier

Melanie - Lay Down

And if you want a song by Heart, I’d go with What About Love

Give me a few minutes and I’m sure I can come up with ten more. And ten more after that.

A couple from the 70s:

Jump, Jump, Jump – Rick Derringer
The Last Ride – Todd Rundgren

Excellent contribution. I remember hearing that song on the oldies channel my parents listened to in the car.

I was hardly just the 80s. Take this from Fanny Brice (originally from 1921)

When i saw the thread title, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was the very first song that came to mind.

And while I’ve heard maybe half the songs that others have suggested so far from other eras, I think “Total Eclipse” has them all beat. (And while on the whole, I’m not big on melodramatic songs, I love this one.)

A few words about some competitors:

“Teen Angel”: the melodrama is undermined by the unintentional humor of the girl getting killed, why? Because she ran back for his…high school ring.

“One Tin Soldier”: too damn preachy to be good melodrama.

OTOH, pretty much every song by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap qualifies, with “Young Girl” probably being the best example.

Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell series, are all epic melodrama of the highest order.

I love '80s music, but I remember the '60s and '70s.

From 1968, Bobby Goldsboro and Honey

From 1974, Terry Jacks and Seasons In The Sun

From 1975, David Geddes and Run Joey Run

These certainly have to be included in any list of contenders.

Expand your search to the 60’s and 70’s and you’ll find the roots of the power later artists grew from

Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)- OMG, yes! Melanie’s vision of the 3 Days of Love and Peace that was Woodstock!
O Happy Day - The Edwin Hawkins Singers who beautifully backed up Melanie on Lay Down
War - Edwin Hawkins
What’s Going On - Marvin Gay
Ball & Chain at Monterey Pop! - and anything else she did, anytime, anywhere!
Layla - Derek and the Dominoes. Eric Clapton’s timeless love call to Pattii Boyd. In fact the whole Derek and Dominoes album!
Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock - Santana was high as a kite and had to wrestle a guitar turning into a snake, but he nailed it
The End and When the Music’s Over at the Hollywood Bowl - The Doors
Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar - Nearly every song individually and true masterpieces when taken a a whole

No doubt. I almost mentioned Meatloaf in my original post, but at that time figured I’d stick to the 80’s.

“Mad World” and “Shout” by Tears For Fears. I would cite the first two albums they released as examples of weightiness in popular music that was unprecedented before the '80s.

Spooky, Stormy and Traces of Love - The Classics IV - An entire relationship in three songs
Rhiannon on the Midnight Special 1976 - Fleetwood Mac - I was them live in 1977 and Stevie live was amazing, it still fell short of this performance. I’ve also heard some early versions before they hit it big, still not there.I swear she channeled a bit of Janis at the end that night. And I don’t throw Janis’ name around lightly.
The Great Gig in the Sky - Pink Floyd - OMG! Clare Torry!!!
Days of Future Passed - The Moody Blues - How much more dramatic than a full orchestra as backup. Starts off slow and mellow with Dawn is a Feeling, builds with Tuesday Afternoon, then mellows again with Nights in White Satin, then the full crescendo that ends with a gong!
Freebird - Lynard Skynard - Especially the live versions
Bridge of Sighs - Robin Trower with James Dewar

A few more

Ohio from 4 Way Street - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - You can hear the frustration, anger and remorse in the song, especially David Crosby’s shouts towards the end

Southern Man from 4 Way Street - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Whipping Post from At Fillmore East - Allman Brothers

Not pop, not from the 80’s, not even English, I’m not even sure it’s in Mandarin, it may be Monogolian, but this version of 苍狼大地 (Wolf Land or Land of the Wolves) featuring the vocal crescendos and emotions of Chinese singer 谭晶 (Tan Jing) are the only ones I’ve heard that exceeds Claire Torry’s on Great Gig in the Sky! And I can’t even understand the lyrics and she’s singing through a metal mesh, wearing 4 foot wire antlers and a 5 foot wig! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIe4eQi8Ars. Jump to 04:00 to hear what I’m talking about.

FYI, this the Chinese verison of the American, “The Masked Singer” and was based on the original Korean show, “King of Mask Singer”. Credit where credit is due!

The version of Last Kiss from 1964 by J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers is a classic example of a teen tragedy song. Hit #2 on the charts.

Well, I don’t know about “You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth,” but “Heaven can Wait” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” certainly are, and two out of three ain’t bad.

You could have posted anything to this thread, but you shouldn’t have done that.