Ultravox, "Hymn" (1982)
"It was George Martin who smoothed everything over," recalled Ultravox singer Midge Ure in his autobiography If I Was…. During the recording of the band's 1982 album Quartet, the producer kept a musical disagreement between band members from reaching meltdown proportions. But "smoothed everything over" might as well have applied to the album itself — and in particular its hit single "Hymn." Ultravox had begun years earlier as a spiky, glam-and-punk-influenced outfit, but by '82 they had morphed into a synth-pop frontrunner. "Hymn" was the apex, a bombastic, elegantly frictionless anthem that made Ultravox's rivals sound like they were playing Speak & Spells. Twenty years after turning the edgy sound of rock into something manicured and mainstream, Martin did the same with synth-pop. J.H.