Taylor Swift shocked the world when she explained the inspiration behind her new album, 1989. "I was listening to a lot of late-Eighties pop," Tay said. "I really love the chances they were taking. I love how bold it was. I love how ahead of its time it was." Girl, you know it's true. 1989 remains one of the weirdest years in pop history, as hip-hop and house music bumrushed the radio. It was the year Billy Joel wanted to rap, while rappers wanted to sample Billy Joel. The New Kids happened. So did Milli Vanilli.
Taylor knows her Eighties stuff — the brilliance of "Shake It Off" is how she pretends to be a Swedish pop star pretending to be American, which is the most 1989 move imaginable. You can tell she's obviously been studying her Roxette cassingles. Like she says, "I started delving into the late Eighties. It was apparently a time of just limitless potential."
So here are 20 songs that sum up the glorious pop chaos of 1989 — the good, the bad, the "Funky Cold Medina." It was a year when there were no boundaries — artists wanted to invade each other's turf, plunder each other's style, violate each other's copyrights. Nobody could tell what was underground or pop. Lawyers hadn't ruined sampling yet. Plagiarism was hot. Gender segregation was out. These tunes define the electric-youth spirit of 1989 the way Taylor describes it: "Bright colors, bold chances, rebellion." In the words of the great philosopher Young MC: You want it? Baby, you got it.