PERFORMING ARTS

Can’t Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop’s Blockbuster Year

Hachette. Dec. 2020. 480p. ISBN 9780306903373. $30. MUSIC
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With this unapologetic celebration of 1980s popular music, Matos (The Underground Is Massive) hopes to correct music journalism’s lopsided tendency to examine genres in opposition to the mainstream (such as punk and indie rock) while dismissing the music of the masses. Through extensive archival research, the author argues that 1984 was a banner year for pop music both commercially and artistically as radio format changes, MTV’s influence, and new technology such as the compact disc promised innovation and profits. Matos organizes his narrative through a time line of industry events, including the Grammy Awards ceremony and the Jacksons’ Victory tour, that crescendos with the 1985 Live Aid telecast, an international fundraising event that is hilariously recounted here, mullets and all. Matos’s strength is the zippy artist profiles of everyone from Culture Club to Van Halen that zero in on the varied facets of the pop world.
VERDICT Protracted dissections of events such as the Grammys may prove tedious, but pop fans with an appetite for nostalgia will find much to like.

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