There’s nothing more satisfying than turning a key in the ignition of a well-oiled car. Well, maybe getting crisp bills from the ATM, breaking the smooth surface of a freshly-opened jar of peanut butter or stepping into a boiling shower after being out in the cold. There might not be a true leader of satisfaction to rule them all, but as I started my first car early last month in the parking lot of a Chelsea DMV, I had never felt anything like it.
Driving home at 65 mph on the freeway, I bested myself yet again: the seat warmer toasting my butt, hands firmly on the wheel, I reached for my phone and turned on Pat Benatar. This was the life, man. It’s the small things after all, right?
Listening to Pat Benatar sing-yell “We’re running with the shadows of the night” as I sped down the highway, I thought about that unique feeling of satisfaction that seemingly random actions create in our daily lives. Beyond the one-second hit of dopamine that turning the radio up might have spurred, it was Benatar and her ʼ80s contemporaries that truly brought me comfort on that first drive back to Ann Arbor. I could imagine my mother doing the same drive to visit her sisters here at the University of Michigan, listening to the same songs on the radio screaming down a potholed interstate. I smiled, losing myself in the fake drumbeats and earworm rhythms of the music.
The songs that followed by Heart, the Pretenders, the Go-Gos, Wilson Phillips and the like were cheesy, sure, but there is truly nothing like them. In a period dominated by men with teased hair and gyrating hips on pyrotechnic stages, women like Benatar and Chrissie Hynde were unabashed in their embrace of life and love without apologies.
You can pretend to hate “Barracuda,” but there’s no way you don’t at least know the chorus to that song. I didn’t know the song Scarlett Johansson sings in “Lost in Translation” was called “Brass in Pocket,” but I’ve known the chorus since I was seven years old.
This music might not be considered “good taste,” but it’s really good. It’s music made for real people, for true comfort, made to be a catalyst for joy.
I’m not typically a huge pop fan either; when I was 13 I would have let Julian Casablancas of The Strokes kill me and then said thank you as a ghost. I still love a good angsty indie track, and most of my time as a music journalist has been focused on people who have less than five pieces of colored clothing in their closets. But there’s just something so universal about these ʼ80s ladies, whether it is their strength, the catchiness of every single chorus or their very tall hair.
Their voices are impossibly loud, their belts smooth and the guitar in the background peppy. Listening to them is like putting lotion on freshly shaved legs, like flipping the perfect pancake. I’m running out of similes, but you get the picture.
No matter how emo the rest of my playlist might get, there is always a little space for my anthemic friends. Perhaps I’ll wear a leotard tomorrow in their honor.
Daily Arts Gender & Media Columnist Clara Scott can be reached at email@example.com.