Various Artists

20th Century Masters - DVD Collection: The Best of the '80s

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The title is, of course, laughable. The Best of the '80s? Even for those who don't think much of that decade, the notion that five videos could constitute its best is a little harsh. How about Five Miscellaneous Videos from the First Half of the '80s? That's more like it. Not unlike the experience of turning on MTV for 20 minutes sometime in 1984, this brief collection gives a sense of what pop videos were like around that time, with video directors using the songs as soundtracks to little films that had something to do with the songs' lyrics, even if it was hard to figure out what was going on exactly. Dan Hartman plays a bartender in "I Can Dream About You" as the TVs in the bar show the performance of his song in the movie Streets of Fire, as sung by a black group. Dexys Midnight Runners step-dance through a British working-class neighborhood in their overalls during "Come On Eileen." Squeeze's "Tempted" is a performance video, the band lip-syncing the vocals (Chris Difford pretends that Elvis Costello's part is his). Rockwell, the son of Motown Records honcho Berry Gordy, Jr., wanders through a house looking paranoid during his novelty hit "Somebody's Watching Me." (Michael Jackson, who sings the chorus uncredited, does not appear.) And the members of Level 42 sit in a train compartment during "Something About You," recalling odd encounters with women. Of course, 20 years after the fact, it's the hairstyles and clothes that stick out. But this is just a sampler of the era. The ignorance of those who put the package together is indicated by the little errors in detail: the photograph of Squeeze on the DVD cover is not the lineup featuring Paul Carrack, who sings the lead on "Tempted," and the copy editor seems to think that there should be a possessive apostrophe in "Dexys" (i.e., "Dexy's"). There shouldn't be.

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