Halfway through the '90s, the programmers of VH1 realized there was a whole audience that hungered for the great videos of the '80s -- not only new wave refugees, but a generation of younger fans to whom the sounds of the early '80s were as classic as the British Invasion. So VH1 invented The Big '80s, a show that specialized in '80s videos. Once that was a huge success, it made perfect sense that the network would decide to release a companion album, which is exactly what Rhino's VH1: The Big '80s is. Given that the show spans from the early '80s Tommy Tutone to Don Henley's The End of the Innocence (technically '80s, but anything mainstream after the Reagan revolution doesn't exactly inspire nostalgia), it's a relief that the collection is devoted to the new wave glory years of the early '80s. True, some of these songs -- Steve Miller's "Abracadabra," Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" -- are arena rock with new wave production, but they have the same feel as "We Got the Beat," "Take On Me," "The Safety Dance," "Cars," "Time (Clock of the Heart)," "Tempted," "99 Red Balloons," "You Might Think," "867-5309/Jenny," "Centerfold," "Rapture" and "I Know There's Something Going On." The cumulative effect of all these great hit singles, which feel like one-hit wonders even though they're from established bands like the Cars and Blondie, is a damn near irresistible musical portrait of the Reagan years.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine