While perusing the track listing on Rhino's double-disc Billboard #1s: The '80s, you may ask yourself: "Were all 30 of these songs really number one hits? I mean, I know that Mick Jagger's 'Just Another Night' wasn't that big of a hit, and I've never even heard this Joe Walsh song, 'A Life of Illusion'! These can't be number ones on the Hot 100, can they? Aren't they lying here?" Well, if you asked yourself this, the answers are: yes, all 30 songs were number one hits, so Rhino is not lying, but the key is, these weren't all hits on the Hot 100 -- they were number ones on a variety of Billboard charts. Those Jagger and Walsh tracks, for instance, were number one on the mainstream rock chart (as are a full 14 of the 30 songs, actually), while the B-52's' "Love Shack" and the Cure's "Fascination Street" topped the modern rock charts, the Honeydrippers' "Sea of Love" topped the adult contemporary chart, and the rest were genuine number ones on the Hot 100. This talk may all be a bit inside baseball, but it's necessary, since the title of Billboard #1s: The '80s suggests that this would be nothing but the biggest hits of the decade, which it is not (and it's a distinct possibility that licensing restrictions not only prevented big, big hits from the likes of Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson from being here, but necessitated the move toward multiple charts, since the compilers needed to fill the space somehow). But, so what? This isn't designed to be complete, or to even have the biggest hits of the entire decade; it's designed to be a cross section of highlights from the '80s and it does a good job at that. As Cory Frye states in the liner notes, the '80s were an "amazingly disparate era," and this disc illustrates that: there's the disco-rock of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," the sleek AOR ballad "Waiting for a Girl Like You," the lush retro-vision of the Honeydrippers on "Sea of Love," the stately goth rock of the Cure's "Fascination Street," INXS' tight funky "Need You Tonight," and Tommy Tutone's power pop classic "867-5309/Jenny" (there's also Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is," which Frye pegs as "spare and human," which may apply to the lyrics, but "human" is kind of an odd description for a recording that boasts one of the most conspicuous uses of keyboard bass). These may not be the biggest or best songs of the '80s, but they are representative of the decade, as this collection is as a whole, which is what makes it a good listen.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2