25 Years and Still Thumping: 1988’s 10 Underplayed Dance Jams

Some have argued that 1988 was the greatest year for summer cinema: Die Hard, Bull Durham, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Coming to America, and A Fish Called Wanda all clocked us with genre-bending ingenuity in ’88. I was thinking about it the other day, and I’m prepared to call 1988 one of the best years for pop/dance music too. If you’re like me and worship things like silver anniversaries, hopefully you can make use of this jam-packed list: 10 underrated dance jams from ’88 that will fill your summer of 2013 with monumental firepower. It’s 1988, and it’s forever our girl.

1. Jody Watley, “Most Of All”


A sentimental favorite from the Best New Artist of ’87: Jody Watley’s self-titled debut album produced five singles, the last of which was released in April of ’88. The heartbreak anthem “Most of All” pairs a danceable chorus with a sad lyric, and for a song that only peaked at #60, it’s an addictive bolt of lightly convulsive pop — not to mention quite distinct from bigger hits like “Looking for a New Love” and “Don’t You Want Me.” It’s got Shalamar shimmer!

2. Eighth Wonder, “I’m Not Scared”


This Pet Shop Boys-written track is both cute and intense thanks to the purring vocals of Eighth Wonder frontwoman Patsy Kensit. Those hiccuping cries on the chorus slaaaaaay me. It’s Patsy’s most killer move since her role in Lethal Weapon 2.

3. Paula Abdul, “One Or the Other”


This non-single from the phenomenally successful Forever Your Girl is the only track on the album Paula co-wrote, and I have to say it jams harder, titters faster, and chirps with more urgency than some of Paula’s hits like “The Way That You Love Me” and “Knocked Out.”  It is bossy! And fun! And I’m glad to see it appears on her most recent Greatest Hits package.

4. Chaka Khan, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)”


One of my favorite of Chaka’s covers, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” contains all the fabulous funk and attitude of her more well-known “We Can Work it Out” cover. Chaka’s C.K. album is a relatively unassuming yet totally lovable set of tracks, and this cover rightfully starts off the party.

5. Cyndi Lauper, “Hole In My Heart (All the Way to China)”

I TRIED not to steal material from Snicks’ masterful “100 Greatest Lost Hits of the ’80s” list, but we’re all in the mood to celebrate newly minted Tony-winner Cyndi Lauper’s career, and this un-hit from the Vibes soundtrack does the trick.

6. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, “Everything Will B-Fine”


Does it blow anyone else away that Lisa Lisa is only 47? That means she wasn’t even 20 when her biggest hits thumped to Earth, setting me jolting in a never-ending trance to the finest beats everrrr. “I Wonder If I Take You Home” is the ultimate summer anthem, but “Everything Will B-Fine” is a hyper-chirpy earworm from the 1987 Spanish Fly album (single released in ’88) that’ll move you. I just love this woman. You believe her every word, whether she’s belting, crying, or jamming. (I linked to a superfly remix with some clever “Take You Home” elements.)

7. Cher, “Skin Deep”


I recently toasted this lost gem in a Cher birthday post, but its frenetic, champagne-bubble pop is worthy of a revisit. The pairing of Cher’s throatiness and the song’s loopiness is a one-of-a-kind sensation. Skin! Deep!

8. Inner City, “Good Life”

Alllllll the superfab homos love this one, but we must reunite ourselves with it for the purposes of this list: “Good Life” is a transcendent, bumping jam with an almost xylophonic vocal. You want to close your eyes and feel, because this is an all-time great worthy of the album title Paradise.

9. Jomanda, “Make My Body Rock (Feel It)”


Do you need any advice? Jomanda has it: Make her body rock all night loo-oo-ooo-oo-ng.

10. Madonna, “Spotlight”


Officially released as a Japanese single in 1988 (though we all know the album You Can Dance came out in ’87, haha, RIGHT?), “Spotlight” is quintessentially Madonna: It’s a dancefloor celebration, an ode to the liberating power of stardom, a testament to honesty, and a perfect fit for Madonna’s warm rallying cry. It’s her 24th best song, if you ask me.