The Essential Sheena Easton: Ranking Her Top 20 Songs

Like a bad-ass Shirley Feeney, Scottish lass Sheena Easton burst on to the music scene in 1981, and over the next ten years racked up fifteen top 40 hits, including eight top tens and one #1, pus the 1981 Best New Artist Grammy (and a second Grammy for Best Mexican-American Performance in 1985, for her duet with Luis Miguel on the song “Me Gustas Tal Como Eres”).

Her 56th birthday was on April 27th (I was under the weather), so this is a belated tribute to one of the great vocal powerhouses of the 80’s. This is a good place to start your Essential Sheena Collection.

20. MORNING TRAIN

ALBUM: Sheena Easton
YEAR: 1981
HOT 100: #1
UK: #3

You’re probably asking “Hey! How can Sheena’s biggest hit song be listed way down at #20?” Well … it has not aged well. Let’s face it, the lyrics are cringe-inducing and horribly dated. But it still helped propel Sheena to stardom, and if you ignore the … words … it’s a great pop song.

19. MACHINERY

ALBUM: Madness, Money & Music
YEAR: 1982
HOT 100: #57
UK: #38

Sheena’s third album was an infamous flop, peaking at #85 on the album chart and stalling her career progress for a while. And yet … it still generated three songs on this list, including the first single “Machinery”

18. SO FAR SO GOOD

ALBUM: About Last Night
YEAR: 1986
HOT 100: #43
UK: N/A

Sheena nearly had another top 40 hit with this forgotten single from the About Last Night soundtrack. And yes, it does sound … similar … to “How Will I Know.”

17. WHAT COMES NATURALLY

ALBUM: What Comes Naturally
YEAR: 1991
HOT 100: #19
UK: N/A

Sheena’s last entry on the U.S. Top 40, it continued her foray into dance/pop.

16. WIND BENEATH MY WINGS

ALBUM: Madness, Money & Music
YEAR: 1982
HOT 100: N/A
UK: N/A

Seven years before Bette made it a pop classic, Sheena recorded one of the earliest versions, giving it her own signature sheen.

15. WE’VE GOT TONIGHT

ALBUM: We’ve Got Tonight
YEAR: 1983
HOT 100: #6
UK: #28

Sheena teamed up with Kenny Rogers for this remake of the Bob Seger classic, and they had the biggest hit version, hitting #1 on the country chart and #6 on the pop chart.

14. THE LOVER IN ME

ALBUM: The Lover In Me
YEAR: 1988
HOT 100: #64
UK: #15

Sheena had a comeback of sorts with her 1988 album The Lover In me, which went gold on the enormous success of the title track, which hit #2 and became her biggest hit since “Morning Train.”

13. I WOULDN’T BEG FOR WATER

ALBUM: Madness, Money & Music
YEAR: 1982
HOT 100: #64
UK: N/A

Another shimmering ballad that was sadly overlooked on the charts

12. ETERNITY

ALBUM: No Sound But A Heart (unreleased)
YEAR: 1987
HOT 100: N/A
UK: N/A

We need to discuss No Sound But A Heart. A clusterf*ck of problems occurred that kept Sheena’s 1987 album from being released, including financial problems with her record label, and missed release dates, and that’s a shame, since the album has quite a few gems on it, including “Eternity,” unmistakably written by Prince.

11. MODERN GIRL

ALBUM: Sheena Easton
YEAR: 1981
HOT 100: #18
UK: #8

Released as her first single in the UK, it was her second single in the U.S., as a follow-up to the #1 smash “Morning Train,” and has survived the test of time much better.

10. SUGAR WALLS

ALBUM: A Private Heaven
YEAR: 1985
HOT 100: #9
UK: #95

This was it. This was the song that, for better or worse, completely redefined Sheena’s career. Written for her by Prince (using the name Alexander Nevermind), it brought her the ire of televangelists, and Tipper Gore and the PMRC, who named it to their “Filthy Fifteen” list of dirty songs. The one/two Top Ten success of “Strut” and “Sugar Walls” helped A Private Heaven hit #15 on the album chart, becoming her greatest album success in the U.S. Yes, that’s Bruce Hornsby on the keyboards.

9. U GOT THE LOOK

ALBUM: Sign Of The Times
YEAR: 1987
HOT 100: #2
UK: #11

Prince solidified his obsession with Sheena with this classic funk duet. Sadly, the video or audio cannot be found anywhere online because Prince is a litigious sort.

8. DO IT FOR LOVE

ALBUM: Do You
YEAR: 1985
HOT 100: #29
UK: N/A

One of her most underrated singles, from her most underrated album. Nile Rodgers gave Sheena a new sound, but the public largely ignored it, and the single and album were a huge commercial disappointment after the platinum success of A Private Heaven. And hey look, it’s Billy Zane!

7. TELEFONE (LONG DISTANCE LOVE AFFAIR)

ALBUM: Best Kept Secret
YEAR: 1983
HOT 100: #9
UK: #84

Sheena nabbed her fourth top ten hit (and second Grammy nod for Pop Female Vocal) with this dance/pop ditty, a change from her previous output.

6. WHEN HE SHINES

ALBUM: You Could Have Been With Me
YEAR: 1981
HOT 100: #30
UK: #12

Lost among the hits of her debut year was this wonderful ballad, which perfectly showcases her soaring, emotional pipes.

5. ALMOST OVER YOU

ALBUM: Best Kept Secret
YEAR: 1983
HOT 100: #25
UK: #89

Second single from Best Kept Secret was Sheena’s last hit before she overhauled her image the next year. It’s a classic ballad, but that poor Defender game never stood a chance. What a waste.

4. IT’S HARD TO SAY IT’S OVER

ALBUM: A Private Heaven
YEAR: 1984
HOT 100: N/A
UK: N/A

Big bombastic power ballad should have been a single, but it was overlooked with all the success of A Private Heaven. Majestic.

3. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

ALBUM: For Your Eyes Only Soundtrack
YEAR: 1981
HOT 100: #4
UK: #8

Sheena capped off a stunning debut year with this classic Bond theme. She remains the only Bond artist to appear in the opening credits.

2. STRUT

ALBUM: A Private Heaven
YEAR: 1984
HOT 100: #7
UK: N/A

Sheena marked a radical new direction in her career with “Strut,” which earned another Grammy nod for Female Pop Vocal (her last), and helped propel A Private Heaven to platinum status.

1. YOU COULD HAVE BEEN WITH ME

ALBUM: You Could Have Been With Me
YEAR: 1981
HOT 100: #15
UK: #54

The gorgeous ballad “You Could Have Been With Me” hit its Hot 100 peak of #15 the same week that Sheena picked up her Best New Artist Grammy. To me it represents her at her most sparkling and assured. It’s pop music heaven.

BUBBLING UNDER THE TOP 20: “Jimmy Mack,” “101,” “The Arms Of Orion,” “Days Like This,” “Me Gustas Tal Como Eres”

Your turn! What is in your Essential Sheena Collection?

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.
@therealsnicks