We haven’t invented a time machine yet, but maybe the next best thing, at least for going to the past, is playing music we listened to when we were in school. To reach back to the 80s, the setting of our new book, Not Your All-American Girl, we offer up this playlist to help bring back the feelings and mood of that singularly spectacular decade. Our main character Lauren is a singer in her own right, exploring everything from musicals to country to the Top 40, but will she make her voice heard the way she wants it?
You can check out the playlist on Spotify, here.
Songs from Madelyn:
David Bowie, Let’s Dance
This wasn’t David Bowie’s best song (in high school I loved Changes and Suffragette City, which I sang at the top of my lungs; as an adult, it’s been Ashes to Ashes and Heroes). But this was what Bowie was singing on the Serious Moonlight Tour. Not that I’d know for sure, because my mom wouldn’t let me drive to Landover, Maryland, to see him, even though a friend had already bought me a ticket.
Kajagoogoo, Too Shy
Before I got my job at Wendy’s, I spent half a summer working as a very bad waitress at a restaurant called The Sports Page, home of the Belly Buster Baked Potato. We didn’t have MTV at home at that time, and the first time I saw it was at this restaurant. The first video I remember seeing was Kajagoogoo playing Too Shy Shy. I still remember standing in front of the TV next to Ashley, the cook, listening to this song and admiring Christopher Hammill’s hair.
Prince, When Doves Cry
This song was on the soundtrack loop at Wendy’s, and I remember wiping tables while Prince was alone in a world so cold. Three years at that restaurant taught me more about humans and human nature than middle school or high school or college. I like to think that Prince taught me some things, too.
Duran Duran, Hungry Like the Wolf
I have always wanted to be a rock star. But unlike Lauren Horowitz, the main character in Not Your All-American Girl, I’ve never been able to stay on key. Maybe that’s why I learned to play the saxophone. Lauren can sing almost anything, while I was stuck with songs in my very limited vocal range The “do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-dooo” line from Hungry Like the Wolf was in this range. It’s the one lyric I remember singing with absolute confidence.
The Go Gos, We Got the Beat
I am 100-percent certain that Lauren would be bouncing up and down at a Go-Go’s concert, should her parents allow her to attend. I’d like to think her grandmothers would volunteer to chaperone and to expose Lauren to a nice dose of girl power. I still cannot listen without bouncing and I cannot think of anything that would embarrass my kids more than watching me dance to a Go Go’s song. (Unless it was listening to me sing one.)
Culture Club, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
Boy George was like no one we had ever seen or heard before. His looks fascinated us, his songs hypnotized. Do you really want to hurt me? No, but mostly we didn’t want him to stop singing with that unearthly voice. While writing this, I looked him up and found out that he had a cameo on The A-Team. You can’t get more 80s than that.
Pat Benatar, Love is a Battlefield
When Pat Benatar sings with her four-octave voice, you feel like you can chew through metal cans for breakfast and then run a marathon, all with perfect hair and devastating eyeliner. Also, there is no more perfect title for the battling, passive-aggressive grandmas, who readers may recall from our previous book, This is Just a Test, featuring Lauren’s brother. They’re baaaack!
Irene Cara, What a Feeling
I found out while we were making this list that Madelyn has never seen Flashdance, the movie that gave us this song, and seriously, 80s canon. She now makes it a point not to see it. It’s okay, I still love her but I also am calling her out on it. Flashdance totally influenced the look of the 80s, a counterpoint to the preppy look with its ripped t-shirts and legwarmers. Flashdance was part of those 80s movies urging us to Dream Big, which Lauren does when she aspires to appear on Star Search, the talent show of the 80s. (We also send a shout-out another song from the movie, Let’s Hear It for the Boy by Deniece Williams, for our editor, Lisa Sandell.)
The Police, Hungry for You
It’s a song in French sung by hot British guys, the height of sophistication in my teenage brain. And isn’t that a huge part of young adulthood - the fruitless and clueless pursuit of sophistication? I am so glad that I am definitely past that stage, haha! I am not telling you how long it took me to figure out that the three digital figures on the cover represented the band.
Steve Perry, Don’t Stop Believin’
Once in a while, you hear a voice so unique that you know who it is from the first note. For Lauren, it’s the velvety sadness of Patsy Cline. For me, it was Steve Perry, the lead singer of Journey, who could go from straw-husky depths to a soaring ballad as easily as Michael Jordan floating a lay-up. If you’ve watched the documentary with the same name as this song, you know that when Journey reunited, Philippines-born Arnel PIneda very ably stepped into Perry’s shoes after being discovered via YouTube. Weirdly, knowing that there is at least one other person in the world that sounds like Steve Perry doesn’t take anything away from him - I find it oddly comforting.
So that’s it, our list of songs inspiring our new book, Not Your All-American Girl. We’d love to know what songs put you in the wayback machine. As Ed McMahon said at the end of Star Search, Keep reaching for the stars...and share in the comments below!