It’s the freeeeeeeestyyyyyyle: Best singles of 1988

An especially fun list because I was old enough to be glued to Top Forty radio, which in Miami meant shovelfuls of freestyle. My eighth grade’s unofficial theme song was “Supersonic.” My full list would include TKA, Sweet Sensation, more Stevie B, Noel. Freestyle didn’t break on the pop charts until 1989 and 1990, often in the form of ballads like Stevie B’s “Because I Love You (The Postman Song),” Timmy T’s “One More Try,” and Sweet Sensation’s “We Can’t Go Wrong.” But 1987-1989 was its giddy peak; songs like Will to Power’s “Say It’s Gonna Rain” and Stevie B’s “Spring Love (Come Back to Me)” boasted stacked harmonies and strange little melodies with Middle Eastern accents (Will to Power’s 1989 club/Miami hit “Fading Away” is explicit). The emotions were girlish and boyish, overwrought and camp. They were awesome.

Consulting several lists, I noticed, surprisingly, the weakness of college rock this year. Pixies and Sonic Youth were the big winners this year, but I couldn’t include any Pixie singles on this list (wait till next year) and couldn’t resist “Teenage Riot.” On the other hand, R&B had a banner year, in large part because thanks to the dance leanings of New Edition, Terence Trent D’Arby, Bobby Brown, and Johnny Kemp crossed over to pop. Keith Sweat’s “I Want Her” and Guy kicked off the chart onslaught known as new jack swing, which would dominate uptempo R&B hits for the next three years (“Make It Last Forever” would make my top seventy-five).

I’m fond of this list. Several tunes (“Piano in the Dark,” “Mercedes Boy,” “Streets of Your Town,” “The R”) are among my favorites ever. Once again, no tunes ranked.

1. Stevie B – Spring Love (Come Back to Me)
2. Terence Trent D’Arby – Sign Your Name
3. Pebbles – Mercedes Boy
4. Al B Sure! – Nite and Day
5. Pet Shop Boys ft. Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This?
6. Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – It Takes Two
7. J.J Fad – Supersonic
8. New Edition – If It Isn’t Love
9. Def Leppard – Hysteria
10. Belinda Carlisle – Circle in the Sand
11. Psychedelic Furs – All That Money Wants
12. Public Enemy – Don’t Believe The Hype
13. Eighth Wonder – I’m Not Scared
14. Morrissey – Suedehead
15. Sonic Youth – Teenage Riot
16. Taylor Dayne – Prove Your Love
17. Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dream
18. Eric B & Rakim – The R (Extended Remix)
19. The Go-Betweens – Streets of Your Town
20. Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
21. Angela Winbush – Angel
22. Prince – Alphabet St
23. Anita Baker – Giving You The Best That I Got
24. Sade – Paradise
25. Elton John – I Don’t Wanna Go on with You Like That
26. Tiffany – I Saw Him Standing There
27. George Michael – Monkey (Jam & Lewis remix)
28. A-ha – Stay On These Roads
29. Johnny Kemp – Just Got Paid
30. New Order – Blue Monday ’88/Touched By the Hand of God
31. Freddie Jackson – Hey Lover
32. LL Cool J – Going Back to Cali
33. Brenda Russell ft. Joe Esposito – Piano in the Dark
34. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Peekaboo
35. L’Trimm – Cars That Go Boom
36. S’Express – Theme from S’Express
37. Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine – Can’t Stay Away From You
38. Will to Power – Say It’s Gonna Rain
39. Eric Carmen – Make Me Lose Control
40. INXS – Devil Inside
41. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Everything Your Heart Desires
42. Robert Palmer – Early in The Morning
43. Debbie Gibson – Out of the Blue
44. Teena Marie – Ooh La La La
45. Ice-T – Colors
46. Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere
47. Randy Newman – It’s Money That Matters
48. Was (Not Was) – Spy in the House of Love
49. Talking Heads – (Nothing but) Flowers
50. Sugarcubes – Birthday

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