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Top Huey Lewis and the News Songs of the '80s

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Throughout the '80s, San Francisco's Huey Lewis & the News didn't have much trouble piling up the hits, but critical respect and staying power have proved substantially more difficult to secure. Nonetheless, the heartland rock bar band's best songs reflect many great elements of quality pop/rock, including memorable melodies, skilled instrumentalists and an active sense of fun. As such, let's take a tour of this iconic '80s band's best work to confirm that the success achieved by Lewis & Co. was no mere accident.

1. "Do You Believe in Love?"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis Records
Possibly the best thing Lewis and the boys ever recorded, this hook-filled pop nugget possesses a transcendent quality that keeps it from showing its age. Written by uber-producer Mutt Lange, the song displays several layers of distinctive pop songcraft, but it reaches new heights altogether as the result of this band's multi-instrumental prowess, forceful harmonies and a deft application of various elements of rock and roll heritage. It all stacks up to an undeniably pleasurable listening experience, and the band's typical blind eye to trends helps fuel the song's tremendous staying power.

2. "Heart and Soul"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis
The band convincingly takes on an almost hard rock sound for this driving tune, employing power chords more heavily and skillfully than many far louder, aggressive bands of the time. But as before, there's much more going on here than just one strand of musical style, as the textured verse and bridge offer a gentle, subtle vibe that serves as the perfect foil to the rising power of the chorus. Lewis may be a more confident, commanding singer during this early period than any time when stardom was more established for the band, and once again this tune makes an airtight case for the quality of his backing band.

3. "If This Is It"

For all its goofy elements both lyrical and music video-related, this tune actually strikes a pleasant and soulful groove, displaying also a tasty lead guitar opening. Very few artists in the '80s exploited doo-wop harmonies as effectively or as often as Huey Lewis & the News, but this element certainly sets them apart. And while that's not always a good thing, it's difficult to argue that the band at work here is not highly skilled and solidly professional. This general competence and consistency actually may have worked against Lewis and the boys in the sense that the music was solid but rarely felt exciting.

4. "Walking on a Thin Line"

Anyone who doubts the integrity of Huey Lewis & the News as a genuine rock and roll band should be directed straight to this song, a collection of striking hooks wrapped up in some great, driving rock guitar. Lyrically, it's also one of the band's most interesting and serious efforts, tackling the struggles of a veteran to make it in the so-called "normal" world. It's filled with an angst most don't expect from this generally good-time bar band, but it works nonetheless as an authentic slice of heartland rock Americana, delivered in a typically slick, well-produced package. A timeless American rock song.

5. "The Power of Love"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis
This theme song from the emblematic '80s film Back to the Future actually stands as one of the strongest soundtrack tunes of the decade. That's not to say it doesn't sound extremely dated today, but I guess the choice of instrumentation is largely at fault there. Anyway, it's a spirited anthem that spotlights Lewis's vocal strengths, and once again the individual players frequently shine, especially guitarist Chris Hayes. But I'll save the best for last here, as the song transcends itself during its sparkling if all too brief bridge, a sublime break that proves the band's uncanny grasp of melody.

6. "Stuck With You"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis
The band gets itself into a bit of a conceptual lyrical jam on this tune, expressing a sense of domestic tranquility on the one hand but also painting a portrait of lovers who sound a little like they've given up. Of course, this may be the point, and I give the band an "A" for effort, but ultimately the concept proves a bit too difficult to pull off. Nonetheless, the song definitely stands as a quintessential Huey Lewis & the News tune, sporting a broad appeal for adult contemporary and pop audiences alike.

7. "Doing It All for My Baby"

The band revisits the topic of domestic bliss here, ultimately opting for a straightforwardly gentle take on the pleasant if predictable joys of cohabitation. However, I just checked out the video, and I pledge to do my best to block out that monstrosity as I finish writing this. Ah, the '80s and the birth of the out-of-left-field concept video. As for the song itself, by this point of his career, Lewis had become supremely unhip and geared toward an increasingly sedate, aging audience. But when you think about it, so what? Lots of folks did and continue to enjoy this type of gentle, benign pop.

8. "Jacob's Ladder"

As the band's last truly great single, this song features one of the decade's most melodic verse-bridge-chorus combos, presented with typical aplomb and conviction. Still, maybe it's not the best choice to try and offer social commentary regarding the cynicism of televangelists and the like, as this has never been a message band. Even so, this song puts on display everything that made Huey Lewis & the News a great pop/rock band: accessible, endorphine-inducing hooks, precise musicianship and a straightforward earnestness that made it absolutely clear what you were getting when you spun one of their records.
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