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Top 10 Kenny Loggins Songs of the '80s

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As one of the strongest pure pop/rock performers of the '80s - dependent equally on accessible songwriting, a propensity toward love ballads, and powerful injections of rock guitar - music veteran Kenny Loggins found a niche for his work in soft rock and uplifting film soundtracks. Ultimately a perfect match for the '80s style of bombast, catchy melody and danceability, Loggins stands as an underrated model figure of the era's music. Here's a look at not only his most popular hits as a solo artist but his finest compositions and performances of the period.

1. "This Is It"

Kenny Loggins
Joan Adlen Photography/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Just as his solo career took off, Loggins hooked up with Doobie Brother Michael McDonald to write this smash hit, a song that despite its obvious charms managed to fall just short of the Top 10 in 1980. But in terms of late-'70s and early-'80s pop, this effort alone revealed the pair's songwriting partnership as a particularly inspired one. Displaying an increasingly dramatic vocal style at this phase of his career, the formerly rootsy Loggins on this track embraced a potent combination of orchestration, synthesizer and balladry, all important earmarks of a soft rock classic. If Loggins had arrived as a solo threat with 1978's "Whenever I Call You Friend" (which he clearly had), this 1980 Grammy winner is where he built a foundation.

2. "I'm Alright"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Legacy Recordings

Launching a long and successful relationship with the '80s film soundtrack, Loggins recorded his second Top 10 solo hit with this rousing rocker that meshes all of Loggins' musical skills effectively into a single package. Hopeful exuberance, comforting innocence and a bright, lively melody share space here with some fine folk-oriented acoustic guitar to kick off the tune and a full, vibrant pop/rock arrangement that goes all over the place without disorienting the listener. This is feel-good music unbound by genre or era, which is perhaps the secret to Loggins's success in general but specifically explains the infectiousness of this often-heard but still thoroughly enjoyable track from the beloved film comedy Caddyshack.

3. "Don't Fight It"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Columbia Records
Who could have known that a duet between Loggins and Journey's Steve Perry could subdue both artists' soft rock impulses so deftly and result in a top-notch mainstream rocker? The fact is, though they're not known for it, Loggins and Perry are perfectly capable of shining as premier arena rock and even something approaching hard rock vocalists. That's a fairly bold statement, but give this one another listen and tell me you haven't just experienced a guitar-fueled stomper enthusiastically delivered. If there's one thing Loggins conveys at all times - and often has the ability to share with collaborators - it's an unrestrained sense of joy. I'm a depressive and I almost feel like skipping down the street when I hear this tune. Almost.

4. "Heart to Heart"

Other than perhaps Dan Fogelberg, I can't think of an artist more suited to the early-'80s soft rock sound than Loggins, and that comment is made without any slight or insult. Both of these artists can't help being uplifting even when they sing about melancholy matters of the heart, and that earnestly sunny tone stands as Loggins' primary calling card nearly 30 years later. It's almost impossible not to feel a sense of safety and true belonging in the presence of a Loggins masterpiece, and I say that fully aware of the groans such an exhortation might inspire. I'd probably scoff myself if I weren't so convinced that this gem, another cowrite with McDonald, remains one of the most pleasing and impeccably crafted pop tunes of the era.

5. "Heartlight"

Loggins goes for another rocking pose on this, his third Top 25 pop hit from 1982's High Adventure, and generally succeeds, especially in the dynamic, power chord-laced bridge that screams '80s in the best possible way: "Can you feel the love that's in my heart? Can you see the flame we've got to start? Burning like a beacon in the night." Still, even when the song gets really repetitive in the chorus, the strength of the central melody saves the tune from criminally obsessive overindulgence. As in Loggins' best songwriting, this track presents a skillfully democratic blend of approaches, ranging from the rhythmically inventive acoustic guitar churn of the verses to the splendid use of the famous pop music "Whoa-oh" vocal conceit.

6. "Footloose"

Album Cover Photo Courtesy of Columbia Records
As a positively ubiquitous No. 1 pop hit from 1984, this song would be nothing less than fully anticipated on any Kenny Loggins-themed list. But upon revisiting the tune, I'm struck again by how completely decently and forcefully Loggins performs as an electric guitarist. While this is far from a scorcher, the title track from one of the most iconic films of the '80s displays a solid grasp of the sheer danceability of early rock and roll, and that kind of versatility once again contributes mightily to its accessibility. I don't know if Loggins has ever been as personally content and positive as his songs suggest, but his songwriting prowess helps him consistently transmit a favorable emotional energy that remains highly infectious.

7. "I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)"

In a bid to stake his claim as the male Pat Benatar of soft rock, Loggins turns the guitar amp to 11, or at least 10 1/2, on this genial arena rocker also from the Footloose soundtrack. In the West Side Story-inspired music video for this tune, Loggins perhaps pushes the limits of credibility by casting himself as a car thief on the run from the fuzz, but the earnest intensity of Loggins' vocals and power chord flourishes works nonetheless. So much an artist of the pop song that he never stood a chance with some people of being taken seriously, Loggins presses on like a trooper in delivering music tailor-made for a fist-pumping, shouted refrain of the song title, which comes at exactly the time it needs to.

8. "Forever"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Columbia Records
I was shocked to discover that this pitch-perfect 1985 power ballad stalled at No. 40 on the pop charts, especially when I think about what the other 39 songs ahead of it probably sounded like. Granted, this is a perfect example of Loggins at his adult contemporary/soft rock crescendo, and so its Top 10 performance on that fringe, middle-age-female-targeted chart makes a lot of sense. Still, the track has few peers in terms of functionality and excellence as a love song of relationship bliss, for which there will always be a strong if ever-shifting audience. After all, nobody's happy and sweetly in love for life, right, although Loggins' plaintive vocal declarations of devotion manage to go a long way toward convincing us otherwise.

9. "Meet Me Half Way"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Columbia Records

Yes, I know I left off "Danger Zone," but I must explain that of Loggins' biggest hits that one has always irritated me far more than the likable "Footloose." So I'm moving straight on to another excellent power ballad, which makes the list in spite of its packaging with one of the most unbelievably cheesy "sports" concept movies of the '80s, the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling epic, Over the Top. Loggins may rely a bit too heavily on the keyboards, a desperate trend that got a bit worse as the '80s limped to a close, but his songwriting caliber does not seem to have suffered in the meantime. This is a tinted-windows-rolled-up kind of song for dudes who like to belt out sweet love songs (privately) in public. I dare you not to be moved.

10. "Nobody's Fool"

As his amazing fourth Top 10 '80s pop hit featured on a film soundtrack (all from separate movies), this rousing track serves as a fitting swan song for a kind of innocence that would basically be replaced for good when Rick Astley dropped off the pop charts and Nirvana filled the void. Vintage soft rock had long since disappeared in favor of dance-inflected, slick adult contemporary, but Loggins continued to mix pop and rock in relatively equal proportions. For this conviction he should probably be commended, even if the pleasant effect of this tune begins to feel a bit labored by 1988. It's no coincidence that this was Loggins' final entry on Billboard's pop Top 40, but it does qualify as his last great effort of a worthy solo career.

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