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Top 7 Rick Springfield Songs of the '80s

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I don't know about you, but I'm tired of apologizing for digging much of the '80s output of Aussie heartthrob Rick Springfield. I'm not threatened by his empirical good looks, and I choose instead to focus on the fact that he was a consummate songwriter with a gift for melody who also knew his way intimately around rock guitar riffs. The songs on this list demonstrate without question Springfield's significant contributions to '80s rock and pop, as all of them showcase pop confection melodies but none so sweet that the singer's male bravado and rocking inclinations don't provide an appropriate balance.

1. "Jessie's Girl"

Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

This stands as one of the few major hit songs of the '80s that never seems to lose its luster, even after hearing it 77 times or so throughout one's lifetime. That's because it's a nearly perfect pop/rock song, replete with a great guitar riff, a pinpoint crescendo effect and an ingenious lyrical concept. Still, it's a shame that so many listeners cling too exclusively to this nugget when evaluating Springfield's career, though the attitude is understandable. The singer's vocals and lovelorn persona work to a truly impressive level of precision here, illustrating clearly just how skilled Springfield was at his craft.

2. "I've Done Everything for You"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

Springfield pulls out the passion and aggression for this consummate arena rock song, a moment that fuses possibly the best work of two rock icons in Springfield and the tune's veteran hard rock songwriter Sammy Hagar. Once again, a great riff serves as the solid foundation for rock and roll nirvana, but Springfield's spirited vocal performance, though not markedly different from the approach Hagar took on both his original 1978 live recording of the song and the studio single version that quickly followed it, really puts this one over the top. I mean, there's not always a great reason why one artist's version of a tune strikes a chord better than another, but in this case maybe the old "singer, not the song" adage is doubly true.

3. "Love Is Alright Tonite"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

Among other things, Rick Springfield simply does not receive enough credit for being a guitar riff master, as this song is full of great power chord and single-note combinations that deftly shift the musical proceedings into overdrive. Beyond that, this early tune, from Springfield's classic 1981 release, Working Class Dog, introduces what would become a lyrical template for the singer: the portrait of a slightly naughty but not too threatening male suitor who just wants to party in a relatively wholesome way. I mean, few have accused Springfield of being particularly dark or edgy, but that's what we love about him.

4. "Don't Talk to Strangers"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

Once again, it's amusing to hear Springfield fret about "some slick continental dude" romancing his woman, but this song, from 1982's sophomore album Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet, offers unique elements as well, including an interesting use of the title phrase (usually geared toward children) for an adult situation. Musically, Springfield comes through again with some highly memorable melodies in the verse and chorus, even offering up some French language tidbits in a bridge that makes him sound like the slick continental dude. All in all, it's another sweet pop music treat delivered in an irony-free package as only Springfield could, and despite some soft rock characteristics, he still manages to rock things out when necessary.

5. "What Kind of Fool Am I?"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

In some ways, it's hard to believe a guy who looks like Rick Springfield would have difficulties with the ladies as reflected in this great power pop song. But his songwriting and vocals are so earnest and enjoyably overwrought that somehow it's not hard to accept that even Springfield can be unlucky in love. Anyway, the passionate build-up of this tune allows the singer to spotlight his vocal chops in a variety of ways, while simultaneously making a strong case for his songwriting prowess and versatility. Jealousy and regret may not have a better rock music interpreter than Springfield at his fist-clenching best.

6. "Affair of the Heart"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

For the first time, Springfield heartily embraces synthesizers for this track, but that doesn't mean he abandons his guitar-heavy rock roots. Ultimately, the marriage makes for a bracing listen, and, combined with another lyrical conceit involving the singer's love-starved persona, the result is one of Springfield's most textured singles, a standout from 1983's Living in Oz. But this time the tune's narrator reveals Springfield as a true romantic, desperately pleading with his beloved to recognize the depth of their love instead of just its hot and sexy side. Oh, the plight of the exceedingly handsome!

7. "Love Somebody"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCA/Legacy

Despite its association with his failed 1984 cinematic star vehicle Hard to Hold, this tune distinguishes itself on a number of levels, proving once again that Springfield should be on any short list of top mainstream rockers from the '80s. As usual, nifty guitar riffs and infectious melodies fuel the engine, but Springfield always put enough of his unique personality into his songwriting that his work often managed to feel surprisingly original. I don't know how much proof people need, but this tune once again confirms that dismissing Springfield as teen idol fare is grossly unfair and misguided.

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