One of the most iconic and beloved pop music figures of both the '70s and '80s, Stevie Nicks became a full-fledged superstar during the latter decade. Her success as a primary songwriter and member of Fleetwood Mac certainly continued through the '80s, but the massive success of her solo career helped Nicks become a rock legend on the strength of her considerable merits alone. Here's a look at the best, most lasting songs of this period.
With Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks has long fought the perception that she often deferred in a musical sense to bandmate and former beau Lindsey Buckingham. However, her explosive solo debut, 1981's Bella Donna, proved that she could function and function well outside Buckingham's considerable shadow. And although Nicks relied heavily relied upon Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for instrumental and songwriting support throughout her '80s solo career, her most memorable songs were fully her own. This particular tune - recorded successfully as a duet with the Eagles' Don Henley - showcases not only her one-of-a-kind vocals but also Nicks' ample lyrical gifts. This is simply one of the finest ballads of early-'80s soft rock.
As one of Nicks' most signature solo tunes, this 1982 hit and its karaoke-ready exposure bely its narrow failure back then to break into the Billboard pop Top 10. Iconic throughout all the way from its opening guitar riff to Nicks' theatrical delivery of the celebrated lyric, "Just like the white-winged dove," the song earned a place of cinematic permanence in the 2003 Jack Black vehicle The School of Rock. But its gradual melodic build-up and solid musical structure remain the primary reasons why this song has maintained and even grown its popularity over the last 30 years or so. Underneath the gauzy charm of her ethereal image, Nicks takes full advantage of the peak years of her distinctive, moving voice.
4. "Stand Back"
Even as she continued to record during the early '80s with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks managed a distinctive sound and undeniable flair in her solo work that still impress decades later. Fueled by a moody synthesizer riff that has few peers from the era (it's little surprise that this feature is both inspired and performed by indomitable contemporary solo star Prince), the song embodies '80s sonic textures without succumbing to any of the dated impulses that sank so much pop music produced circa 1983. If there's any doubt remaining as to whether Nicks possesses equally imposing skills as both performer and songwriter, a song like this one argues a rather airtight case.
Without ever resorting to cheap efforts to co-opt the clearly profitable new wave niche of the period, Nicks quickly proved herself a master in marrying synthesizer and rock guitar. It didn't hurt that her melodies and vocal interpretations of them during this peak era almost always approached perfection. This Top 15 Billboard pop hit got the attention of music fans to a significant extent, but I don't think the music establishment ever fully realized just what a high percentage performer Nicks was. "If Anyone Falls" manages to be at once anthemic, powerful, infectious and slyly piercing. Of course, another singer could have cut a perfectly decent recording of a song this good, but Nicks was wise enough to establish her own vision.
6. "Talk to Me"
By 1985's Rock a Little release, Nicks had begun to succumb somewhat to some of the more self-indulgent tendencies of the '80s, in both her personal and musical life. A song like "I Can't Wait," for example, struggles hard to avoid the description of "embarrassing," a fight it ultimately fails. Nonetheless, this tune, Nicks' only major hit from this record, climbed to No. 4 on the pop charts and stands proudly among this artist's best solo work. As one of her most straightforward ballads, "Talk to Me" works so well because of its basic structural integrity and building melodic thrust. It could be argued that Nicks' vocals aren't at her best here - perhaps a touch listless - but ultimately the passion kicks in at the right times.