#10 "It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back)"
Ooh, the soulful glow of this one makes it my favorite single from Be Yourself Tonight. The synths of yore that had illuminated such sorrow, torment, or breathtaking menace (at times in the same song!) suddenly became encased in a warm embrace suitable for Annie’s brilliantly soulful declaration of devotion for her returning beau. There is still plenty of classic Eurythmic eccentricity to keep things interesting, particularly in the call and response verses. I especially love the way she leaps higher than expected when she declares she’ll be his ledge: “you can LEAN upon me”. That “lean” is so gleefully packed with excitement! The outro is likewise awesome, with the “make it easy on yourself tonight” weaving into the chorus subtly at first before Annie can no longer contain herself, gushing forth with fiery passion. The video is simply outstanding as well, with the mixture of live action and animation awash in wonderfully bold colors. An absolute jewel of a single, “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)” is far too often overlooked next to its more celebrated siblings from Be Yourself Tonight. [#31]
#9 "No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)"
I LOVE how well this did! "No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts)" is masterful. It has so many unusual elements but they all coalesce into a stunning whole. The juxtaposition of the sharp, booming synths and the string sections gives it such a bold soundscape, which frightens at one turn and takes your breath away the next. The contrast between the seething, animatronic verses and the soulful wordless pleas toward the end is EVERYTHING. And how about Annie's opening, mournful, lillting, wordless vocal?! It tops "There Must Be an Angel" to me for goosebump-inducing brilliance! The whole thing is spine-tingling vocal theatre, really, from the way she alternates between the vulnerable, high pitched "no"s and the more barbed words in the title to her ad-libbed "heyyyy-heyyy-heyyy-eeee-yeah-ee-yeahhh-OWWW" toward the finish. The way her wordless vocals climb during the bridge before morphing into and being swept away by the strings and synths is otherworldly. Probably their most avant garde song to appear on an album, and its emotional breadth, rich sonic tapestry and vocal delights make it a worthy entry into the top 10. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ [#27]
#8 "Don't Ask Me Why"
Oooh, “Don’t Ask Me Why” is just divine. That uneasy bass line that runs throughout is downright troubled, and coupled with those staccato strings to start, it makes for quite the sophisticated drama. Annie’s vocals so wonderfully shift tone from resigned disappointment to defiance through to an almost bemused incredulity at her lover’s inability to understand why she is so upset.
It builds gloriously and gracefully with such gorgeously sleek production, culminating in what I consider the most emotionally charged moment in the entire history of Eurythmics, as Annie repeatedly sings “I don’t love you anymore”, now in an effort to convince herself rather than tell her former paramour that the relationship is over. At the same time, the “why”s of her lover that she had been answering with such raw bitterness transform into a repeated chorus of her OWN “why”s, sung softly and sorrowfully, no longer able to maintain a stiff upper lip. This moment is captured so perfectly in the video, Annie rocking herself back and forth, the high saturation of the film displaying her naked pain in such vivid detail.
Breathtaking from start to finish, this elegant gem is the centrepiece jewel of We Too Are One and the best single of the second half of their career. [#11]
#7 "The Walk"
This delectable slice of foggy mystery more than deserves is spot in the top 10. The arrangement is breathtaking, the lush synth strings endlessly seductive, but the synth bass forewarning the imminent danger of the relationship. If love was a stranger in an open car, this is the song that would be calling from the speakers. Annie relays the seduction by letting the syllables glide off her tongue with elongated allure during the verses, before abruptly finding the inner strength to resist his charms, insisting on “nothing but the real thing” with clear voice.
The brass section adds a spicy fire to the growing tension, showcasing the diversity that Eurythmics were finding with their sound - this wasn’t just synthpop, it was a combination of many influences that coalesced into a vibrant, multidimensional whole, and this widely textured palette is used here and on the single’s incredible treasure trove of B-sides to paint songs with such bold relief.
Of course, Annie acquiesces to the charms of the music, falling into a sensual, ever-circling whirlpool of passion, closing her eyes and losing herself in rapturous pleasure. [#15]
#6 "Beethoven (I Love to Listen to)"
A delirious fit of cascading madness, there is so much to love about “Beethoven (I Love to Listen to)”. That pulsing, almost wheezing beat that propels the entire thing shows that DnA had done another abrupt turn toward delightful weirdness, and the fluttering synth woodwind 16th notes convey the mania that envelops Annie’s housewife character from the acclaimed music video - after enduring years of shackled nothingness at the hands of her domineering husband, she unfetters herself with vibrantly furious abandon.
It’s a testament to their creativity that after 6 albums that featured so much change, they were still able to release one of their most surprising singles. While it still plays to their strengths (inventive electronics and Annie’s seemingly limitless ability to inhabit various characters chief among them), it manages to stretch the boundaries of not just what they were known for, but what makes a “song” itself. Lightning in a bottle brilliance, this. [#18]
#5 "Who's That Girl?"
Oooooh. Eurythmics have plenty of icy songs, but this one is positively GLACIAL. Those opening high-pitched, textured synths shiver as if played by icicles falling in time from a cave ceiling. I love the way the main synth line relentlessly pulses as if to punctuate Annie's simmering paranoia and smoldering rage, which she delivers with appropriately seething frigidness. It's is a perfect mix of allure and danger, the verses ushering forth with sophisticated seduction, amplifying into high-stakes drama with the "but there's just one thing!" bits underscored by their trademark synth bass. The atmosphere is so affecting, and Annie’s character exploits here are top-notch as she once again embodies the perils of love as on previous singles “The Walk” and “Love Is a Stranger” and threads the needle between both, teetering along the line between alluring mystery and threatening danger. No other song in their rich repertoire casts tension quite like this, a beguiling mix of sexy and terrifying.
My favorite part of all comes when after percolating for 3.5 minutes, the song finally explodes into that wonderfully technicolor, volcanic fury of synths exorcising the heat of 1000 suns. Truly spellbinding stuff. I could get lost in its scalding magma over and over. I wish the single edit and video included this part. The 12” extended mix (their best, IMO), gives it even greater prominence, much to my delight. [#14]
#4 "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart"
“You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart” is the emotional core of the Savage album. While Eurythmics had written the book on the perils of love at this point in their careers, Annie had never sounded as vulnerable and broken as she does on this, her heart completely consumed with sadness. And so it is that “You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart” manages to be one of my favorite kinds of song – one you can weep to on the dancefloor.
The lyrics are astonishing, Annie delivering blow after blow to relay the emotional toil this relationship has had on her: treated more as an employee than a partner, depressed to the point of wishing she was invisible. It all peaks with each glorious utterance of how it is “TOO MUCH!” followed by the ultimate triumph: “’Cause I’m much too tall to feel that small, yeah.”
The production soars and sparkles with late 80s wonder, setting a danceable platform that makes this a worthy addition to the stable of “crying on the dancefloor” classics such as New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and Erasure’s “Oh L’Amour”. As wonderful as those songs are, though, this one is super-charged by the storyline of a heroine finally finding the strength to say “enough!” to her abusive partner.
The music video is a wonderful showcase for the song as well, Annie beaten and bruised, lost in the desert and reminded by just how cheap love can be. When she finally collapses into her lover’s arms when singing “I just want someone to hold”, the camera spinning in dizzying circles as the song ascends into the heavens, I can’t help but feel my heart swell. Spectacular. [#16]
#3 "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"
If I had to pick one song that represents my musical taste, it very well could be “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. For as long as I can remember, analog synths have been what draws me to music the most. They are the perfect tool to paint the sort of bold musical worlds with colors set to maximum saturation into which I can most obsessively immerse myself. And there is no painting as vibrant as “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”.
It only dawned on me recently why I respond to music this way. When I was in kindergarten, I was the only student to fail an activity set by the teacher, in which we had to draw shapes and write characters of specific colors in specific locations. The teacher called my mother and explained to her that while I had correct placement of the various shapes and characters, the colors weren’t as instructed. My mother then explained to her, “For Ian, colors, shapes, letters, and numbers aren’t just what they are. They are his friends. And he has them in favorite order: yellow, orange red; triangle, circle, square; V, U, T; 8, 4, 2. So when he draws his favorite shape, a triangle, it has to be his favorite color, yellow. When he writes his second favorite letter, U, it has to be his second favorite color, orange.” I hadn’t been misunderstanding the instructions – the instructions had gone against my own deeply-felt rules of right and wrong! I used to ask for magnetic letters and numbers for Christmas every year, and one year when the v’s came as white, I painted them yellow. To this day, I have a yellow magnetic V and 8 on my refrigerator – my love of the abstract “yellowness” or “orangeness” of something has not faded with time.
So why synths, then? Many of my favorite songs create worlds in my mind that are rich in color, and there is nothing that can so readily create these associations for me like analog synths. I now believe that my gateway to becoming a music lover came through old Nintendo games – the vibrant, pixelated colors that lit up the screen while I was playing Zelda or Bubble Bubble or Mega Man 2 were accompanied by equally fluorescent soundtracks in all their 8-bit glory. In these worlds, colors and sounds combined to create their own universes that strongly imprinted on me.
So when I heard that opening note of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” explode into millions of neon orange pixels, it felt like it went right through me, like that sonic boom had been plucked straight out of my DNA. That note may very well be the most iconic note of the entire 80s, and it detonates the start of each measure into a booming, irresistible MOTION, rising and falling in flares as it shifts between octaves, a perfectly programmed symphony of orange 0s and 1s. The tension mounts further during the “hold your head up” section, the music dropping out completely after the final “keep your head up!” to set the stage for that brilliant, thrilling instrumental bridge. The flurry of those opening 7 notes adds such tantalizing MYSTERY before being swallowed whole as the synths crawl deeper into low-pitched menace. The palette during “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is so vibrant that I can almost SEE the song’s movements – brilliant streaks of orange light striating a pitch black night sky with each booming synth, flashes of white igniting with each clang of the picture frames against the warehouse walls, stars twinkling with each tap of the varyingly-filled milk bottles.
I first experienced it while watching the incredible music video which left me in absolute awe. Few artists have so expertly used visual means to enhance songs like Eurythmics, and that video for “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is foremost among them. The clashes of corporate vs pastoral and spiritual vs technological worlds are set out so powerfully with Annie’s commanding presence, pounding the pointer in her boardroom presentation and spinning that glowing globe as Dave taps away at a computer. There is a lot to dissect, but it was that orange, orange, ORANGE hair that left the deepest impression me, as Annie cast an image that was so bold and so undiluted that it instilled courage in me to never compromise who I was. And orange is perfect for this song – its messages shrieking “CAUTION!” at every turn of the difficult and sometimes cruel nature of the world.
So it is that “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” feels like more than a song to me. It’s providential. It’s primal. It’s a world unto itself in which I can reconnect with who I am at my core. I must have heard it well over 1,000 times, and that opening bomb always excites me, always ignites in me a feeling of wonder. Wonder at sound. Wonder at vision. Wonder at the compelling beauty of orange in the abstract. It is a world full of dreams, and it is indeed quite sweet. [#1]
#2 "Love Is a Stranger"
With “Love Is a Stranger”, Eurythmics finally came upon a sound and a theme that would bring them massive success, even if they had to wait a little while for it to take off. Pulsing electronics, incredible vocals that go from strength to mania like a switch, and lyrics that charter the dangerous paths that love can take its unwitting passengers, it is all there, and done so exceptionally here.
My favorite part is how the synths in the background warble and wobble around with brilliant effects, ever unsteady, never letting the listener get a solid footing. The more prominent elements of the song deliver the main punches (and punch they do!), but those synths lurking in the background, rocking the ship as it goes give the song all the fangs it needs. Annie’s vocal phrasing is also incredible, lacing the words with a variety of flavors. I particularly adore the way she hangs on the “j” in “jealous”, highlighting its ferocity.
A well-deserved classic that deserves its spot in the top 3, even if I only placed it at #25. [#25]
#1 "Here Comes the Rain Again"
It’s funny: I feel a sense of joy and a sense of sadness as this poll finishes. Joy for the many months of fun we have had passionately discussing and learning about these songs, and sadness that this journey is now complete. And this song sums up those feelings quite well.
Despite it being widely known in fan circles, I don’t think enough is made in general about how unique it is that Annie and Dave ended their romantic relationship and started on this wonderful musical journey as Eurythmics. That history brought out some incredibly rich and textured songs, and none so perfectly capture the unique circumstances of Eurythmics like “Here Comes the Rain Again”. Once again, Dave and Annie turned a heated argument into wonderful musical catharsis.
Musically, the combination of synths and orchestral arrangements never sounded so beautifully matched for each other: the strings carving breathtaking beauty and the synths glowing with the magical sparkle only they can produce, combining to craft a beauty that is so immense that it feels almost exalted. For me, the opening triplicate synth pattern that runs throughout feels like the titular raindrops: there is a percussiveness to the synths that make them sound like rain splatting against a window pane: thick from the cold grey clouds from which they came, driving an insistent rhythm. It is gorgeous and affecting and grand.
And the lyrics are so tender and vulnerable, an earnest plea for connection as a way to overcome the overbearing depression that envelops a broken heart. And it’s not just any connection she seeks - she wants the whole ocean - a deep, almost primordial, you-and-I-are-one-for-all-eternity connection, and the way she sings is such an evocative reminder that such connections are possible. In a song in which she is resigned and fatalistic about the world (the title revealing a weary expectation of sadness), she seeks the highest of highs.
It may not be my favorite Eurythmics song, but I can’t honestly disagree with anyone who maintains that “Here Comes the Rain Again” is their best song. It is hallowed. It is sacred. It is a hymn. [#17]