Written by Peter Schiller
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OF ARTISTS AND SONGS.
Last Thursday, ABC premiered a new series called Greatest Hits. It features the very best of music from different eras. This six-week event is hosted by comedian Arsenio Hall and country singer Kelsea Ballerini.
The series premiere showcased music between 1980 and 1985, with many recognizable faces from those years taking the stage to perform their most popular songs once again.
Although the show was rather enjoyable, it was unclear what the overall goal of the show was. Was it to showcase the greatest hits of the early 80’s? Or was there another agenda?
Kenny Loggins. Jun. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: ABC.
The first act to take the stage was Kenny Loggins. He performed his classic song “Footloose” from the classic movie of the same name. Loggins still had tons of energy and “tore up the town” like he did in 1984, with some backup singers helping out with the call-and-response “cut footloose” in the middle of the song. Loggins put on a solid performance that had the whole audience clapping and dancing along.
Top: Jason Derulo. Jun. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: ABC; Bottom: Michael Jackson. Photo Credit: Carrie Stern, Dance Heritage Coalition.
Next was hip-hop singer and dancer Jason Derulo. He performed “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson while performing a choreographed dance. This was probably the best act of the show, with Derulo breaking out some of the late King of Pop’s moves, like his spin and the trademark moonwalk, along with the insertion of some of Jackson’s vocal grunts and shouts throughout the song. Many other flourishes in the performance, like some quick blasts of pyrotechnics, made Derulo’s performance a very special and fitting tribute to Michael Jackson.
Rick Springfield. Jun. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: ABC.
Rick Springfield walked onstage after “Ghostbusters” to sing his hit single “Jessie’s Girl” from his 1981 album Working Class Dog. Other than a few minor vocal problems, Springfield proved that he could still rock all these years later, yelling the chorus and heavily strumming his guitar. At the end of the song, he pulled off a successful guitar toss and catch, which I was very impressed that he could still do.
Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon and Pitbull. Jun. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: ABC.
Springfield was followed by University of Illinois alumni REO Speedwagon, who performed two songs. Their first song was “Keep On Loving You” from their 1980 album Hi-Infidelity. The song’s pitch was a little lower than normal, but the band more than made up for it in their on-stage performance.
Surprise guest Pitbull joined the seasoned band for their second song. Pitbull performed his song “Messin’ Around,” which included the chorus of REO’s song, “Take it on the Run”.
It was strange to hear this song performed in a show dedicated to music between 1980 and 1985. It was even more surprising to hear Kevin Cronin singing much of Pitbull’s lyrics, along with the chorus.
Although the song sounded great, it really seemed out of place in the show.
Rock/country singer Kim Carnes was up next to perform with “Bette Davis Eyes” from her 1981 album Mistaken Identity. Carnes is known to have a semi-raspy voice in some of her songs, but her voice seemed a little raspier than normal when she performed on the show. Nonetheless, she still serenaded the audience with some of the charm. At the same time, the song is not as well-known as some of the other songs performed during this episode, so it seemed a little out-of-place.
Kool and the Gang. Jun. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: ABC.
To finish the night, Kool and the Gang performed their party classic “Celebration.” Even all these years later, and ignoring a couple of minor pitch problems, the song still got the audience singing, dancing, and clapping along. It was a very fitting end to episode one of Greatest Hits.
When we first heard about the show, our thoughts were that it would be exactly that: the greatest hits of a time period. However, Arsenio Hall stated at the top of the show that the performing artists and the songs performed represented all that made up the early 80s. Which is it?
If it truly is the latter rather than the former, then we could understand the selection of artists and songs.
On the other hand, if these songs are truly meant to be the greatest hits between 1980 and 1985, then ABC could have done a little better with selecting artists and songs. There is no doubt that Footloose and Ghostbusters were great movies during that time, but their title tracks did not define the early 80s. “Ghostbusters” is essentially a one-hit wonder, since it seems to be the only well-known song by Ray Parker Jr.
Pitbull’s “Messin’ Around” really had no business being in the show, despite the use of the REO Speedwagon chorus. If anything, REO should have just performed “Take it on the Run” by itself.
Although the performances were great, there are some artists that ABC missed. Madonna was increasing in popularity during this time, with hits such as “Like a Virgin.” Hard rock bands like AC/DC and Queen began to emerge, and Cyndi Lauper and Prince also started to become popular. A possible tribute for the Prince of rock would have been interesting to see, like Jason Derulo did for Michael Jackson.
Hopefully, we’ll see some or all of these artists in the 1985-1990 show.
Four LPs (out of five)
Predictions: Next week’s show will feature music between 1995 and 2000. It has already been confirmed that the Backstreet Boys will perform. We hope to see grunge and indie bands of the time like Oasis, The Smashing Pumpkins, 311, and the Foo Fighters perform. I think that some rappers and hip-hop artists may make an appearance, like Busta Rhymes and Mase. We would also like to see tributes to Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.
Boy band *NSYNC also had some popularity in the late 90s, so they too might make an appearance. If not the whole group, then at least Justin Timberlake might come.
Stay on the watch next week for our review of episode two of Greatest Hits!
Featured photo courtesy of ABC.