Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”: The most ’80s moment in music history

As a culture, we’ve slid out of ’80s nostalgia and we’re well into the ’90s revivals now — just you watch; there’ll be neo-Blues Traveler and neo-Candlebox bands coming along any day now — but before we bid adieu to the ’80s for another decade or so, let’s isolate the most ’80s moment in music history.

It comes, naturally, in a song by Journey, that most quintessential of ’80s bands. A hundred years from now, movies will still feature “Don’t Stop Believin'” as a handy cultural touchstone … although the Michael Bays of the 22nd century will probably use it in a World War I flick. (Hey, it all happened about the same time, right?)

Anyway, the moment I’m talking about doesn’t come in “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but in “Any Way You Want It.” The song itself is indelible ’80s material, starting with the very first verse:

She loves to laugh
She loves to sing
She does everything
She loves to move
She loves to groove
She loves the lovin’ things

And really, who doesn’t love the lovin’ things? And who doesn’t love a woman (no name necessary, though it was probably “Heather” or “Stephanie”) who loves those lovin’ things? The ’80s were a pastel, bubbleheaded decade, culturally speaking, and songs like this are a big reason why. I imagine Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain vomited blood when they heard this song.

ANYway. So the subject matter is pure ’80s, and the music — big, fat Neal Schon power chords; multitracked Steve Perry vocals, drums that sound like someone’s pounding on a plastic cooler, none of that scary low-end bass — is a master class all by itself. Add in the video, with its “play the jukebox” motif and the classic lip-syncing band (and utterly creepy ending), and you’ve got all the elements of a time-capsule moment.

But let’s distill further. It’s my contention that the ultimate ’80s moment comes at the 2:20 moment of this song, the bridge right after the solo. Steve Perry’s soaring vocal: “She said hooooooold on, hold on, hoooold on…” is the entire ’80s distilled down to a ten-second John Hughes/Cameron Crowe/Reagan/Madonna/”Alf”-implied sound bite. That’s it right there. Package that, bottle that, make it the world’s ring tone, and we’ll be back to the days of big hair before you know it.


One Response to “Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”: The most ’80s moment in music history

  • Al Czervik
    ago5 years

    I’ll do you one better, Jay. No coincidence here…as you will certainly recall, this most quintessential of 80’s tunes found its way into one of the funniest scenes of the most quintessential of 80’s flicks.

    “So, what do you got in here…rocks?” “Are you kidding? When I was your age, I would lug 50 lbs of ice up five, six flights of stairs.” “So, what.” “So, what? So, let’s dance!”

    A fitting tribute for the ages to what is, as you note, an already timeless song.

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