Review Summary: Van Halen turns to a slightly more commercial side in order to release 1984, to excellent results.
Van Halen's 5th studio release Diver Down
turned out to be a somewhat controversial album. Featuring 5 cover songs and 3 introductory tracks in an album made up of 12 songs, many fans seemed unhappy while listening to Diver Down
. Even if Diver Down
wasn't bad by any means, the lack of original VH material in that album contributed to some fans' unhappiness. Fueled by the hit single (Oh) Pretty Woman
, the album sold considerably well, though, even reaching Platinum status. After an extensive period of touring, the band took some time off to rest. That's when Eddie Van Halen, who desperately wanted some time alone to write songs on his own, built his own studio in his backyard and started writing and recording a lot of demos for the band's next album, the famous 1984
is quite possibly Van Halen's most well known album. It remains the band's most successful album in sales, having reached 10x Platinum in the US! Fueled by not one, not two, and not even three, but four hit singles, it went on to become one of Van Halen's best studio albums ever. Van Halen was quickly becoming one of hard rock's biggest names, but 1984
was what allowed them to gain a worldwide following. It's good to understand what circumstances 1984
was written in. Eddie, who had previously contributed in one of Michael Jackson's most famous songs Beat It
, with one of his most recognizable solos ever, wrote most of 1984
's material in his home studio, combining some keyboard-heavy songs with some hard-edged rock 'n' roll, that was what had given Van Halen popularity before. The final result led to a mixture of some more radio-inclined rock music with slight tendences of pop, most notably found here in Jump
, with the power-driven hard rock that the band was known for.
One great aspect about 1984
is that, even if the hit songs are really amazing and standout moments in the album, the lesser known tracks are also very good too, and make it easy to understand why 1984
is held in such high regard among fans and critics. A prime example of that is House Of Pain
. It's more of a heavy metal song from Van Halen, more furious and powerful than what they had done before. Powered by its amazing and recognizable riff, it also features a great pounding beat by Alex and a fine vocal delivery by Dave. Among 1984
's hits, it sometimes ends up being overlooked among critics, but it's always been a fan favorite, and it's easy to see why. It also features a sweet interlude to close out the album in style. Drop Dead Legs
and Top Jimmy
are also good examples. While they're not as good as the singles, they are very good tracks too, adding some consistency to the album. While Drop Dead Legs
features Eddie's great guitar intro and a standout job by the rhythm section, Top Jimmy
sees Van Halen returning to their early days, containing a very nice hook and an overall great performance by the band.
However, in 1984
, the hits really are the best songs, and the ones that probably get into your head the most. Jump
, for example, is catchy as everything, and its viciously sing-along chorus is one of 1984
's best. Plus, its two solos (guitar and keyboard, both played by Eddie) really benefit the song. Panama
is also an amazing hard rock display of the band's talents, from Eddie's guitar wizardry, to Alex's furious drumming, Michael's great backing vocals and Dave's great performance. Its chorus is very simple, but ultimately very effective. I'll Wait
is a lot more keyboard-oriented, but it suits the album really well, and it's an insanely catchy track, benefiting from Dave's fine vocal display, Eddie's great use of keyboards and a memorable guitar solo. Closing out on the singles, comes Hot For Teacher
, arguably one of Van Halen's most recognizable songs. Featuring Alex Van Halen's spectacular drum intro and Eddie's outstanding guitar display, Hot For Teacher
is known for its dialogue between the members of the band throughout the song and a great chorus "Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I'm hot for teacher."
Featuring only one lesser good track in Girl Gone Bad
(even the title track is quite entertaining for an opener, presenting an interesting use of synths), 1984
rightfully deserves its classic status. It showed how Van Halen could combine heavy and distorted guitars with spacey keyboards amazingly. Van Halen turned to a slightly more commercial side, maintaining their hard rock sound that they had become known for. It's an album strongly backed up by its amazing singles, but it also features great gems who, more often than not, end up being overlooked. 1984
is, without question, one of Van Halen's best albums. Sadly, though, tensions between Eddie and Dave grew even higher, forcing Dave to leave Van Halen and pursue a very successful solo career. Now, we know that he returned, but for a long time, Van Halen presented different frontmen than Diamond Dave. To fill in for Dave, came Sammy Hagar, who made his debut in 1986, with the album 5150