1986: Belinda Carlisle - “Mad About You”

I hate criticism most when it comes to pop music. It feels like opportunism. I know this is hypocritical, but what if I’m not a critic? What if I’m just another opinionated pop culture obsessive who’s been grandfathered in on a site that sometimes approaches its subjects in an objective, exhaustive, erudite fashion? All I can do is flex what writerly gifts I might innately possess and solipsistically enthuse. But pop music is simply about making people feel good, right? It always has and always will be. That’s why it makes so much money, why it’s called what it is. But it seems only uplifting in private. In public, it’s mostly accompanied by crying babies, obnoxious conversations, vomiting, depressing clearance racks, echosome, smelly bathrooms… Any number of drab settings turn those bright, exultant crescendos into a sick joke. “Weird Al” nodding to himself in the kitchen in Ghost World is sad too, but I get that. The more that life narrows your eyes, the more you just wanna “Shake It Off” and move into the music with abandon.

For a month or so, off and on, “Mad About You” has been on my mind. My reinvigorated love of this song is what finally made me pull the trigger and let 1989 rip. I would’ve loved 1989 in 1986, when I was seven and into Madonna and NKOTB. I like it now, because I still like that feckless, dreamy kid, ineffectual though he was. It was a few years before I turned on Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch in favor of the hard, macho pop variation of hair metal. That kid sang to himself and dreamed big dreams of living the loveswell (part budding sexuality, part achy longing for shared happiness) exemplified in “Mad About You.” I wanted, like so many others, to be the “You” in Belinda’s song. I swooned at the video. A pretty girl in love, only making her prettier.

The formula still resonates, even if it’s not appropriate for most of the people who read and write on this site. I am an adult, ostensibly, but when I listen in earnest to this music, I can forget that. Because being an adult is garbage. It’s utterly dreadful. We’re supposed to continue the population of the earth and put away childish things. That’s OK, though. Because there’s purpose in there. A job. Collegiate existential malaise only leads to more of the same. Function is fine, even if it is “soul crushing.” How many times have I used “soul” and don’t even believe in it? Mayhap attending church is just pop music to better keep breeders in line…

Specious musings aside, there is something magic to the innocence of the former Go-Go’s first single. Its plonky percussion, guitar peals that’re so tame and canned-sounding that it’s like Ted Nugent in a tin can in the middle of the ocean (not a bad idea), and lyrics so insipid and repetitive as to render themselves nearly meaningless. Yet it’s magic, because it makes the overwhelming feelings of love seem digestible, something you can get by on. It’s an illusion, like all magic, and it’s bad for us. It’s candy, which we are also supposed to grow out of (or at least graduate to more refined, expensive deserts). Then again, it’s not a total illusion. The guy playing her mad love interest in the video remains Carlisle’s husband (and they have a child) to this day. Any dispiriting cold-light-of-day juxtapositions with their pop romance must’ve been shaken off.

Perhaps self-indulgence is so pervasive that we should look at it as a function of living, not a dysfunction. Plus, if we were gonna give in, why not give in to something that feels good rather than judgmental cynicism? I see so many more people coming together over cynicism and derision rather than passion. Passion is ungainly, immature, gauche. That attitude (and I have it too sometimes) seems more dysfunctional than giving in to Taylor Swift or anything like it. I don’t wanna take these bonbons apart. I’ll get shit all over my fingers and will have wasted an opportunity to pop and enjoy, tummy ache be damned.


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

Most Read