Monday, March 26, 2007

The 10 Best Pump-Up Songs of the '80s

The 1980s were a strange time. Remembered mostly for big hair, bad clothes and some of the cheesiest music man has ever produced, there is one gem of '80s culture that has fallen by the wayside in the 21st century. With audiences demanding more realism and grit in their action movies, it seems there's no room anymore for a hot montage with a really bitchin' song that makes you yearn to get out there and show the world that you're all about two things: kickin' ass and takin' names.

Pioneers like Stan Bush, John Farnham and Kenny Loggins were masters of taking pure adrenaline, filtering it through an electric guitar, and extracting an unknown byproduct that somehow caused testicles to increase in size by at least four times. If you're upset with the state of cinema in this day and age, you need look no further for the reason than the lack of sick sports/training montages featuring mind-blowing rock with lyrics about winning, fighting, and generally being 100% man. This list hopes to outline once and for all who reigns supreme amongst these oft-missed relics of film history.

#10 - "Highway to the Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins (from Top Gun)
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What better way to open such a prestigious countdown than with the monster anthem that itself opened up what is arguably the best movie of the '80s. The only way to get any more hardcore than flying fighter jets into "The Danger Zone" would be if you were somehow born with two penises. And your callsign was "Double Dick." And you had a threesome with Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan while blowing MIGs out of the sky over the Indian Ocean. Since that's a pretty unlikely scenario, we'll just concede that before Tom Cruise went batshit insane he and Val Kilmer were showing the world what it truly means to feel the need for speed.

#9 - "Thunder in Your Heart" by John Farnham (from Rad)
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John Farnham makes his first stop on the countdown with the tune that accompanied the final showdown between "Cru" Jones and the unstoppable Bart Taylor (played by real-life BMX winner and fantastic male specimen Bart Conner.) As Cru tries to overcome a disheartening, early-race crash, badass Bart decides to pull a "tortoise/hare" move and waits for his rival to catch up. If he'd known that Farnham's insanely rocking beats were coursing through Cru's veins he would have just taken his victory and gone home. Instead, Cru makes that final push, proving that "every move is like lightning." And in the end, his triumph allows him to experience "the power you feel when you get your taste of the glory." Seriously, you can't make these lyrics up unless you were born a pure winner.

#8 - "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor (from Rocky III)
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The most controversial placement on the list, many would argue that Survivor's classic is the hands-down, number one pump-up song. The reason it loses points on this countdown is because, despite it's legendary status and top-notch quality, it has become a bit cliche. Still, just hearing this song begin to ramp up makes every guy within earshot immediately fall into a trance wherein they dream of shaving their head into a nappy mohawk, strapping on 30 lbs. of gold chains and doing pull-ups while grappling with their feelings about the pitiful fools they seem to encounter on a daily basis. Predictions? Rock. . . and pain.

#7 - "Winner Takes it All" by Sammy Hagar (from Over the Top)
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Stallone. A beat-up semi-truck. Arm wrestling. An epic battle to reclaim the love of your estranged son. I know what you're thinking: Classic Tolkien, right? "Over the Top" is a bit more contemporary, but no less thrilling an adventure than any Hobbit has ever encountered. The only thing that could possibly improve this masterpiece would be Sammy Hagar destroying your eardrums with a blazing track about about how to avoid being a loser! There's not been a greater song written to accompany guzzling motor oil and munching on lit cigars. That's right, John Grizzly, I'm lookin' at you.

#6 - "Push it to the Limit" by Paul Engemann (from Scarface)
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Engemann's strong work for the infamous "getting richer" montage in "Scarface" has been the inspiration for many montages to follow, most notably Trey Parker's "Montage" parody from "South Park" and "Team America: World Police." It's also holds the current record for most overused phrases in a single string of lyrics with "Hit the wheel and double the stakes, throttle wide open like a bat out of hell and you crash the gates." I don't know about you, but that makes me want to bury my face in coke then fuck like a stoned monkey until a South American drug lord's goon blasts my sister with a shotgun. Or maybe just start a savings account somewhere so that I can have a comfortable retirement. Either way, welcome to the limit, bitches.

#5 - "Fight to Survive" by Stan Bush (from Bloodsport)
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Stan Bush is a legend of pump-up music. He brought us the power of "You've Got the Touch" for "Transformers: The Movie," and even lent his mastery of the ass-kicking anthem to "Kickboxer" with "Never Surrender." But before Van-Damme was "Nuk Soo Cow," he was Frank Dux, and he literally had to fight to survive. Just one of Chong Li's pecs would have been more than most men could handle, and he proved it by crippling Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds." But if you thought for a second you could keep a lid on the fury of a Belgian guy playing an American guy trained to inflict unadulterated pain on his opponents by a Japanese guy (while blind nonetheless,) then you've obviously never seen Van-Damme score not one, or even two vicious spinning jump kicks, but very often three or four consecutive foot-bombs on route to ending Chong Li's bad sportsmanship. Did I mention he does the splits and punches a sumo wrestler in the balls? That's because I shouldn't even have to.

#4 - "Playing With the Boys" by Kenny Loggins (from Top Gun)

No, I'm not gay. Why does everyone keep asking me that?

#3 - "You're the Best" by Joe Esposito (from The Karate Kid)

This was probably the first pump-up song that anyone ever heard as a youngster. You got that hot feeling in your loins and you weren't sure why. Now you know it's because your instincts wanted you to get out there and thump skulls no matter what that little Miyagi bitch was preaching. "The Karate Kid" was a lot like "Bloodsport," only without the blood. Or the sport. One thing I can tell you for certain, though, is that Billy Zabka could beat up Bruce Lee. There, I said it.

#2 - "Break the Ice" by John Farnham (from Rad)
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So close to the number one spot, "Break the Ice" is John Farnham's ultimate achievement in pump-up music. It's among the most inspirational of songs that has ever or will ever exist. It paints a picture of perseverence in its purest form and really gets you stoked to succeed, no matter the task. I wish I could have found the clip from the opening of "Rad" or been able to embed the audio, but you'll just have to trust me that this song will change your life. Go and download it, illegally if necessary. Don't be a pussy.

#1 - "Heart's On Fire" by John Cafferty (from Rocky IV)

The '80s, while producing unbearably righteous pump-up songs, were also marred by tensions between nuclear super powers. It was U.S.A. vs. U.S.S.R. It was Us vs. Them. It was Capitalism vs. Communism. And to symbolize all of that turmoil, we got Rocky vs. Drago. In a shocking twist early in the film, Ivan Drago slays an age-old symbol of the American Dream, the great Apollo Creed (who dies wearing his famous red, white and blue trunks.) There were so many questions: How to stand against such power? How to face the Goliath and reclaim the pride of an entire nation? Luckily, Rocky Balboa had the answer. Simply put, he shut Adrian up and took his training back to the old school. While the big Russian was getting injected with steroids and pounding away on high-tech machines, the Italian Stallion was chopping down trees, lifting carts full of people and nets full of stones, and running up entire mountains. And what kept him going? John Cafferty's perfect pump-up song. If this song doesn't make you want to sprint out to a quarry and deadlift boulders, you'd better reach between your legs and make sure God didn't pluck you from that oven before your balls finished cooking. "Heart's On Fire" makes men into men. It puts hair on your chest just so it can burn it off again with its sheer awesomeness. It is the ultimate '80s pump-up song.