George Orwell’s predictions included nothing to indicate that 1984 would be one of the hands-down finest years for pop music. Maybe it was, in fact, the terrifying concepts of his dystopian novel floating in our collective consciousness that pushed creative forces to new and invigorating levels that year. Or maybe MTV, which celebrated its third birthday in summer ‘84, had a little something to do with it — or at least the way artists adapted to its groundbreaking format, and the way the rest of us discovered and consumed music. After all, it was the year of the first MTV Video Music Awards, and Madonna’s unforgettable floor-humping performance of “Like a Virgin”; it was hot on the heels of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video debut (December 2, 1983); and it was the year Run-D.M.C. brought rap to the masses with their video for “Rock Box.”
It was a grand time for Prince, too, who had to one-up everyone and make a whole dang feature-length film with Purple Rain. Movies and music were working together to whip up storms when the theme songs for Ghostbusters and Footloose hit the Billboard charts. But 1984 was also the year of Sixteen Candles and a peak time for New Wave and post-punk, thanks to bands like Thompson Twins, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Cars, Depeche Mode and The Fall.