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When you want your music to do all the work for you, to provide you not only with pleasant sounds, but also with an entire set of predigested emotions, you can depend on one – or both – of these two groups. Musically they are pretty distinct: Journey is actually a full band with a rock base, whereas Air Supply is two guys (one tall one, one short one) with some really good keyboards. But the Bay City rockers and the Down Under duo have a surprising amount in common: both feature male singers with a vocal range to rival Mariah’s, singing songs about love…and love…and love.
Now hold on, you’re saying: isn’t love pop music’s favorite topic? That’s true, but every once in a while, even the cheesiest pop stars put romance aside for headier topics, like fame, money, or starving children. The men of Air Supply are way, way too focused on making sweet aural love to you for any of that, as songs like “Lost in Love,” “The One That You Love,” “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” and “All Out of Love” demonstrate. They clearly aspire to be the gentlest lover you’ve ever had, even when they are “mak[ing] all the stadiums rock.” (FYI that lyric was written by Jim Steinman, the man who gave Meat Loaf a career.) Journey has a few more moves in their seduction repertoire, from the bedroom confession of “Open Arms” to the headbanging heartbreak of “Separate Ways.” Even the songs that are not explicitly about love per se have been adopted into the soundtrack of American romantic life – like “Lights,” a sentimental ballad about San Fran that became the early-80’s theme song of high school freshmen copping a feel at the school dance.
Ironic, isn’t it, that these intensely amorous men could never, ever win the hearts of women today, being that they are homely in the extreme? (Unless they made a deal with the devil, like Kid Rock.) Steve Perry has a certain boyish, mulleted charm, but next to more recent smoove-out artists like Justin “SexyBack” Timberlake and John “Wonderland” Mayer, he looks like the weird guy who kept asking your cousin out all summer long. Even the goofy-looking singers of today have the sense to dress up and do their hair nice; post-British invasion and pre-MTV, the face of pop/rock music was, oftentimes, a downright ugly one (Boston? Toto? REO Speedwagon, anyone?). Whatever havoc Music Television may have wrought on the recording industry, at least it succeeded in getting musical dudes to shave and put on a nice shirt.