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Cool Summers: New voices and new stars hit in Summer '86

Janet Jackson

Previously, we covered the Summer of 1985, a notable one for music and pop culture. The journey continues with the next stop on our nostalgic chronological jaunt, the Summer of ’86. This was a summer of more hits, and a few of them big. But, what was interesting about this year was the re-emergence of two acts who dropped two monster lead singles from their albums. Those songs gave us a glimpse of how big they could be, and how big they would get. We would also see (hear) more hits from an impressive rookie singer who would soon become a legend. So, crank up that Walkman, open up a can of Slice soda, and come cruise with us down Pop Culture History Boulevard as we rock out to the most notable songs of the Summer of 1986.

1. Addicted to Love - Robert Palmer

Cool guy. Great song. Iconic music video.

2. You Give Love a Bad Name - Bon Jovi

They say that the third time’s a charm, and that was true for Bon Jovi. Their lead cut from their third album, Slippery When Wet, was the smash they’d been looking for. "You Give Love a Bad Name" dropped on July 23 in ’86, and exploded on Top 40 radio. The Summer of ’86 gave us a classic hit and a group that would become legendary in time.

3. Take My Breath Away – Berlin

This second single from the Top Gun soundtrack became a massive hit, dropping June 15 in ’86, and later charting at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was a masterpiece on its own, but the extra exposure it got when it was heard in Top Gun, which was the biggest grossing movie of 1986, aided in its success. "Take My Breath Away" became a Top 40 classic, a staple of adult contemporary stations, and a Gen-X favorite. Another banger from the Summer of ’86.

4. Kiss – Prince

The movie this song came from, Under the Cherry Moon, wasn’t well received by the public, but "Kiss" was. Big time. "Kiss" reached the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in April of ’86. Trust me (an older Gen-X guy), this song killed in the Summer of ’86. Prince’s majestic reign was far from over.

5. What Have You Done for Me Lately - Janet Jackson

This wasn’t Janet’s first single. She’d released several, along with two earlier albums, none of which made a real impact on radio and record sales. In 1985, she was paired with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who would go on to become, in many people’s opinion, the best production duo/team in music history. All Jam and Lewis did for Janet was give her a huge hit, create a genre-busting smash, and built a launching pad for one of the biggest stars in recent American history. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" wasn’t Janet’s biggest hit, and it didn’t end up a number one single; it peaked at number 4 on May 17, 1986 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and her third single from the Control album, "When I Think of You", would hit the number one spot. But, "What Have You Done for Me" was the door-kick that was heard and felt around the world.

6.  Greatest Love of All- Whitney Houston

You may think this is a strange choice for a summer song article, but it's not. Here’s some cultural disclosure… "Greatest Love of All" dominated middle and high school graduations in the spring and early summer of 1986. It was the unofficial theme song for academic/professional achievement for years, and still is in certain communities. This was also a mega hit for Whitney…it was her biggest hit until "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" was released a year later. To this day, it’s still her third biggest song. Let’s just say that in ’86, we had a feeling Houston was going to be around for a while.

So, what were your favorite songs of the Summer of 1986? Give us your jams! Talk to us, and then go and stream your beloved summer hits of yesteryear.

Greg Simms Jr. is a veteran content creator and cultural expert who's worked for numerous digital publications over the years. He's a resident of Greene County, but he's always aware of social-cultural events happening all over the Miami Valley. To contact Greg, email him at: grgsmmsjr@gmail.com