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'83 Going On '87

I watched the movie 13 Going On 30 last night. In case you don't know, the premise is this: On her 13th birthday, a girl named Jenna wishes she was 30, and it magically happens. The movie starts out in 1987 and makes use of several '80s songs for key plot points.

While I'm not in the business of reviewing movies for this site, I will say that I enjoyed this movie for two reasons: 1) I am in love with Jennifer Garner, and 2) for a supposedly escapist "girl movie" the film has a message that many people could use (namely, looking at your current life choices through the eyes of childhood might not be such a bad thing).

What I did not enjoy was the use of '80s songs! While none of them are bad, or anachronistic (meaning they didn't use anything from post-'87), the songs are surprisingly out of touch. Check out these four songs that play important roles in the movie: 1) Jenna is obsessed with Rick Springfield and his song Jessie's Girl (1980); 2) Jenna loves Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982), and when she's 30 spices up a party by doing the zombie dance; 3) Jenna befriends a 13-year-old girl in her apartment building and emboldens her by quoting Love Is A Battlefield (1983) by Pat Benatar (and later dancing to it at a slumber party); and 4) Jenna's friend Matt alienates a bunch of the popular party-goers by putting on Burning Down The House (1983) by Talking Heads.

Before you say "so what?"consider: How many 13-year-olds are listening to stuff that came out 4 (or more) years ago? When you're 13, you follow the latest trends! You're a demographic! Both Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar were off the radar in '86 and '87! Springfield's career died out in '84 and Pat didn't have an album out those years. Michael Jackson was the bees knees in those days, of course, but 1987 was the year Bad came out! It's much more likely she was dancing to the title track in her room, like I used to. Finally, the Talking Heads were a great choice to be Matt's favorite band (you even see him wearing a vintage TH shirt as an adult) because they are one of the coolest but idiosyncratic bands ever. The thing is, they'd had two big albums in '85 and '86, Little Creatures and True Stories. It's more likely Matt would be grooving to something from one of those.

So here is what I would have done if the producers had seen fit to consult me: 1) Rick Springfield would have been replaced with either Bon Jovi (Livin' On A Prayer was the biggest hit of '87) or George Michael (the Faith album was all the rage in '87); 2) Thriller would have been replaced with Bad (the song isn't as good, but there was a great dance to it); 3) Love Is A Battlefield would have been booted in favor of Janet Jackson's Control (it has a similar "girl power" message and was a big hit in '86); and 4) the Talking Heads song that the popular kids couldn't stand would have been Wild, Wild Life.

There are other '80s songs and references, and these are also hit and miss. For example the use of Belinda Carlisle's Mad About You (1986) and Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (1987) were right on, as was Jenna's mention of Wang Chung (they'd just had a huge hit with Everybody Have Fun Tonight in 1986).

But we also hear The Romantics' What I Like About You (1980), Soft Cell's Tainted Love (1982), the Go-Gos' Head Over Heels (1984), and Madonna's Crazy For You (1985). With the wealth of great hits that came out in '87 I would have liked to have heard U2's With Or Without You, Def Leppard's Hysteria, Cutting Crew's (I Just Died) In Your Arms Tonight, and Madonna's Open Your Heart. Prince, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, and the Smiths also had awesome stuff out around this time.

Aren't you glad I'm here to think about these things, so you don't have to?


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