Now that I am an "adult" by most people's definition, I get to reconsider all the adult-contemporary radio hits I heard in middle school -- this time with a full understanding of how well they articulate "grown-up" issues. When my newly-divorced dad would vacuum the apartment while singing along to "Back in the High Life Again," I didn't realize that he and Steve Winwood must have shared a 1980s-style optimism about reentering the dating scene after a midlife crisis.
Similarly, during my first-ever slow dance at a school party, I didn't know that the song the boy and I were dancing to -- Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting" -- was about a painful long-distance relationship. Michael Bolton wondered hoarsely how he was supposed to live without me; as I amassed 1-ups on Super Mario Bros. with the radio turned up and the sound on the NES turned down, I was largely unclear on why he'd find this difficult. BUT I KNOW NOW!
I admit I don't sit around and listen to these songs. But on a deep, hard-to-explain level I like when they come on in the drugstore: I know all the words, and I've spent my life gradually, unintentionally getting what they're about. Especially if you were not yet an adult in 1987 - 91, please examine:
Don Henley, "Heart of the Matter" (SEE ALSO "Last Worthless Evening," "Boys of Summer," "The End of the Innocence," "New York Minute")