I can put together a thesis with a list of LPs–there weren’t that many I cared about, really–but with singles I just listen to the radio and let it tell me what, for two or three minutes, the world is all about: singles aren’t world-historical, they’re world-antihistorical. Billy Ocean is my number one because it was on the radio for close to six months and I liked it better, connected to it more deeply, every time I heard it. What more could anyone ask? Singles are surprises, shots out of nowhere (Cameo, ELO, Billy Bragg, Bangles, Mel Daniels), or reassurances, slight changes rung on the familiarity you need to pass into the next day (New Order, Madonna, Prince). And you never know if Rosanne Cash’s next one is going to outlast its fifth play: “Hold On” sounded fine the first few times, then ordinary, and then, slowly building over a couple of months, tough, smart, funny, unsatisfied… Singles are the pop world. Look, on Top 40 (I don’t care what it’s called now), Pia Zadora could make the best record of 1987, and we’d all (those of us honest enough to admit it) be scurrying to figure out what that meant. It wouldn’t mean anything, other than that the radio is still a good, weird machine.
Village Voice, March 3, 1987