Oh, Billy Ocean. How is it we’re just now getting to you?
Wait, I know — I fucking hate Billy Ocean’s shitty music. That’s how. If that sounds harsh, I don’t care; I still bear the psychic scars of “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run),” “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Shit Your Pants in Frustration),” and “When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Use Parentheticals,” along with the rest of Ocean’s unbelievable seven Top Ten hits during the ’80s. (Jason, who calls him “William F. Ocean,” has written about three of them, and he likes them all. There’s no accounting for taste. Check ’em out here.)
This album, thankfully, represented the end of the platinum-bricked road for Billy Ocean; though it gave him his last two Top Ten hits (“The Colour of Love” and the unbelievably crappy “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”), it peaked just inside the Top 20, and Jive could read the writing on the wall clearly enough that it released an Ocean hits collection the following year. (Billy Ocean knew it too — his next album, which took five years to finish and found him dreadlocked and working with R. Kelly, was the aptly titled Time to Move On.)
Needless to say, I panned this album when it came out, and listened to it again with extreme trepidation. There was not a single minute of the ’80s when I thought to myself, “You know, Billy Ocean isn’t so bad,” nor have I grown nostalgic for his reign of terror — and I’m the guy who can’t suppress a grin when I hear the opening strains of, say, Samantha Fox’s “Naughty Girls Need Love Too.” But here’s the thing: As much as I was prepared to hate Tear Down These Walls all over again, I did not. I found it to be exceedingly competent in a very inoffensive way — even songs such as “Gun for Hire” (download) and, oh God, “Calypso Crazy” (download), stupid as they are, don’t piss me off. And how can you do anything but marvel at the title track (download), which features the mind-boggling credit “Arranged by Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange & Teddy Riley”?
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t miss Billy Ocean. And I will almost certainly never listen to this album again. But even if it’s just the last two decades talking — decades which have given my ears far worse abuse than anything Ocean could muster — I think I’m finally ready to set aside my Billy Ocean vendetta. At least until he makes his comeback.
UPDATE: Commenter Jonah reminds us of the “Get Outta My Dreams” video, oh dear God: