The Cars – Heartbeat City: #433 of best 1,000 albums ever!

The Cars - Heartbeat City

So why is The Cars’ Heartbeat City on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I talked about how deeply influential MTV was on pop culture during the early 1980s in the recent entry for U2’s War (#440 of best 1,000 albums ever). By the time The Car’s Heartbeat City was released in 1984, it was dominant.

At least on my young music sponge of a mind. I realized while writing the entry for The Cars’ self-titled 1978 debut (#464 of best 1,000 albums ever) that it would very likely have been considerably “higher” on the 1k list had I been born a few years earlier and/or spent more time with it.

Heartbeat City falls into the wheelhouse of my youthful MTV obsessed years, and I think it still holds up magnificently.

It’s pretty fascinating reading about the production of Heartbeat City, about how many months Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, and the band spent meticulously working on the album with record producer Matt Lunge (who had recently overseen a similar process that produced Def Leppard’s great Pyromania LP).

Instead of a lifeless, overworked affair though, Heartbeat City feels at turns breezy and energetic or dramatic and compelling.

“You Might Think” is my favorite Cars song. It’s a perfectly crafted rock song with a great and catchy pop sensibility. I watched the music video about 1,000 times as a kid and could never seem to get enough.

In revisiting the video, I still think that Ocasek represented the epitome of mid ’80s rocker cool. Just super fun stuff.

“Magic” uses much the same formula, but is slightly slower-paced in an arena rocking anthem kind of way. It just occurred to me while writing this piece that I can imagine a young Rivers Cuomo of future Weezer fame getting heavily influenced by The Cars along with punk rock records.

“Drive” is such a departure from other Cars output that it’s surprising – a very pleasant one, to be sure – that it’s also on Heartbeat City. It’s a fabulous ‘80s pop ballad, draped in a synth-y sound and sheen.

“It’s Not the Night” is a fascinating deep cut. The first 30 seconds really make me believe I’m listening to an entirely different kind of album, one in which Run D.M.C. is about pop in with a song like “It’s Like That.” Instead, it slowly builds into a pretty incredible power ballad.

Some stats & info about The Cars – Heartbeat City

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Album Rock, New Wave, Boston Bands
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Heartbeat City released? 1984
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #433 out of 1,000

The Cars’ Heartbeat City on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Cars’ Heartbeat City that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

You might think I’m crazy – all I want is you.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.