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The Readers' Pick for Artist of the '80s: U2 : The Irish quartet's influence on the decade has been substantial and inarguable

December 24, 1989|RICHARD CROMELIN

The voice of the people has selected the voice of the people.

U2, Ireland's clamorous crusaders of social consciousness and Christian conscience, has been voted the Pop Artist of the '80s by The Times readers, who submitted 1,724 ballots.

The top five finishers--U2, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Prince--compose a quintet whose impact on the spirit and style of the decade was substantial and inarguable. The order of finish forms a sort of alternating current of impulses: an agenda of social activism in the first, third and (sometimes) fifth spots, and a celebration of celebrity, ambition and eccentric individuality in the second, fourth and (sometimes) fifth spots.

The vote, and the comments submitted by the electorate, support the widely held view that the decade's major development was the return of political and social causes to the mainstream pop arena after a decade of frivolity.

Time and again, U2's supporters cited the band's idealism and its focus on big issues. Rick Adams of San Marino calls them "a band who stood their ground, drew attention to the troubles of the world, and whose lyrics inspired me to strive for excellence in everything I do." Offered Roseanne Ochoa of Orange, "The '80s will be remembered as the decade where a generation woke up and became aware of the troubles in the world around them, and no band symbolized that more than U2."

Other partisans of the quartet caution that we shouldn't separate the band's activism from its art. "They have combined music that sounds great with music that says something," wrote Cathy Orth of La Mesa. And Matt Proietti of Crestline believes that "kids will listen to songs like 'Bad,' 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and 'Bullet the Blue Sky' like we look back to the best of the Who, the Stones and Led Zep."

Springsteen inspired similar sentiments from his voters, while Jackson and Madonna earned much of their support simply for being successful, and for forging themselves into pop-culture icons. As Mark Andrew of La Habra put it, "The pop artist of the '80s wasn't the best singer, songwriter, musician or performer, but the Best Package . . . Madonna."

Fittingly, the contradictory Prince inspired the most wide-ranging and provocative comments, touching on his technical virtuosity, his influence on commercial pop music, his own sales success, his versatility and his mystery. Summarized LeClair Pearson of Long Beach: "He was prolific, he was unpredictable, he was his own man. There is only one Prince."

THE TOP 20 AND THEIR VOTES

1. U2 313 2. Michael Jackson 295 3. Bruce Springsteen 125 4. Madonna 123 5. Prince 109 6. Guns 'N Roses 76 7. The Cure 68 8. Police/Sting 56 9. George Michael 54 10. The Clash 52 11. Van Halen 51 12. R.E.M. 50 13. Elvis Costello 48 14. Bon Jovi 47 15. Def Leppard 26 16. Metallica 26 17. Peter Gabriel 25 18. Duran Duran 18 19. Talking Heads 18 20. Depeche Mode 15

Artists receiving 5-14 votes: Paul Simon, the Go-Go's, the Pretenders, the Smiths, Randy Travis, New Kids on the Block, Boy George.

Artists receiving 1-4 votes: Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, the Bangles, the Beatles, the B-52's, Black Sabbath, Bobby Brown, Kate Bush, Tracy Chapman, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Trent D'Arby, Brian Eno, Erasure, Eurythmics, Foreigner, Bob Geldof, Debbie Gibson, Heart, Don Henley, Robyn Hitchcock, Billy Idol, INXS, Janet Jackson, Jesus and Mary Chain, Billy Joel, the Kinks, L.A. Guns, k.d. lang, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Huey Lewis, Barry Manilow, Martika, Johnny Mathis, Paul McCartney, Midnight Oil, New Order, OMD, Graham Parker, Tom Petty, the Ramones, Lionel Richie, the Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, Todd Rundgren, Run-D.M.C., Rush, Suicidal Tendencies, Til Tuesday, UFO, Lawrence Welk, Ricky Van Shelton, X, ZZ Top.

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