In 1996, the price of gasoline in the United States dipped below $1.00 per gallon (gotta love that!), the top three grossing movies were Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee and Platoon, and a guy named Oliver North got thrown under the bus. It was also the year of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, which disintegrated 73 seconds after launch killing seven astronauts.
In music, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was opened in Detroit, although it should have been in Philadelphia. We lost artists like Benny Goodman, Kate Smith and Teddy Wilson while 1996 was the year artists like Lady Gaga, Drake and Ellie Goulding were born.
On the love song scene, 1986 had a few new faces like Janet Jackson and Anita Baker, some artists make their first solo Billboard chart appearances like Peter Cetera and Belinda Carlisle, and for some – like Michael McDonald – it would be their last chart hit. All in all, 1986 was a pretty solid year for love songs. The songs on this list are presented in the chronological order of their appearance on the Billboard Top 40 charts for 1986.
“The Sweetest Taboo” by Sade
This was the second Top 40 hit for the Jazz-styled songstress Sade (pronounced Sha-day), and although the title may be somewhat misleading, the lyrics reveal beautiful and tender sentiments of great adoration. “The Sweetest Taboo” was the second Top 40 Billboard chart hit for Sade, entering the charts in late 1985 and peaking at #5 in the early months of 1986.
“Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer
Although Robert Palmer had two prior Top 20 hits in the late 1970s, this would be his first #1 chart hit. The theme of “Addicted To Love” is very similar to Palmer’s 1979 hit “Bad Case Of Loving You”, and although both seem to regard love as an ailment or addiction, closer inspection reveals a tongue-in-cheek humor about the overwhelming power of good love.
“Glory Of Love” by Peter Cetera
This would be former Chicago front man Peter Cetera’s first solo Top 40 hit, rising to the #1 Billboard position in mid 1986. The lyrics comprise an endearing pledge of love from a man to a woman, evoking comparisons to heroes and knights in shining armor, suggesting the most chivalrous of love sentiments.
“Mad About You” by Belinda Carlisle
This upbeat love song entered the Top 40 on the same day as Peter Cetera’s “Glory Of Love”, and was also former Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle’s first solo hit. It’s a fun tune, the title of which essentially sums up the sentiment. “Mad About You” rose to a peak #3 position on the Billboard charts in 1986.
“Sweet Freedom” by Michael McDonald
From the motion picture Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald lays down his smooth groove for this unique love song. “Sweet Freedom” reached the #7 position on the Billboard Top 40 in 1986, and would be Mr. McDonald’s last solo Top 40 hit.
“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin
The second movie soundtrack tune on this list, “Take My Breath Away” will be forever be associated with Top Gun and names like Goose and Maverick. This love song is a bit of a departure for singer Terri Nunn and Berlin who were more edgy in the early 80s, but landed them their only #1 Top 40 hit.
“Friends And Lovers” by Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson
“Friends And Lovers” is the very definition of a one hit wonder (the only charted hit for two artists in this instance), and the only duet on this list. Carl Anderson was a sought-after session singer, and in addition being a soap opera star, Gloria Loring is the mother of pop singer Robin Thicke. All that aside, this one is a gem of a love song however obscure it may be, and topped out at #2 on the charts.
“Stuck With You” by Huey Lewis and The News
At first glance, the title of this 1986 tune seems suspect, as do the lyrics as they start out until the chorus begins, and then it’s love all the way. “Stuck With You” is a fun, bouncy mid-tempo love song that lends more to a more seasoned relationship than new love, and reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Top 40.
“When I Think of You” by Janet Jackson
This was first #1 hit for Janet Jackson, and is unquestionably a love song and a great one at that. The lyrics repeat “so in love, so in love” and that pretty much sums up the theme of the song. Brother Michael may have ruled the early 80s, but this smash hit was one of four Top 10 certified Gold hits for Miss Jackson in 1986.
“Sweet Love” by Anita Baker
Another newcomer to the Billboard charts in 1986, Anita Baker burst on to the scene with this #8 R&B jazz-styled hit which would become a wedding cocktail favorite for years to come, along with a string of love-laced hits in the years to come.
Love the love…
Sources: The Billboard Book of Top 40 [Pop] Hits and The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B Hits by Joel Whitburn and Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson.