Song: “I’ll Wait”
Artist: Van Halen
Album: 1984 (1984)
Though the musical legacy of the 1980s will always be stained by an overwhelming abundance of cotton-ball pop, there’s some precious hard-rock to be found in the decade—some of wild keyboarding and puffed-up synthesizers’ most formative years. A good chunk of the stuff was corny, better fit for arena background music, but some bands wielded these fresh sound developments and turned it into an art.
The guilty-pleasure glam rock of Van Halen, and all of the electric guitar theatrics that come with it, put these new, machine-driven garnishes to good purpose–and for that, the group remains an exception amongst their largely corny contemporaries. Eddie could lay down a shredding guitar solo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, meshing scraggy, thunderous rock with radio pop, and then the band could channel the same combo on singles like “Jump”, which put their screeching ferocity on hold without sacrificing their specialty.
1984‘s success was all the coolness confirmation Van Halen needed from the mainstream, its 10-million-copies sales status a sharp reminder that the band never had to change for people to catch on. A foursome already obsessed with both aesthetics and just plain ‘jamming out’, Van Halen capitalized on the new sound expectations of the ’80s with then-frontman David Lee Roth’s piercing vocals and Eddie’s amp-busting guitar fluency.
“I’ll Wait” stands as the most rockin’ 4 minutes on the album, its shrill, somber keyboards and shuffling percussion buildup the ideal backdrop for Roth’s love-blind griping; “You’ve got me captured, I’m under your spell…I guess I’ll never learn…”
The lyrics are simple and the theme is basic; they’re congruent with 1984‘s material…but Van Halen packs it with such a punch you might just ignore its love-song suggestion and surrender to air guitar.