For a while in the 1980s, no one was hotter than Billy Ocean. His smooth, funky dance tracks and elegant ballads were chart gold, earning him three US No.1s, countless top ten singles, and three platinum-selling albums. He may have lost his Midas touch by the end of the decade, but his body of work has held up remarkably well in the years since. Here, we take a look back at some of his most endearing hits with our pick of the 10 best Billy Ocean songs of all time.
10. Calypso Crazy
By the late 1980s, Billy Ocean’s crown was beginning to slip. Although he was still successful, his time as a multi-platinum artist was drawing to a close. His 1988 album Tear Down These Walls was his last major hit, certifying gold in the UK and Australia and platinum in Canada and the US. Among its highlights is Calypso Crazy. Released as the album’s second single in April 1988, it hit number 35 in the UK charts, becoming his twelfth and final Top 40 hit there.
9. Love Zone
Love Zone, Ocean’s sixth album, was a commercial sensation, peaking at number 2 in the UK and number 6 in the US – his highest charting position in both countries. The critical reception was just as enthusiastic, with All Music calling it his “finest album.” One of its chief highlights is the title track, a smooth slice of R&B with deliciously creamy vocals and superb arrangements. The song became a big hit in the US, charting at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Surprisingly, it flopped in the UK, stalling at number 49.
Named as one of the best Billy Ocean songs of all time by Smooth Radio, Loverboy was one of the biggest hits from Ocean’s 4th studio album, Suddenly. Released in November 1984 as the album’s second single, it peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number one on the US Hot Dance Music/ Club Play Chart and number 15 on the UK Singles Chart. It was also huge in South Africa, spending 11 weeks at number one on the Springbox Charts and placing as the number one single of 1985 on the end-of-year chart.
7. There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)
Barry Eastmond was inspired to write There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) after one of his friends, who’d recently broken up with her boyfriend, broke down in tears after hearing Ocean’s song Suddenly (which reminded her of her ex) play at a party. The song became one of Ocean’s biggest hits in the US, where it topped the Billboard Hot 100, adult contemporary, and R&B charts in the summer of 1986. It was also huge internationally, reaching the top 20 of every country it charted in.
6. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car
Although Tear Down These Walls wasn’t quite as successful as Ocean’s earlier albums, it still produced several hits. One of the biggest was Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car. Propelled by the success of its cutting edge video (whose combination of animation and live-action sequences was revolutionary at the time), the single become a major hit, reaching number one in the US (his third and final single to do so), number one in Canada, number 3 in the UK, and reaching the top ten in numerous other countries.
5. Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)
Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run) was released in the US in 1984 from Ocean’s fifth studio album, Suddenly. In tribute to his international audience, Ocean recorded the song under different titles depending on the country of release, resulting in alternative versions such as European Queen and African Queen. Regardless of the title, it became a huge hit, spending two weeks at number one in the US and reaching the top ten elsewhere.
By the mid-1980s, Ocean was already an established star in his native UK but had yet to breakthrough in the US. His 1984 album Suddenly proved the album to turn him into a major attraction on both sides of the pond. Its heartbreaking titular track was particularly popular, reaching number 4 on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart and peaking at number one on the Billboard adult contemporary chart.
3. The Colour of Love
While some of Ocean’s hits from his peak years sound slightly dated to modern ears, others are as fresh and vital as ever. The Colour of Love is particularly lovely. Released in April 1988 from the album Tear Down These Walls, it became a top 20 hit in the US, reaching number 10 on the R&B charts and number 17 on the Hot 100.
2. When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going
Billy Ocean has always loved a long song title, but When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going beat them all. Of all his songs, it’s perhaps his most instantly recognizable. A smooth, funky dance number with a strong vocal and an irresistible groove, it stormed the charts on its release, spending four weeks at number one in the UK and reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
1. Love Really Hurts Without You
Ocean has been quoted as saying he was “the most surprised person in the world” when Love Really Hurts Without You became a hit. Prior to its release, he’d already recorded a few songs under other stage names, but this was his first chart success under the name Billy Ocean, and only the second song recorded under the name. Described by popentertainment.com as a “giddy Motown pastiche,” the song hit number 2 in the UK Singles Chart and number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100.