She Hit Us With Her Best Shot
In an early scene from one of our cinematic treasures, 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Phoebe Cates' character, Linda, points out, "There are three girls at Ridgemont who have cultivated the Pat Benatar look" before the camera hones in on three chicks with striped shirts, tights, spiky hair, heels, headbands, and bad-ass sneers.
That, of course, was smack in the middle of the real-life, bona fide Benatar-mania of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Brooklyn native, born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski, was racking up number-one hits, multiplatinum albums, and Grammys. Perhaps these days, it's hard to remember how big she was back then — at 55, Benatar hasn't had a chart-topper in ages and has mostly been playing the casino-and-fair circuit with longtime husband and guitarist Neil Giraldo. But there's no doubt she was massive; Billboard recently ranked her the "most successful female rock vocalist of all time."
I'm convinced we're now on the verge of a full-fledged Benatar renaissance, whereby singers and bands will rock out like her and sing her praises to the media and hipsters will pack those casinos and fairs, paying top dollar to see her perform live and her popularity will soar once again. Why do I say this? Well, I've been in a slew of hipster bars in several American cities in recent months, and virtually every time, there in the jukebox amid the Hold Steady, MGMT, and Sabbath discs, I've spied either 1980's Crimes of Passion or Benatar's 1997 Greatest Hits release. That's the true barometer — several years ago, I started seeing Hall & Oates discs cropping up unexpectedly in jukeboxes, and we all know what hipster faves they've become.
What's not to love about Pat Benatar? She's written dozens of terrific, classic songs packed with memorable melodies and hooks. With those strong, wide-ranging pipes, she could belt out an arena-rock crusher or coo a polished, new wave-y pop tune with equal passion. She had the tough-girl look and gutsy 'tude, and her take-no-bullshit songs and vision (see: "Treat Me Right," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Invincible") put her right up there with Joan Jett, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Gordon, et al. as icons of female empowerment. Plus, she stood up to pimps and united runaways in the "Love Is a Battlefield" video and kicked Nazi ass in the "Shadows of the Night" clip.
So get ready to see a lot more people cultivating that look and sound, and get those concert tickets while you still can, because the Pat Benatar revival is nearly upon us. Don't believe me? Well, as she sang in "In the Heat of the Night": "You thought everything is ending, but it's yet to begin/And you ain't seen nothing yet!"
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