Remember When Pat Benatar Made Spandex Snap?

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While the ‘80s is known for its aerobic-inspired spandex obsession, the root of the desire arguably goes back just before the decade began. On Halloween 1977, Pat Benatar dressed up as a character from the sci-fi B movie Cat-Women of the Moon, fully clad in spandex and bold eye makeup, a toy ray gun at her hip, then later that night performed onstage at the New York cabaret Catch a Rising Star. Though she sang her usual set, this time audience exploded in delight. It inspired more, similar costumes, and that sleek, skintight look soon became her signature.

After impressing a group of music executives with a performance at New York’s esteemed music venue Tramps in 1978, the classically trained Benatar was signed to Chrysalis Records. Her debut album, In the Heat of the Night, came out in August 1979 with her spandexed form on the cover. If she began to set the music world on fire with “Heartbreaker” and John Mellencamp’s “I Need a Lover” from that album, she threw it into full blaze with her next, 1980’s Crimes of Passion. Also appearing on the cover sultry in a leotard, her powerful vocals lit up the radio with now-classics like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “You Better Run.” The latter was the second video ever played on MTV in 1981, with Benatar wearing shiny, skin-tight black pants long before American Apparel ever adopted the aesthetic. Crimes of Passion went platinum shortly after it was released and Benatar became a full-fledged star.

It was a look that took root when she first started cultivating her vocals while playing bars in Virginia, where she lived for a time with her ex-husband. She also found herself styling a stage persona, wearing leopard print dresses and developing a confidence she needed once she went back to New York in the mid-‘70s. “When my voice started coming, so did the confidence, and pretty soon that person who wore leopard-skin dresses in Richmond started to emerge. It happened gradually, but by the time Chrysalis came down to see me, I was in tights and boots, almost where I am now,” she told said in 1980.

Benatar maintained that swagger throughout her career, winning four Grammys in a row for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance between 1980 and 1983. Along the way, she became the unintentional style trailblazer for so many performers after her, from Nicki Minaj to Miley Cyrus and countless others. But if Benatar taught us anything, it’s that spandex is just one piece of the puzzle. Real talent is never fashion trend.

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createdAt:Tue, 08 Jan 2019 17:55:20 +0000
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