The Secret Behind Billy Ocean's Biggest Hits

Billy Ocean performing in 1985
Photo Credit
Chris Walter/WireImage

Billy Ocean was one of the catchiest soul-pop singers of the '80s. Born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and raised in London, Ocean notched a pair of Motown-style singles, "Love Really Hurts Without You" and "Red Light Spells Danger," in the U.K. Top 5 in the '70s - but it was the decade after where he enjoyed his greatest success around the world. His smooth, high voice was a timeless counterpoint to the funky electronic tunes backing him up.

But what was it that made him such a success? We've conducted some thoroughly unscientific research, and we think we have an answer: it's all in the song title. A name can make or break you, and Billy made magic out of songs that were exactly eight words long.

Consider his signature, breakthrough hit from the 1984 LP Suddenly. He actually sang the chorus differently depending on where you bought the single - in America, it was "Caribbean Queen," elsewhere it was "European" or even "African Queen." But the song was offcially titled "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)." Eight words. And the result? A No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Read More: The #1 Song in America #OTD in 1984: Billy Ocean, "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)"

Ocean released two more classics from the same album: "Loverboy" and "Suddenly." Both of them were just one word each, and "Loverboy" was a run-on. They settled for Top 5 in the U.S., while "Suddenly," like "Caribbean Queen" reached the U.K. Top 10.

In 1986, Ocean was back with Love Zone and a theme song to the action-comedy The Jewel of the Nile. Stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito all appeared in the video to the song, but "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" only reached No. 2 in America. The reason, we have to assume, is because that title is nine words. (It finally earned Ocean a No. 1 in his native England. Maybe the metric system has something to do with it.)

But next up, a heartfelt ballad called "There'll Be Sad Songs (to Make You Cry)." Eight words, another U.S. chart-topper!

Billy had one more big hit around the world, off the album Tear Down These Walls in 1988. Three of the album's tracks were co-written by Mutt Lange, who produced AC/DC's hit Back in Black and Def Leppard's blockbusters Pyromania and Hysteria. Mutt worked his magic on the sax-heavy "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car" - but if we had to guess, the eight-word title gave him another No. 1 in the States!

Read More: April 1988: Billy Ocean Hits No. 1 with "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car"

Maybe, though, it has less to do with "eight" and more to do with "great" - we could listen to these songs all day!

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(Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The song was Madge's second US #1 in a row following "Live to Tell."
(Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The song was so big it earned the Pet Shop Boys an invitation to play on "Soul Train."
Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Stevie Nicks' first solo hit was this duet with the Heartbreaker.

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