When it was time for the Cars to record a fourth album, the group was in a bit of a quandary. After blasting out of the gate with two runaway hit albums, the band's third--Panorama--had thrown fans and FM radio DJs for a loop. The catchy hooks and classic melodies had been replaced by stark and abstract experimentalism as the Cars explored murkier territory on songs like the title track and "You Wear Those Eyes."
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Shake It Up, released November 6, 1981, was the remedy. With Ric Ocasek being a master at crafting pop songs, the title track was the Cars shifting into hit-making overdrive. Packed with hooks and upbeat, party-time lyrics, the tune was just what the band needed, soaring to #4 on the Hot 100.
The track was a bit of an outlier, as Shake It Up the album still found the band incorporating experimental elements between the pop hooks. The album's second single, "Since You're Gone," shimmered with a similar steely minimalism as Panorama, with guitarist Elliot Easton paying homage to icon Robert Fripp with his solo. Still, the standout track nearly hit the Top 40, peaking at #41.
The quirky "Victim of Love" would serve as the album's third single, but by then the album had run out of gas. The single failed to chart. But the record had already served its purpose.
Shake It Up was a transitional album for the Cars. With the band balancing their artistic impulses with an eye on the charts and radio playlists, Ocasek and company now had the blueprint. They used that blueprint to craft what would be the group's most commercially successful album since their vaunted debut: 1985 blockbuster LP, Heartbeat City.