"As many recycled Led Zeppelin riffs as Kingdom Come or '80s Whitesnake with an even stronger whiff of cheese": Emotions In Motion by Billy Squier - Album Of The Week Club review

Buoyed by the success of breakthrough album Don’t Say No, Billy Squier teamed up once again with Queen producer Reinhold Mack to create 10 tracks of state of the art, radio-friendly pop rock

Billy Squier: Emotions In Motion cover art
(Image: © Capitol)

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Billy Squier: Emotions In Motion

Billy Squier: Emotions In Motion cover art

(Image credit: Capitol)

Everybody Wants You
Emotions in Motion
Learn How to Live
In Your Eyes
Keep Me Satisfied
It Keeps You Rockin'
One Good Woman
She's a Runner
Catch 22
Listen to the Heartbeat

With his third solo album, Billy Squier couldn’t miss. Buoyed by the success of his four-million-selling breakthrough Don’t Say No, the Massachusetts-born rocker teamed up once again with Queen producer Reinhold Mack to create 10 tracks of state of the art, radio-friendly pop rock. With a cover painting by Andy Warhol, Emotions In Motion reached No.5 on the Billboard chart.

The hit single Everybody Wants You echoed the Big Beat rhythms of his signature hit The Stroke, the title track was rock/funk in the vein of Queen’s The Game – with Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor on backing vocals – and She’s A Runner was Squier’s Beast Of Burden, while the crisp songwriting on tracks like Learn How To Live and the sublime In Your Eyes packed a real punch. He’d never be this good again.

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Other albums released in July 1982

  • Mirage - Fleetwood Mac
  • Pictures at Eleven - Robert Plant
  • Imperial Bedroom - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • The Envoy - Warren Zevon
  • Vacation - The Go-Go's
  • The Unexpected Guest - Demon
  • Billy Idol - Billy Idol
  • Screaming For Vengeance - Judas Priest
  • Coney Hatch - Coney Hatch
  • Highway Song Live - Blackfoot
  • Juggernaut - Frank Marino
  • Revelations - Killing Joke
  • Under the Big Black Sun - X


What they said...

"On this slice of AOR heaven, Squier expands on the Led Zeppelin-influenced exploits of Don't Say No. Right off the bat, Squier delivers an immediate blow to the head on the album's opening triumvirate Everybody Wants You, Emotions in Motion (a distant cousin of Queen's Get Down Make Love no doubt), and the moody Learn How to Live." (AllMusic)

"Much like Squier‘s records before and after, Emotions In Motion is way more of just a good rock and roll album than any sort of out of this world, original, groundbreaking masterpiece and at the end of the day, that’s cool. Some of the best records ever have been ones built on the strength of good catchy tunes while history has shown that the most technical of musical releases tend to fall short of commercial success." (Sleaze Roxx)

"Like it’s predecessor, Emotions in Motion was co-produced by Squier and Reinhold Mack and it reached the Top 5 of the pop albums charts while eventually gaining multi-platinum levels in sales. The sonic qualities of production tend to tilt towards the high-end of the EQ spectrum with the percussion being a little over-produced. However, the album’s real saving grace is the compositions, all written solely by Squier, and strong enough to avoid sounding dated." (Classic Rock Review)


What you said...

Christopher Myles: Brilliant album.

Clayton Rauser: Great album.

Pete Delgado: Pretty good album.

Dan Holmes: Just awful.

Greg Schwepe: For me, Billy Squier’s Emotions In Motion was a highly anticipated follow up to 1981’s Don’t Say No. That album was a perfect example of “If you play it, they will buy it.” After hearing multiple tracks from that on the radio, I bought Don’t Say No and played the crap out it. One of those albums that truly left me waiting for the artist’s next release. Then I stumbled onto a copy of Tale Of The Tape in the record library at our college radio station, this is the album the FM station at home didn’t play. So, armed with a Maxell UDXL-II C-90 cassette and the keys to our Production Studio where we had a cassette deck and turntables, I now had a “free” copy of this “new to me”, but old debut album. Now I just had to wait for a new release from Squier. And I didn’t have to wait that long, because back then there was no five year time lapse (or more!) between releases by artists.

Right on cue upon release, tracks from Emotions In Motion were played on FM rock radio and I was soon the owner of this release. Listening again today with a more critical ear, I think I finally figured out the appeal of Squier’s music. It’s The Riff. The Hook. The Fill. The Flourish. The Embellishment. I mentioned during last week’s review that the selection for that week went in one ear and out the other. Nothing stuck with me. With Emotions In Motion, it’s quite the opposite; each track had a little piece of ear candy that stuck with me as the next track played. Just try not to remember something from this album.

Everybody Wants You leads off and within the first 20 seconds you have a repeating guitar, some synthesizer flourishes, finger snaps, and a pretty hefty backbeat to suck you in. And what probably sticks with me most? Well, probably that slow G note (guessing!) string bend that appears here and there throughout the song; “bowwww” (with “Guitar Face” for emphasis). You know the one I’m talking about!

Next comes Emotions In Motion with one of the slinkiest bass lines I’ve ever heard, followed by a plethora of guitar riffs. And we even have a little sax flourish in their too. Hook me up.

Stripped down to just guitar, bass, and drums, Squier’s music has plenty of power to keep the listener tied down. But then he he adds all these other flavours; synth line, sax, treated drums, tons of short guitar riffs; and you have an album that sticks with you.

It Keeps You Rockin’ does just that. Not a lot of extra stuff on that one besides the cymbal-filled drumming and memorable guitar riff.

She’s A Runner is probably my favourite song with the lone guitar intro along with Squier’s slightly raspy voice. The keyboards appear in the background and the song builds from there. Once again, plenty of hooks to keep you stuck in place. Then about 2:50 into the song you have a brief memorable guitar solo with a great tone.

Overall, a worthy follow up to Don’t Say No even if it is slightly more polished and not as raucous. But not by much. Filled with plenty of hooky memorable songs. 8 out of 10 for me on this one, but I’d give the nod to Don’t Say No as the slightly overall better album.

Brian Carr: Don’t Say No is an absolute classic, but I go way back with the follow up Emotions In Motion just as long. I don’t detect any drop in song quality between the two records: the funky groove and bass line on the title track; Learn How to Live is a gorgeous tune with an excellent hook and nice guitar solo; I sang In Your Eyes and She’s A Runner enough back in the day that I still remember all of the lyrics. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure why I quit following along with Squier’s career considering how much I’ve always liked the dynamic duo of albums.

Chris Middleton: I love this album and everything Billy did! A lot of great songs on this one!

Dale Munday: What is that dreadful drum sound about?!?

Rob Binter: The songs were weak. He just hit the sweet spot on Don't Say No. I was really disappointed in this album. And stay away from the video concepts. Just film the band playing live! What could have been.

Mike Canoe: Like other club members, I got Emotions In Motion on the strength of Billy Squier's previous album, Don't Say No. Like other club members, I played it a couple of times and moved on. Listening to it this week, my opinion hasn't changed much. I now realize it has as many or more recycled Led Zeppelin riffs, tricks and tics as Kingdom Come or '80's Whitesnake with an even stronger whiff of cheese, especially the blat blat blat keyboards that were so dominant in the '80s. Squier's voice is also screechier than I remember but that may just be not enough coffee on a Monday morning. Closing track Listen To The Heartbeat is probably the most palatable after a few listens but that might be because I hear Zepp's Dancing Days riff in there.

George Pyrtle: It definitely wasn't as good as Don't Say No, but I wouldn't call it bad. It's a 6-6.5/10. If you've never listened to his Happy Blue album, give it a spin. There's good stuff to be heard on that.

John Davidson: Interminably dull, over-produced pop rock. There are hints at Aerosmith and even Robert Plant buried in the terrible 80s production but they aren't given enough room to make a difference.

In Your Eyes could have been a Rod Stewart number, but it plods when it should soar.

An entire album of the kind of songs you used to get on a (now unwatchably cheesy) brat-pack movie is not for me, which is sad because he has a decent voice.

Keeps Me Rockin' is the best of a pretty bad bunch - the fact that such a trite and mediocre song stands out tells you all you need to know. As dated as the yuppie culture that it embraced. 3/10.

Evan Sanders: My opinion of Billy Squier will always be biased from growing up one city over from his hometown of Wellesley, MA. I remember him being hailed in the same category of local favorites Aerosmith, Boston, or the Cars when his first album came out. The second album, Emotions In Motion, was very popular locally as well. Alas, even I have to admit this one doesn't hold up well years later. It does have multiple radio-friendly songs like title song, the opener Everybody Wants You, Learn How To Live, and She's A Runner

But too many of the other songs sound generic now rather than treasured deep cuts. Some of the comments here pointed out how he was straddling hard rock and radio friendly rock on this album, and I think that does ring true. Unlike a band like Aerosmith that transitioned over time to being more radio-friendly, Squier seems more like he doesn't know how to update his original sound to grow his audience. I'll have to give it a 6/10, recognizing the multiple catchy songs, but taking a step back from his previous breakout album.

Gary Claydon: The first order of business where Billy Squier was concerned was, how do you pronounce his surname? 'Cos that 'e' is, like, in the wrong place, innit, squire? So, does it rhyme with 'choir' or 'beer'? Once that was squared away, what about the man's music? His first album, Tale of The Tape, spawned The Big Beat, which was not only the blue print for his breakout album Don't Say No but had a simple 4/4 drum beat, sans cymbals and hi hats, which would, unexpectedly, go on to become one of the most sampled drum tracks in hip-hop history.

I bought Don't Say No on the strength of some enthusiastic reviews in the more rock-orientated UK music press. It's a good album, with a hard enough edge to keep it from being mainstream fodder, even if tracks such as The Stroke did start to grate a bit after a while. Thing is, though, I never thought it a 'classic' and I'm not sure it's aged as well as it could have done. Still decent enough though.

Speaking of things that haven't aged well, Emotions In Motion was (is) a real disappointment. It picks up where Don't Say No left off with Everybody Wants You but that really is as good as it gets. Over-produced, heavily processed, synthetic AOR with nothing to drag it above mediocrity. The faux-funk is irritating and the whole thing is trying way too hard to (unsuccessfully) recapture the air of cool that emanated from it's predecessor. I never cared much for the Andy Warhol album cover, either. 3/10.

Blackie Stalion: The album was less guitar-heavy than Don't Say No in both its arrangements and its production. The album lacks the varied tempo of its predecessor. Side one is solid; Everybody Wants You, title track, and Keep Me Satisfied are the highlights. Beyond the aptly titled It Keeps You Rockin', side two slides into a somewhat forgettable slog, likely leaving Don't Say No fans going from song to song waiting to hear something that sounds like Whadda Ya Want From Me. Songs like Catch 22 grow on you after the 100th listen, rather than grab you the first time. Overall it's a decent album, with Bobby Chouinard's Bonham-esque drumming pushed to the forefront. 7/10.

Paulene Ashmore

Top contributor

Like Keith, I also bought “Don’t Say No” on the back of seeing Billy as support band (can’t remember for who now 🤪) around 1981 as he blew me away too. I played it and played it and then bought this one when it came out. Severe disappointment. It only got played a few times and then just gathered dust. I still have “Don’t Say No” but “Emotions In Motion” has long gone …

Matthew Joseph Hughes: The album cover and Everybody Wants You are a good enough reason for me to buy this album for $1 at goodwill and rock out to the first song and then quickly lose interest. If there were 2-3 more great tracks on this, I might be willing to warm up to the others, but I don't think there are.

Keith Jenkin: One of the most disappointing albums I have ever bought. Squire blew me away when I saw him at Reading Festival in 1981 and I bought Don't Say No as a result and loved it. Unfortunately I found this follow up so over-produced with all the raunch of its predecessor completely watered down. It didn't matter whether the songs were any good or not, I just found the whole thing unlistenable and on the rare occasions I have revisited the album since that has remained my opinion.

Philip Qvist: Okay, we all know the story. It's mid 1984 and Billy Squier is promoting the single Rock Me Tonite from his fourth album Signs Of Life; and what we get is a video of the artist prancing around his bedroom in a pink shirt - and the rest is history. Even the man himself has said that this cringeworthy video finished off his career.

If only it was so simple.

For sure it is an awful video, but think about it; how many bad videos did it take to finish off Journey, or Toto or plenty of other artists at the time? How about never. Check out Iron Maiden's Flight Of Icarus for an example of an awful video - that one didn't derail their career either, as bad as that video was.

The truth is that the music career of our man Billy was ending because the promise that he had shown on Don't Say No in 1981 had all but vanished in 1984 - one bad video notwithstanding. And I will say that the cracks started showing on Emotions In Motion.

As the early 80s version of me couldn't afford every album that I wanted, I compromised and bought the Everybody Wants You single - and 80s synthesizers notwithstanding, that song, and opening track, rocked. Next track, Emotions In Motion sounded very familiar and that is because it sounds like Queen's Dragon Attack; and with Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury contributing to the song, along with their producer Mack, I can see why.

The next three songs of Side one are also pretty good rockers, especially the rocking Keep Me Satisfied - but it then falls apart after that. Side two simply became a slog, nothing bad, but nothing great either. Only She's A Runner saves Side two from total mediocrity.

This is an album of the times, and I fully get why I wanted to buy Emotions In Motion in the early 80s - but let's get real; this record has dated badly. I will give this a six but only thanks to its opening two tracks and Keep Me Satisfied. This is one record that I will probably never play in full again.

Kingsley Jayasekera: I bought this after hearing a live recording on the radio I think. The album was a big disappointment. His crashing, thumping, shrill sound just got wearing and the best songs all sounded like rehashes of his previous better songs. All in all it sounded too brash to be a melodic easy listen and too soft to be heavy. It just gave me a headache.

Peter Thomas Webb: Billy Squier's problem was that he couldn't decide whether to be a full-blown rocker, like Sammy Hagar and Tom Petty, or a radio-friendly pop idol, a la Rick Springfield or Shaun Cassidy. Straddling the fence was a deadly gambit in the fickle eighties, where the merest concession to pop could get an artist branded as "disco" by the rock community.

Squier certainly wasn't disco, and his 1981 breakthrough album Don't Say No is a solid set of AM radio-ready pop played with FM arena-rock attitude. Its follow-up, Emotions in Motion, tries the same balancing act but fails miserably – mainly because the songs aren't as good. About the best are In Your Eyes, a fey but solidly crafted power ballad, and Keep Me Satisfied, a party rocker reminiscent of Boston's Smokin'.

Generic tensions begin with the opening track, Everybody Wants Some, in which studio-processed drums slap like wet bacon on Formica as Jeff Golub's lead guitar fights desperately for air. The rest of the tracks follow suit, never sure whether to focus on getting teen girls onto the sock hop dance floor or get the boys around the perimeter to bang their heads.

Producer Reinhold Mack had brought a similar schizophrenia to Queen's The Game two years earlier. But Queen (whose Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor sing backup on Emotions in Motion) had the anthemic grit and campy showmanship to make anything they did sound intentional.

Billy Squier's career tanked one album after Emotions in Motion, allegedly because the video for Rock Me Tonight showed him foolishly prancing like a power pop George Michael. But the sorry fact is Squier didn't just dance like that in videos – he did it on stage, too, whenever he doffed his guitar and did his weird little chicken dance.

Squier was a good singer, a skilled songwriter, and an underrated guitar player (for evidence, tube the video of his 1981 concert at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium). But behind everything he did there seemed to be business types (A&R reps, maybe, or managers) sculpting his every move – instead of letting him flourish as the melodic rock artist he intended to be. My rating: 3/10


Final score: 6.34 (61 votes cast, total score 387)

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