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Pat Benatar: Crimes Of Passion - Album Of The Week Club review

Crimes Of Passion finds Pat Benatar applying a tough, streetwise veneer to pop songs and turning them into arena-rocking classics.

Pat Benatar: Crimes Of Passion cover art
(Image: © EMI)
Pat Benatar: Crimes Of Passion

Pat Benatar: Crimes Of Passion cover art

(Image credit: EMI)

Treat Me Right
You Better Run
Never Wanna Leave You
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Hell Is For Children
Little Paradise
I'm Gonna Follow You
Wuthering Heights
Prisoner Of Love
Out-A-Touch

A superstar in the 1980s – and a two-time Hall Of Fame nominee this decade – Pat Benatar made a name for herself applying a tough, streetwise veneer to pop songs and turning them into arena-rocking classics. 

Second studio album Crimes Of Passion laid the groundwork for countless women to blur the lines between rock and pop, creating space for those who followed, from Vixen to Lady Gaga. She may not have had the spiky edges of Debbie Harry or Joan Jett, but she knew how to make a song radio-friendly while retaining its tough edges.

Crimes of Passion contained the US hit singles Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Treat Me Right, went quadruple platinum, and gave Benatar her first Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy. She'd win the same award every year for the next three, giving her a unique position as both a respected rock musician and a wholesome pop star. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in August 1980 

  • Kaleidoscope - Siouxsie & the Banshees
  • Drama - Yes
  • Alibi - America
  • Panorama - The Cars
  • The Michael Schenker Group - The Michael Schenker Group
  • No More Dirty Deals - Johnny Van Zant
  • Wild Cat - Tygers of Pan Tang
  • A - Jethro Tull
  • Doc at the Radar Station - Captain Beefheart
  • Neutronica - Donovan
  • One-Trick Pony - Paul Simon
  • Reach for the Sky - The Allman Brothers Band
  • Stand Up and Fight - Quartz
  • The Swing of Delight - Carlos Santana
  • Xanadu - Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra

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What they said...

"Benatar avoids the synth-happy trends of the early 80s and delivers a hard rocking ten-song session of power pop tempered with a few ballads for balance. And while Hit Me with Your Best Shot was one of her most praised moments, her version of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights is probably one of the most underrated songs of her entire catalog. (AllMusic (opens in new tab))

"The former Pat Andrzejewski – the pride of Greenpoint, Brooklyn – was a real tough cookie with a three-octave soprano. She also inspired the youth of America to explore the fashion potential of spandex and headbands. Crimes Of Passion is where she put the notch in her lipstick case: Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Hell Is for Children, and her deeply weird mall-rat version of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights." (Rolling Stone Australia (opens in new tab))

"Crimes of Passion is indeed one very well-rounded listen. While it gained its fame off of the popular Hit Me With Your Best Shot, and also the notable You Better Run, it stays consistent. Most of the song have a good mesh, and have been well placed for the track listing. Benatar's vocals are completely incredible." (Sputnik Music (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

Mike Canoe: True Story: Pat Benatar's Crimes of Passion was the first album I bought with my own money. Several songs, not just not the smash Hit Me With Your Best Shot, got heavy play on rock radio so I was already familiar with almost half of it. Since I was barely a teenager at the time, I don't know if she registered as "sexy" or "hot." I just knew she had a great voice and led a cool-looking band that could rock. She was a badass.

When I listen to it in full now after more than 30 years, I realise it's ten songs about dysfunctional relationships. I guess that makes sense given her recent divorce, even if she was already telling bandmate Neil Geraldo she loved him in the liner notes. But I may be reading too much into it. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl (or vice versa) was standard rock fare long before the fair Ms. Benatar sang about it.

Still. Whether upbeat, angry, or subdued, the songs revolve around love at its worst. She's telling off jerks in Treat Me Right and You Better Run, and unwilling to end a bad relationship in Prisoner Of Love and Never Wanna Leave You. She's embracing her inner stalker in I'm Gonna Follow You and Out-A-Touch. What is Wuthering Heights, if not one of literature's great toxic relationships? And then there's the searing Hell Is For Children, which Benatar was inspired to write after reading a New York Times series about child abuse.

Benatar's band glides through the songs with equal parts rock punch and pop smarts. Benatar, of course, has a great voice, but she uses it to serve the song, not vice versa. Together, they make an album you could both rock out and dance to.

With the exception of my favourite song, Promises In The Dark, Benatar veers too far into pop for my liking on her next album and beyond, and I became more of a greatest hits fan.

Revisiting Crimes Of Passion was an enjoyable blast from the past. Long live women who play rock ‘n’ roll.

Adam Ranger: Wanted to like this album, really did. There are some solid tracks here, with Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Treat Me Right and Never Wanna Leave You being the pick of the bunch.

But some of the other songs seem too dated and lyrically the album is awkward and clumsy at times. The music for Hell Is for Children is totally at odds with the subject, and it jars. I don't dislike Wuthering Heights as much as some, but it's a pointless cover, almost karaoke.

Pat Benatar has a great voice and a very able band, but I find it hard to appreciate this album other than the first four songs.

Bill Griffin: I've never actually heard a Pat Benatar album before, but like what I've heard on the radio enough so I was expecting to be more impressed than I was. A rather pedestrian affair, this one. I love Promises In The Dark from the next one though.

Brian Carr: “There are three girls here at Ridgemont that have cultivated the Pat Benatar look.” I could be wrong, but I feel like Pat Benatar is a very underrated contributor to the world of rock music. Maybe it was the image, or maybe it was because her major success was over by the time the calendar flipped into the 1990s, but look at the numbers: her first six albums are all certified platinum in the US, 17 songs hit the top 100 and she has multiple Grammy wins. And for a time, people did mimic her look. Decades later, does Pat Benatar get the kudos she deserves?

Benatar’s second release, Crimes Of Passion, was her biggest release (4x platinum in the US) fuelled by her best known song, Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Hit Me is definitely within my realm of ‘burnout songs,’ but it is catchy and has some excellent guitar work by the possibly more underrated Neil Giraldo, who shines throughout the entire album.

Crimes is by no means a one hit plus filler type of album, though: Treat Me Right, You Better Run (didn’t know that was a cover) and Hell Is For Children all received plenty of action on radio and MTV. Personally, I like lesser known tracks like Prisoner Of Love and I’m Gonna Follow You just as much as the radio classics. 

I can’t rate Crimes a perfect ten due to the Wuthering Heights cover (I know Kate Bush is highly regarded, but I just don’t dig her voice or this song). Out-a-Touch is something of a throwaway to my ears, but also contains some cool guitar bits that keep it from being unlistenable.

When I listen to Pat Benatar’s output as an adult, I’m amazed at her and Giraldo’s skill at writing hooks. Their tunes are definitely of the eighties, but man are they catchy and fun to listen to. After some extra attention this week, I definitely plan on spending some more time with their catalog - I fully expect to find some gems previously unknown to me.

Chris Haggstrom: To me, it's a guitar album. I listen to Neil, especially on tracks like I'm Gonna Follow You. It's a tight band, with lots of space between the instruments. The songs aren't as good as in other albums, but the playing (and of course the singing) is great.

Gary Claydon: Corporate Rock poster girl. Great voice, backed by decent 'Team Benatar' musicians. Bland, glossy pop-rock, with the emphasis on the pop. Not the worst of it's kind, having said that. At least Crimes of Passion wasn't swamped with synths and studio gimmicks like much of the early 80s pop-rock/AOR. 

Best track is the cover of The Rascals' You Better Run. Hell Is For Children always prompts me to reach for the off-button when I hear it, I find the over-dramatic approach to a song about such a horrible, dark, emotive subject to be jarring in the extreme. I would have scored this a 4 but it loses 2 marks for giving Wuthering Heights the soft-rock treatment - that's the real crime here.

Alex Hayes: Whilst doing a little background research on Crimes Of Passion, really nothing more than reading its Wikipedia entry, I discovered that it remains Pat Benetar's best-selling studio album. That doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Firstly, it's pretty damn good, and, secondly, it was almost custom-built for those heady days of the early 80s.

It almost goes without saying that Benetar has always been a hell of a talent. Her lead vocals across Crimes Of Passion are just as top-notch as I expected. She also showed great early intuition in surrounding herself with the right people, not least her main musical collaborator, and later husband, Neil Giraldo. 

Going for the full 'rock band' approach right from the beginning was a very shrewd move, particularly when you consider that Benetar's background had been in musical theatre prior to that. She worked with great musicians and forged a strong musical identity right from the get-go. As an album, Crimes Of Passion really benefits from that chemistry and artistic vision.

Man, she was perfect for those early MTV years, though. Those old videos look a bit corny nowadays, but they were hugely important at the time in establishing Benetar as a genuine star. Never underestimate the power of timing. The likes of We Belong and Love Is A Battlefield may have been successful anyway, but it was MTV that removed any doubt. Although good quality, I doubt that Crimes Of Passion would have been quite so successful without the power of MTV behind it. Hang on a second though, what's that I can hear?

Ding, ding. Ding, ding. That's the Redundant Cover Version alarm, and Crimes Of Passion contains a doozy. There's no question that Benetar has the vocal chops to do Wuthering Heights justice, but, as covers go, it remains an illogical choice. It sticks out like a sore thumb on the album, and doesn't hold a candle to the original. Some songs can never, ever be replicated to the same degree, and Kate Bush's classic is one of them. It's utterly pointless and the album's low point.

Thankfully, the album's other cover, The Young Rascals' You Better Run, is far, far better judged. Along with Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Hell Is For Children, it's one of the highlights of the album, and, again, had its popularity boosted by having its striking video broadcast into millions of homes. It helped to push Crimes Of Passion past the four million sales mark in the States. I'd say the album deserves it too. It's a well thought out record, and largely succeeds as a well crafted vehicle for Benetar's natural talent.

As has been my wont lately, I also checked out Precious Time and Get Nervous. Again, decent albums that were nigh on perfect for the time that they were released. Recommended.

Tony Bickerdike: Loved this record. I remember buying it at HMV on Market Street in Manchester pretty much the day it came out. No weak songs on this one and a classic in the true sense of the word. 

Philip Qvist: I have always liked Pat Benatar, not exactly a rocker in the pure sense, but one who could rock when required. Although not prolific, she is a decent enough songwriter - and is equally comfortable singing either her songs or songs from her bandmates or from outsiders.

So all in all, she is a great all-round performer, backed by a very solid band; not least her guitarist, songwriter and producer, not to mention her hubby of nearly 40 years, Neil Giraldo.

The fact that Pat and Neil have never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a disgrace, and tells you all you need to know about the HOF organizers.

So onto her Crimes Of Passion album. It starts off nicely with the familiar Treat Me Right, a nice solid rocker. Then we have her cover of You Better Run, another good rocking number (Trivia fact: it was the second video to appear on MTV). Side One also has her big hit, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, and – in my humble opinion – her greatest ever song, Hell Is For Children.

Side Two fades a bit, although I Am Gonna Follow You, Prisoner of Love and Out-Of-Touch are good, easy to like songs, which leaves us with the elephant in the room - her cover of Wuthering Heights. Look, it is a decent cover, but sorry Pat, that is a song that only Kate can sing.

Other than that blip, Crimes Of Passion is a very good album; nothing that sets new boundaries but sometimes a good, solid record is all that you need - and this one easily fits the bill. A solid 7.5/10 for me.

Evan Sanders: Crimes Of Passion belongs on any list that involves the Classic Rock Soundtrack of the 80s, and at least Side One will be in the syllabus if there is ever an academic course of Music Of The 1980s. Every song on Side One is strong, including the classics Hit Me With Your Best Shot and the side closer Hell Is For Children. Side Two is literally b-sides, and I agree with those who never saw a need to flip over the album or cassette. And thinking of the hair of the 80s, the cover shows Pat Benatar in long hair, rather than the famous Pat Benatar hairstyle we all come to love. 7/10

John Davidson: Pat Benatar is another artist who I knew through a best of rather than individual albums. She was made for the MTV generation. Her band played accessible, radio friendly rock. She has a great voice and looked good in the fashions of the day.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot still gets regular play in the car, as does Love Is A Battlefield (not on this album). I've never been a fan of Hell Is For Children (the glossy 80 sentimentalism doesn't jibe with the horrific subject matter, but appreciate others will disagree). Beyond that, it's one I'd file under good but not great. a solid 7.

Greg Schwepe: The all important “second album” is a make or break for some artists. Does this continue the momentum from their debut? Or did the debut not make that big of an impression and the follow up has even more importance in the quest to reach a larger audience?

Well, in Pat Benatar’s case, it was the former. Crimes Of Passion helped continue the momentum from her debut album In The Heat Of The Night. And the success of Crimes Of Passion paved the way for a long career and maybe election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Guess we’ll see when the winners are announced.

With Pat Benatar you got the entire package; killer voice with classical training, super talented backing band (and a real connection with the guitar player!), and MTV-friendly looks.

I bought this when it came out during my freshman year of college. And yes, two pictures of Ms. Benatar adorned my dorm room walls. She made the cut along with my Zeppelin, Rush, REO, and Van Halen posters and pictures. 

I had not listened to this in its entirety in a long time, so this was a good revisit. The songs are just solid examples of good early 80s rock. I like all the songs, no need to skip past anything. This will never be on a Top 10 list of the greatest albums ever, but again, decent album with a good batch of catchy songs. 

And, full disclosure, while I would definitely turn up any new Pat Benatar song I heard on the radio, I never physically owned one of her albums after this one! But listening to this one has caused me to venture around more of her catalogue on Spotify this week.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot turned out to probably be Pat’s most well-known song. Most playlists or compilations start with this. Incredible guitar solo by Neil Giraldo (but spelled “Geraldo” back then!).

You also get some good covers. The video for The Rascals You Better Run also turned out to be second video every played on MTV. So, as Video Killed The Radio Star faded out, MTV viewers were treated to Pat and band cranking out this one in an old warehouse!

Another awesome cover is a version of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. I didn’t know who Kate Bush was at the time, but really liked the song. Now being aware of Kate’s original version, Pat’s voice seems to match hers as well.

Hell Is For Children is the serious “message song” on the album about child abuse, with sombre beginnings on the guitar as Pat sings about this issue. Then right about the 3'00" mark we get an almost Freebird-like guitar jam (but not as long) and a frenzied end the song. Good stuff!

I’ve touched on the guitar playing on the album several times already. Since her and Neil got married, it was obvious that his style of playing would be another common denominator in her career. Ongoing great vocals from Pat, ongoing inventive playing from Neil. That partnership still continues.

Overall, 8 out of 10 on this one. Pat Benatar avoids the “sophomore slump” and makes an album that makes her a mainstay on radio. And shows that she’s got the stuff to compete with the boys.

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Final Score: 7.40 (105 votes cast, total score 778)

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