Aerosmith’s ‘Pump’ Songs, Ranked Worst to Best
‘Pump,’ one of the most popular and certainly most triumphant albums of Aerosmith’s historic career, consolidated the band’s comeback from the brink of late-‘70s destruction, beating a younger generation of hard rock bands at their own game. A quarter century later, ‘Pump’ has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making it Aerosmith’s bestselling album after 1975’s watershed ‘Toys in the Attic.’ We mark its anniversary by ranking ‘Pump”s songs, from worst to best.
There’s a throwaway feel to this rather uncharacteristic slice of ‘50s/‘60s rave-up, which probably explains why Aerosmith fans can rarely recall it, and why the band consigned it to the album’s boneyard of the middle section of side two.
‘Don’t Get Made, Get Even’
Another denizen of ‘Pump’’s boneyard, ‘Don’t Get Mad, Get Even’ raises the bar with a convincingly bluesy introduction, but soon devolves into a by-the-numbers band workout as rote and predictable as the catchphrase it was built on.
‘Monkey on My Back’
This straightforward rocker addressing Aerosmith’s long-waged battle, and ultimate victory, over substance abuse may come off a tad preachy, but the sweet slide guitars helped it reach No. 17 on the rock chart as ‘Pump’’s sixth and final single.
‘The Other Side’
‘Pump’’s fifth single, ‘The Other Side,’ was a proper late-‘80s hair-metal production number, complete with hooky chorus, synthetic horns and a big-budget music video, tailor-made to reach No. 1 on the rock chart — and draw lawsuit threats from Motown’s legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team, which was eventually granted a co-songwriting credit, claiming it sounded a lot like the Four Tops’ ‘Standing in the Shadows of Love.’
‘Love in an Elevator’
With a chorus as big as life, an outrageous video you couldn’t escape and more double entendres than a French thesaurus, ‘Love in an Elevator’ became ‘Pump”s signature anthem. Unfortunately, all this has somewhat dated the song, but still, what a killer.
‘Voodoo Medicine Man’
Unfairly overlooked amid all of the album’s huge hits, ‘Voodoo Medicine Man’ is guitarist Brad Whitford’s contribution to ‘Pump,’ and a classic example of his grounding influence on the band’s blues-based hard rock. The song also spotlights bassist Tom Hamilton, who shows off his agile fretwork throughout.
Another underrated gem, ‘F.I.N.E.’ is straight-up Steven Tyler and Joe Perry collaboration with hit songwriter Desmond Child. No bells, no whistles, just honest-to-goodness hard rock, spiked with a clever twist (the titular acronym stands for “F—ed Up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional”) that fans were used to by this point.
‘Janie’s Got a Gun’
As late-’80s power ballads go, ‘Janie’ is a cut above the rest, melding state-of-the-art production tricks, unusually intriguing lyrics and a backward guitar solo by Joe Perry, and, in turn, setting a new measuring stick for fully conceptualized pop music extravaganzas.
‘What it Takes’
The ultimate combination of ‘Pump’’s flashy and earthy extremes (note the sublime accordion run), ‘What it Takes’ closes the album in some serious style. The song’s supreme and undeniable hook even distracts a bit from the meticulous songcraft and a singalong chorus that can be traced all the way back to ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ — inspirational touchstones shoring up the very foundation of Aerosmith’s career.