Calling Private Dancer Tina Turner's breakthrough album doesn't come close to describing its importance. It was among the cornerstone LPs of the '80s, as A Quiet Storm was to Smokey Robinson in the '70s. It established her brilliance and viability as a solo act outside the Ike and Tina Turner arena, even though it also contained one of her greatest R&B efforts, the cover of "Let's Stay Together," and an equally great second soul piece, "I Can't Stand the Rain." The cover shot of Turner sitting in a chair, sensual and challenging, was surpassed by an alternative shot of her sitting on a bed, those incredible legs well-showcased. (That one didn't make the front of the LP jacket in mid '80s America, but became a best-selling poster.)
The album ably displayed Turner's total comfort not only with rock, but with pop and even new wave. Mark Knopfler gave her an erotic, steamy hit with "Private Dancer" (also aided by a great Jeff Beck guitar solo), and she added outstanding editions of cuts by David Bowie ("1984") and John Lennon/ Paul McCartney ("Help").
"What's Love Got to Do With It" was the album's epic. Its dismissal of the notion that traditional love was essential to any successful relationship was presented in a steely, emphatic manner that wasn't so much cynical as realistic. Turner never sounded bitter or angry; just honest. She embraced and endorsed the idea of a union for mutual advantage, not mutual attachment. The main lyric became a pop culture catchphrase, and it stands as Turner's most memorable triumph. "Better Be Good To Me" was a fast-paced, rapid-fire number that was equal parts request and demand.
The album even had some jazz flavor, courtesy of the Crusaders, plus drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. This was her fifth studio album, and it proved her biggest success. Besides topping the charts for three weeks, it made Turner the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper pieces. The album ranks among the finest solo LPs by any solo artist — and is certainly Tina Turner's greatest achievement.