Who knew there were so many versions of this song? Thank god for YouTube.*
Here is the immortal recording by Pat Benatar. Searching for this one turned up another by Helen Schneider and -- I couldn't believe it! -- one by Rachel Sweet. There's even a 2008 hit recording by Ashley Tisdale for the Millennials.
Obviously the post-1992 version is the mediocre one of the bunch, but it's better than 99% of the junk during this period, whether original or covers. She has no emotional depth in her voice, which makes sense because as someone born in 1985 she came of age during falling-crime times and recorded it during these times as well. You need to feel close to the brink to get the right emotional inflection for this song. It sounds like she's playing dress-up or playing in a blackface show almost. And notice how in the video she hams it up by locking her legs and bending over Betty Boop style, as well as making a grinding motion with her hips. Too self-conscious and in-control-of-herself for a song about letting go and throwing yourself into the rush of life.
The Helen Schneider version is pretty good as far as the instrumentation and vocals go, but emotionally she sounds a bit too cocky (echoed by her facial expressions). This is what some people in the YouTube comments are picking up on when they say it may be a bit too masculine, but it's not masculine vs. feminine that matters, it's that this song isn't supposed to be one where you feel overly confident and secure.
That's why the Rachel Sweet and Pat Benatar versions come out the best. You need just the right balance between guts and anxiety to get into the action of this song. All other great songs in the genre, even the more masculine power-driven ones like Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" and Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," strike this balance. If you feel too confident, there's no edge-of-your-seat tension about how the cosmic event will unfold, and if you're too insecure you'll just sit it out on the sidelines and let it pass you by.
I like Pat's version more than Rachel's because there's a bit more yearning in hers, like she's truly hungry to jump into one of life's Big Moments, which they emphasize in the video by showing her dreaming of flying into Nazi territory and kicking butt. Also there's the slight but powerful difference in the words to the chorus: Pat says "running with" the shadows of the night, while Rachel says "running through." "Through" makes it sound like the surroundings are static, and that the two people are above-it-all, like superheroes who move so fast that everyone else seems to be frozen in place. "With" makes it sound like the surroundings themselves are not just alive but racing along too, a nice touch of the pathetic fallacy to strengthen the turbulent drive of the song.
All this writing makes me want to go out for a cruise.
* We still need to be careful when blindly praising new technologies like this, since if it were 1983 I would be spending lots of my free time in a variety of record stores and talking to people who knew everything, and so would probably have had the same chance of finding this information out and for roughly the same search cost.