This post originally appeared on the 10th Dentist blog on Tuesday, March 4th, 2021. The following version has been lightly edited for clarity.
As if standing in stark contrast to taco-laser-cat t-shirts and ‘millennial whoop’ overdosing (how noble), the rise of 80s worship in the mid-teens has brought back the worst of bad hair days and their musical counterparts. So if you’re looking to spice up your new-found identity or if you’ve finally realized that Africa by Toto isn’t worth it, than this list is for you!
Soft Cell – The Art of Falling Apart (1983)
Soft Cell (a band that, yes, has released more than 2 songs) started in 1978 and rose to prominence in the early 80s with their hit cover of Gloria Jone’s 1964 single ‘Tainted Love’. But enough of that. 1983 would see the release of Soft Cell’s second full-length release The Art of Falling Apart and the glory of it’s titular closing track. ‘The Art’ is a song about drugs that isn’t trying to be anything other than a song about drugs. Big synth stabs and an under swelling reverb makes this a ‘no duh’ for anyone looking to dip their toes in the weird and wacky world of the 80s (FOETUS is only a few steps away from here).
Naked Eyes – Promises, Promises (1983)
There is always something there to remind me that there were much better songs on Naked Eyes’s 1983 album Burning Bridges. The best album to ever be recorded at Abbey Road Studios (Flippant? Maybe. The truth? Definitely), Burning Bridges gave us great songs like its titular track, When The Lights Go Out, Fortune and Fame, and Voices in My Head. But it’s Promises Promises with its minimal production, back and forth melody, and vague funk influences that rounds out this album as one of the best closing tracks on a pop album ever. Naked Eyes is 2 British guys, a Fairlight CMI, and a lot of vague romantic dance tracks. Do I need say more? Well, except to clarify I mean that entirely as a good thing (in this case).
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – So In Love (1985)
So In Love may not be stupid enough to meme-ify, but it’s an emotionally powerful song with all the melancholic nostalgia seeding you could possibly want. In this dreamlike state, you may feel as if your feet will lose rhythm to it’s smooth dance beat as you float away off the dance floor. Don’t worry, no modern DJ will be playing this any time soon, and your drinking that night will likely leave you face first on the floor. Look, were they a great band? No, not really. But if we’re going to collectively obsess over singular 80s pop tracks, OMD has all the trappings (and just enough good songs) to get a mention here.
Sharon Redd – Can You Handle It (1980)
While you were busy fetishizing the 80s, disregarding the AIDS epidemic and the CIA starting a racialized drug war, black and/or queer people were out there making some of the best music of the decade. If you’re looking for peak 80s (in a good way), this is it. Just because it’s not Madonna-white doesn’t make it not so. So, can you handle it?
You may think, ‘why Sharon Redd? Why not something even more 80s like Chaka Khan, Cherrelle, Evelyn King, etc.?’ Those artists are amazing, but they’ve all had second-winds in the age of music streaming and cock and bull ‘I grew up with this’ nostalgia boasts. Either way, if you’re a trend sycophant than you’ve probably stopped reading a while ago. So kick back and enjoy this 6min+ jammer.
General Public – Anxious (1984)
Why are we culturally pining for the 1980s to begin with? Has sociopolitical pressures made us look for a ‘simpler time’? Is it 70s babies grasping for a time that they were the forefront of commercial culture? Can we simply blame all of it on vaporwave and Stranger Things? Who knows. Maybe culture is dying. In a press-play world that awards content and volume over quality and craft, why would anyone take the time to enrich their lives culturally? It may be my upbringing that put General Public on this list, but if the 80s are relevant now, than a track like Anxious is more relevant than ever.