The ’80s might feel like a long time ago but it seems that this decade is influencing modern music more than ever. From LANY to The 1975 to Carly Rae Jepsen, many new artists are making music that incorporates the ’80s style in a way that is both nostalgic and fresh at the same time. Often blurring the lines of what counts as pop, rock or disco, these artists are all making their own unique twist on the retro sound that is so popular.
This is no small feat as it takes a lot of skill to create a song that sounds like the ’80s while still staying fresh and current. Some might call these artists unoriginal for simply replicating a formula that has been used for decades but others are embracing it with open arms. For example, a lot of these songs utilize synthesizers which can have a more pure tone than other instruments. This produces a sound that is smooth and has a cool quality to it. A good example of this would be a track by La Roux called International Woman of Leisure or Terrace Martin’s hit single “Easy”.
Another important aspect of the ’80s style is the vocals. The dramatic baritones of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan or Jimmy Somerville’s falsetto in Bronski Beat are being replicated by artists such as Dua Lipa and The Weeknd who use their voices to convey a sense of nostalgia as well as a melancholic but uplifting feeling. In addition to this, there are also plenty of tracks that rely on a futuristic sound with robotic imagery similar to what David Cronenberg’s films portrayed. This is the case with songs such as Yazoo’s 1983 song Take a Chance or the song ‘Warm Leatherette’ by The Normal.
In the ’80s, hip hop was also extremely popular and this has been carried over into modern music as well. Rappers like LL Cool J and Run DMC made it very commercial and mainstream while other groups such as the Beastie Boys and Salt-N-Pepa infused it with elements of rock music. The ’80s also saw a large influx of heavy metal bands who were very popular thanks to the heaviness of their sound as well as the fact that it appealed to the angst and frustrations that was prevalent in society at the time.
While it’s not completely accurate to say that the ’80s are back in full force, it’s safe to say that these trends are here to stay for some time. Incorporating this music style is a great way to connect with older generations while also appealing to younger listeners who are growing up with these songs as their soundtracks. It also allows for a certain level of authenticity that was lost when the genre was being overshadowed by a more self-consciously fashionable sound in the 2000’s. Pop cult revivals seem to occur every 20 years or so, so it’s only natural that this one has arrived.