words by Emily Smith
The 80s were a time of change. Rock started to emerge to form into what we now know as modern rock with an influence of electronic dance and new wave. A good example of it would be ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi – which if you haven’t listened to, you you really should. It’s an absolute classic from this era. Power ballads became the definition of the 80s with Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ being the main one everyone thinks of. Technology started to shape our music experience as well as how we listen to it, such as the Walkmans (which I think are pretty cool.) What makes 80s music the best decade is that artists from this era laid the foundations for what would become pop music.
A shift in technology started to emerge with the use of autotune and synthesizers. Programmed drums also started to be used to make a whole brand new sound that was different from what had been done before.
Having a new environment made it harder for artists to leave a mark in the lives of their audiences unless they had a distinctive selling point, which all had to come about because of how competitive it had become. In modern music, you usually find that more than one genre of music has been used to make a brand new sound. However, in the 80s you had to fit into a genre of music in order for your music to sell, like being a rockstar, a pop star, or being a part of a boy band.
In the 80s, if you wanted to discover any new music you had to listen to MTV or Top of the Pops. Nowadays, it only takes one click and you can find a whole back catalog of music you had never heard of before. Platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and TikTok are being used more and more by our generation to listen to or even discover music from a decade they weren’t even born in. I think listening to music in the 80s and through to the 2000s was so special because there weren’t any streaming platforms for anyone to use. Instead they had to wait a whole week to listen to who had made it to the Top 100 and see if their favorite song had made the list. That kind of excitement is so rare these days and just makes you appreciate how we listen to music more. It was important to have access to vinyl as this was one of the limited ways you could listen to your favorite artist’s new song or album.
How Are Artists In The 21st Century Bringing Back That ’80s Sound?
After his release of ‘After Hours’ in 2020, the Weekend brought a new sound to the music scene. The album came out as soon as we were told to stay at home, which really helped ‘Blinding Lights’ make history as the No.1 song in the Billboard Hot 100 history. The song helped re-energize Billboard’s music chart in a way a song hasn’t done before. The double tempo beat and handclaps make everyone want to dance when the second chorus hits.
Other artists, like Gaga, Dua Lipa, and Miley Cyrus changed their sound and put out pop-rock albums featuring some of the iconic artists from the 80s. Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia brought back the sound of the disco-pop era that some of us miss. It was the first time for so many people to be immersed in the pop culture of the time. One of the main songs from the album, ‘Physical,’ is a love letter to the 1983 film Flashdance. It puts synth and bass together into an up-tempo track while ‘Cold Heart,’ which she did with Elton John on his album The Lockdown Sessions, creates the perfect club hit. All of her songs from the album make the listener look back on a time they never got to experience.
The big question is how far is this influence going to go? Just look at the albums like Justin Bieber’s Justice or even Coldplay’s recent single ‘Higher Power.’ They all share a similar sound, which happens to make people feel a bit of nostalgia with people who remember the era. By doing this, big artists are bringing a new audience together to share opinions on platforms of songs that they never got to listen to the first time around, but have found a whole new appreciation for the era.