Current Artists Keeping the ’80s Alive

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By Lily Doolin

Everyone loves the '80s, right?

You probably know at least one big hit (cue the start to “Don’t Stop Believin’”). This timeless decade continues to have an influence on pop culture today, whether it’s in fashion, or the revitalization of some favorite movie classics (of which my personal favorite will always be the A-Team).

Believe it or not, the '80s continue to have heavy influences on music today as well. It might seem like this generation’s playlist is dominated by Electronic Dance Music (EDM), rap, and pop anthems. However, there are plenty of artists that are still carrying the torch lit by some of your favorite '80s artists. Here’s a list of a few of the many artists making sure the '80s are “stayin’ alive:”

Japanese Breakfast

Listen if you like: Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper, The Go-Go's

Japanese Breakfast, aka Michelle Zauner, sounds reminiscent of the '80s female powerhouses that one can only describe as absolute girl bosses. Zauner's fun, spirited, and synth-pop vibes remind me heavily of artists like Cyndi Lauper. She's just a "girl who wants to have fun," and is doing just that with sick beats and lyrics about outer space. However, Zauner's more lo-fi songs deal with heavier themes like death and heartbreak, as much of her early work was about the passing of her mother. That's the Stevie Nicks in her--there's a bit of soul and devastation hidden underneath the lighthearted sound. She's one of the most talented female artists of this new wave of musicians, and she deserves a spot on any '80s lover's playlist.

Favorite Songs: "Head Over Heels," "Road Head," "Diving Woman"

Walk the Moon

Listen if you like: Prince, Wang Chung, Flock of Seagulls, Talking Heads

I remember the first time I played Ohio-based alt-rock band Walk the Moon for my mom, who was a child of the '80s. She looked at me in confusion and asked, “What '80s band is this?” Besides having done a kick-butt cover of “Burnin’ Down the House” by Talking Heads, Walk the Moon is great at blending the electronic, synthpop that was made so popular during this decade. Their music reminds me of the fun dance music of the '80s, like “Raspberry Beret” by Prince or “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung. Their sound is carefree and relaxing at times. However, they also have several dance hits that make me want to dance my butt off.

Favorite Songs: “Shut up and Dance,” “Anna Sun,” “Avalanche”

Greta Van Fleet

Listen if you like: Van Halen, Queen, Styx, Billy Idol

Confession: I knew jack squat about Michigan rock band Greta Van Fleet before I saw them perform live at Boston Calling. I expected a literal woman named Greta and her band. Imagine my surprise when onto the stage strolled a bunch of guys dresses like they just walked off the set of an '80s music video. Instead of the folk music I was expecting, they broke out guitars and started jamming out like this was a Led Zeppelin concert. Lead singer Josh Kiszka sounds like he could be a part of Van Halen. His raspy, wild vocals and his incredible stage presence are to die for. Of all the artists on this list, GVF sounds like they were transported from the '80s in a Delorean. They’re headbanging, air guitar-inspiring hits are sure to bring you straight back.

Favorite Songs: “Highway Tune,” “You’re the One,” “Lover, Leaver”

Christine and the Queens

Listen if you like: David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Berlin

I also saw French singer, songwriter, and choreographer Christine and the Queens at Boston Calling. Can you tell where I got the inspiration for this post? All I wanted to do was strap a tutu on and do some crazy dancing in the middle of this big crowd. Christine’s music reminds me of some of the '80s biggest dance/pop artists. However, her music also has a little edge of rock and roll that reminds me of Bowie’s work. It's the perfect blend of flirty pop and edgy rock. Christine also writes a lot about gender fluidity and LGBTQ+ topics in her songs, something that the '80s helped to usher into the mainstream music scene.

Favorite Songs: “Tilted,” “Girlfriend,” “Science Fiction”

M83

Listen if you like: Pet Shop Boys, The Psychedelic Furs, Dead or Alive

While this pick may seem like it’s just that straight EDM I was talking about earlier, French electronic music project M83—started by lead singer and producer Anthony Gonzalez— is probably one of the few EDM artists I know of today that draws off of the use to the synthesizer and '80s lyrical techniques to put a throwback twist to modern EDM. M83 is a bit of a psychedelic trip, but in a good way. The music is ethereal, and can barely even be explained in such a short blog post. Listening to M83 makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud, but that cloud has a disco ball on it and everyone has big hair and neon outfits. That’s the best explanation I can give, man.

Favorite Songs: “Do It, Try It,” “Walkaway Blues,” “Midnight City”

Superorganism

Listen if you like: Madonna, Falco, Styx, Wall of Voodoo

The '80s were known in part for its zany culture, and wild art-pop group Superorganism is just that. Made up of eight members, including 17-year-old Orono from Maine, Superorganism is like nothing you've ever heard before. No one--not even accomplished music history buffs--can get a hold on what this band is going to do next. One day, they're singing about prawns, and the next they're releasing head-bangers about the social media culture of today. The music is so zany that you forget about your serious life and jam along to the nonsense. However, that's not to say Superorganism's music is total randomness: There seems to be a particular amount of thought going into the crazy lyrics and beats to create this wonderful, wild vision.

Favorite Songs: "Everybody Wants to be Famous," "SPRORGNSM," "The Prawn Song,"

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