How I Learned to Love the Gloriously Over-the-Top Music of the 80s

Over-produced anthemic music with danceable beats. Over-the-top music videos reeking of popular appeal. Zealous overuse of synthesizers and hairspray.

80’s music is an easy target for music critics. I know I used to hate it. But the more I listen to the music of the 80s, the more I realize it deserves its place.

Music can only fail this hard when it tries really hard to do something great.

The music and music culture of the 80s was a grand attempt, galvanized by new music technology, the rise of the music video, and the continued rise of youth influence on popular culture. It tried to change music. Maybe it went too far, but it did go for it.

The term that comes to mind (and that’s used often to describe this era’s music) is “gloriously bad”. Because even if we roll our eyes at cliche anthemic singalongs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin‘” or cliche anthemic singalongs like “Africa,” you have to admit that they make your heart soar.

Right or wrong, that’s what a lot of 80’s music does for me. For all it’s faults, popular 80’s music captures an enthusiasm which you can rarely find in music anymore.

I’ll try to avoid amateur sociological analysis, but look – it’s hard not to listen to this music and think of the fall of the Berlin wall, the slow crumbling of the cold war, and the birth of so much of modern culture that happened in this decade. There were a lot of things to be hopeful about.

I want my music to reflect hope, to remember hope, and to inspire new hope. I’ll find that kind of feeling anywhere it’s available, even if it means my playlists occasionally bring up duds (but ironically enjoyable duds) like “Never Gonna Give You Up” from time to time. 80’s music is all the more fun to listen to, to share, and even to defend because it shows such polarizing enthusiasm.

Don’t overthink it like I did. I missed out on buckets of fun.

Here are the songs I’ve been digging lately. Not coincidentally, they were songs which people living in the 80s also really liked.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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