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The Top Five New Wave Songs of the 80s
Nothing says 1980s like new wave music.
Emerging from London's underground music scene in the late 1970s, new wave music first reached the American shores in the early 1980s, just as disco was declared dead and MTV arrived on the scene. Music videos featuring British blokes with towering hair and heavy eyeliner dominated MTV's rotation in the early years of the eighties.
By the middle of the decade, the synthetic pop beats of the initial New Wave movement were being replaced by more experimental and less commercial sounds as post-punk music continued to evolve into the alternative rock, industrial music, and gothic rock sub-genres. By the end of the decade, this new British invasion had left an indelible mark on the American music scene.
Take a trip through time as we explore the best of the music that defined the eighties.
"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell
As the disco beats of the 1970s gave way to the techno pop sounds of the early 1980s, Soft Cell emerged on the New Romantic scene in London. The band was comprised of English duo Marc Almond on vocals and David Ball on synthesizer and had several hits in the U.K. in the early 1980s. Their 1981 cover of "Tainted Love," originally recorded in 1964 by Gloria Jones (later of T-Rex), was one of the biggest American one-hit wonders of the decade. It sat on the U.S. Hit 100 for a then-record 43 weeks. The B-side of the single contained a cover of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go," and the band also released a 12-inch dance medley of the two songs.
"I Melt With You" by Modern English
This is the best known song of English New Wave artists Modern English, who released it as the second single from their sophomore album After the Snow in 1982. It was their biggest U.S. hit, reaching number 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983 after heavy MTV airplay and inclusion on the Valley Girl soundtrack. The band re-recorded the song in 1990 and the new version reached number 76 on the U.S. charts.
"Bigmouth Strikes Again" by The Smiths
No eighties compilation would be complete without an entry from The Smiths, who critics have called the most important British alternative rock band of the 1980s. Although the band's music clearly reflects its punk and post-punk influences, the Smiths rejected the synthetic sound and flamboyant fashions adopted by so many other artists of the time. "Bigmouth Strikes Again" was the first and only single from the band's 1986 The Queen Is Dead album. The album reached number 70 on the American charts but the single never charted. The Smiths, who were hugely successful in the U.K., broke up in 1987. The Smiths' vocalist Morrissey continues to perform the song live.
"True Faith" by New Order
The surviving members of English post-punk rock band Joy Division formed New Order after vocalist Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. Their sound evolved into a combination of New Wave and electronic music that heavily influenced the 1980s dance and rave music scenes. "True Faith" was released as a new single from their 1987 compilation Substance. It was their first and biggest American hit, peaking at number 32 in 1988. The song was featured in two films, Bright Lights, Big City (1988) and American Psycho (2000).
"Just Like Heaven" by The Cure
British alternative rock band The Cure formed in the late 1970s. Initially considered a New Wave act, they became one of the definitive bands of the emerging gothic rock movement as their sound turned darker and edgier. They first saw commercial success in the United States with the release of their Head on the Door album in 1985, which they followed with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in 1987. "Just Like Heaven," the third single from that album, became the band's biggest American hit when it reached number 40 in 1988.