I was cleaning my apartment today and I had Pandora set on my “Best of the 80s” channel because I am a thousand years old. Actually, I’m 29, but I LOVE 80s music. And I noticed a common theme in the songs I was listening to, namely that THE 80S COULD GET AWAY WITH SINGING ABOUT LITERALLY ANYTHING AND PEOPLE WOULD PEE THEMSELVES WITH EXCITEMENT OVER IT.
You don’t believe me? Let’s examine some of my favorite 80s songs and you will notice a few major themes that stand out: 1. being a creep, and 2. nuclear apocalypse. Let’s address theme number 1 first, because it is one that perhaps perplexes me the most. I’m talking about “Every Breath You Take.” Sting has said that people LOVE to use this song as their wedding song. Sure, if you’re marrying the Craigslist Killer, maybe. But let’s examine further.
This is a song written and performed by the greatest band that has ever lived, The Police, and released in 1983 on the greatest album ever made, Syncrhonicity. Now, upon first listen, you might think that this is a sweet song about a man so hopelessly in love that he wants to witness every breath his paramour takes. You’d be wrong. This is song is about an obsessed stalker who clearly creeps around outside this woman’s house peeking in her windows and being completely and totally incapable of accepting in his head that she might not have feelings for him. This is four minutes of some creepy-ass pick-your-old-McDonald’s-cup-out-of-the-trash-and-sniff-it stalkery shit. This is the musical soundtrack to an episode of “Lifetime Investigates With Barbara Walters.” This is not a romantic song. This song is the video they show you at freshman college orientation about what to look out for walking home from the library after dark. This song is also, ironically, written by a band called The Police.
Okay, so what’s one song, you might ask? One song isn’t a big deal. But let’s talk about Depeche Mode for a minute. Let’s talk about the song “It’s No Good.” This song is about another total probable Knight of Neckbeardia who is clearly in love with a woman who might not even know he exists. It deals with him not worried about rushing and putting in a ton of time into making this woman his, as he feels it is their fate. And any objections she might have to this? “You can run, but you cannot hide. Don’t say you want me, don’t say you need me, don’t say you love me, it’s understood. Don’t say you’re happy out there without me, I know you can’t be, ’cause it’s no good.” I’m listening to this song right now and it gives me the heebie jeebies that indicate that I should call the police. The actual police, not Creep Sting and the Fake Police Uniform Abductors.
“So that’s two songs about stalkers, surely, these don’t musically define an entire decade!” you say! And you’d be right! Because it doesn’t! But nuclear apocalypse does! That’s right, kids, if there was one thing everyone loved in the 80s, it was the constant impending doom of potential earth melting nuclear holocaust! And singing about it!
I feel like I don’t even have to explain these. “Safety Dance?” “Land of Confusion?” “99 Luftballoons?” ALL ABOUT NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE. “Land of Confusion,” by Genesis, is one of the greatest songs of all time. People regard it to this day as a masterpiece. Because, hey, if you might one day be reading the paper on the john and 20 seconds later are a pile of ash and soot, you might as well at least acknowledge it. And what better way to do this than to set it to some catchy music and buy the tape and sing terrible karaoke about it? Because this was the 80s, and if there’s anything that helps you get your mind off of the Russians dangling nukes in front of Reagan like a middle school bully threatening to pour milk on some nerdy kid’s head in the cafeteria, it’s definitely off-key singing about the Russians dangling nukes in front of Reagan like a middle school bully threatening to pour milk on some nerdy kid’s head in the cafeteria.
These are just two of the themes in 80s music, which could, for all intents and purposes, basically get away with writing songs about literally anything. And you know what? I LOVE IT. I LOVE ALL OF IT. This is what the 80s music the greatest musical decade in…ever. Because a band called The fucking Police made bajillions on a song about stalking. Because Peter Gabriel didn’t even try to pretend “Sledgehammer” was about anything other than sex. Because Phil Collins basically put out the same song 43 times and we ate them all up. Because Billy Idol loved peroxide (and cocaine).
Because the Backstreet Boys never sang about nuclear apocalypse.