When thinking about music, the 80’s era is largely overlooked, which is especially baffling considering that it’s the golden era of rock and pop.
The 80’s music is more than the music being produced. It was also a time of enormous, nationally shared moments. Gone was “The Ed Sullivan Show” and the Beatles’ US debut. Instead, audiences were treated to Michael Jackson moonwalking on the Motown 25 special. Revolutionary artists like Prince are incremental to our history, in ways that Drake and Kanye West are not.
What exactly made 80’s music so good? Really it comes down to three things.
First, the political environment of President Reagan’s years. The economy was booming and the middle class was resurging. The wealthier population mixed with increases in music technology meant that was much more easily accessible.
People were listening to all kinds of music: Latin, Afro-pop, reggae, etc. This differentiation of music started to blend together in 80’s music. In the ’80s, it was the first time that the average answer of listeners’ favorite type of music was ‘all kinds.’
Second is the assimilation of these different genres together. No other song shows this as much as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The fact that this is an 80’s song should be enough to show how 80’s music is the best music. Often labeled “the greatest music video of all time” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is a perfect encapsulation of the divergence of music, as it has elements of techno, classic rock and many other musical attributes linked into it.
Third, the rise of technology in music. In the ’70s, bands like Pink Floyd used electronics in music, however, it became mainstream in the ’80s. In addition, the recording vastly improved and there wasn’t autotune, so it was genuinely good singers singing, not computerized pitches of singers. Despite the rise of computers in music, guitars were still the primary source of bands, as guitar rock was just as popular in the ’80s as it was in the ’60s and ’70s.
When ‘80s music gets brought up, people instantly think of the classics such as Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Guns N’Roses, etc. However, the ’80s were a time for music to make a massive impact on the silver screen as well. Theatrical hits, such as Star Wars, ET, and Die Hard had incredibly sweeping musical scores that led to their success at the box office, while others, such as The Terminator and the films of John Carpenter took advantage of computer-synthesized music for their scores. The music of film during the era was revolutionary and truly changed the way movies are made.
When people judge a decade, they often do so years afterward. Looking back in 2019, seeing the lives my parents had and the music they listened to and the impact it had on the world shows me just how important the ’80s are.
Additionally, it’s just some pretty damn good music.