New Music Fridays: Kick Off Your Stranger Things Watch Party with These 80s Hits

After years of waiting, it’s finally here: the last chapter of the internationally beloved Netflix hit Stranger Things is available to stream today. Though only the first few episodes will be released, each one has a run time equivalent to a feature length film, so fans will have plenty of content to chew on by the time the second part airs July 5th. 

To celebrate its premier, YEM has curated an 80s-themed playlist perfect for getting Stranger Things fans back in the mood. So, let’s bring on the synth, the power ballads, and all the songs parents won’t stop talking about: it’s time to dive into the 80s.

Kicking the playlist off is none another than “Take on Me.” Norwegian band a-ha first released this song in 1985, where it topped charts. Popular for its creative music video and iconic synth beat, this song still conjures up the 80s for its billions of listeners. Following it up is Tiffany’s 1987 pop hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Featured on another certain sci-fi show, this song’s trademark synth and sweet lyrics make it super fun to dance to. 

When it comes to dancing, though, it’s hard to find a song more perfect than “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).” It’s a song with enduring popularity, with over 200 million Spotify listens and a sample from Flo Rida. Released in 1983 by British dance-pop band Dead Or Alive, this song is a bop that’ll get everyone off their feet (and spin right round, baby right round, like a record baby, right round round round…yeah, it might also get stuck in their heads.) 

80s dance-pop was consistently great throughout the decade, and Erasure proves it. Released in 1988 off their album Innocence, “A Little Respect” is an upbeat track great for dancing through heartbreak. It’s infused with synth and longing, and will conjure up that 80s nostalgia required for a Stranger Things watch party. 

Here to continue the fun pop vibe is Prince’s 1985 classic, “Raspberry Beret.” Both vocally and instrumentally engaging, it proves Prince’s flexibility when it came to both genre and vocal range. Sixth on the playlist is “Come On Eileen,” an all-time party favorite. While Dexys Midnight Runners were considered a one-hit wonder in the U.S., the English band was pretty popular in the U.K. Regardless of the country, though, “Come On Eileen” is a song synonymous with good times. 

Those familiar with Shrek 2 will probably recognize the playlists’ seventh song. As high-energy and intense as they come, Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero” was released in 1984 for the Footloose soundtrack. Two years later, it was included on Tyler’s album, Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire, and has been unforgettable ever since. Speaking of Bonnie Tyler, there’s no way “Total Eclipse of the Heart” could be excluded! Otherwise known as the 80s power ballad, this is one of those songs that imprints itself into the listener’s brain. Keyboard, drums, and synth all come together in a sweeping crescendo, each verse more epic than the last. Everyone comes out of this song knowing the chorus, at least. 

Though it’s hard to beat Bonnie Tyler in the ballad game, Madonna puts up some tough competition. The 1980s It Girl’s pop ballads and flashy style pushed boundaries and inspired countless artists. Her 1989 title track from the eponymous album, “Like a Prayer,” simultaneously stirred up controversy and cemented itself into public consciousness upon its release. It was also covered on Glee (every song’s marker for success, of course). Proof that the 80s is a gold mine for ballads is halfway through the playlist. That’s right: “Africa” by Toto. The 1982 anthem has over a billion Spotify listens. With a sweeping, catchy chorus that renders it instantly recognizable, this song still hasn’t reached its peak. Nowadays, people know it from Stranger Things’ season one soundtrack (with some help from Weezer). 

Next up is “Blue Monday.” Created by New Order, a spinoff of Joy Division, in 1987, this song has an intense, dreamlike synth beat that puts listeners in a trance. There’s something haunting about it; this mood continues in its follow-up, “Thriller.” This Halloween favorite was featured in the Stranger Things 2 trailer shown exclusively at San Diego Comic Con 2017. Its iconic zombie dance and creepy energy makes it incredibly fitting for a Stranger Things watch party. 

Coming in at number thirteen in “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. The 1981 smash hit remains Soft Cell’s most famous song. With an effortlessly cool synth beat (the 80s was filled with those) and poetic lyrics (“And you think love is to pray/But I’m sorry I don’t pray that way”), it’s easy to see why. 

Following it up is Joy Division, which rocked (pun intended) the 1980s British post-punk scene. “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” released in 1980, is an emotional song that proves that the 80s wasn’t all synth-pop. Of course, it would be impossible to talk 80s rock without including Pat Benatar. A certified rock goddess, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” started the decade off strong. It came out in 1980, off the album Crimes of Passion. It’s got incredibly strong vocals, sassy lyrics, and an awesome guitar solo about halfway through. What more could a rock hit need? 

Stranger Things fans are sure to love the next song. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash played an integral role in seasons one and two. The Clash were key players in the British punk rock scene, starting off in the 70s and continuing throughout the next decade. While the guitar riff is probably the song’s most recognizable component, it also features an impressive bassline. 

Not all great 80s rock was released at the start of the decade. 1987 was rife with rock hits. Take “Never Tear Us Apart” by Australian band INXS. The song’s slow build makes for a stylish finish and a dramatic, memorable track. The Bangles’ popular cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” is another strong contender. Originally recorded by Simon and Garfunkel in the late 60s, the Bangles 1987 cover was even more popular than the original. Its electrifying guitar riff is the opposite of “hazy.”

 Though the Cure was more popular in the 90s, their 1987 song “Just Like Heaven” has nearly 300 million Spotify listens. Though heavily inspired by Joy Division, this song is a lot more upbeat than “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It’s lovely and easy to listen to, filled with nostalgia.

Wrapping up the playlist is the “Never Ending Story” theme song. Originally performed by Limahl, it’s covered in Stranger Things season 3 by Gaten Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo (A.K.A: Dustin and his girlfriend, Suzie). From the 1984 movie of the same name, the song’s soaring melody is instantly recognizable to 80s kids. 

You can listen to the full playlist here.