There have been countless articles circulating the internet over the past two years comparing the likes of Dua Lipa with Debbie Harry, The Weeknd with Prince and Harry Styles with Paul McCartney. After decades and decades of music, it’s hard to come up with something completely original and modern artists have no problem admitting that; even citing such icons as inspirations.
How about we take British Indie Pop-Rock group The 1975 as the first example? The synths on their 2020 album Notes On A Conditional Form make it evident that the project was 80s inspired, however the band’s inspiration dates all the way back to the very beginning of their career. In 2013 lead singer Matty Healy claimed to be influenced by “the 1980s – specifically ’80s teen movies” and this was not long after their first EP Facedown which has been compared to 80s new wave quartet Talking Heads. Another artist whose been channeling musicians like Queen and David Bowie before 2020’s groundbreaking musical shift is Lady Gaga. The princess of pop herself left the media perplexed when she released her 2013 album ARTPOP. Dramatic, expressive and a cultural reset are only three phrases to describe this album – very much reminding Gen Xers and Millennials of the funk-filled era.
It looks as if these artists took the artist their music was enlivened by to enliven the music of up and coming mainstream artists of the 20s. The Weeknd has always hinted at 80s production through the cinematic Kissland (Wanderlust) or the versatile Starboy (Secrets), but it wasn’t until the infamous After Hours came along that his 80s influences were truly emphasised. In Your Eyes personified is an 80s disco, while Blinding Lights brags electro-pop bliss. The Canadian sensation continues to showcase such sounds on his follow up album Dawn FM, maybe a little more so. Out Of Time makes us wonder if Michael Jackson has been resurrected, and that’s without mentioning lead singles Sacrifice and Take My Breath.
Seeing many of these albums (Future Nostalgia, After Hours, Chromatica, Notes On A Conditional Form) being released around the same time no doubt made many think the ‘return of the 80s’ was just a 2020 trend, however this is clearly not the case. Dance, disco and funk albums are still present two years later within indie and pop. Take a look at Alfie Templeman’s Mellow Moon, Harry Style’s Harry’s House and Charli XCX’s CRASH.
This music movement appears to have rapidly taken over the new wave of ‘alt’ music first initiated in 2019, with albums like Billie Eilish’s mysterious When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?, Tyler, The Creator’s hip hop soul Igor and Lana Del Rey’s acoustic Norman Rockwell dominating the charts. It would be interesting to see these artists take a leaf out of their fellow musicians book and create something just as 80s inspired, considering they are so musically diverse anyway.