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Culture Shock

Blast From The Past: The '80s Influence on Modern Music

We like to think that the music coming out in 2022 is futuristic and the first of its kind, but that is only sometimes the case. Most songs on the radio today take inspiration from songs of the past. These inspirations can be found in countless ways; they can be found through the bass riffs of the songs, the lyrics themselves, or can even find inspiration from a whole decade. The 1980s, in particular, have greatly impacted the music we listen to today. The music of the '80s is taking over the pop charts, and it doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.

Big artists such as The Weeknd have been huge contributors to the revival of the '80s. The Weeknd himself has been directly inspired by the decade, especially with his 2022 album, Dawn FM. From start to finish, the whole album feels like a momentous love letter to the decade of captivating tunes and electric beats. The Weeknd credits iconic musicians like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson as big influences when creating the album. The first beat of the song "Dawn Fm" immediately transports the listener back in time. The song has a sense of nostalgia yet manages to still feel relevant. Another hit from the album that echoes such characteristics is the seventh song on the album, "Out of time." The song itself feels like something straight out of a 1980s recording studio. The song even features a sample from the 1983 hit "Midnight Pretenders" by Tomoko Aran, adding a whole new depth to the retro feel of the song. "Out of Time" uses a mix of synthesizers, often associated with music from the '80s. 

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While we think that the synthesizer was a new invention of the decade, it actually originated in the early days of classic rock and roll. The synthesizer dates back to 1957 when two pioneering engineers—Harry Olson and Herbert Belar—would invent the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer. This new invention would become the first programmable synthesizer for musicians to use. However, with mediocre success in decades prior, the synthesizer would finally reach its full potential as songs from the 1980s would feature the “new” instrument, in a way that wasn’t used before. This foreign device would become a staple in recording studios and define the sound of the 1980s. The Yamaha DX7 would be released in 1983, and from that day music would be forever changed. This simple yet complex instrument wouldn’t be bound to the sound of the '80s but would crossover into the following decades, as it is still being used in chart-topping hits to this day, such as The Weeknd’s “Out Of Time."

Carly Rae Jepsen is another star in the music industry who is not only bringing back the 1980s sound but the style as well. In her music video for "Talking to Yourself," she sports a similar platinum-shaggy haircut as Blondie. She sings exactly like a young Debbie Gibson. Carly Rae Jepsen's album The Loneliest Time is stocked with synth beats and catchy '80s-inspired lyrics. In a 2022 interview with Crack Magazine, Jepsen talks about the inspirations behind the songs on her new album. Jepsen states, "I had the playground of all the eras to jump from, and this was more just writing from the heart, in whatever direction the songs wanted to go ... It excited me to have those moments of flirtation on the [new] album, but also broaden the spectrum of what the subject of a pop song was allowed to be." Carly Rae Jepsen is a powerhouse when it comes to writing. Her lyrics and melodies are timeless, as no decade can truly define her work. It's no surprise that she takes direct inspiration from one of the greatest decades of music.  

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The Weeknd and Carly Rae Jepsen are not the only ones inspired by the 1980s as other big pop stars have also been using the '80s sound recently. In Taylor Swift's "Karma," she uses a mix of classic synth-beats; rapper Yung Gravy uses a sampling of Rick Astley's late 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" for his song "Betty;" and well, Djo's "I Want Your Video" sounds like something straight from the soundtrack of Stranger Things. 

We can't help but look back and appreciate the eras that came before, the eras that now inspire, influence, and amaze us. While the bitter reality is that the 1980s will soon be forgotten by the greedy hands of time and the era of Blondie, big hair, and synthesizers will soon become a distant memory, there's still hope. A hope that upcoming music will echo the melodies of the past. The music of the '80s will forever be known to the music industry, as artists such as The Weeknd and Carly Rae Jepsen, continue to revitalize and reintroduce generations to the totally tubular sounds of the decade with one synthesized beat at a time.

¹Kaplan, Llana. “Carly Rae Jepsen: More Than a Feeling”. Crack Magazine. May 8. 2022. Web.

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