Good news! Our favourite artists who shaped the decade didn’t stop in the 80s! We take a look back in the past five years to see which musicians are still killing the game.
Sting – What Could Have Been – (2021 – from Arcane: League of Legends (Soundtrack from the Animated Series))
Think of the 80s and there are plenty of bands that come to your mind. One may be The Police. Now, before you say anything, I know that The Police’s arguably biggest hit Roxanne isn’t actually an 80s song, released in 1978. However, you can’t argue against its power to lay the foreground for The Police to maintain an inarguable dominance that persisted for much of the 80s and saw releases like Every Breath You Take (which has a whopping 1.3 billion streams on Spotify) and Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. Yet despite The Police no longer releasing new music, that doesn’t stop its frontman, Sting, from being pretty prevalent in the music world (and weirdly in film & TV – Only Murders in the Building, anyone?). While Sting never quite reached anywhere near the heights of The Police, that doesn’t mean he didn’t collaborate to release one of 2021’s best songs (and you can fight me on that). With the release of Netflix’s phenomenal League of Legends animated series Arcane, what came with it was a host of original music, including Sting’s collaboration with Ray Chen to create the heartbreaking (and my top song of 2022’s Spotify wrapped), What Could Have Been. Scoring one of Arcane‘s final and most riveting moments, the depths of Sting’s voice backed by orchestral strings were the perfect accompaniment for a perfectly animated scene. Bone-chilling and simply phenomenal.
By Sam Pegg
Duran Duran – Invisible (2021 – from FUTURE PAST)
Despite being primarily associated with the eighties, Duran Duran have released three albums throughout the 2010s and 2020s: 2011’s All You Need is Now, 2015’s Paper Gods, and 2021’s FUTURE PAST.
Having formed in 1978, this means that the band have been solidly making music, with various line-up changes and reunions, for over forty years. An impressive feat in itself, Duran Duran continue to not only release new music, but are also still touring (I have tickets for their May 2023 show at the O2 and I couldn’t be more emotional about it if I tried), and have recently been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With an enduring legacy and a fanbase made up both of people who grew up in the eighties, and their children, it is no surprise that FUTURE PAST made it to number three on the UK Albums Chart.
The album’s first single, ‘Invisible’, not only sounds fresh and current, but pays tribute to many elements of iconic eighties Duran Duran songs. The classic John Taylor funky bassline, and Nick Rhodes’ genius synth stand out as the best of these, while Simon Le Bon’s vocals and harmonies remain as good as they were in the eighties. Although the track lyrically explores loneliness and feeling invisible, John Taylor’s bassline renders it danceable and a certified head-bopper. Overall, it is a great track from a band that transcends the decades.
By Mollie Potter
Mötley Crüe – The Dirt (Est. 1981) (feat. Machine Gun Kelly), Ride with the Devil, Crash and Burn, Like a Virgin (2019 – from The Dirt Soundtrack)
The Dirt is a soundtrack album from the March 2019 Mötley Crüe biopic of the same name. It was the first Crüe release in over a decade and featured 4 brand-new tracks. A welcome surprise after three years of everyone in the band insisting that their collective career was over.
Apart from their heavy cover of Madonna’s Like a Virgin (ironic coming from the world’s most notoriously sexual band), which features riffs paying homage to Metallica and breaks down into a glorious half-time at the chorus, the other 3 songs were contenders for the title track. They all tried to summarise the band’s entire vibe, sound and history in just under 4 minutes each.
In February 2019, The Dirt (Est. 1981) was released as the single for the soundtrack and peaked at No.8 on Billboard. In the verses, Vince Neil’s audibly worn vocal sings very broadly and vaguely about the “hardships” of being in a band in the 80s, including the classics: “drugs”, “lies”, “hate” and not much more really. The pre and actual choruses are all about perseverance and reveling in the lifestyle.
The sentiment is heavily contrasted by the unexpected rap feature from soon-to-be rockstar Machine Gun Kelly, who plays drummer Tommy Lee in the film. His verse asks for “more sex, more tats, more blood, more pain” and goes on to list a bunch of other stereotypical rockstar stuff that supposedly inspired MGK as he pretended to be in Mötley Crüe for the duration of filming. It’s almost poetic how their 30-years-younger feature takes the “embracing the rockstar life” narrative and turns it into a narrative of thriving in it, but I doubt it’s any more meaningful than a coincidence.
Either way, the conclusion on both fronts is a typical too-cool-to-care rockstar move, and it works. The Dirt is a reminder of Mötley Crüe‘s glory(?) days that successfully makes you want to relive them via their debaucherous film.
By Miko Lisiak
Culture Club – ‘Let Somebody Love You’ (2018 – from Life)
Taken from 2018’s Life, the then four-piece’s first studio album in almost 20 years, Culture Club‘s Let Somebody Love You is a sun-drenched song that is sure to lift the spirits of anybody that decides to give it a listen. Although the band have not yet released anything since then, it is clear proof that the Karma Chameleon hitmakers still have the formula for the perfectly punchy pop song contained within them.
Now with a far rougher tone than his 1980’s heyday, frontman and songwriter Boy George‘s vocals offer a sense of wiseness and lived experience to his lyrics that detail his idea that “you’ve got to take the risk to allow yourself to be loved”. Ultimately, Let Somebody Love You is a hopeful song about love and is perfectly combined with a reggae-infused instrumental that makes a perfect jam to just sit back and relax to on the warm summer afternoons.
Unlike some of their contemporaries, it is refreshing to not see Culture Club try to recapture past youthful glories, and instead morph into an ideal display of ‘mature’ pop at its very best: reflective, wise, but ultimately still as catchy as anything they produced in the past. With George achieving a fairly successful appearance on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… this year, now is the perfect time for the band to enter their seventh album cycle – so let’s hope 2023 is the year for it.
By Callum Joynes