Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill is now over 300 million downloads 20+ years after its release, which is more than 200 million more than her number two song. The success of Bush’s song on Stranger Things had me thinking of what other tracks from the 80s / 90s could ride a similar wave. I think what helped Bush is that her song is amazing and a lot of new music has kind of found its way back to the synthy moody alt music of the late 80s / early 90s. So, I had a look for tracks in the 80s / 90s that are similar to the retro structures of today and are amazing gems that have lost their lustre. Much like Kate Bush’s track, the original had to have some success (the original track hit the top 40 in 1986), has to be a solid song and has the formula necessary to chart well today.
Depeche Mode: Never Let Me Down Again
Released in 1987, Never Let Me Down Again was a fire track, and probably one of the band’s biggest tracks until Violator takes over 1990. This track is quite similar to Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill in structure and shares the same ingredients for success. There is some dark synth that mirrors a lot of music today, a killer vocal by Gahan and very catchy verses / hooks. I think this track would do really well and it has a cinematic vibe, which would play well in a prestige show.
Nirvana: Heart Shaped Box
Nirvana’s follow up to Nevermind was not nearly as seismic, but a bold and creative evolution for the band. The record calls on indie record god Steve Albini to move from the high production of Butch Vig to a more raw sound. Heart Shaped Box is a clear example of this as guitars crunch and whine as Cobain tries to scream over them in a blistering chorus. This track has already featured on Westworld, in an orchestral form, to critical and public success. Plus, Nirvana has never gone out of popularity, so I think this song could do well.
Crazy Sexy Cool is the massive follow – up to their debut in 1992 and has some of their biggest tracks on it. Waterfalls is one of the biggest tracks off that record, but has largely fallen out of the popular consciousness. With the rise of female rappers, R&B artists like Beyoncé and SZA and Mary J Blige rocking the Super Bowl, I think this 90s era female R&B would do really well. The lyrics, harmonies and lush groove to this song will make it an instant winner.
The Fugees: Ready or Not
In 1996 The Fugees broke through, which led to one of the best hip hop records ever recorded…which of course is The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. There is a lush soul sample running under tight snare and pounding bass. Wyclef and Pras try their best, but Lauryn Hill steals this track and makes it her own. Due to the success of Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Doja Cat and Little Simz, I think Hill being front and centre in this track will help get it going.
Duran Duran: Ordinary World
One thing about tracks that get a second life in TV or movies, you have to hit on something a little cheesy. Now, I would never say that Duran Duran is cheesy…but…let’s just say the acoustic guitar and synth drums in this track have not aged well. However, this track has one of the best chorus breakdowns in all of recorded sound. This is one of the few tracks that I skip the verses just to get to the chorus. You can really throw down on this chorus and it stands up quite well lyrically. I think when this chorus kicks in during Stranger Things Season 6 it will melt Spotify.
New Order: True Faith
Synth and electro pop are coming back and the pioneers of electro pop are due to a second life. Some can argue that they got that second life with Blue Monday featuring in almost every form of media a few years ago, but I think the masses are ready for another New Order hit. True Faith is not at catchy as the bass line and synth in Blue Monday, but it has the same edgy electro industrial feel with some catchy hooks and verses.
Public Enemy: Welcome to Terrordome
One of the hardest hitting hip hop records out there, it is time for Public Enemy to get another life. Fight the Power is Rolling Stone’s number 2 song on their top 500, but I think Welcome to the Terrordome would do well with another look. It had a little life as the opening verse played in a Nike commercial a few years ago, but we need to really feature this track. Chuck D is setting the world on fire with bars that cut to the heart or racism in America. I think this is a track that has a modern structure with timeless bars.
Smashing Pumpkins: Spaceboy
This is a trippy grunge ballad with some of Billy’s best vocal work. I love the mix of romanticism, ecstasy and disinterest in this voice, which acts as a great counter to the harder edges of the instrumentation. Unlike other Pumpkins’ tracks, this has more of an epic uplifting feeling to it…as opposed to the soul crushing exhaustion of later records. I think this track, and this record, would do well with a second life.
Joy Division: Transmission
All I can say is that my wife likes this track and she thinks Joy Division is the downfall of music. Probably best known for Love Will Tear us Apart, this is one of their forgotten gems. It is less industrial than their other tracks and has an upbeat chorus, which you can’t say about many of their tracks. I think Ian’s vocal is probably the most accessible on this track and it has a real groove to it. Plus, any song that tells you to dance is a winner.
REO Speedwagon: Time to Fly
The Wagon…what else is there to say? This is the oldest track on the list coming out in 1978, but I needed a song that is so cheesy it is art. Now, Time to Fly definitely fits into that category. This song is epic in every way. There are huge vocal jumps, rousing harmonies, 70s guitar solo cheese and a chorus a cactus would have to sing along to. I’m listening to this record as I write this. Man, I just bled into Roll With the Changes …could this be the best record ever made?
I hope you liked the post and we’ll see if any of these tracks make it to the screen. Let me know what you think in the comments.