Music of the ‘80s Thrives in TV Shows, Movies and on The Straz Stage

The term “guilty pleasure” seems as though it should refer to dark, twisted impulses, descriptions of which are best left to gothic horror writers.

OG gothic horror queen Morticia knows everyone’s guilty pleasures.

Instead, it means we like some bit of entertainment deemed insignificant by the critics and acquaintances we’ve made our cultural overlords: a Top 40 hit everyone claims to hate now (“MMMBop,” anyone?); a Dan Brown novel; or any movie Drew Barrymore has made as an adult.

Try to get this song out of your head now (we’re so sorry).

OK, none of the above challenged our perceptions, caused us to reflect or changed the world. But neither did those latter-day Radiohead albums everyone claims to love now; a Jonathan Franzen novel; or any Judi Dench movie that’s not from the Fast and Furious franchise.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with seeking art that provokes, inspires or in any way makes you think. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to be entertained: to dance, sing along to a simple chorus, and revel in songs you’ve loved for decades.

There was plenty of significant, challenging, resonant music made in the 1980s. There also were plenty of catchy, fluffy, bouncy tunes – each usually accompanied by a catchy, fluffy, bouncy video screening on then-new MTV – being made at the same time.

The latter is what you’ll hear most at Lost 80’s Live, a multi-act concert playing The Straz’s Morsani Hall on Sept. 10.

Despite the tour title’s contention, very little from the ‘80s seems to have been lost. In fact, many of that decade’s cultural artifacts are almost as prevalent now as they were in their heyday.

No, Indy, the ’80s wasn’t THAT long ago (yet).

Kate Bush finally had a U.S. hit with 1985’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” after it was used this season in an episode of Nexflix’s Stranger Things. Top Gun: Maverick brought the return of Tom Cruise’s Navy pilot character and his presumed walk-up music (Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,”). Hits from the 1980s such as “Tainted Love,” “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” “Take on Me” and “Careless Whisper” have been covered and sampled enough that they’re familiar to listeners born well after the 1980s.

The music of the ’80s is alive and well in pop culture today, especially in nostalgia-driven shows like Stranger Things.

Of the seven acts on the Lost 80’s Live bill, only The English Beat got much affection from critics. The rest were written off as gimmicky and increasingly dependent on videos to sell their records.

Some acts definitely had striking visual images: Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio in an acrylic bikini, for example, or the presumably aerodynamic hairdos of A Flock of Seagulls’ Mike Score. Colors that flashed and clashed, bleach blond cotton candy tresses with neon streaks, clothes that seemed to be tailored at an angle – anything eye-catching and a little bit off was in.

“I Ran (So Far Away)” was A Flock of Seagulls’ first (and only worldwide) hit single.

The lyrics weren’t timeless poetry: “Everybody Wang Chung tonight”?! You can turn your band’s name into a verb, just like that? How does one wang chung, anyway? The lyrics offer no clues. Perhaps we’ve been wang chang-ing all this time and not known it. Then what?

All right, so style bests substance here. This is not the music you sat around listening to until dawn, discussing life and philosophy with increasingly slurred pronunciations. This is music you cranked up on your car radio, that got you on the dance floor, that made you feel giddy and happy and carefree. Well, that and the wine coolers. The English Beat, Missing Persons, A Flock of Seagulls and Wang Chung will be joined by Naked Eyes, Stacey Q and Musical Youth for a show full of pleasures musical and visual. Just not guilty ones.

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