Elizabeth Nelson, writing in The Ringer, takes us on a musical journey of that faraway time of 1985. Inspired by season three of Stranger Things, she reminds us all how incredible that year was for music.
I was in high school and all these songs and artists take me back there. Personally, I was surprised by the ages of Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Tina Turner as well as the young upstarts of Madonna and George Michael. I did not remember “We Are The World” was created in 1985.
She ends her piece with a note about the differences between the stars of then and today.
Nostalgia is a potent cocktail and potentially dangerous in large doses. Like all businesses, the music industry is cyclical and susceptible to convulsive market forces and unforeseen technological shifts, developments that help to explain its vast contractions in recent years. Maybe, as Howard Jones put it in 1985, no one is to blame. But maybe there is some utility to looking back at the mid-’80s musical big tent as well. The paradox of the streaming era is that for all of its ostensible limitless access, it seems to create far fewer memorable and bankable stars. This is not a reflection on the current pool of talent, but it may be a referendum on how that talent is presented. If nothing else, the industry’s imperial phase is a reminder that big sellers need not emerge from careful market testing and microtargeted playlists. They gave us the full gamut—homegrown and exotic, ancient and modern, frothy and fretful—and we loved the unkempt lot if it. It was a wild world, but we are the world after all.