Dance Music in the 80s

Dance music underwent profound changes during the 80s. From Duran Duran’s glossy New Wave sound, Janet Jackson’s fiery anthems and Run-DMC’s powerful beats – dance music was driven by pop stars and teenage idols of its day.

Modern technologies have revolutionized musical instrumentation and sound production, lending music an electronic edge.

Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”

The early 1980s was an era of synthpop, disco and acid house music that electrified dance floors. Duran Duran’s glossy new wave music, Janet Jackson’s fiery anthems, Run-DMC’s booming beats and INXS’ sinewy sax-rock were all ubiquitous on club circuits during that decade; Soft Cell would become internationally famous thanks to their cover version of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love”, released as their debut single Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret in 1981 – setting them on their journey towards superstar status!

Soft Cell may have only had one popular single, but they had an enthusiastic fan base back home. Soft Cell was an innovative pioneering group of British synth-pop, experimenting with sounds that were both modern and retro at once. Their music incorporated arpeggiated synth riffs, pulsating bass lines, haunting vocal melodies that alluded to sexual decadence as well as themes like transexualism, drugs use and more into its soundscape.

Marc Almond’s feminine aesthetic and on-stage antics added an air of sexual debauchery that was particularly relevant in a pre-AIDS world, evidenced by their controversial 1981 video for their single “Sex Dwarf.” It featured nudity and spanking simulation, bizarre sound effects such as panting noises and primal screams from Almond himself.

Soft Cell’s music often touched on deeper aspects of human experience than most, like in their 1981 title track from their album of the same name. Almond’s operatic vocals perfectly juxtaposed against melancholic lyrics (“I’m going to find someone who won’t take cheap deals”) combined with melancholy piano chords create an emotive and emotive melancholic soundtrack evoking memories of an impossible love that should have been.

The production of this song is an astounding feat of engineering, featuring sting sections and synth stabs that create an unnerving tension over its bubbling bass line. Although seemingly simple in structure, its timeless composition still resonates strongly among gay men who would have appreciated its allusions to popular culture’s past and generational resonance during an era when AIDS was still an ongoing health concern.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax”

Frankie Goes to Hollywood descended onto dancefloors like an explosion, sparking widespread outrage, with their upbeat club mixes that asserted sexual and spiritual bliss were mutually inclusive experiences. Their sensual anthems like Relax were designed to convince listeners that inserting their fingers into someone else’s penis wasn’t simply an act of mere physical desire but was instead an expression of deep devotion and reverence for another human being.

Released late 1983 on ZTT Records, Relax was initially met with mixed reception; however, its success quickly took off following their appearance on Top of the Pops in January 1984 – leading to chart dominance throughout 1984 that would cement Relax as one of Britain’s most beloved groups from their generation.

Trevor Horn’s visionary production shines through on this song, taking an easy two-note hook and creating an extraordinary pop song anchored by Holly Johnson’s vocals that brought their 80s drama. A triumph of sound that electrified dance floors from high-class clubs to streamer-adorned school gymnasiums across America while sounding vital today.

Horn’s production of Relax was tasteful enough to avoid making its sexual lyrics cringe-inducing; using not only modern synths but also guitar, bass, and drums in its composition. This balance helped ensure Relax has endured as one of the essential dance songs from the 1980s.

Horn’s visionary work ensured that Relax would avoid falling into the same pitfall as other dance music of its time, which quickly went out of style. Duran Duran’s glossy New Wave sound, Janet Jackson’s fiery anthems, Run-DMC’s booming beats, INXS’ sinewy funk and George Michael’s soul music all came and went quickly; yet Relax has proven an enduring anthem which has aged well.

The song’s sexual overtones caused much controversy among critics who labeled its stagey and sophomoric content. John Creem criticized it as “a flim-flam scam of a sham aimed at taking as much money from young rubes before they realize they’ve been fleeced.” By 1997 however, its influence had become so widespread that an episode of Friends featured parody T-shirts featuring lyrics to this song which caused uproarious laughter from audiences watching live.

Cyndi Lauper – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”

Robert Hazard wrote and recorded “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which was intended as “kind of silly song,” in 1979 for Philadelphia rocker Robert Hazard’s demo album of a song called “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Unfortunately, it languished until Cyndi Lauper recorded her version on her debut album She’s So Unusual in 1983 – with some gender-sensitive changes, Lauper’s vibrant synthpop version became an international success, solidifying Lauper as one of most influential female voices of her time period.

Lauper’s interpretation of Hazard’s song shows her awareness of oppressive social practices against women. For example, she altered the first two verses so as to move the narrator’s interactions with her mother and father backwards into its historic roles (as opposed to directly following up on hostility towards female characters) thus emphasizing these injustices against female characters.

She added an electronic beat, speeding up the music and distorting her voice to make it sound like a trumpet; creating a distinctive sound reminiscent of instruments such as piccolo trumpet and soprano saxophone.

Lauper’s song and accompanying music video used this effect brilliantly; Lauper enlisted young girls to lip-sync to the record, giving emphasis to her message that young girls were not immune from economic pressures as adults and could use their youthful exuberance to fight injustice.

The 1980s was an unparalleled era for dance music, from Duran Duran’s glossy New Wave and Janet Jackson’s fiery anthems, Run-DMC’s booming beats, INXS’ sinewy saxorock and Prince’s energetic funk to INXS and INXS sinewy saxorock that powered dance floors from high-class clubs to streamer-covered school gymnasiums across the United States and beyond. These artists and other musicians burst onto the scene with an eclectic range of musical styles that resonated across class lines and racial boundaries, enabling everyone to experience music as something transcendent of ordinary experience that could be creatively appropriated to express individual creativity. It was an unprecedented level of democratic participation where anyone could make their own versions of hits that everyone was listening to.

The Cure – “Girls on the Run”

The ’80s saw no shortage of dance hits, from Duran Duran’s sensuous New Wave and Janet Jackson and Run-DMC’s bubbling funk to Culture Club’s infectious synthpop number “Twirling Visuals and Boy George’s One of a Kind Vocals”. However, one such dance hit that still sounds contemporary decades after first entering charts was Culture Club’s lively synthpop tune “Twirling Visuals and One of a Kind Vocals”.

Soft Cell’s cover of Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love” proves this point with its infectious “beep-boop” of synthesizers; their catchy hooks made this cover an instant classic! Soft Cell made the early ’80s their playground for synthesizer experimentation and often made impressive music with this genre’s catchy hooks; one such song being their cover of Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love”, featuring this catchy “beep-boop”. Perfect Hi-NRG; meant solely for dancing!

An ultimate list of 1980s dance music wouldn’t be complete without including something classic from Joy Division and their post-punk classic “Blue Monday,” performed by New Order in 1983. Their minimalist style can be heard throughout this ultra-polished synthpop track that blends guitar rock with an early-’80s sheen.

Kool & the Gang only ever reached number one on the charts once, yet their disco classic “Celebration” remains an irresistibly catchy and captivating wedding reception tune. Their infectious groove is unparalleled while the vocalist’s pitches were incredible – all combined with instrumentation that effortlessly combined dance music with elements of funk!

Prince was famous for blending different genres into his music, and few dance songs better represent this than his ’80s dance song “Let’s Go Crazy.” Featuring rock, funk, and synthpop elements – even if it wasn’t one of Prince’s megahits like “1999” or “Manic Monday”, “Let’s Go Crazy” stands as an unforgettable masterpiece in its own right.