New Wave Music in America

New Wave Music

New Wave: The New Wave movement emerged in the late 70s and grew in popularity throughout the 80s. Synthesizers, electronic beats, and experimentation with new sounds and styles characterized the genre.

New wave music was influenced by various musical styles, including punk rock, electronic music, funk, and 1950s and 1960s pop and rock. Some of the most influential artists influencing the new wave genre include the Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Kraftwerk, and Devo. Additionally, new wave was also influenced by the DIY ethos of punk rock, which encouraged experimentation and artistic freedom.

New Wave was partially a response to Punk Rock from the 1970s. New Wave emerged from the post-punk and punk rock scenes in the late 1970s, and the energy and DIY ethos of punk influenced many New Wave artists. However, New Wave also incorporated elements from other musical genres, such as electronic music, funk, and pop, to create a more diverse and eclectic sound. While punk rock was characterized by its raw energy, abrasive sound, and politically charged lyrics, New Wave was known for its more polished sound, use of electronic instruments, and danceable rhythms. Both punk and New Wave challenged the status quo and conventional forms of popular music, but they did so in different ways and with different aesthetics.

Important New Wave Bands

The Buggles
The Buggles were a London-based new wave band formed in 1977, composed of singer and bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes. Horn has been dubbed “the inventor of the 80s” due to his influence on the decade’s music. The Buggles rose to fame with their debut single, Video Killed the Radio Star, in 1979, which became a global hit, reaching number one in 15 countries and serving as the launch song for MTV in 1981. The song was included in the duo’s first album, The Age of Plastic, released in January 1980.

The B-52s
The B-52’s self-titled album was released on July 6, 1979, and included re-recorded versions of “Rock Lobster” and “52 Girls” and six original tracks created specifically for the album. The album also featured a cover of Petula Clark’s hit Downtown. It was a huge success, particularly in Australia, where it reached the No. 3 spot on the charts and spawned three hit singles: Planet Claire, Rock Lobster, and Dance This Mess Around. In the U.S., the single “Rock Lobster” made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the album was certified platinum by the RIAA. In 1980, John Lennon named the B-52 his favorite band and stated that “Rock Lobster” inspired his Double Fantasy album.

The B-52s ended the decade with their biggest hit, Love Shack,  in 1989.

Talking Heads
Talking Heads was an American rock band formed in New York City in 1975. The group consisted of David Byrne from Scotland on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Frantz on drums, Tina Weymouth on bass, and Jerry Harrison on keyboards and guitar. Recognized as “one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ’80s”, Talking Heads was a pioneer in new wave music and brought elements of punk, art rock, funk, and world music to the forefront with their distinctive, polished image.

Blondie is an American rock band formed in New York City in 1974. The band was initially composed of lead singer Debbie Harry, guitarist Chris Stein, keyboardist Jimmy Destri, drummer Clem Burke, and bassist Gary Valentine. Blondie quickly became a key player in the New York music scene, blending punk, pop, and reggae elements to create a unique and eclectic sound.

Blondie’s first two albums, Blondie (1976) and Plastic Letters (1977) received critical acclaim, but it wasn’t until the release of Parallel Lines (1978) that the band truly broke through to mainstream success. The album was a commercial hit, reaching No. 6 on the U.S. charts, and it featured the band’s first Top 5 hit, Heart of Glass. The album’s success established Blondie as a major force in the New Wave movement and helped to launch the band to international fame.

In 1980, Blondie released Autoamerican, which departed from the band’s earlier sound and featured funk, rap, and reggae elements. The album was a commercial success and produced several hit singles, including The Tide is High and Rapture, which became the first No. 1 hit for a rap song. The band’s next album, The Hunter (1982), marked another departure with a more experimental sound incorporating rock, funk, and soul elements. Although the album was a commercial disappointment, it was a critical success and is now considered one of Blondie’s classic albums.

Blondie’s influence on popular culture extends beyond their music, as Debbie Harry’s image became an iconic representation of the punk and New Wave movements. Her unique look, with her signature platinum blond hair and striking features, made her a fashion icon and paved the way for other female musicians to assert their own individual styles.

Quotes About New Wave Music

“New wave was more about a spirit of rebellion, a sense of excitement, a desire to shock and disrupt.”
– Ann Powers

“New wave is a label that people use to describe the music that was happening in the late ’70s and early ’80s that was independent of the punk scene.”
– Andy Taylor

“New wave was the musical and cultural manifestation of the desire for change and for a new way of doing things.”
– David Bowie

“New wave was the soundtrack of a generation’s restless search for identity.”
– Duran Duran

“New wave was a response to the stale, formulaic nature of mainstream rock music.”
– Gary Numan

“New wave was all about rejecting the status quo, and looking for new ways to express oneself and to make a connection with the world.”
– Joe Jackson.

New Wave Influence: 80s Soundtracks

New Wave music had a significant impact on 1980s movie soundtracks, as it provided a fresh and innovative sound that helped shape the era’s aesthetic. Many 1980s movies, particularly those in the sci-fi, fantasy, and action genres, featured New Wave-inspired soundtracks that helped to create a futuristic and otherworldly atmosphere.

  • The Breakfast Club (1985) – This iconic coming-of-age film’s soundtrack included New Wave tracks from Simple Minds, Oingo Boingo, and others and helped to popularize the genre among a wider audience.
  • Pretty in Pink (1986) – The soundtrack to this popular teen film featured tracks from New Wave artists like The Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, and others, and helped to solidify the genre’s popularity further.
  • Liquid Sky (1982) is a cult film often remembered for its innovative and eclectic soundtrack, incorporating elements of New Wave, electronic, and avant-garde music. The film’s score, composed by Anne Clark, was one of the first to use electronic instruments like synthesizers and drum machines to create an otherworldly, futuristic sound.

Here are a few ways in which New Wave music influenced 1980s movie soundtracks:

Use of Synthesizers: New Wave’s reliance on synthesizers and electronic instruments made it a perfect fit for the futuristic themes of many 80s movies. The distinctive, otherworldly sounds produced by synthesizers added a new dimension to movie soundtracks and helped to create a sense of awe and excitement.

Experimentation with Sound: New Wave’s willingness to experiment with new sounds and styles was also reflected in many 80s movie soundtracks. Filmmakers used the genre’s eclectic mix of electronic, funk, and pop elements to create fresh and innovative soundscapes.

Pop Sensibilities: New Wave’s pop sensibilities also made it a good fit for movie soundtracks. Many New Wave-inspired movie themes were upbeat, catchy, and memorable, which helped to enhance the emotional impact of scenes and make them more memorable for audiences.