Sam’s Song Recs: 10 Modern Songs Full of 80s Nostalgia


Between my love of Back to the Future and the musical Heathers, it’s safe to say that the 80s is my favorite decade. This is probably largely thanks to the bestselling novel Ready Player One, which is basically a story about teenagers fangirling over 80s pop culture. I adore both that book and all of the great 80s music in the movie. One of my go-to playlists is the Ready Player One inspired list on Spotify. It’s definitely one of my go-to listens when I get tired of my normal rotation. Today, instead of poaching my favorites from that playlist, I’ve compiled some of my favorite songs not written in the 80s, but inspired by or that have nods to the 80s. Plus, at the end, find out which 80s songs are my dad’s favorites! He lived through the 80s (jealous!) so he’s got the deets on all of the lesser-known hits that we should all know!


Dreamers is one of my favorite bands right now, and this pick is from their album titled This Album Does Not Exist. One of my favorite lines in this song is “Dreamin’ like it’s 1984, dancing like the talking heads.” This just proves my point that the 80s are presented as a dreamlike, technicolor world that I’d really like to live in!

This one’s a no-brainer. Not only is it a classic song in itself, but it references plenty of 80s classics, too!

Wouldn’t it be great to get your number on a napkin? I sure think so, and so does this catchy Fly by Midnight song. Vinyl is an ode to returning to the old-fashioned tradition of meeting a lover in a coffee shop and dancing the night away. Though I don’t own a record player, I can definitely see why they’ve come back to the spotlight in recent times.

This song is the perfect mix of gorgeous piano chords, synth and blunt lyrics. I love the ode to the sidekicks in 80s films almost as much as I love the beat behind this track.

Here’s the second of three songs called “1985” on this playlist! It’s, of course, my favorite song on this playlist because it’s Hotel Apache and I love them. This song has all the vibes of calling your boyfriend or girlfriend from under the covers after the lights are out. This song also hits with me on a personal level—some of the lyrics are about not wanting your partner to change to make you happy. So, here’s some unsolicited love advice: make sure that the person you love knows they don’t have to be someone they’re not to make you happy! Because if you’re not yourself with the person you love, who are you yourself around? Okay, back to the music.

The past few years have seen a surge in songs that compare modern relationships to plastic and lament the loss of the “real.” See “Cheap Sunglasses” by RAC and Matthew Kona and “Old School” by Urban Cone. One of the most popular of these songs is “Classic” by MKTO. This song was big when I was a freshman in college—I actually sang it at karaoke one night. Without a doubt, this song is an “80s best.”

Habits is definitely my favorite Neon Trees album. This song is all nostalgia and dynamite. Haven’t we all wanted to go back and replay some of the best moments in our lives? The narrator of this song wants to go back to 1983, and I can’t say I blame him.

1985 was a good year! I used to have this song on repeat continuously. The twinkling in the background is nothing short of magical, and the references to nature paint a vivid picture in my mind.

It’s about time I share my love of Latin music with you all! Farruko is a Reggaeton/ Latin Trap artist whose album Visionary dominated my Spotify during my freshman year of college. Back to the Future is one of my favorites from the album, and if you like this one, you should listen to the FULL album, in order. As you should with most albums.

I can stand the test of time, like Harrison Ford! Even though headphones remain a dominant part of our society to this day (I don’t leave the house without my Beats), something about a big blocky pair of black headphones just screams 80s. The song itself is as addicting as a good John Hughes movie.

Finally, I asked my dad, Ken, for his favorite song from the 80s. Here’s what he had to say:

“This is way too hard!! So many great albums/songs to chose from, I could pick 100.  Heart’s 1985 album included the hits What about Love, Never and These Dreams.  It also included a lesser known track called If Looks Could Kill about a woman scorned and her message to her soon to be ex-lover. Ann Wilson belts out her threats like no one else can, and this song is one of my all-time favorites.”


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