The Five Biggest Reasons '80s Music Gets a Bad Rap

Categories: Retro Active

Sorry to disappoint Kajagoogoo, but there was a lot more than this going on in '80s music.
The 1980s get picked on a lot, and to a degree that's understandable. Every decade starts looking goofy and dated in hindsight, and the fashions and pop culture milestones of each are often made fun of by later generations.

The '80s had plenty of excesses and fads we can all laugh at now, but unlike the preceding decades, it's often criticized as being a terrible period for music. Frankly, that is ridiculously untrue.

The 1980s were a "totally awesome" time for rock music in particular, despite what many people apparently believe. So why are those people mistaken, and on what do I base my defense of the musical contributions from the decade of shoulder pads and big hair?

Let's look at who started these "'80s sucked" rumors.

Sometimes one has to look at the folks who initially criticized something in order to understand why a belief becomes so firmly established years down the road. The decades immediately preceding the 1980s are commonly seen as a sort of golden age for music, and the Baby Boomers who grew up with the music of the 1960s and '70s as the soundtrack of their youth were starting to settle into middle age by the time the '80s rolled around.

We tend to love the music we grew up with; we identify with it, and it's very precious to many of us. For a lot of people, no music will ever be better than the stuff they were listening to between their adolescence and young adulthood. The flipside to bonding with the music of our youth is often a tendency to reject anything that radically departs from it.

5. Most people just don't like to leave their own musical comfort zone.
I grew up in the 1980s, and almost from the get-go had many Baby Boomers tell me that the music my friends and I listened to was complete garbage, or that it would never live up to the music that came out ten or more years earlier. Of course we rejected that opinion, but it was pretty common to hear at the time.

Photo by Marco Torres
Behold SLAYER. This was the antidote to Hair Metal in the '80s.
4. Every decade has had its share of great music and terrible music.
This should be a common-sense conclusion, but it's surprising how many people I talk to that seem to believe that the music of the 1980s was nothing but bad New Wave and hair metal, with a dab of stupid radio-pop thrown in for good measure. Conversely, the 1960s and '70s produced nothing but classic and eternal pop and rock music that is irrefutably superior to everything produced in the '80s.

First of all this is a completely subjective call. Secondly, the '80s was one of the most diverse decades in rock and pop history, producing many new genres of music. If anything, it was just as inventive a time period as the years prior to it, if not moreso.

Many people seem to fixate on '80s radio pop, as if that represented the entire musical landscape of the time. They also seem to conveniently forget that the '60s and '70s produced some phenomenally shitty music along with the good stuff. Such selective memory is necessary to fuel the silly idea that the whole decade was musically a wasteland, but it certainly isn't rooted in facts.

Yes, the '80s spawned some awful bands. It gave rise to crap like Milli Vanilli and Nelson, but the previous decade had its share of abominable junk like "Disco Duck." Sure, 1974 saw David Bowie release Diamond Dogs, but it also saw Terry Jacks release "Seasons in the Sun," so it's not as if any one decade has been without some musical low points. Good grief, the '70s gave us disco, that's gotta at least cancel out any outrage over New Wave in the next decade.

Story continues on the next page.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Excellent defense, but the 80s still...
I'm with on point #1 and part of #4. I fall into the group that like 60s and 70s music and feel that much of the 90s rivals it. Unfortunately, mainstream success is what tends to define a given decade's music, therefore the 80s suck.
Also, the "Classic Rock" format got rolling in the mid 80s, mainly because the new rock didn't measure up (I guess), but I don't fully agree because there were loads of bands with good songs that didn't get played very much.


The 1980s get picked on a lot, and to a degree that's understandable.

Did you actually pass 8th grade? FuckknHelll..... 


could this be any more obvious? "every decade has good and bad music." now that's deep stuff.


Ok, maybe I'm just missing something - as a "late boomer" (born in '56), I grew up listening to the bands of the 60's and 70's. The music of the 80's that I listened to didn't suck - at least, not to me! But for me, music was the sound of an electric guitar played HARD. So as music got harder, I went right along. From Jimi Hendrix, through Grand Funk, to bands like The Stooges, the MC5, David Bowie, Mott The Hoople. Then on to Slayer, Megadeth, Judas Priest, Pantera... Today I'm almost 58 and my main band is still Slayer, but I also listen to The Agonist, Dream Evil, Amon Amarth and many other bands. Yes, there were bands in the 80's that sucked, but every decade had them. As we do today. My only complaint about the current music scene is the near total death of radio (excluding satellite, but I don't subscribe to that). Houston, for example, has zero Rock stations. The so called "classic rock" stations wouldn't know classic rock if it bit them. Thankfully, I have USB sticks with thousands of MP3's (yes, I have the LP's and CD's they were "ripped" from) to listen to in my car.

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

From the Vault