Sunday, July 31, 2011

The 250 Greatest New Wave Songs

Having made my own 80s list and having perused the web for other 80s list, one confounding factor in the ordering of such lists appears to be the issue of whether a song was a really good song that happened to be made in the 80's versus whether or not the song exuded eightiesness, however one might choose to define eightiesness.  I think there are at least three schools of how eightiesness can be archetyped.  There's the 80's archetype of big hair pop metal bands like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Ratt, etc.  There's the 80's archetype of mid-80s MTV megastars like Madonna and Michael Jackson, and then there's the 80's archetype of early 80's MTV new wave bands.  The latter category is probably the only one I find terribly interesting.

Though not explicitly defined as an 80s list, and though the #1 song is actually from the late 70s, I was impressed with this post on the 250 Greatest New Wave Songs.  There are short comments on the first 45 songs on the list, most of which I thought were right on target.  I wouldn't have put the Talking Heads in the top 5 myself.  They would be in my no-wave top 5 [correction Apr 2013: that would have been wrong, but this is why I've always been confused], but this list quite reasonably views new wave a bit more broadly.  I'd also have the Human League higher up than #22, probably in the top 5.  Heaven 17 is missing from the list itself, but they're well represented by commenters.

I found Safety Dance at #6 affirming.  There was a brief time that that was my very favorite song.  In the short run, it did not stand the test of time well at all, but in the long run, it turns out that it may legitimately help define an era.  The Smiths at #13 and The Violent Femmes at #16 are a bit questionable on account of them not being new-wavey enough to chart so high, but I'm surprisingly unbothered by The Clash at #17 with "Rocking the Casbah".  I would have balked at earlier Clash songs making the list, but they were pretty indistinguishable from a new wave band by the time they were on MTV with "Rocking the Casbah".

Flock of Seagulls is way too low at #134.  I realize it's a song list and not a fashion list, but their sound is synonymous with their new wave hairdos for me.  David Bowie's "Let Dance", a top 10 contender in my opinion, is missing, but other songs from the album make the list, and I can't complain about lists that try to avoid oversaturation with individual albums.  The Psychedelic Furs show up only once (at #49 with the wrong song), and Bauhaus and Siouxie and the Banshees are mysteriously absent.  Cross-over to commercial radio may have been a bigger factor in the rankings than I would have made it.  Martha and the Muffins are also missing from the list, but they show up in a couple of comments.

What do you think?  If it's a new wave list as opposed to an eighties list, who moves up the chart the most?  Who is borderline for making it as a new wave act?


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