With the release of the Netflix series Stranger Things, synthwave became a widely recognised sound. The 80s throwback show, about a gang of friends in middle America uncovering a mystery, proved to be a massive hit. Whilst Drive had converted a generation of cinephiles to the nostalgic, eerie sound of synthwave, now the fledgling scene was thrust into the heart of pop culture.
Whilst few would recognise important names like Mitch Murder, Power Glove, Jordan F, Com Truise, or indeed S U R V I V E, who soundtracked Stranger Things, their sound was now recognised. The droning, moody sound of synthwave had found its first smash hit, a Grammy-nominated soundtrack that reached No.1 on the US iTunes charts.
So, where now? From nerds fiddling with keyboards in their garage to soundtracking a cultural phenomenon, the genre has come a long way. Is there much further it can go? Truthfully, no.
The charm of synth music is that innocence, the fact that at it’s heart, synth music is still the result of nerds fiddling with keyboards in their garage. It has the distinctly idiosyncratic sound of creators who are on the fringes of pop culture looking in. Despite its entirely digitised production, synth music is highly personal, and contains all the weird quirks of the people who make it. Forget indie rock, this is as grass roots as it gets.
This is not a style that is going to catch on in the mainstream, it isn’t for everyone, and truth be told it isn’t anything new either. A cynical listener would note the very obvious references to the pioneering work done back in the 80s. Take the Stranger Things theme itself, which sounds exactly like a track from the Risky Business soundtrack.
There is one way we may see a synthwave track on the Billboard charts: and that is through remixing. 80s tinged remixes of current pop music have proven popular and they are the perfect way to introduce the genre to an even wider audience.
It could be that synthwave will decline when our love of 80s nostalgia finally runs dry (whenever that is). However for those of you with no experience of synthwave, now is the time to get on board.
This weird little subgenre is in it’s heyday, and continues to delight with tales of summers lone gone, sighing nostalgic reflection and stormy city nights.
This is the final in a three part series. See our companion playlist for a sampler of the synthwave scene. If you want the synthwave cool text generator, it’s free to use here.