In the early 2000s a subgenre of electronic music, synthwave, was born. Taking inspiration from everything from terrible explainer videos to workout videos. Here’s our list of the best synthwave tracks inspired by the 80s.
The 80s is the era that keeps giving. Characterized mainly by the word “excess”, it’s a time we reflect on with a sense of humor, but also, increasingly, a sense of fascination. Big hair, bright colors and shoulder pads were never in short order back then. Science fiction and horror films were being released at a dizzying pace. And video games on consoles like Atari were turning a generation of kids’ eyes square. Threading through it all was a revolutionary music genre at the time, electronic music.
Inspired by the era, in the early 2000s a subgenre of electronic music, synthwave, was born. Taking inspiration from everything from terrible explainer videos to workout videos, for nearly two decades artists have been emulating and building on the style of 80s electronic music, sometimes modernizing it, and sometimes trying to be as authentic to the era as possible.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at 18 of the best synthwave tracks inspired by the 80s.
Suited to an 80s montage where all the characters are actioning some sort of secret plan to hack into the mainframe, “The Cyberpunk” by AirportMusic will seduce the listener into focusing on the action at hand. It has a persistent, driving rhythm behind it, but the synth patterns avoid being too busy.
“Synthpop 1982” lives up to its name by sounding very authentically 80s. It has the spacey synth voices, a woosh of ambience coming in and out, and then very real sounding drums underneath, making it seem extremely 80s synth rock band. Very cool if you’re producing a period piece.
Right from the first beat this track steals attention. From SunsetLover, “Upbeat & Uplifting Synth Pop” lives up to its name by commanding attention, and brightening the mood. Your project is sure to draw the entire room’s attention with a song like this.
Looking for something with a bit of intensity? This might be the one for you. It’d be perfect for, say, announcing launch of a new line of Tesla vehicles (Elon, are you reading?) or a new gaming console. It creates a coolness that’s striking, and will be sure to leave an impression on your audience.
Here’s a track that you could convince was actually from the 80s. The voices used for the drum pattern, as well as the swelling synth make it feel authentically from the era. And the moody chord progression really matches the style that we now associate with the 80s. It’s full of angst.
A very Kavinsky sounding tune, this one has a driving beat with authentically 80s synth voices on top. The deep lower end synth pattern that works as the bass gives the track gravitas. While the lead synth line, with a complementary tinkling pattern on top, makes it feel very full.
Feeling both retro and modern, this track by Akoahi would work perfectly in a scene that needed that extra touch of intensity. The commanding drum pattern, synth rhythm pattern and lead guitar, complemented by some light synth on top, is the perfect fit for a training montage, or car chase or pretty much anything a bit serious and intense.
Sounding like something you would actually hear turning on the radio in the 80s at any given time, “80s Modern Synthwave” by BattleAngel is a great track. With all the synth voices authentically from that era, and a driving snare drum that sounds real, it’s truly lives up to its name.
And why not end with something that sounds like it should be playing over end credits? “Cloudwalker” by Mellau is a mix of the old and the new. With synth voices that sound snatched from the 80s, but a drum pattern that’s crisp and modern, it’s the best of both worlds. And the bright sounding layers, mixed with a broody chord progression, create angst in the listener that feels very tangible and 80s.
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