Among the incredible number of reasons for which I am utterly jazzed about the return of Stranger Things to our barren Autumn screens, Season 2’s soundtrack is a living, breathing element of the show that is just as critical and demands as much anticipation as #JusticeForBarb.
In 1983, the mood in Hawkins was set with dark and mysterious tunes peppering the episodes, giving the audience subtle hints and pointers to the direction of the unfolding story. Psychedelic rock classics, including Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, fit perfectly with the chemically induced tales of Terry Ives, and the nightmarish Wonderland essence of the Upside Down.
Punk choices from The Clash and The Seeds complimented the tale of two brothers struggling with breaking through to the other side, so to speak. We saw Will battle with the physical barriers between this world and another, whilst Jonathan traversed between social circles. The tensions created by these driving beats gave an intriguing transition into the early 80s.
But now we’re in 1984. Reagan and Bush are in full swing, the Ghostbusters Halloween costumes have been made, and a new era of music has well and truly begun. Our favourite high schoolers have already given us a glimpse into what to expect, often providing the relief in Season 1 with more carefree vibes, blasting the likes of Modern English’s I Melt With You and hitting us with the crescendos of Toto’s Africa.
The feel-good stadium songs of the ‘80s, such as Van Halen’s infectious Jump will undoubtedly make an appearance. Yet, given the escalating sense of dread and danger we’ve seen from the trailers so far for the second chapter, it seems we should expect a contemporary soundtrack which creates as much fear as it does fun.
It’s clear that Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller will be included extensively, particularly as 1984 marked a defining year for the King of Pop, with him receiving 8 Grammy Awards and a 17-week top spot on the Billboard 200 chart for the album. Of course, the title track inspires an overall tone this time around, but songs from the record such as Beat It could be apt for a bit of teenage conflict, whilst P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing) is just right for a little budding romance from some of the younger characters.
From other artists of the day, we have a range of options which could carry potential storylines forward in very literal ways. If Nancy and Jonathan’s dreams of escaping Hawkins suburbia come to fruition, Bronski Beat’s synth-laden Smalltown Boy or A Flock of Seagull’s I Ran So Far Away would send the right messages, as well as compliment an undoubtedly synth-loaded score. Although it would be a couple of years in advance, perhaps we might hear from Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence would be fairly fitting with an emphasis on the culture of suppression espoused by Dr Brenner and his ominous lab, as would Rockwell’s debut single Somebody’s Watching Me.
Establishing a mood for those of the older generation of Indiana, something a little heavier could be in order. Although I’m still waiting for The Rolling Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown as a backing track for Joyce’s dances with the Demogorgon, Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell might be appropriate to document her descent into the dark. And for everyone’s favourite Chief, imagining Hopper dispensing some serious justice to the sounds of Queen’s Hammer to Fall and I Want to Break Free would be a fantastic moment to behold. Even better, how about a scene featuring both of our all-American heroes, Hopper and Steve Harrington, to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s soaring Born in the U.S.A.?
Whatever the weather, I’m sure the sound gurus have been working hard to provide Season 2 with an unforgettable score. If you’re just lining up a rewatch or you’ve already dove in, let us know what you think, and if so, which essential tunes are missing from the new season?