Best ’80s Songs Popularized By New TV Shows

Kate Bush would have never thought that her 1985 song would hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts because of a Netflix sci-fi series. But given the immense fandom that Stranger Things has generated and the ’80s nostalgia it is built upon, “Running Up That Hill” has become one of the most talked-about songs today.

There’s something about the ’80s that impresses showrunners as well as fans, given the ways some of the decade’s musical classics have crept into influential TV scenes from recent years. This includes shows that particularly aim to recreate the decade like Stranger Things and GLOW and even shows that are set in modern times such as The Boys and The Sopranos.


10 Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) – Stranger Things

Stranger Things Gaten Matarazzo Sadie Sink Caleb McLaughlin and Joe Keery as Dustin Max Lucas and Steve Running up that Hill scene

While “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was one of Bush’s most identifiable works back in the day, the song found new life as it turned out to be the ideal needle drop to weaken Vecna, the strongest of the Stranger Things villains. After Max uses it to defeat the other-worldly creature, even Lucas goes on to become a Kate Bush fan (much like the show’s audiences).

Ever since it first played in season 4, “Running Up That Hill” turned out to be an instant hit for an entirely new generation of fans. The result was Bush’s song topping worldwide music charts after more than three decades since its release.

9 Don’t Stop Believin’ – The Sopranos

The Soprano family sitting at the dinner in the final scene of The Sopranos

A story of two dreamers and a motivational anthem of sorts, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is a rock classic that has appeared in countless movies and shows. But it clearly seems like the most unlikely choice to close a grim crime drama such as The Sopranos.

In what is arguably one of the most polarizing TV series endings of all time, Tony Soprano meets up with his family at a diner. His usual everyday tussles in his criminal and personal life aren’t over yet but he decides to take a break and spend some family time. Over the years, the Journey song’s inclusion in this scene has been debated among fans, and it was reportedly chosen because the crew disliked it (per Screen Rant), but what cannot be denied is that The Sopranos has definitely changed the way viewers heard it earlier.

8 Various Billy Joel Songs- The Boys

The Boys Hughie Mother's Milk and Starlight in car listening to Billy Joel

Contrary to the bleak humor and graphic violence that The Boys evokes, Hughie has a harmless music taste, heavily idolizing the “Piano Man.” With its last two seasons, The Boys is bound to regenerate interest in Billy Joel’s discography.

Hughie’s interest is personal given how his mother (who left him at the age of six) used to throw Billy Joel-themed parties with him. In the sophomore season, Hughie and Starlight can be seen joyfully singing along to “We Didn’t Start The Fire” in one of the series’ lighter moments. On the other hand, in moments of tension, a song like “Pressure” closes one of the episodes. In the third season, viewers can also hear “Uptown Girl,” as the perfect representation of the seemingly unequal romance between Hughie and Starlight in The Boys.

7 Burning Heart – Cobra Kai

Split image of Johnny Lawrence and the Rocky IV soundtrack

Given the fact that it’s a sequel to the ’80s classic The Karate Kid, Cobra Kai is filled with several classic rock songs. Protagonist Johnny Lawrence seems to be stuck in the past, so as a result, the ’80s is the only decade that his playlist covers, ranging from hits by Twisted Sister to Mötley Crüe.

However, it is Survivor’s “Burning Heart” that perfectly suits Johnny’s character as he gets back to training after he challenges his longtime foe Danny LaRusso. As he plugs in his Walkman and starts working on his skills, it is only obvious for a song from the rocky movies to play in the background. Apart from recording their breakout hit “Eye of the Tiger,” the rock band Survivor also recorded “Burning Heart,” a power ballad that serves as Rocky Balboa’s training song in Rocky IV.

6 Danger Zone – Archer

Archer tapping Kenny Loggins on the shoulder

Kenny Loggins’ adrenaline pump “Danger Zone” is back in popular conversation after the release of Top Gun: Maverick. but before that, Archer was the show to add to its popularity in the 2010s.

One of Sterling Archer’s favorite songs, he can be heard making several references pertaining to it across different seasons. The show’s fascination with Kenny Loggins reached a new height when Loggins himself hopped in for a cameo in the adult animated series. In this episode, Loggins even ends up singing an acoustic rendition of the track along with the Archer main character Charlene.

5 Panic – Black Mirror

frank and amy discover simulation in black mirrors hang the dj

Clocking at a little over two minutes, “Panic” by The Smiths sounds like a feel-good song on the surface. But on closer observation, it seems to have pretty bleak lyrics such as the repetitive refrain “Hang the DJ.” It only seems fair for such a song to appear in a lighter episode from an otherwise-dark series like Black Mirror.

Considered as one of the best Black Mirror episodes, “Hang the DJ” is an interesting look at the future of dating services as two individuals meander through hopeless relationships and simulations until they find the perfect one for them. By the time the episode builds up to a final twist, “Panic” can be heard playing explaining the episode’s title. The ending is surely a delight for The Smiths fans while also introducing younger viewers to the 1986 alternative rock classic.

4 Stand By Me – Euphoria

Euphoria Season 2 Lexi Fez

Even though Ben E King’s romantic classic “Stand By Me” was first released in 1961, the song resurged in popularity in the ’80s with its 25th-anniversary re-release in 1986. The second time around, the song also accompanied a movie of the same name that is regarded as one of the best Stephen King adaptations.

As for this year’s Euphoria season 2, the song plays out in a particularly heartwarming scene involving the characters Fez and Lexi. The two end up watching Stand By Me one day and cry towards the end. To cheer up the mood a little, they end up playing the song and singing along in a laidback manner. Given the positive reactions that both characters have generated, this particular moment ended up winning over hearts on the internet.

3 The Warrior – GLOW

A neon wrestler defeating two others in the animated intro of GLOW

The Patty Smyth-fronted rock outfit Scandal recorded “The Warrior” as the first single off their sophomore album warrior. Doubling as an ’80s power anthem and an energetic love song, the song has not only be featured in the soundtrack for GTA Vice City but it also got more airplay after getting featured as the opening theme for the Netflix comedy series GLOW.

Dealing with the misadventures of the “Glorious Ladies of Wrestling”, GLOW is set in the midst of a nascent female pro-wrestling world of the ’80s. The opening sequence features some quintessentially-80s animation complete with neon LED lights and abstract shapes. With “The Warrior” supporting the animated sequence, it makes for an unskippable intro.

2 Footloose – The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy cast dancing to Footloose

The Umbrella Academy has its fair share of musical moments, often incorporating absurdist humor in the process. Just take for instance how the first episode of the latest season kicks off. With Diego under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance, Diego ends up thinking that the rival academies are having a dance-off instead of a hand-to-hand fight.

And what better song for a dance-off than “Footloose”! The title track to the dance movie of the same name, “Footloose” is one of those timeless songs that can instantly cheer one’s mood. Along with this scene and footloose star Kevin Bacon recreating the dance with his wife Kyra Sedgwick on Instagram, 2022 seems to be the year of footloose‘s recovery.

1 Master Of Puppets – Stranger Things

Eddie playing Master of Puppets

From “Should I Stay or Should I Go” to “Running Up That Hill,” Stranger Things is the ultimate show to reintroduce 80s hits. The second part of the latest season is no exception. While “Running Up That Hill” makes another appearance, the standout track this time is Eddie Munson playing the guitar to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”

Yet again using music to distract Vecna’s forces, the scene involving “Master of Puppets” intercuts between Eddie playing the six strings and the rest of the characters battling against Vecna ​​in their own unique ways. The sequence became instantly viral and Metallica themselves released an Instagram statement touching upon how honored they were for their 1986 hit to be featured in such a pivotal scene.

NEXT: 10 Best TV Show Theme Songs, According To Ranker

Split image of Max and Vecna ​​in Stranger Things

Stranger Things: 10 Wild Theories About Max’s Season 5 Arc, According To Reddit

About The Author

Leave a Comment