When making these lists, I always wish that I could stuff 25 extra songs into the Top 50, but that is numerically impossible, so I will stick with my Top 50 New Wave Songs, no matter how imperfect it may seem. Plus, beginning today, I would like to offer a little commentary on each song.
If you are curious about great compilations of New Wave Music, and there literally seems to be hundreds of them with the same core songs, let me direct you toward a couple that I personally enjoy. First, and foremost, by far the greatest collection of New Wave is the 19-CD set by Rhino Records called Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80s. Initially, this set was released in three groups of five CDs over a year-and-a-half period of time in 1994 and 1995. Those CDs are essential in their coverage of genre, except if the company had waited possibly five more years to do the set Rhino might have been able to include songs by the big artists of New Wave, such as The Police, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello, Eurythmics, Joe Jackson, among others. Still, the set is impeccable. Now, over the four subsequent years, Rhino released four more CDs in the series: New Wave Xmas, New Wave Dance Hits, Ladies of New Wave and New Wave Halloween. These CDs were released with little fanfare, so with middling sales, you may have to pay top dollar for these four CDs.
Additionally, may I suggest a three-CD set from the United Kingdom’s Greatest Ever! label. This label has released many great compilations, but their Punk & New Wave box gives the listen a great view of the genre from Britain’s point of view. If you add this set to the Rhino set and pick up the greatest hits of the artists left off these collections, then your New Wave collection would be impeccable.
Let’s get going with the countdown…
50. After the Fire – “Der Kommissar” (1982). Shortly after Falco released the original version of this song in German, this new wave band recorded the English-version of the song with a little “rockier” sound into the Top 10 in the US.
49. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy” (1982). Adam & the Ants started the whole pop music with African rhythms sound, so manager Malcolm McLaren stole the Ants and teamed them up with jailbait singer Annabella Lwin, who was 13 when she joined the band. In 1982, the band released this gem of a cover of The Strangeloves’ hit, becoming an MTV. This song just might be the most ubiquitous New Wave song.
48. David Bowie – “‘Heroes'” (1977). If any artist could claim to be the godfather of new wave, David Bowie is one of the (and Roxy Music is the other). In 1977, Bowie traveled to Berlin with producer Brian Eno to create a “new” sound, which sounds an awful like new wave.
47. The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me” (1981). When this song hit the top position in the US during the summer of 1982, we all knew New Wave was the music of the moment. On their great album Dare, from which this song comes, the band wanted to make electronic music sound like a rock band. Mission accomplished!
46. Cyndi Lauper – “She Bop” (1983). I once read in an Al Franken book that he thought Cyndi Lauper was going to be the big female singing star of the 80s instead of Madonna. And, I was with now-Senator Franken. This is a flat-out great song, and one of the first that tackled the ticklish subject of female masturbation, pardon the pun. This song single-handedly (again, pardon the pun!) opened the door for subject matter for female singers and songwriters.
45. Eurythmics – “Would I Lie to You” (1985). After two albums of icy music juxtaposition with Annie Lennox’ soulful vocals, Eurythmics decided it was time to create a blue-eyed soul album. This was the lead single that pulled me further into the creative force of Dave Stewart’s songwriting. I say that Eurythmics and Duran Duran are the two New Wave bands that deserve a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
44. The Psychedelic Furs – “The Ghost in You” (1984). This haunting ballad grabbed me the first time I heard it while walking through the Students Center on the Ball State University campus. I immediately turned around at the end of the song and headed to the local record store to purchase the album. The album is outstanding, but this song lives on as a comment on the world of celebrity worship.
43. Wall of Voodoo – “Mexican Radio” (1982). This band never really got it due as a band. Wall of Voodoo kind of got pigeonholed as a one-hit wonder due to the novelty of the video for this song. Nothing they did could ever overcome the singer’s head rising through a pot of baked beans in the video. However, I saw them open for DEVO during a live satellite concert on Halloween of 1982. And, let me stress this again, as great a song “Mexican Radio” is, Wall of Voodoo was an even more talented band, as evidenced by their Call of the West album.
42. Talking Heads – “Burning Down the House” (1983). Since Talking Heads remains my favorite New Wave artist, I could have been biased and ranked many of their songs higher, but, in reality, this song was an inevitable end to their study of African rhythms and funk music. It remains one of the band’s more enduring songs in addition to their only Top 10 hit in the US.
41. Kajagoogoo – “Too Shy” (1983). This is flat-out a great song! This bassline is the best part of the song to me. And, to think that it might have never been recorded if not for a chance meeting between a budding lead singer of the band Limahl and Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Rhodes offered to produce the band, and the rest is history. And, we get a great bassist as a member of a band with one of worst names in rock history. But, rightfully, this song lives on.
Look at that group of ten songs. Now, those are some songs for the eternity. And, in my mind, this list only gets better. So, hold on for the rest of the week, as I unveil my Top 40 Favorite New Wave Songs.