The tragic death and beautiful rebirth of new wave

New wave music was going to last forever.

At least, that was the sentiment when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 1984. Heading into the New Year, new wave was riding a wave that seemed like it would go on forever and ever. The Billboard charts were dominated by the likes of Culture Club and Duran Duran, and the sub-genre began to diversify itself, going into the deep, dark depths of the genre (Depeche Mode) and the funkiest of grooves (Prince and basically every funk band out during this period).

But something happened during ‘84 that would transform music and bring about the sudden end of the genre.

Michael Jackson.

Two years earlier, in the midst of the new wave boom, Jackson dropped Thriller, which would go on to become the second biggest selling album of all-time. Thriller changed the game in pop music, and by the end of the year, nobody wanted to listen to groups like Culture Club and Duran Duran, they wanted Michael, Madonna, and Run D.M.C.

Not only did the shift in pop music kill off new wave, but other genres were also picking off the dying corpse of the sub-genre. Rock music was becoming the theme of the day also, and hip-hop was growing and expanding by leaps and bounds.

Thanks to the advance style of music, many of new wave’s greatest bands simply couldn’t keep up with the change of the times, and, just like disco acts, many new wave bands simply faded from view by the end of 1985.

Sure there were a few that did survive the slaughter, like Eurythmics and Fine Young Cannibals, and the genre did attempt to modernize their sound, with groups such as Yello and Dead or Alive bringing a more contemporary beat to the mix.

But it wasn’t enough as by the end of the ‘80s, new wave was all but dead. But such a funky and diverse genre such as new wave can’t stay dead for long, and by the beginning of the new millennium, artists and fans were starting to once again show interest in the sound that dominated music in the beginning of the ‘80s.

When you listen to a lot of the hits that are on the radio today, you will hear touches and traces of the old new wave sound, especially in electronic dance music, which is laced with the sound that many who were listening to music during new wave’s heyday would instantly recognize, with such artists as Passion Pit and Daft Punk carrying new wave's ever-burning torch. 

In a lot of ways, this was the cycle new wave was destined to go through. The gritty rise, the incredible high, the sudden death, and the beautiful rebirth of a genre that changed popular music forever.