August 11, 2011 | by Juliette Ebner
Party like it’s 1989

Erasure in their '80s heyday. (Photo courtesy of Warner Music Group)

With the return of legendary alt-rock radio station HFS, now broadcasting on 97.5 FM, and an array of ’80s acts going on tour this fall, the decade that brought us MTV is back on everyone’s radar.

“The ’80s cannot be compared to any other decade,” says Trent Vanegas, the gay blogger at pinkisthenewblog.com. ”It is special in that not only was it beloved in its own time, but it has remained consistently cool to be loved by young and old.”

Kevin Phinney, the gay author of “Souled American: How Black Music Transformed White Culture,” agrees, adding that in “an era of past eras” there hasn’t been anything new since the ’80s.

Pat Benatar, who first hit the scene in 1979, recently started a tour with a stop in D.C. and she’s not the only one. More acts that originated in the ’80s are heading out once again and playing multiple venues in the area.

Erasure, with gay singer Andy Bell, will be performing at 9:30 club (815 V St., N.W.) on Sept. 6-7. This is the group’s first U.S. tour in more than five years and comes after the announcement of their first new album in four years, “Tomorrow’s World” to be released Oct. 4.

Another group hitting the road soon is OMD. Following a highly praised run earlier this year, they’ll be making 21 stops, including Rams Head Live (20 Market Place) in Baltimore on Sept. 19.

OMD’s newest album, “History of Modern,” was released last fall and has sold about 100,000 copies worldwide.

Also coming to town are Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger on Aug. 28 and Stevie Nicks on Sept. 3. Both concerts will be at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow.

Artists from the ‘80s are also revived with the help of younger artists through covers and track sampling.

“A lot of these acts are associated with very good and warm early memories for people,” Phinney says.

According to Vanegas, one of the most popular rooms on the new music social media site turntable.fm is the ”I ♥ The ’80s” room and young pop star Selena Gomez (born in 1992) celebrates all things ’80s in her music video for “Love You Like a Love Song,” including big hair, ’80s graphics, a light saber and more.

“I think everything, musically, started in the ’80s,” says local DJ Jason Royce. “The ’70s was cool and disco was what it was and the ’90s were all over the place … but … all the cool trends … started in the ’80s.”

Royce started spinning retro hits at Cobalt and now does a weekly retro night at Secrets, playing everything from late ’70s to early ’90s (the only way he can slide “Vogue” into his playlist).

“I think that’s why a lot of current artists sample and cover ’80s music,” Royce says.

Rihanna’s single, “SOS” sampled the key section, bass line and drum beat from Soft Cell’s 1981 hit “Tainted Love.” Girl Talk, which specializes in mashups and digital sampling, has released five records with tracks that sample from every decade including many from the ’80s, stringing retro hits together with new songs. And No Doubt covered Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” as an additional track to their greatest hits album.

Stevie Nicks during her 'Bella Donna'-era '80s smash run. Nicks plays Nissan on Sept. 3. (Photo courtesy of Warner Music Group)

Another big source of ’80s covers is the hit series, “Glee,” which has brought many songs back to the forefront like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” classic Madonna songs such as “Like a Virgin” and a few Michael Jackson songs including “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).”

“Artists like Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna — who I call the Holy Trinity of the ’80s — are looked to as … musical deities,” Vanegas says. “There is an inherent nostalgic love that comes with those decades in particular but ’80s music has become a staple … in commercials, in movies, at house parties DJed by the most in the know kids.”

These are some of the same artists Royce says are the obvious must plays for DJs, the “key divas,” but that other ’80s artists shouldn’t be ignored, like Rick Astley, Shelia E and Tiffany, not to mention specific songs that must be played.

“There are things that people love and they kind of like to hear, like ‘Mickey’ and ‘Love Shack.’ Those are kind of staples,” says Royce. “Everyone knows the words.”

Pop culture lovers say there’s just something about the ’80s that transcends time and age. The music and lyrics seem to be forever relevant.

“What I find more interesting is that I don’t recall a time when it wasn’t cool to love the music of the ’80s,” Vanegas says. “[I]t’s been my experience that the overall consensus is love for the ’80s … a consensus that I hope will live forever.”

 

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