Stranger Songs: The best retro music on the ‘Stranger Things’
With a show like Stranger Things, half the fun of having the show set in the 80s is the retro and iconic things from that time that come to life as a regular part of the show. Whether the popular Halloween costumes from Ghostbusters, an argument about New Coke, or the reappearance of the video store, we get hit with that sweet, sweet nostalgia.
So it’s no surprise that the music of the mid-80s seeps its way into Stranger Things. The electronic beats of synth-pop and the guitar solos of old-time rock ‘n’ roll have found their place in the show. The music feels much more natural than the excessive product placements and gives even more nostalgia than said products.
In honor of Stranger Things S3, singer Ingrid Michaelson released an album inspired by moments from the show’s first two seasons in the style of 80s pop. Her album Stranger Songs takes on iconic moments such as the Snow Ball, El (Millie Bobby Brown) beating up the bullies, and Joyce (Winona Ryder) talking to Will (Noah Schnapp) through the Christmas lights.
As great as Michaelson’s album is, it can’t beat some of the iconic uses of these 70s and 80s songs throughout Stranger Things. In honor of Michaelson’s new album, here are the ten best songs featured throughout the three seasons of Stranger Things.
And yes, we said three, so if you still haven’t finished season three yet, be wary of spoilers going forward. And make sure you listen to our sick Spotify Stranger Things playlist here while reading this piece, for research purposes.
10. “Material Girl” by Madonna (season 3)
El and Max (Sadie Sink) as girlfriends this season has been so pure to watch. So seeing them go on a shopping montage after Mike starts acting weird towards El is so fun. The two of them taking photos together is easily the best part.
9. “Horizon (Warsaw Gate Remix)” by Tangerine Dream (season 1)
This song is the perfect match for Hopper’s flashback with his daughter Sarah. By watching him go from having a healthy lil’ girl to a dying cancer patient, the music changes with the mood. It’s tragic to watch and so much more impactful because of the perfect song.
8. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions (season 2)
The moment we’re introduced to Billy (Dacre Montgomery), we know he’s going to be trouble. Man does his song serve as a badass introduction.
7. “Runaway” by Bon Jovi (season 2)
Say what you will about “The Lost Sister”, with El coming to Chicago for the first time, nothing captures that moment better than Bon Jovi. The song title is both a figurative and literal symbol for why she’s there in the first place.
6. “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” by Jim Croce (seasons 2 & 3)
This Croce classic is iconic enough to underscore two scenes in honor of our man Hopper (David Harbour). The first is featured when he and El clean out the old cabin so they can find her a comfortable place to stay. The second forms a contrast as Hopper decides to be a terrible father and threaten Mike over his relationship with El.
5. Three-way tie: All the songs featured in the Snow Ball (season 2)
Olivia Newton John’s “Twist of Fate”, Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, and The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” are the perfect school dance songs of the 80s. They’re exactly what you (or your parents) danced to during school dances and perfectly match the emotions of each couple during the ball.
4. “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner (season 3)
“Boyfriends don’t lie.” And with that, El ended bad relationships forever. Just kidding, but man is it so great watching her dump Mike (Finn Wolfhard) because he’s a dumb teenage boy. More importantly, it’s so good watching El be a teenage girl and not some weird science experiment.
3. “Heroes” by Peter Gabriel (season 1)
Watching the medics pull “Will” out of the water is beyond depressing, as this episode is the first time Joyce makes contact with him as well. Then the Duffer Brothers decided to put a Peter Gabriel cover underneath it to really make it harder to watch this scene without waterworks. Of course we all know now it was fake, but during the first season we were definitely crying about this.
2. “Never Ending Story” by Gaten Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo (season 3)
If you weren’t dying of laughter during this scene, you’re dead inside. We can’t even name every moment to love because there are too many: the adults’ reactions, Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) realizing Suzie’s real, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max realizing they have something to hold over Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) for the rest of his life . . . it’s all too good.
1. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash (season 1)
Maybe “Never Ending Story” is funnier, but the importance of this song throughout season one is what makes it the best. Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) played “Should I Stay or Should I Go” to Will at some point before he disappeared, then it randomly starts playing on Will’s stereo. El pulls Will singing this song onto Mike’s stereo and Joyce uses this song to help lure Will out. This song is everywhere in the season.