Despite being nearly three decades old, new wave remains a perennial favorite among 80s nostalgic addicts while earning a few fans from millennial audiences. Evolving from punk at around 1978, new wave was among the quintessential genres of the 1980s, reaching the peak of its popularity between 1983 and 1987.
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The mid-80s sensation—actually an umbrella term for many music forms—derived heavily from its predecessor, carrying punk’s characteristic energy while adding elements from contemporary pop, art rock, and dance pop. Notable new wave groups and artists include Blondie, Talking Heads, The Police, Human League, The Cars, Elvis Costello, Duran Duran, and Cyndi Lauper.
New wave is typically considered more radio-friendly than punk and is differentiated from its progenitor genre in its lack of characteristic rawness and heavy reliance on synthesizers. Later synthpop groups and artists derived much of their stylistic elements from new wave.
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The term took on different meanings across the Atlantic, with British audiences seeing the side of new wave derived from punk while American audiences focusing on the synthesizer aspect of the genre, broadening it to encompass early synthpop. Likewise, new wave was originally more popular in the UK than in the U.S., though it slowly gained traction in America in its appearance in various pop cultural elements.
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Though eventually fading in favor of guitar-based artists and bands at the tail-end of the 1980s, new wave music continued to be iconic of the decade. If you ever plan to have an 80s themed party, pick a few new wave hits to really hit the mood.