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35 Best New Wave Songs Ever Made

December 22, 2023
new wave songs

I’ve curated a collection of the best new wave songs ever made, showcasing the genre’s unique blend of pop, punk, and electronic influences.

This article celebrates the innovative sounds and iconic tracks that defined an era and continue to resonate with music fans worldwide.

Table of Contents

Top new wave songs ever made

  • “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
  • “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell
  • “Rock Lobster” by The B-52’s
  • “Blue Monday 88” by New Order
  • “Christine” by Siouxsie and The Banshees
  • “The Big Country” by Talking Heads
  • “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats
  • “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles
  • “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes
  • “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police

1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds

The song was originally written by producer Keith Forsey and composer Steve Schiff for the soundtrack of the 1985 film “The Breakfast Club”. 

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” became Simple Mind’s first and only number-one hit in the United States. 

The song also reached the top ten in several other countries, including the UK, Canada, and Australia.

2. “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell

The song was originally written and recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964 as a soul ballad, but it was Soft Cell’s 1981 cover that transformed the song into a new wave hit. 

Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” features a faster tempo, a driving synth riff, and a drum machine beat that gives the song a danceable edge. 

The song’s themes of heartbreak and disillusionment continue to resonate with listeners today, making it a timeless classic.

3. “Rock Lobster” by The B-52’s

Rock Lobster” is widely regarded as one of the most influential and groundbreaking songs of the new wave era. 

The song’s unique sound and style helped to push the boundaries of pop music and inspire a new generation of artists. 

The song’s lyrics are equally unconventional, with references to a variety of sea creatures, including a piranha and a stingray.

4. “Blue Monday 88” by New Order

“Blue Monday 88” features a driving electronic beat, pulsing synthesizers, and a catchy bassline. 

The song’s distinctive sound was created using a combination of live instruments and drum machines, and it helped to establish New Order as pioneers of the electronic dance music genre. 

Upon its release, “Blue Monday 88” became an instant hit, reaching number three on the UK singles chart. 

5. “Christine” by Siouxsie and The Banshees

The song was released in 1980 as a single and later appeared on the band’s third album Kaleidoscope.

The lyrics of the song are inspired by the life of Christine Costner-Sizemore, an American woman who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and became a celebrity in the 1970s.

“Christine” features a driving beat, angular guitar riffs, and Siouxsie Sioux’s distinctive vocals.

6. “The Big Country” by Talking Heads

Inspired by the landscapes and open spaces of rural America, “The Big Country” invokes a sense of adventure and limitless possibilities. 

The lyrics of the song paint a picture of a world without boundaries, where anything is possible if you dare to take the leap. 

And even though it was released over three decades ago, “The Big Country” still manages to captivate and inspire listeners today.

7. “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats

Released in 1979, this song draws its inspiration from a real-life event where a teenage girl went on a shooting spree at an elementary school in California, when asked why she did it, her response was simply “I don’t like Mondays”.

“I don’t like Mondays” was a hit and its success can be attributed not only to the catchy tune but also to its ability to shine a light on the harsh realities of gun violence and mental health issues.

8. “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles

The song’s catchy melody and playful lyrics quickly made it a hit, but its true significance lies in its message. 

“Video Killed The Radio Star” marks the moment when music was no longer just about sound but became a visual art form as well. 

It’s a nostalgic tribute to the golden age of radio, juxtaposed with the excitement and potential of the new video medium.

9. “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes

Originally written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the 1960s, Naked Eyes put their unique spin on the song when they released it in 1982. 

Despite being over 30 years old, “Always Something There to Remind Me” remains a beloved classic of the new wave genre. 

Its timeless message of lost love and the power of memory still resonate with listeners today, and the song’s infectious melody ensures that it will continue to be a fan favorite for years to come.

10. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police

The song tells the story of a young female student who becomes infatuated with her male teacher. 

The teacher is initially flattered by her attention but soon realizes that the situation is inappropriate and potentially dangerous.

The chorus of the song, “Don’t stand so close to me”, is a plea for the student to back off and for the teacher to do the right thing. 

The theme of the song is controversial and thought-provoking, exploring issues of power dynamics and consent in a school setting.

11. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, and Dave Stewart

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is a song that not only defined the new wave genre but also catapulted Eurythmics into international fame. 

It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and number one on the UK Singles Chart. 

The song’s production is innovative and showcases Dave Stewart’s incredible talent as a producer. 

He experimented with a variety of different sounds and instruments, creating a unique and powerful sonic landscape that perfectly complements Lennox’s vocals.

12. “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of” by The Human League

This song was released in 1981 as part of their critically acclaimed album, Dare. 

The song’s infectious melody and catchy chorus made it an instant hit with fans and helped to solidify The Human League’s place in the new wave pantheon.

Lead vocalist Phil Oakey sings about the allure of a life that’s better than reality, and the need to pursue our dreams and aspirations.

13. “To Hell With Poverty” by Gang Of Four

The song’s title and chorus are a defiant call to arms against the inequalities and injustices of modern society. 

Lead vocalist Jon King sings “To hell with poverty, we’ll get drunk on cheap wine”, the lyrics challenge the idea that poverty is a necessary evil and call for a society that prioritizes the needs of the many over the greed of the few. 

Gang of Four’s signature blend of punk rock, funk, and avant-garde influences creates a sound that is both unique and instantly recognizable.

14. “Another Girl, Another Planet” The Only Ones

The song’s lyrics and music have been praised for their ability to capture the feelings of love and desire in a way that is both universal and personal. 

Peter Perrett’s raw and emotional vocals perfectly convey the intense and often overwhelming nature of romantic attraction, while the song’s driving beat and soaring guitar riffs create a sense of urgency and excitement.

15. “Vienna” by Ultravox

Musically, “Vienna” is a masterclass in new wave songwriting. 

The song’s pulsing beat and shimmering synths create a sound that is both dreamy and propulsive, while the haunting strings add a sense of drama and grandeur. 

The song’s epic structure and cinematic production help to create a sense of awe and wonder that is characteristic of much of the best new wave music. 

At its core, “Vienna” is a song about the power of love and the thrill of forbidden romance.

16. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

The song’s lyrics, written by lead singer Ian Curtis, are a deeply personal exploration of the difficulties of romantic relationships.

Curtis’s powerful and emotive vocals convey a sense of despair and longing, as he sings about the pain of being torn apart by the forces of love and life. 

The song’s driving bassline and haunting melodies create a sense of urgency and intensity, reflecting the emotional turmoil at the heart of the song.

17. “Watching The Detectives” by Elvis Costello

Released in 1977, the song quickly became one of Costello’s most popular and enduring hits. 

Its distinctive blend of new wave, reggae, and punk influences, combined with Costello’s incisive lyrics and charismatic vocals, helped to establish him as one of the most innovative and talented artists of the era.

The song’s innovative use of dub-style echo and reverb also helped Costello to prove himself among the most forward-thinking and experimental artists of the era.

18. “Only The Lonely” by The Motels

The song’s haunting melody and melancholy lyrics create a sense of longing and vulnerability that is both poignant and relatable. 

Lead singer Martha Davis’ emotive vocals perfectly capture the song’s sense of isolation and yearning, as she sings about the pain of being alone and the desire to find love and companionship. 

The song was released in 1982 and quickly became a hit, reaching the top ten on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

19. “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead Or Alive

“You Spin Me Round” was Dead Or Alive’s first UK top 40 hit, and it remained their biggest hit in the United States, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

The song’s lyrics are about the dizzying highs and crushing lows of romantic relationships, and its infectious melody belies a sense of emotional turmoil and confusion. 

Musically, “You Spin Me Round” is notable for its use of electronic instruments and effects, which were still relatively new in the mid-1980s.

20. “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners & Kevin Rowland

Released in 1982, the song was a massive hit in the United Kingdom, where it spent four weeks at the top of the charts, and it also reached the top of the charts in the United States.

The song’s upbeat, Celtic-inspired melody and singalong chorus are complemented by a unique combination of instruments, including accordion, fiddle, and banjo, which give the song a distinctive folk-pop sound.

21. “Down Under” by Men At Work

Down Under” by Men At Work is an amazing new wave song that became a massive hit in the early 1980s. 

The song was released in 1981 and quickly climbed to the top of the charts in both the United States and the band’s native Australia, making it one of the most beloved new wave songs. 

“Down Under” also features clever and witty lyrics that celebrate Australia’s culture and geography while gently poking fun at some of the country’s stereotypes.

22. “Whip It” by Devo

“Whip It” is more than just a song – it’s a cultural phenomenon that continues to capture the imagination of new wave enthusiasts around the world. 

With its signature synthesizer riff and driving beat, “Whip It” is the perfect example of Devo’s unique blend of punk rock, new wave, and science fiction-inspired weirdness.

23. “Echo Beach” by Martha and the Muffins

The song, which was released in 1980 by the Canadian band Martha and the Muffins, features a driving beat, shimmering guitars, and ethereal vocals that combine to create a dreamy, atmospheric sound.

At its core, “Echo Beach” is a love song that celebrates the joy and freedom of being in love. 

The lyrics describe a magical, idyllic beach where the narrator and their lover can escape from the stresses and worries of everyday life.

24. “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode

The song’s upbeat tempo, bouncy melody, and playful lyrics make it impossible not to dance along. 

The chorus, which features lead singer Dave Gahan repeating the title phrase, has become a classic pop culture reference that is still widely recognized today. 

“Just Can’t Get Enough” is a powerful expression of the new wave philosophy, which celebrated individuality, experimentation, and artistic freedom.

25. “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen

“The Killing Moon” is a love song, but it’s not your typical romantic ballad. 

The lyrics are filled with dark imagery and metaphors, and lead singer Ian McCulloch’s haunting vocals add an eerie, otherworldly quality to the song. 

The combination of lush, atmospheric instrumentation and McCulloch’s emotive singing create a sense of intense longing and yearning that is both beautiful and unsettling, making it prominent in the new wave songs playlist.

26. “I Could Be Happy” by Altered Images

The song was written by Altered Images’ guitarist Steve Lironi and produced by Martin Rushent, who was known for his work with other new wave acts such as The Stranglers and Buzzcocks. 

The song was the band’s breakthrough hit in the UK, reaching number 7 on the singles chart and earning them critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase.

27. “Senses Working Overtime” by XTC

The song features a driving drum beat, jangling guitar riffs, and a catchy synth melody, all of which work together to create a sound that is both poppy and experimental. 

The song’s success helped to solidify XTC’s status as one of the leading bands of the new wave era. 

“Senses Working Overtime” was a top 10 hit in the UK, and the band’s popularity continued to grow with subsequent releases such as “Dear God” and “The Mayor of Simpleton”.

28. “Our House” by Madness

Lyrically, “Our House” is an ode to the joys of family life and the simple pleasures of home. 

The song describes a typical day in the life of a working-class family, from waking up in the morning to cooking dinner in the evening. 

Despite the mundane details of their routine, the song celebrates the warmth and togetherness of family life, with the refrain “Our house, in the middle of our street” serving as a rallying cry for the importance of home and community.

29. “Just What I Needed” by The Cars

American rock band The Cars released this song in 1978 as the first single from their self-titled debut album. 

The song was written by the band’s frontman Ric Ocasek, who was also the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. 

The song features a driving beat, catchy guitar riffs, and a memorable keyboard hook. 

It was a breakthrough hit for the band, reaching #27 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and helping to launch their career.

30. “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

The song was written by the band’s lead vocalist Holly Johnson and was produced by Trevor Horn. 

It served as the second single from the band’s debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome

The song is known for its powerful and pulsating rhythm, catchy hooks, and memorable lyrics that focus on the political tensions of the time, particularly the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

31. “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran

The song is driven by a pulsing, synth-driven rhythm and features atmospheric guitar work by Andy Taylor.

The song was a major commercial success, reaching the top 5 in the US and the UK, and helping to propel the band to international stardom. 

It has since become a staple of 80s-themed parties and continues to be played on classic rock and new-wave radio stations. 

32. “Tank” by The Stranglers

Lyrically, the song is a commentary on the Cold War and the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

 The lyrics describe tanks and other weapons of war, and the destructive power they possess. 

The chorus repeats the phrase “You can hear the jackboots go”, referring to the sound of soldiers marching.

33. “Ghost Town” by The Specials

Any list of best new wave songs is incomplete without “Ghost Town”, released in 1981 it became an instant hit in the UK, reaching number one on the singles chart. 

It is a politically charged song that reflects the social and economic turmoil of the time, with references to the high unemployment rate and racial tension in the UK.

34. “Underpass” by John Foxx

The song opens with a haunting, pulsating synth line that sets the tone for the rest of the track. 

Foxx’s vocals are delivered in a detached, almost robotic style, perfectly complementing the stark, mechanical instrumentation. 

The lyrics describe a dystopian urban landscape, with references to surveillance, technology, and isolation. 

“Underpass” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, reaching #31 on the UK Singles Chart.

35. “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow

Released in 1982, the song is a cover of a 1965 hit by the Strangeloves, but Bow Wow Wow’s version brought a new energy and sound to the song.

With its distinctive tribal drumming and lead singer Annabella Lwin’s playful vocals, this song became an instant hit. 

Its infectious beat and catchy lyrics have made it a popular party anthem and a staple on new wave song playlists.

New Wave Songs – Final Thoughts

New wave music may have come and gone, but its impact on the music world is undeniable. 

Its innovative use of technology, catchy melodies, and socially conscious lyrics paved the way for many artists who followed. 

While some may view it as a nostalgic relic of the past, the timeless quality of these 35 new wave songs ensures that this genre will continue to be celebrated and appreciated for years to come.

You may also like: Best Punk Songs of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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