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Five band members pose for a photo circa 1985
Spandau Ballet, one of the movement’s key artists

An ‘80s Playlist from the UK’s New Romantics Era You’ll LOVE!

The era of Boy George, Duran Duran and other legends

Sarah Champion is a presenter and DJ for Absolute 80s radio in the UK.

February 15, 2024 11:47 am

Even if you’ve only read Wondercade this one time, you…might be aware of my love of puns. Well, Valentine’s Day was no exception (guess you could say I haven’t had a change of heart), as I’m bringing you a (New) Romantic playlist for your synth-loving ears. And I went straight to the best source: Sarah Champion, DJ at Absolute 80s radio in the U.K., who’ll break down what the genre is and the most iconic bops from the era. -NPH

“New Romantics” was the name given to the tribe of glamorous fashionistas and musicians formed in the late ‘70s from the U.K. club scene, who were characterized by flamboyant dress and inspired by the eras of glam rock and the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. David Bowie and Marc Bolan were big influences on bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, who went on to enjoy huge success in the 1980s.

The New Romantic visual lent itself very well to the art of the music video — with its androgynous and glamorous aesthetic — and combined with the introduction of MTV, this movement heralded the “Second British Invasion” with bands like the Human League and Adam and the Ants on heavy rotation.

In truth, the New Romantics era was actually pretty short-lived, lasting only a couple of years — but the international reach of the fashion and music created a legacy that endures today.

Band poses for photo in formal attire circa 1983
My first *reflex* is to go to *Rio* with these *notorious* members of Duran Duran

“Hungry Like the Wolf” – Duran Duran

Spoilt for choice with Duran Duran, but lead vocalist Simon Le Bon came into the Absolute 80s studio recently and told us this is the song he’s most proud of because, and I quote, “It’s just such a banger.”

“I Ran” – A Flock of Seagulls

Reintroduced to a whole new audience thanks to Ryan Gosling on the keytar in La La Land, it’s a stone-cold classic. And if you’re not familiar with lead vocalist Mike Score’s flamboyant ‘80s hairdo, check it out — it is MAGNIFICENT.

Sarah Champion is an ’80s expert and DJ extraordinaire
Absolute 80s

“Vienna” – Ultravox

Recently voted the greatest song of the ‘80s by listeners of Absolute 80s, and deservedly so. This ballad is the band’s signature song, and an absolute masterpiece.

“Prince Charming” – Adam and the Ants

The lavish music videos from Adam and the Ants made them real favorites on MTV. This song is a favorite for me because it brings back great memories of seeing Adam Ant live with thousands in the crowd doing the “Prince Charming” dance!

“Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League

Definitively ‘80s, and believed to be the breakthrough song of the Second British Invasion of the U.S.

Woman performing in an 80s style blonde wig circa 1987
The Human League’s Joanne Catherall, looking fab

“Fade to Grey” – Visage

[Lead vocalist] Steve Strange was seen as the epitome of New Romantic glamor, and “Fade to Grey” is the ultimate synth-pop classic.

“To Cut a Long Story Short” – Spandau Ballet

Another synth classic this time with Tony Hadley’s stunning operatic voice. A great performance on Top of the Pops helped to propel this song to the top 5 on the U.K. charts.

“Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club

Because it’s an ‘80s pop classic, and because: Boy George. A paragon of New Romantic flamboyance and androgyny.

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