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We Were the World: Looking Back at the Music of 1985

Billboard Magazine’s 1985 Year in Music & Video

As part of The Ringer’s coverage of Season 3 of Stranger Things, I wrote about the exceedingly fine year in popular music that was 1985, and the healthy and diverse ecosystem that made it possible. Check it out and be dazzled by chart-topping excellence!

Nostalgia is a potent cocktail and potentially dangerous in large doses. Like all businesses, the music industry is cyclical and susceptible to convulsive market forces and unforeseen technological shifts, developments that help to explain its vast contractions in recent years. Maybe, as Howard Jones put it in 1985, no one is to blame. But maybe there is some utility to looking back at the mid-’80s musical big tent as well. The paradox of the streaming era is that for all of its ostensible limitless access, it seems to create far fewer memorable and bankable stars. This is not a reflection on the current pool of talent, but it may be a referendum on how that talent is presented. If nothing else, the industry’s imperial phase is a reminder that big sellers need not emerge from careful market testing and microtargeted playlists.

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