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The Musical Relevance of the Netflix Original Series, ‘Stranger Things’

The hit Netflix original series, Stranger Things, returns October 27th with an all new season. But before we binge watch the new season, let’s return to the sleepy suburb of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1983 and explore the music that makes the show what it is.

In the first season, we see a disheveled parent, Joyce Byers (played by Winona Ryder) attempt to contact her son Will (Noah Schnapp) from “the upside down,” another dimension that seems to coexist within our own reality. Simultaneously, a young girl (played by Millie Bobby Brown) escapes from a lab where she was subjected to several experiments.

The girl, who calls herself, “Eleven,” soon encounters Will’s friends Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) who tells them about the gate that can take them to the “upside down.”

Meanwhile, during a high school party, the socially awkward Jonathan Byers (played by Charlie Heaton) was taking photos of his crush, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), when a creature manifested itself into reality from the “upside down” and kidnapped her best friend, Barb. He managed to capture a photo of the monster and teams up with Nancy to fight it.

Sheriff Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour), believing that Will is still alive, breaks into the morgue and discovers the body is stuffed with cotton. After reaffirming his suspicions, he teams up with Joyce and decides to break into the U.S. Department of Energy laboratory that had been holding Eleven and the location of the gate to the “upside down,” but are captured before they can get into the building.

Hopper makes a deal, that if he can return Will safely he will give up where Eleven is hiding. However, when military police go to retrieve Eleven, she uses her psychokinetic powers to crush their skulls. Attracted to the blood, the monster, begins a killing spree, attacking the military captors. Eleven, who was still drained from using her powers confronts the monster to save her friends and in doing so dissolves in the process.

The season ends with a cut to a month later when we see Hopper exit the police station with a box of Eggo waffles that he places in a concealed box in the woods.

One recurring theme we see throughout the first season is a personal favorite of many, including directors, The Duffer Brothers, who felt it was necessary to tell the story. The Clash‘s “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” a classic from their best-selling album, Combat Rock (1982), was used throughout the show. When Joyce and her boyfriend, Lonnie, are arguing, Jonathan plays the song for Will and tells him that the cassette will “totally change your life.”

It’s a feeling we all get from the music we hear throughout our lives. Whether it was the first time we heard The Misfits or Pink Floyd, it doesn’t matter, it’s almost impossible to say that you have never heard any music that you liked or influenced you as a person.

The show also features an array of such ’80s artists as  Corey Hart, Echo and The Bunnymen, Modern English, The Bangles, Toto, Foreigner, Joy Division, and New Order.

It was interesting to hear that Jonathan’s soundtrack also included an anthemic salute to teen angst in the 1980’s, with the track “Go Nowhere” by Reagan Youth—the Queens-based punk rock band who were committed political anarchists and majorly influential in the start of the East Coast hardcore [post] punk scene.

“Fields of Coral,” is another important track that is used in the show, but it’s not because of the song itself, as much as it is its composer, Vangelis, a Greek composer who scored the soundtrack to countless major motion pictures, including Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire, and television shows including, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. His music is clearly influential on the series’ original score, which was composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. 

So, now, for the good stuff… what can we expect in Season 2? Well, according to NME, it’s now 1984 and there will be six new cast members, including Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Rudy, The Goonies) and Paul Reiser (Mad About You, Aliens). Joining the cast will also be Dacre Montgomery as “Billy,” Sadie Sink as “Max,” and Linnea Berthelsen as “Roman.”

The Netflix original series, Stranger Things returns with Season 2 on Oct. 27th. Be sure to stay tuned to Salute Magazine this fall for more.


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