The darker, highly-anticipated second season of the beloved Netflix show takes its viewers back to the unsettling atmosphere of Hawkins, Indiana, soundtracked by even more ‘80s classics that elevate the evolving narrative. From Eleven’s toaster tunes to Steve’s styling slaylist, music remains an integral part of a show that seems to be getting stranger and stranger.
Story by Zoe Judilla
Photos courtesy of GIPHY
If you listen to the official soundtrack of "Stranger Things 2" on Spotify, after a brief moment, your account will turn into The Upside Down. The long-awaited return of what is arguably Netflix’s most successful original show has prompted buzz on many platforms, and for good reason. With an Eggo-loving telekinetic girl and a jock who styles his hair with Farrah Fawcett spray, the series lives up to its name. What the show owes so much to in romanticizing the campy ‘80s vibe is the presence of its strong dual soundtracks, setting it apart from other series.
While the official score created by half of Austin-native band S U R V I V E is at once commanding and beautiful, Grammy Award-winning musicians Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon not only expand the storyline through their usual synthesizers and a newly integrated piano, but also enhance the darker mood of the drama’s second season. There’s a pulsing edge to many of the songs, driven by an instrumental urgency that can make a scene nothing short of epic.
The score also masterfully complements the familiar '80s classics sprinkled throughout the series, which many find a key component to the seemingly effortless nostalgia of Stranger Things. From “Whip It” by DEVO blaring behind the gang getting heated at the arcade to Duran Duran at a typical teenage Halloween party, instantly familiar songs remind the viewer of the more popular aspects of the decade.
The music curators of the show pay close attention to the music as a form of characterization with the likes of Ted Nugent and Metallica serving as a gateway to new antagonist Billy, and the evolving Steve Harrington becoming more inclined to The Romantics and Queen. Roy Orbison and Billie Holiday test the chemistry of Nancy and Jonathan, and Carl Weathers echoes behind a lovesick Lucas.
Meanwhile, the music differs in locations outside of Hawkins, with the eccentric, louder songs of Bon Jovi and The Runaways contrasting the typical moodiness of the town. It would be hard to forget the dreaminess of Cyndi Lauper and The Police resonating throughout the Hawkins Middle School snowball dance during one of the most romantic scenes of the year.
While there’s no doubt that the sounds of "Stranger Things 2" play an essential part in driving the story forward, they also create special connections between the viewers and the characters that seem to be growing up right before our eyes. As executive producer Shawn Levy said of the show, it serves as an “anthem for the outcast.” Whether it’s the well-circulated GIF of Hopper moving his hips to Jim Croce or the significance of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” reprise, you can listen through the strangeness over and over again.
In the meantime, as you’re contemplating your existence in a post-binge stupor, Spotify has teamed up with the series to generate character-specific playlists that you can link to your own account and identify which Stranger Things icon you are. You can find out whether you’d share a Walkman with Eleven or the Demogorgon here.