The synthesiser makes it to the big time. Groups such as Ratata and Lustans Lakejer turn against the dogma of Swedish “progg” rock and place more emphasis on appearance and aesthetics. The phrase “Revolt into style” becomes a motto for the decade. The Face, from the UK, is now the most important magazine. Linguists argue for years about how to spell “synthare”, the synthesiser equivalent of “rocker”.
MTV launches in the US in the summer of 1981, and turns the music world upside down. The music video becomes the shop window for performers. The coda of the Cold War can be seen in the clips of the age, with long shadows and close-ups of statues. And the shoulder pads just keep getting bigger. When Mikhail Gorbachev is appointed general secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union in 1985, it starts a trail of reforms that lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
ABBA releases its two final singles in 1983. In the same year, Sweden is blown away by storm wind Carola, a unique singer and performer whose debut becomes the best-selling album in Swedish history, “Främling” (stranger).
Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince become the performers who most define the decade. Even a rocker like Bruce Springsteen tries experimenting with synthesisers and dance beats, with “Dancing in the Dark”. Live Aid in 1985 becomes not just a demonstration of charity but a manifestation of mass suggestion at rock concerts as 50,000 people wave to themselves on television screens.
At the grass-roots level in Sweden, Kenta is singing “Just i dag är jag stark” (today I am strong) and Hasse Andersson Kvinnaböske Band asks the eternal question “Får man ta hunden med sig in i himlen?” (can you take your dog with
you into heaven?).
In Swedish schoolyards, though, the question is “Are you a synthare or a hard rocker?” Groups such as Iron Maiden, Accept and Metallica turn hard rock into a new popular movement in Sweden.
Sweden produces hard rock’s own Paganini in the form of Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Europe releases “The Final Countdown,” which reaches No.1 in 26 countries and is still played today at major sports event such as world championships and the Super Bowl. Roxette scores four Billboard No.1 hits in the US, and
“It Must Have Been Love” becomes an evergreen classic.
Hip hop becomes the music of the streets, entering its golden age as Run DMC and Public Enemy release their debut albums. Rap becomes a new form of expression, and the turntable a new instrument. Disc jockeys, constantly on the hunt for new sounds, use the final years of the 1980s to lay the foundations for house and techno, genres that will influence popular music for at least the next 30 years.