Everyone’s favourite Netflix original, Stranger Things, has finally made its return, after its acclaimed debut
season in July of last year. Many of us here at In The Middle have already binged Season Two in full, and we can’t
deny that the soundtrack is one of the best parts of the show. Andrea Loftus breaks it down for us.
Stranger Things is finally back, and with it comes the long-awaited return of the 80s, and the iconic music that defines it. This season consists of 40 tracks which tell their own story, subtly foreshadowing events to come within the episodes. The tactful musical choices guide the season’s tonal transition from small town Halloween excitement to the inevitable standoff between good and evil, aka a 13-year-old and a big old rip in space and time.
With the bouncy energy of Devo’s ‘Whip It’, we’re transported to 1984, where the boys have levelled up from playing D&D in the basement to the wonders of the arcade. As Oingo Boingo’s ‘Just Another Day’ guides us around a seemingly normal town, we see snapshots of shop fronts and people walking about like there’s no Dema-dog infestation imminent, and no pre-teen with powers stashed in a cabin in the woods.
A major theme in the first few episodes is Halloween, with many a middle-aged man sporting a blonde wig, a box of Eggos and fake blood. A splash of Gary Paxton’s ‘Spooky Movies’ here and a dash of ‘The Monster Mash’ there, everything’s light-hearted and fun, as Halloween should be. Episode two opens with a nostalgic one for the mums, acting like the papz whilst their kids get kitted out as Ghostbusters. The well-known theme opens the episode as a fun side dish to the costumes but closes it in the credits as a premonition of Dustin’s discovery, making it clear the boys will have to assemble against something strange in their very own neighbourhood.
As episode one ends, ‘Every Other Girl’ plays through the Hawkins Lab technician’s headphones and the control board flashes, indicating the girl who’s not like every other girl is back on the scene. Jim and El’s unconventional father-daughter dynamic is pretty much asserted when the dad dancing kicks in, as Hopper cuts some shapes to ‘You Don’t Mess Around with Jim’ by Jim Croce. We also get to see El looking as badass as she acts, with Bon Jovi’s ‘Runaway’ blasting as she departs Indiana looking like “Shirley Temple” and is transformed into “some kind of MTV punk” to The Runaways ‘Dead End Justice’.
We get a lot more pairings this season, the most surprising being big brother Steve with hopeless romantic Dustin, but Big Giant Circles’ ‘Outside the Realm’ symbolically plays over two poignant heartto-hearts. ‘Emo’ Mike is heartbroken, but finds camaraderie in Will, who is simultaneously struggling with the aftermath of last year’s events. The other union is pivotal in opening a future route for the show, as the song plays over Kali, test subject ‘008’ from Hawkins lab, revealing her mental abilities to ‘sister’ El.
We get a lot more pairings this season, the most surprising being big brother Steve with hopeless romantic Dustin, but Big Giant Circles’ ‘Outside the Realm’ symbolically plays over two poignant heartto hearts. ‘Emo’ Mike is heartbroken, but finds camaraderie in Will, who is simultaneously struggling with the aftermath of last year’s events. The other union is pivotal in opening a future route for the show, as the song plays over Kali, test subject ‘008’ from Hawkins lab, revealing her mental abilities to ‘sister’ El.
Season two is transformative for most characters, but first and foremost Steve goddamn Harrington, who went from tool-ish jock stereotype to the babysitter of our dreams. Someone had to fill the boots of the antagonist so cue bad-boy Billy, his dramatic entrance to the Scorpions ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ signifying the trouble to ensue. This is reiterated as he gets ready for a big date to Metallica’s ‘The Four Horsemen’, his red shirt paralleling the red horseman of war, the likes of which he’s going to wage on Steve. Despite being a low-key psychopath, Billy’s a bit of
a charmer, and Karen Wheeler’s bubble bath and romance novel reading to the sweet sounds of Barbara Streisand shifts to Donna Summer’s ‘I Do Believe (I Fell In Love)’ the moment she opens the door to this mullet clad beef cake. Although I’m not sure anyone is quite ready for this sub-plot, it’s undeniable wine-mom Karen deserves better than Ted.
It’s not all darkness, doom and Demogorgons (for now), as Jonathan whacks out his ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now’ cassette once again and Billie Holiday serenades us through Jonathan and Nancy’s tedious ‘will they won’t they’ romance. I never thought I’d have a reason to parallel Winona Ryder and Sean Astin with my parents, but it seems ‘Islands in the Stream’ is the perfect slow dance tune for both a silver wedding anniversary and a quiet night in with Bob ‘superhero’ Newby and Joyce. The true musical highlights are held out until episode 9’s infamous Snow Ball. One can only assume ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ was on the radio as it plays in every house whilst the kids get suited and booted for the big dance. Dustin’s new mentor Steve gives him some last-minute tips over Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’, foreshadowing the heart-wrenching scenes to follow, but don’t worry Dustin, they don’t know what they’re missing. We see the girls take the lead as the first slow dance anthem, Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time after Time’, glides over the speakers. The last song of the season, The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’, accompanies an adorable slow dance between Mike and El, and will be ingrained forever in the memory of actors Sadie Sink and Caleb McLaughlin as they share their first kiss. But as the camera does a 180, the lyrics ‘I’ll be watching you’ get a whole new meaning as the Mind Flayer hovers over an unsuspecting Hawkins Middle.
No matter what the future holds for this show, as long as 80s anthems remain at its core, it’s going to be well and truly bitchin’.