The most powerful trigger in “Stranger Things'” nostalgia arsenal remains, as always, the eclectic, still-pervasive pop music landscape of the ’80s.
If the new season left you longing for the ultimate playlist, here you go and you’re welcome.
“Never Surrender” by Corey Hart
Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) make-out sessions were punctuated by this snog-ready hit, a nine-week number one hit for Canadian singer Corey Hart, whose music also filled the soundtracks of ’80s staples like “Beverly Hills Cop II” and “Miami Vice.”
“Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon
This one was also a preeminent saliva-swapping song of its day. The group’s music also appeared in films like “The Goonies” — a major “Stranger Things” influence — and “Vision Quest,” a fondly remembered teen romantic comedy from 1985 and early breakout role for Matthew Modine, now remembered for his role as Dr. Brenner.
“Material Girl” and “Angel” by Madonna
The superb “Vision Quest” soundtrack also served as one of Madonna’s earliest film showcases, and this season two key 1985 tunes, her colossal, culture-defining hit “Material Girl” — used as the spot-on backdrop from Eleven and Max’s (Sadie Sink) very ’80s shop-til-they-drop sequence at The Gap — and the lesser but tasty pop confection “Angel” surface here.
The entire “Vision Quest” soundtrack
“Vision Quest” also offered up Foreigner’s 1978 platinum hit “Hot Blooded,” still a rock radio staple in the ’80s which here serves as the score for Karen Wheeler’s (Cara Buono) escalating ardor for a rendezvous with Billy (the same band’s reversal tune “Cold As Ice” also comes into play). So you might as well add the whole thing to your playlist.
“Lovergirl” by Teena Marie, “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones and “Rock This Town” by Stray Cats.
Throughout the season, more ’80s staple songs emerge, from artists with briefly white-hot but less-lasting career arcs, like Teena Marie, Howard Jones and Stray Cats. The latter group’s leader, Brian Setzer, would later spearhead the rockabilly-swing movement of the ’90s.
“Neutron Dance” by Pointer Sisters
This season is packed with songs evoking beloved films of the era, like “Neutron Dance” from “Beverly Hills Cop” and Jackie Wilson’s classic ’60s soul hit “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” which was featured in “Ghostbusters II.”
“R-O-C-K in the USA” by John Mellencamp
There are also cuts from more enduring acts, like “R-O-C-K in the USA” from the artist formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp (a huge party hit nearly left off his tonally ambitious “Scarecrow” album), and “Workin’ for a Livin’,” a signature song from Huey Lewis & the News, who’d reached new heights with two hits on the soundtrack of that summer’s blockbuster “Back to the Future.”
“My Bologna” by Weird Al” Yankovic
Some of the third season’s best inside meta-gags come with music cues: when Joyce (Winona Ryder), makes a visit to science teacher Scott Clarke, his uber-nerd credentials are immediately established by his home listening preference: “Weird Al” Yankovic’s’ “My Bologna,” a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which itself later fueled a memorable scene from the 1993 comedy “Reality Bites” featuring a dancing, singing-along performance from Ryder.
Like we said, meta.
“The NeverEnding Story” by Limahl
Dustin’s coerced over-the-air duet with his summer camp girlfriend Suzy on a song offered with little context within “Stranger Things” but oh-so-familiar to anyone living their best nerd life in the ’80s. “The NeverEnding Story” theme comes from the 1984 fantasy film of the same name, which genre-loving children of the era still hold close to their hearts.
Composed by the most ’80s movie musician of them all, power synth maestro Giorgio Moroder (“Top Gun,” “Flashdance”) and performed by British pop singer Christopher Hamill under the anagrammatic stage name Limahl, it was a surprisingly massive hit across Europe, Australia and North America — and, given the feels induced by Dustin’s serenade of his long-distance love, likely to dominate the summer Spotify playlists of “Stranger Things” fans born decades after its initial chart-topping run.
A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the song “Things Can Only Get Better.”