Rock music of the 1980’s was many things to many people, but on this we can all agree: it sucked. But why, you ask? Here we present some of the leading theories. (Note: this was originally published at Cracked.com in 2009.)
Just The Facts
1. The decade began with the murder of John Lennon and ended with Milli Vanilli winning Grammy awards. So, basically, it sucked from start to finish.
2. MTV made its debut in 1981, documenting much of this suckery for future researchers. Its role as a causal agent in the suckery is still being debated in scientific circles.
3. Because 1984 was the title of a famous book about the future, when the year 1984 arrived artists mistakenly believed it was the future, and thus thought they were required to wear futuristic plastic clothes and make music that mostly consisted of futuristic buzzing and beeping noises.
Was It Really That Bad?
Yes. It was really that bad.
Why Was It That Bad?
There are many theories that purport to explain the universal sucking force that is 80’s rock.
In primitive times people commonly believed that the sucking force was generated by a variety of deities, who themselves sucked; the ancient Greeks believed that everything in the universe was possessed of a natural, innate desire to turn to shit.
Modern science, however, has given us more advanced theories that better explain the observed phenomena.
One theory posits that 80’s rock sucked not because of any actual sucking force, but merely as a result of the geometry of space-time. In essence, the theory states that the presence of a large, dense mass (the American public) warps the space around it and causes all artists in the vicinity to follow a path of least resistance that either circles the mass endlessly or spirals down to a fiery collision with the mass.
Research has shown that the American public was exceptionally dense in the 1980’s.
According to this theory, MTV caused a sudden, rapid expansion by the music industry into another gigantic medium at a time when the industry was devoid of talented stars. This period of rapid expansion of a featureless, homogenous landscape resulted in the vast, mostly empty, incredibly boring musical universe that we see today.
In Chaos theory, the tendency to be crappy throughout 90% of its phase space is seen as an integral part of any complex system such as the music industry. Under some conditions, the system will enter an unpredictable state where it never sucks exactly the same way twice, but keeps trying over and over again, periodically coming arbitrarily close; its behavior, when plotted on a multi-dimensional graph, will show points circling what is known as a “strange attractor.”
In the music industry, these strange attractors are known as “teenagers,” and are seen as the ultimate source of the seemingly random, yet completely sucky behavior of the system.
This theory states that all music is made up of tiny, vibrating loops of string. When these strings were replaced by synthesizers in the 1980’s, the important musical information they contained was lost, resulting in a bunch of stupid beeping and buzzing.
This beeping and buzzing, in turn, caused all music of the decade to suck.
This theory has the advantage of simplicity and is supported by numerous observations.
Explained by science.
The discovery of Michael Jackson in 1983 led some scientists to theorize that much of the musical universe was made up of hidden black musicians. Although there was some evidence that Jackson was merely a child star from a previous decade that had recently exploded, the idea persisted. While recent studies have shown that Jackson was not made up of dark matter, many researchers still insist the theory has merit. They cite the observable influence dark matter had on other forms of matter during the decade, while others insist that white matter is all that is required to explain the high suck quotient of 80’s rock.
According to this theory, the music buying public is a mindlessly fluctuating, probabilistic field containing a seething mass of virtual particles, all popping in and out of existence too fast for famous people to care about. The suckivity arises directly from the mathematics (called “demographics”), which determine which ridiculous excuse for an artist is being shoved down our throats this time.
Bands of the 80’s deliberately sucked, and we bought it because we were idiots. Although plausible, this is not considered a testable scientific theory, as the designed suckitude would not be distinguishable from natural processes, such as actually sucking.