In the 1970s and 1980s, one of the most uniquely iconic genres of pop-rock was invented. That genre was new wave, and it's characterized by its uniquely electronic take on punk rock. It's not quite pop, it often has darker undertones, and it's almost inextricably linked to the glitzy, club-heavy scenes of the 80s.
New wave bands were some of the first to walk that fine line between pop and punk, all the while also bringing forward danceable hits. The best new wave bands did way more than just create memorable hit singles; they shaped the way that we saw the 80s.
Though new wave was considered to be the height of 80s music by many, quite a few of the top bands in this genre ended up falling to the wayside over the years. On the other hand, some of the other big names in new wave still make a huge imprint on culture today.
No matter how history may have remembered them, the following music groups really do rank as the best new wave bands of all time — as well as the best new wave bands on Spotify right now.
Devo, in their own quirky way, really represented the strangeness of new wave music. Their outfits were bizarre, as were their album covers, their music was both punky and electronic, and the band just seemed to have a natural knack for creating a cult following.
What really made Devo one of the best new wave bands in history was their unique ability add sci-fi elements, deadpan humor, and a surprisingly satirical outlook to their live performances and music albums.
Catchy lyrics, extreme outfits, and a slick sense of humor is what keeps so many Devo fans listening to album after album. Devo's music is still so recognizable that people know the lyrics before they actually know the name of the band that produced it.
During the 80s, Devo made a number of hits that became radio regular plays. Even so, a lot of people forgot Devo existed after a couple of decades. Chances are that younger listeners might not even realize they know Devo songs until they hear them.
If you haven't listened to Devo yet, give their playlist a shot. You might find out why they're one of the best new wave bands on Spotify.
Favorite Songs: "Whip It," "Mongoloid," "Secret Agent Man"
Tears for Fears
Most people, when they think of new wave music, will think of Tears for Fears. Everything about this band captured the 80s, the new wave aesthetic, and the thoughtful side of this post-punk music genre.
Tears for Fears is one of the few bands that could make a melancholy song turn into a club dance hit. In the 80s, they were known as a rock band who mastered the art of creating emotionally charged songs by blending classic rock music methods with the budding genre of electronica.
They're also known for making some of the most iconic music of the 80s. To this day, movie producers who want to gain the ambiance of the 1980s will use songs from Tears for Fears to add authenticity to their show's atmosphere.
It's not a stretch to say that Tears for Fears is one of the best new wave bands of the 80s—and that their songs remain timeless regardless of how many decades have passed. That's why they're one of the best new wave bands on Spotify, and why many users still listen to channels involving their influence today.
Favorite Songs: "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," "Mad World," "Shout"
Yes, The Cure is a new wave band.
Most people, even those who aren't goths, know and love at least one or two songs from The Cure. Their emotional and thoughtful lyrics, their layered guitars and synthesizers, and their oft-melancholy topics make them a favorite among anyone going through a breakup.
Though they are most commonly known for helping mold the aesthetic that would later become associated with the goth subculture, it would be a lie to say that the band set out to be goth rock. (In fact, the band is adamantly against being labeled goth rock.)
No matter how you look at it, The Cure is one of the best new wave bands of all time. They helped create an entirely new subculture, have dozens of songs that withstood the test of time, and were one of the first alternative bands to ever become successful in the mainstream world.
Because of their contributions to music, The Cure has been awarded a multitude of different awards, many of which were based on a single recording, a smash hit, or a single album. Few, if any, alternative bands have the kind of legacy that The Cure has.
Favorite Songs: "Friday I'm In Love," "Just Like Heaven," "Boys Don't Cry"
Moody, pointedly synth-rich, and artistic as they come, New Order is a rock band that evolved along with the new wave genre. Originally dark, brooding, and richly punk, New Order later became known for uptempo, dance-ready music with a slightly rock edge.
Really, though, both their earlier and later works are exemplary of the new wave genre as a whole. Much like The Cure and Tears for Fears, New Order is one of the few bands that really became deeply tied to the 80s decade. But, that's not why they're considered to be one of the best new wave bands of the 80s.
New Order's songs have a timeless appeal to them. The subjects they discussed in 1980 still are relevant today. The beats stayed danceable. Even today, New Order is regularly played at goth clubs, 80s clubs, and retro bars.
In fact, many of New Order's songs are regularly covered by other bands because they are so good. Considering New Order's impact, it's not surprising that they're regularly cited a sone of the best new wave bands on Spotify.
Favorite Songs: "Blue Monday," "True Faith," "Bizarre Love Triangle"
In its span of almost 30 years, INXS became known for being one of the best new wave bands to come out of Australia. Their music was edgy, sensual, and at the same time, incredibly ahead of their time. Perhaps that's why many fashion groups started to use INXS's beats for runway shows and photoshoots.
The band's danceable style, smooth vocals, and innovative ways of using synthesizers really put them above and beyond most other bands of the time. Because their songs still remain incredibly popular to this day, it's easy to see why many people consider them to be one of the top bands of the genre.
Favorite Songs: "Guns In The Sky," "Devil Inside," "Original Sin"
Echo & the Bunnymen
Echo & the Bunnymen is one of the few rock band groups that you can always tell apart from the rest of the crowd.
Their music is moody, brooding, and to a point, even hypnotic—all the while staying surprisingly mainstream-friendly. Though they are definitely considered to have a more "fringe" style these days, Echo & the Bunnymen were a new wave band that often found love in mainstream audiences during the 80s.
Undoubtedly one of the best new wave bands of all time, Echo & the Bunnymen remain fairly relevant today. To a point, they've even become part of both pop culture and movie culture as well.
One of the band's biggest hits, "The Killing Moon," was actually used as one of the main themes in the hit movie, Donnie Darko. Earlier on, people recognized them for their haunting cover of "People Are Strange" in the smash-hit movie, The Lost Boys.
Not only did their music stand the test of time, but it also helped shape new wave as a whole. Therefore, it's safe to say that they're one of the most influential bands to have hit the scene in the history of new wave.
Favorite Songs: "Lips Like Sugar," "The Killing Moon," "People Are Strange"
It wouldn't be a list of the best new wave bands in history without Depeche Mode. Everyone seems to have at least one song they adore by this group. Though they rest on the more electronic side of the new wave spectrum, Depeche Mode still managed to gain a very strong following among rockers, metalheads, as well as future DJs.
Musicians are inspired by Depeche Mode because of the new, fascinating ways they were able to incorporate synths into their music. Artists liked them because they were able to deliver moods through their music better than anyone else could. They are subversive, seductive, and just downright incredible as a band.
Of all the new wave bands in history, few (if any) can say they have had as long and as celebrated a career as Depeche Mode. They were one of the few recording groups that regularly managed to deliver hit after hit on the charts for over 20 years—a rare feat in any music genre.
Do we really need to say any more? Depeche Mods is legendary, and they definitely earned every ounce of praise they got. Their music is just as great online, which is why they're one of the best new wave bands on Spotify and beyond.
Favorite Songs: "Personal Jesus," "Enjoy The Silence," "Policy Of Truth"