Oct 20

World Cup of 1980 Preview

FT3 comments • 554 views

This is the third time I’ve run a poll event based on a single year – 1980 follows 1990 and 2001, and they’ve all presented different challenges in terms of building out brackets that are fun, fair (well, fair-ish) and tell a story about what happened that year.

Go to a site like Rate Your Music and they make sense of 1980 in a familiar way. Their “Top 20 Singles” are entirely white and 95% male: Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Clash, Bowie, and so on.

All these people are represented in our version of 1980 – it’s entirely possible one of them will win the tournament – but to claim they tell the story of the year is nonsense.

All the post-punk and new wave bands doing interesting things in 1980 were indebted to other musics – funk, reggae, dub, hip-hop, Afropop, disco, and more. They weren’t dealing with a safely packaged and canonised version of those musics from years in the past, but with their contemporaries, records being released alongside them. 

So even if, say, “Once In A Lifetime” wins the tournament, to be worth winning the list of tracks needs to take in as much as possible of the world “Once In A Lifetime” existed in. 

Fortunately, thanks to the wonderful contributors to the nominations list, it does. This is a delightfully diverse poll. There are more “classic” tracks and harder groups than ever, but also a lot of the personal favourites, way-out choices and obscure cuts which make the discovery phase of these events such a joy.

This time I’ve tried to be a little looser about the brackets, genre wise, reflecting the cross-fertilisation that was happening. Some are strictly genre-bound, others defined more by mood. The first round will be more fluid too, with stuff from different areas brought together earlier than the ‘01 or ‘90 events.

The basic shape of the poll splits the 256 tracks into 16 brackets, grouped into 4 broad areas.

In the first half, we’re looking at pop and soul in the afterglow of disco – from massive hits, through dancefloor fillers, to hipster experiments. At the same time we’re exploring the fallout of punk – the first stirrings of US hardcore and college rock, the harsh tones of post-punk, the weird mutations which found a home on the new UK indie charts.

Then in the second half, we look at rock’s old and new waves – boat-shoed smoothies, cheeky chappies, veterans trying to keep afloat. And we check out the emerging musics which would flower in the 80s – hip-hop, metal, electronic pop.

It’s going to be something pretty special. It starts on November 6th – we’re taking an end of month break as there might be other more distracting things happening. I’ll be running previews of each of the 16 brackets on my Patreon, as before, but all the playlists there will be posted publicly on Twitter too.


  1. 1
    koganbot on 25 Oct 2020 #

    Yeah, I’d counted at least 14 tracks from reggae and its environs (dancehall, lovers rock, ska), and that’s not even taking in reggae-cognizant stuff by the Beat, the Clash, and the Police. So there was no way you were going to cram reggae and hip-hop all in one bracket, and I’m looking forward to how you group it all.

  2. 2
    Alex on 29 Oct 2020 #

    Yes, over time I’ve become fascinated by that musical juncture. so much creativity! where all the genres pass through! It would be interesting to understand why there was such an adaptive radiation just then.

  3. 3
    pelipaidat jalkapallo on 6 Nov 2020 #

    Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out some additional information. pelipaidat jalkapallo

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