Nostalgia is front and center in Netflix’s prequel “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.” Not only does the series connect to the 2001 cult film of the same name, it takes us back once more to the year 1981.
Yes, those agonizing fashions and synth-heavy songs are back, and unabashedly so.
The series takes pains to recreate the era, down to the hirsute hair styles and short shorts. Some elements of 1981 should stay buried in a time capsule. Yes, the year delivered radio staples like ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All,” ELO’s “Hold on Tight” and the Journey anthem “Don’t Stop Believin.'”
The year also gave birth to the following hit songs. Suffice to say each has aged poorly.
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“Hit Me with Your Best Shot”: Pat Benatar ruled the ’80s, and her 1981 hit provided a blast of in-your-face attitude. That was then. Today, the song sounds tired, its anger dulled by drab melodies.
“Physical”: Olivia Newton-John could do no wrong when she recorded this smash single. She even blurred her cutey-pie persona with the accompanying video — a glistening Newton-John flirts with muscle-bound men. Listen to it today, and you’ll cringe while wondering what the fuss is all about. “There’s nothing left to talk about/Unless it’s horizontally…” Newton-John sings. ‘Nuff said.
“Another One Bites the Dust”: We’re still waiting for that Freddie Mercury biopic that was once attached to funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen. Let’s hope they relegate this stale number to a medley sequence if it ever happens. The British band delivered a series of iconic songs, from the hard-driving “Under Pressure” to the silly yet sublime “Bohemian Rhapsody” during its reign. “Dust” is neither. Yes, some choruses, no matter how briefly catchy, go on way too long.
“In the Air Tonight”: Did living in the 1980s require an audio sleeping enhancement? If so, this droning Phil Collins track could do the trick.
“Private Eyes”: It’s not as awful as “Man Eater,” a Hall & Oates song that drives podcast king Adam Carolla into a rage. It’s still one of the pop duo’s weaker tracks. The band’s Billboard momentum probably carried it up the charts. Listening to it today demands a lick of courage and a taste for tacky wordplay. And clapping hands.