The world of Synthwave is one like no other, inspired by the magical nostalgia of the 80’s, mixed with the modern sound of electronic music. As the now semi-underground genre slowly makes its way to a more mainstream status, some classic songs within the community are also gaining in popularity. So, the time is perfect to seize the opportunity to shine a light on the hidden gems of Synthwave. From lesser known artists and off-genre entities, to top tier stars from within the genre, let’s take a look at the 10 greatest Synthwave songs you may have never heard.
10 “Clara” by Rebecca & Fiona
Rebecca & Fiona is a duo composed of two very enigmatic ladies from Sweden with a unique style. They have been around the block since 2010 and have been widely praised for their particular talent when it comes to blending modern and retro together. Their award-winning debut album “I Love You, Man”, an 80’s and 60’s pop hybrid complete with a mighty touch of modern House music, made them instant stars around the world.
Their true hidden gem, though, comes from their 2014 second album “Beauty Is Pain”, in the form of the song “Clara”, a brutally underrated Synthpop masterpiece graced with Rebecca & Fiona’s signature ethereal vocal style that gives the song a dreamy vibe that perfectly compliments its beautiful sense of nostalgia. While the song is part of another award-winning album, it is by far the most overlooked piece of the duo’s entire body of work.
9 “Neon Shade” by Starfounder
Being a criminally underrated artist in the world of Synthwave in general, we could say, in a way, that Starfounder’s entire discography is eligible for this list. The producer has been around for a couple of years now, and he shows no signs of stopping. His style falls heavily in the realm of Darksynth, and he excels at it in ways other people simply cannot.
While pretty much all of his songs could make it on here, the crown definitely goes to his 2018 artistic tour de force “Neon Shade.” The hard-hitting, obscure, yet insanely groovy beat of this gem grasps you from the very first seconds, and doesn’t let go. The production is flawless, complimented with a lead melody reminiscing of 80’s horror films. It simply oozes badass energy, and deserves to be one of the top hits of the genre.
8 “Words” by Lost Nights
Lost Nights is one of those artists who greatly enjoys playing with genres, in a way that makes his sound feel fresh and untouchble. And, as a result of this experimentation, he offers a variety of original takes on Synthwave. The perfect example for it would be the entirety of his 2019 debut album “Rewind”, but, more specifically, none of his songs hammer this point in harder than “Words”.
The sinister production, paired with the incredibly original robotic vocal design, makes “Words” an absolute marvel to listen to. The melodies are as catchy as it gets, and the ever-changing rhythmic of the drums make for a surprisingly transformative track, heavily driven by its meticulous sense of detail. Lost Nights truly gives us an impressive piece of art that we hope will soon go beyond the Synthwave community and reach mainstream audiences.
7 “Bad Tourist” by Madelyn Darling
Madelyn Darling is a young singer/songwriter who has made quite a solid name for herself within the universe of Synthwave in the past couple of years, which is quite an impressive achievement knowing she has only ever released three songs. And although these songs all have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, it is ironically her most popular song that is also one of the most underrated Synthwave tracks ever made.
The only thing smoother than the effortlessly soothing beat of “Bad Tourist” is Madelyn’s impeccable vocal work. From the very first word, her soft and serene voice captures you and sends you into a galaxy of tremendous writing. “Bad Tourist” is one of those songs that definitely deserves to kick down the mainstream audience’s doors and become a certified hit, making of Madelyn the star she should be. And, if this song is any indication of what is to come for the singer, there is no doubt she will soon receive the recognition she is deserves.
6 “Gonna Live My Life” by Leandro Da Silva and Tom & Hills (featuring Jutty Ranx)
It is an odd thing when artists known for being in a very specific genre suddenly break their own rules to tackle another one. It generally comes from a personal desire to expand artistically, or simply from a passion project being brought to life. So, when EDM producers and DJs Leandro Da Silva and Tom & Hills teamed up to make a Synthwave record in 2017, people were understandably taken by surprise. Thankfully though, the trio delivered on every front.
With American band Jutty Ranx joining on the vocals, “Gonna Live My Life” is a dynamic, groovy and wistful track that will make you crave an afternoon on the beach with your friends as soon as the beat kicks in. Da Silva’s trademark undertones are still very present in the song, but every single cook in this kitchen put their hearts into making one of the best Synthwave tracks of that year. And while it may have had minor success in the EDM community, it largely flew under the radar in the Synthwave world… or in the world in general.
5 “Creation” by DJ Ten (featuring Lost Nights)
DJ Ten is a highly respected figure in the vast universe of Synthwave. After all, he is the founder of NewRetroWave, the biggest network in the world for the genre, as well as one of its most prominent record labels. As an artist, he is also a powerful presence. When his EP “We Dream Loud” was finally revealed to the world in November 2019, the excitement was palpable. And it is with a sheer sense of euphoria that people to got to discover “Creation”.
Joining forces with Lost Nights, who bears a mighty set of vocals on the track, Ten delivers a compelling song, graced with a slow beat, beautiful melodies, a smooth vibe, and an enchanting sense of nostalgia that will transport you right back to the 80’s. “Creation” is a real masterpiece of the genre, one that is part of a brilliant body of work that solidifies once more DJ Ten’s status in the world of Synthwave.
4 “Paralyzed” by John & The Volta
French Indie Pop band John & The Volta (yes, it is a reference to John Travolta) has been around since 2017, and their 2013 debut EP “Empirical” introduced the world to the song “Paralized”, the original version of “Paralyzed”. The revitalized take on the song was released in their 2017 album “Low Life” and quickly became a fan favorite that established the band’s name in the Indie world.
“Paralyzed” is a charismatic effort from John & The Volta — one that graciously blends Synthwave with a masterful touch of Indie Rock, giving the track its own, very unique identity. If the hook doesn’t make you move even a little bit, we’re afraid nothing ever will. The song has had a moderate wave of success in 2019 after being featured in the third season of the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why (just like their song “Bad Dreams” was featured in the second season), but it is still far from being the absolute hit it should be.
3 “Galactic Swing” by Florida Skyline
The beautiful sub-genre of Chillwave (or Lo-Fi Synthwave) has been tackled by many over the years, but few have been able to make it their own the way Florida Skyline has. Sadly, we lost Florida Skyline in late 2019, as she tragically past away at the young age of 17. But we are eternally thankful that she left behind her a unique and powerful body of work that we will be able to enjoy forever. The Moscow prodigy was a true master of the genre, and it was never as obvious as it was in her instrumental piece “Galactic Swing”.
The world-class production skill in this song is to die for. The melody work is precise and heavily detailed, creating a dreamy atmosphere that perfectly showcases the talent behind the track. Florida Skyline was only 15 years old when the song was released in her EP “Utopia”, back in June 2017, and we can only imagine what the future would have held for such a talent. And thus, “Galactic Swing” is a song that is entitled to far more recognition than it already has within the community. Rest in peace, Florida Skyline.
2 “Dance 1984” by Wayfloe
Despite being relatively new to the scene, Wayfloe needs no introduction in the Synthwave world. They are one of the most inventive acts the genre has ever known, and they especially stand out due to the glaring sense of mystery around them and their cryptic lyrics. But, while they have mostly been experimental with Synthwave, Wayfloe have also proven several times that, when they do tackle the genre in a more traditional way, they can still outdo almost anyone. Case and point: “Dance 1984”.
From their now iconic tracks “Neon West” with Firefox AK and “Fractions” with Jessie Frye, to the blissfully sinister “Godspeed” and “Moonwalker”, it is safe to say Wayfloe’s unique nostalgic dark tone has become an artistic signature no one can replicate. Which is why “Dance 1984” is such a delight. The track is a surprisingly joyful antithesis to an otherwise somber album with heavy themes. A happy and playful tune that simply expresses the desire to let go and have fun is the opposite of what anyone would expect from the boys in the round glasses, and that is the very reason why this underrated gem is so perfect.
1 “Jumping Judas” by Teenage Bad Girl & Illa J
It has been almost ten years since French duo Teenage Bad Girl has disappeared from the world. With several EPs and albums under their belt, they have had a few minor hits in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, mainly with their 2011 final album “Backwash”, which has gathered a bit of a cult following over the years, thanks to tracks like “X Girl” with Rye Rye, or the powerful “Fast Food Delivery”. And it is in that final album that the duo gave us what is, to this day, one of the greatest Synthwave tracks of all time.
“Jumping Judas” sees Detroit rapper Illa J join forces with Teenage Bad Girl to create an absolute banger of a record with a dark tone and a powerful lead melody creeping up on you midway through. The whole song is driven by Illa J’s impeccable flow and his old school style of rapping, as well as a flawless production by Teenage Bad Girl, blending several genres of music together, to glue it all with a heavy layer of 80’s synth. Almost 10 years later, very few Synthwave tracks can compare to the sheer brilliance of “Jumping Judas”, and the fact that this song does not get the reputation it has always deserved is an absolute outrage.