Best New Wave Songs for Kids


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Okay, I agree. Rock Lobster is New Wave, not punk even though I put it in my list of the best punk rock songs for kids. Fine. And I don’t get to be punk if I wasn’t tearing up the mosh pits in some specific location in 1979. Rather than argue about punk rock authenticity, I’m making a list of the best new wave songs for kids. They should be cheerful and danceable. And they should be songs that would get you beat up in middle school in 1982 in Texas especially if you put gel in your hair and had it swoop down over one eye. (They called us “wetheads”.)

my friends under the stairs

Make your kid a “mix tape” themed CD or flash drive with these new wave songs, or play them in the car. They’re good songs for driving or for a kids’ party. This list of songs is also great for watching the original music videos on YouTube with your kids! For each song on the list, I’ll link out to the downloadable Amazon mp3s and for some, will link to their YouTube videos.

The Best New Wave Songs for Kids

A-ha – Take On Me | Take On Me music video (the best!)
Modern English – I Melt With You | music video
XTC – Senses Working Overtime
Howard Jones – Things Can Only Get Better | music video
Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy | music video (YEAH!!!)
The Cure – The Lovecats
Depeche Mode – People Are People and New Life
Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes | music video – hilarious!
Nena – 99 Luftballons. I got so sick of this song. But it has aged well! | The music video is so full of drama.
M – Pop Muzik (Devo Remix) I couldn’t find the original, but here’s the original music video and a link to buy a Devo remix.
Devo – Whip It (or Working In The Coal Mine)
New Order – Dream Attack
Pet Shop Boys – I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing
Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love (Album Version)
Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way
General Public – Tenderness | music video (My… they’re good looking. I had no idea.)
Ash Wednesday – Love by Numbers This song is new wave, velvet-undergroundy, twee, and nerdy all at once. Good for little kids to pogo while chanting random numbers.

Those are all great for little kids. Once your child hits upper middle or high school then you can lay the more depressing moody new wave on them, and the songs with swears in them. These are good if your child is angry, sad, and brooding over great wrongs.

The Best New Wave Songs for Teenagers

The Smiths – These Things Take Time (and the entire Hatful of Hollow album)
Pretty much all other Depeche Mode, Cure, Smiths, and New Order albums
Laibach – The Final Countdown
OMD – If You Leave
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Echo and the Bunnymen – Killing Moon and Lips Like Sugar
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Dear Prudence
Shriekback – Gunning for the Buddha and All Lined Up
Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun, Kiss Off, and Add It Up. This (Violent Femmes) is one of the best albums ever.

Me with pink hair in 1986:
pink hair, 1986

And here’s the haircut I gave myself this weekend! It’s asymmetrical 80s nostalgia day every day in my head – and on my head… Me and Cyndi Lauper are still totally BFF!

lounging on picnic blanket

What would you put on this list of new wave music for little kids and teenagers? It’s definitely missing Culture Club, Wham, and other bands and songs that are borderline pop music, like stuff by the Go-Gos or Katrina and the Waves.

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36 Responses to Best New Wave Songs for Kids

  1. Jinian says:

    I think little kids and Falco would be a fine match. "Rock Me Amadeus" is of course highly educational, but "Der Kommissar" would be fun to yell and bounce to. The English version would be more intelligible, but since you've correctly opted for the German on Nena perhaps you'd be willing to do so here as well!

    • lizhenry says:

      Oh, perfect! We just watched the Der Kommissar video and danced to it. Verdict: "He looks like he's skating. If this video were in English, it'd be even more awesome, and that's saying a lot, because it's already really, really awesome."

    • Susy says:

      Ahahaha. My 7-yr-old son loves Rock Me "Apple-Tales" I can't correct him because driving around with him singing that over and over is too much fun. My 10-yr-old daughter loves Dead or Alive, Blondie, the Safety Dance and She Blinded Me with Science. (was that Thomas Dolby?)

      • lizhenry says:

        Yes it was Thomas Dolby and I love that song!

        I think Blondie's "Rapture" should go on some list of great rock songs for kids. Do we call it New Wave though? Close enough…

  2. Lori S. says:

    Oh, yes! Here's more:

    I Eat Cannibals–Total Coelo
    Da Da Da–Trio
    Hyperactive–Thomas Dolby
    Homosapien–Pete Shelley
    Walking in LA–Missing Persons
    Always Something There To Remind Me–Naked Eyes
    Kids in America–Kim Wilde
    Caterpillar–The Cure

    Obviously I am still on the "younger kids" side of things. The Smiths will have to wait.

    • lizhenry says:

      I don't know some of those! You're so much cooler than I am. I award you 3 stars made of hair mousse! I'm going to go find the videos and link them up!

  3. Lisa says:

    Shriekback: My Spine is the Baseline — that's the one I heard over and over circa your picture (in the kitchen, remember?)

    Hard to add to your great list. The Cocteau Twins. Kate Bush 'Running Up that Hill.' Ultravox 'Vienna.' Tears for Fears 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World.' (was not a huge fan of this song at the time, but good one for teens!)

    • lizhenry says:

      Ooo, Cocteau Twins. Maybe some This Mortal Coil too if we're going to go all dreamy like that. I do remember listening to Shriekback in the kitchen! Mike LeF. had made me a tape of them!

  4. sheWhoWillNotBeNamed says:

    Hmm.. yeah, I'm two weeks late, story of my life, and it would also be a good name for band…

    Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World…and SHOUT
    Spandeu Ballet – True
    Madness – Our House
    The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town (gets stuck in your head for days!)
    Boomtown Rats – I Don't Like Mondays
    Baltimora – Tarzan Boy…try NOT to beat your chest while listenig to it!! LOL
    Big Country – In a Big Country
    ABC – Be Near Me
    Dexy's Midnight Runners – Come on Eileen
    Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
    The Cars – Shake It up (all of their songs rock!)
    Wall of Voodoo – Mexican Radio
    Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime
    Stray Cats – Stray Cat Strut
    Soft Cell – Tainted Love
    The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go? ….and Rock the Casbah

    whew! i just realized what a new wave junkie i truly am! i still listen to this stuff and my girls do too!!

    • lizhenry says:

      sheWhoWillNotBeNamed: Those are all good! I'm tempted to take everyone's suggestions and make another, longer list with lots of links!

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  9. john says:

    Those are awesome songs for kids i like them.

  10. Brock says:

    My kids love songs they often listen to nursery ryhms and also dance on those songs.

  11. Brodie says:

    Music is a very nice thing to have when you get bored.Kids love music and its best way to relax them up.

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  19. I think little kids and Falco would be a fine match.

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