What Are The Kids Listening To These Days - 80s Music Edition


A common practice for consumer brand marketers it to put test subjects into a room and have them experience products. This gives those brands great insight into a consumer's behavior towards their product; their likes and dislikes.

As DJs music is one of the products we offer. While music charts, radio airplay and general conversations with people may yield some indication on what is popular, there’s nothing like a good old product test.

REACT is a channel on YouTube that shows videos to specific audiences while filming their reaction. There are elders reacting to modern slang, parents reacting to current music and kids reacting to 80s movies.

But the series of videos that attracted me were the ones centered around music. Specifically several videos of college and teenage kids reacting music from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. To say I was surprised to most of the reactions is an understatement. There were songs I assumed they would enjoy and they had no clue on. And of course there were other tracks that were very recognizable that I rarely play at my gigs and that I would seriously consider playing now

Feel free to check out these super insightful videos. But if you want the “Cliff’s Notes,” I spent time watching them all, and here’s what I found.

College Kids 80s - Part 1

College Kids 80s - Part 2

At the time of the posting, I estimated that these participants, college kids and the teens, were born between 1995-1998 and 2000-2003 respectively. I believe people really start to engage with popular music by age 10, so that means most of these songs were at least 20 years old by the time they may have heard them. And 30 years old at the time they were watching the videos!

The college kids were definitely influenced by pop culture and memes. Songs that appeared in movies such as “Time After Time” (Napoleon Dynamite) and “Don’t You Forget About Me” (The Breakfast Club) were instantly recognizable. And of course all knew “Never Gonna Give You Up”, of  RickRolling meme fame.

Not surprisingly Michael Jackson was familiar, but surprisingly - and sadly - few knew “When Doves Cry”. There was also confusion with artists and bands, some thinking Motley Crue was Scorpion or Alice Cooper; or Berlin being Cyndi Lauper.

Here are some other stats, which tracks how many knew the song and/or artist:

Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
Song 10/10, Artist 10/10

Don’t You Forget About Me, Simple Minds
Song 10/10, Artist 0/10

Time after Time, Cyndi Lauper
Song 10/10 , Artist 2/10

Girls, Girls, Girls, Motley Crue
Song 8/10, Artist 0/10

Tainted Love, Soft Cell
Song 9/10, Artist 0/10

When Doves Cry, Prince
Song 6/10, Artist 4/10

Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley
Song 10/10, Artist 8/10

We’re Not Gonna Take It, Twisted Sister
Song 9/10, Artist 1/10

Take My Breath Away, Berlin
Song 8/10, Artist 0/10

Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran
Song 7/10, Artist 0/10

Super Freak,Rick James
Song 8/10, Artist 1/10

I Love Rock ‘N Roll, Joan Jett
Song 10/10, 3/10 Artist

Uptown Girl, Billy Joel
Song 6/10, Artist 3/10

Fight For Your Right, Beastie Boys
Song 7/10, Artist 2/10

Justin Kanoya is a DJ based in San Diego, California. Follow him on Instagram, join his Facebook group, Business Coaching for DJs and subscribe to his YouTube Channel.