One of the most consistently-praised elements of Netflix's breakaway hit Stranger Things is the series' use of music, from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein's pulsing, synth-driven theme song to the period-specific pop tunes that dominate the soundtrack. Except…are said tunes actually period-specific? No, as it turns out!
After a very serious, in-depth investigation on Google, I discovered that a number of the tracks featured in the series are in fact anachronistic — i.e. released after 1983, the year in which Stranger Things is set. This is shocking, I know, but we all have to accept it. Breathe and remain calm as you browse the full list of non-period-accurate songs from the series below.
NOTE: For added context, each entry is additionally marked “diegetic” (music that exists within the narrative realm of the show, i.e. that can be heard by the characters) or “non-diegetic” (music that exists outside the narrative realm of the show, i.e. cannot be heard by the characters).
“(You're A) Gonowhere” – Reagan Youth (Episode 2)
This aggressive tune by New York hardcore pioneers Reagan Youth plays back-to-back with The Clash's 1982 classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go” on Jonathan's car radio, which sounds like a fun sequence! Unfortunately, the tracks' existence on the same rotation in 1983 would have been an impossible occurrence, given that “(You're A) Gonowhere” wasn't released until the following year, on Reagan Youth's 1984 album Youth Anthems for the New Order.
“Hazy Shade of Winter” – The Bangles (Episode 2)
Type: (Seemingly) Non-diegetic
The Bangles' cover of Simon & Garfunkel's 1966 tune “Hazy Shade of Winter” is a fine makeout track for Nancy and Steve, except for one thing: it wouldn't be released for another four years. Indeed, the Bangles recorded the song for the soundtrack to Less than Zero, which hit theaters in November 1987.
“Heroes” – Peter Gabriel (Episode 3)
This one's admittedly a little unfair. While Peter Gabriel's haunting cover of the David Bowie classic wasn't released until 2010 (on the album Scratch My Back), the original was written and released in 1977, so you can sorta justify giving this one a pass (particularly given that it's non-diegetic). Except that I won't.
“Elegia” – New Order (Episode 5)
While the lush, eerie “Elegia” is decidedly apropos for a sequence depicting funeral preparations, it was a track on New Order's album Low-Life, which wasn't released until two years after Will Byers' disappearance.
“Green Desert” – Tangerine Dream (Episode 5)
“Green Desert” was a track on the 1986 Tangerine Dream album of the same name, three years before Sheriff Hopper tore apart his trailer in search of listening devices. (In fairness, the album was actually recorded in 1973.)
“Nocturnal Me” – Echo & the Bunnymen (Episode 5)
The driving, haunting “Nocturnal Me,” which plays over Episode 5's closing credits, was a track on Echo & the Bunnymen's 1984 album Ocean Rain, dangit.
“Sunglasses at Night” – Corey Hart
Hart's first Top 40 hit plays on Steve's car radio as he drives to Nancy's house with the insufferable Tommy and Carol, which is impressive considering the song didn't hit the airwaves until the following January.
“Moby” – When It's Cold I'd Like to Die
Talk about anachronisms: “When It's Cold I'd Like to Die,” which plays as Jim and Joyce revive Will in the Upside Down, was included as a track on Moby's 1995 album Everything is Wrong — a full 12 years after the events of Stranger Things Season 1. Then again, I suppose in the Upside Down anything is possible.