This is a little gem of a song that unexpectedly makes me cry, or at least tear up. On the surface that’s an unexpected response; after all, this song is basically a “We Didn’t Start the Fire”-style recitation of a bunch of ’80s bands (The Cars, Joan Jett, Bryan Adams, etc.). For the singers that don’t get name dropped, and there are over 80 of them, the lyrics contain winking references to other hits: “Who doesn’t want to rule the world?”
And yet there’s a heart to this song that gets me: it’s the story of a teenage boy living on the “mean streets [of] Westport, Connecticut” and all the New Wave that he loves. He runs through New York City and dreams of making it big someday. Dreams are what “Young & Free” is all about: the soundtrack to a decade that was big and experimental and would influence generations of artists to come. And indeed, in the description of the song, singer Jack O’Neill says that he was raised on the New Wave radio station WLIR and the brand-new channel MTV.
It’s clever, too, because the beat of the song is a tight drum machine mixed with electronic sound effects. How much more ’80s can you get?