5 Everything Counts – Construction Time Again (1983)
Finally a song that addressed the unbridled gluttony of the 80s, Everything Countsis about despondency with corporate greed and mass corruption. The discordant electronic tones highlight the overall theme of the song, without cramming it down your throat. In true Depeche Mode style, the listener is free to make his or her own interpretation. Of course, with such straightforward lyrics it’s pretty easy to figure out what the “correct” interpretation is. And it’s one worth listening to. The song’s tempo and particular notes trade the typical sorrowful Depeche Mode aura for a more hard-hitting message, making Everything Counts undeniably unique and valuable.
4 The Sweetest Condition – Exciter (2001)
With far more mysterious lyrics, The Sweetest Condition is a uniquely impressive track. The heavy bass beat with classic techno notes gives the song a much more layered quality than what synthpop/new wave had become. The classic Dave Gahan ethereal vocal style gives the song a personal quality that is lost in most new wave music. Anyone who has felt left behind or abandoned can find his or her vindication in this song. Facing any struggle where you feel as if you’re losing, no matter what you’re feeling, it seems to boil down to the very sentiment of The Sweetest Condition.
3 Precious– Playing the Angel (2005)
Put on your time travelling helmet and prepare to blast into the near-present. No surprise, Depeche Mode’s talent allowed them to remain a prominent fixture in the music scene well into the 2000s. With a far more 21st century sound, Precious is the grown up version of Depeche Mode’s classic anguish. One of the few songs where the meaning was revealed Precious is about what Martin Gore’s children must have been feeling during his divorce from their mother. Definitely a problem a lot of millennial children went through, Precious is a song for both children and parents. There is no shortage of heart-wrenching simplicity in Precious, as Depeche Mode is known for. Plainly put, Precious is far more deep and meaningful than most other “angst” ridden songs of the 2000s. It proved that Depeche Mode was allowed to grow up, and that growing up process meant even more stunning music.
2 Just Can’t Get Enough– Speak and Spell (1981
At first glance it would seem Just Can’t Get Enough could be the anthem of 80s gluttony; really, Just Can’t Get Enough is a remarkably sweet love song. The upbeat electronica makes you feel lighter, and the straightforward lyrics lay out the message in an uncomplicated way that is just so romantic (words not exactly synonymous with Depeche Mode). Their harmonizing adds a depth to the song, without which it could run the risk of falling flat. A classic “mix tape b-side first track” love song for your crush, Just Can’t Get Enough is one of those classic love songs that supersedes its genre, and weasels its way into your heart forever.
1 Personal Jesus– Violator (1989)
Everything about this song is incredible. The juxtaposition of the video, the haunting classic Depeche Mode electronic music, and the distorted vocals that seem to seep into your ears instead of assaulting them (as powerful music is wont to do). Not only that, but the lyrics are completely controversial in nature – and exceedingly brilliant. The song is essentially about what every fanatical-monotheist opposes: finding your Personal Jesus, and letting it guide you. Finding whomever, or whatever, to mentor and lead you through the ups and downs (with Depeche Mode it’s mostly downs) of life. Personal Jesus has the haunting quality of an old church hymn gone terribly, terribly wrong, making it indisputably creepy yet deeply touching; it is a unique masterpiece.
These five songs prove that Depeche Mode’s talent and musical prowess outshine the box to which they’ve been put in by VH1 I Love the 80s – that of angsty, effeminate, teens whining about…whatever it is they want to whine about. Depeche Mode is actually a great chronicler of the growing up process. These five songs show that their music withstands the test of time because it evolves with it as their members mature. We can only hope that Depeche Mode will keep on keeping on, so we’ll have something good to listen to in our ripe old age.