Why Did We Adore Soft Focus Music Videos in the ’80s? Because Love Is A Blurry Battlefield.

It’s official. Everyone loves Stranger Things. And why wouldn’t they? The characters are complex yet identifiable, the story is fun and scary, and the show is packed with pop culture references. But maybe the best part of Stranger Things is that it’s set in the ‘80s. I was also set in the ‘80s. Like Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, I spent my teen years trying to survive and thrive in the Big Hair Decade. 

And while I didn’t spend my nights fighting Demogorgons, I did spend a lot of time watching music videos. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a television tuned to MTV. You dressed like the people in the music videos, you sang like the people in the music videos, and if you were lucky, you got lucky like the people in the music videos.

There’s one thing I miss about all those ‘80s videos. The soft focus. What’s that, you ask? Well, soft focus was a camera trick used to make whatever the lens was seeing appear slightly blurry. 

Directors used soft focus in the early days of filmmaking to give their actresses a soft, glowing aura to them. They would drape a piece of sheer silk over the lens to make it appear like their leading ladies were almost ethereal. 

Sometimes they would smear Vaseline around the edge of the lens to create the same effect. If you saw a shot of a beautiful woman surrounded by lights that had a starry-glare or halo effect, then you were looking at soft focus.

Today’s music videos are crisp and clear and it’s easy to see what’s happening in them. But who wants that? ‘80s music videos loved soft focus, and we loved them for it. 

Case in point: Is that Bryan Ferry singing to a mysterious redhead in Roxy Music’s Avalon? I’m gonna go with yes? It’s hard to know for sure.

Olivia Newton-John sure is making me hot as we get Physical. I mean, I must be hot. I feel like I have sweat in my eyes, despite my preppy headband. Are we even still in the gym?

Weezer recently recreated the famous video for A-ha’s Take on Me, with their own Weezer-esque style. And in true ‘80s fashion, they not only cast Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things, but they shot him in soft focus. Bitchin’.

But the Kings of Soft Focus might be our patron saints, Hall & Oates. Just check out all that soft focus glory happening in their video for I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do). Look at those keyboard hands…

Daryl’s hair…

Soft focus sax solo!

Jon’s hand choreography!

Sure, Daryl’s trademark coif and John’s oh-so-sexy ‘stache look good in regular focus. But in soft focus? I can go for that.

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