Songs that Changed Music: New Order - Blue Monday

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On March 7, 1983, New Order released the single “Blue Monday.” In addition to its massive commercial success, charting in the top 10 in several different countries, the single established New Order’s reimagined voice, distinct from the raw emotions and haunting melodies of Joy Division, and launching the world of dance music into a whole new era. As John Bush declared: “‘Blue Monday’ cemented New Order’s transition from post-punk to alternative dance with vivid sequencers and a set of distant, chilling lyrics by Bernard Sumner”

At first, in the time between Curtis’ death, and “Blue Monday”, New Order struggled to find their identity as a band. Their first single” (“Ceremony” with “In a Lonely Place”) were tracks they had written with Curtis before his passing, and their first album (Movement, 1981) followed in the same vein of dark, haunting ytacks, as their work in Joy Division. What “Blue Monday” offered, instead, was a startling break away from that emotionality and into the mechanized sound of drum machines and synthesizers. As Sumner reflected in 2015: “I think ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ connects with people because of the emotional content within the song, and I think ‘Blue Monday’ connects with people because of the startling lack of emotional content within the song. It’s kind of contradictory, really.”

While the sonic shift seemed to be a drastic change, there are several lines of influence that can be drawn between the track and the band’s earlier work. The impact of a band like Kraftwerk on New Order should come as no surprise; however, it was actually Ian Curtis who introduced the electronic music pioneers to his bandmates. As Hook explained:

“My earliest memory of Kraftwerk was being given an LP by Ian Curtis. He gave me ‘Autobahn’ and then later ‘Trans Europe Express’. I was absolutely mesmerised by both. Ian suggested that every time Joy Division go on stage, we should do so to ‘Trans Europe Express’. We did that from our first show, until nearly our last […] Joy Division were very tied to Kraftwerk, but it wasn’t until we got to New Order and were able to afford the toys that our primary source of inspiration became, ‘Let’s rip off Kraftwerk’. Their music was beguilingly simple, but impossible to replicate.”

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