10 Best Depeche Mode Songs
Depeche Mode were both a product and innovators of the early '80s New Wave scene that spawned their branch of synth-pop. Over the years, and over the course of a dozen albums, they've shaped and reshaped the horizons of their music, which started as an electronic alternative to indie's burgeoning guitar rock, then tried on some darkly hued club beats and now falls somewhere in between. They've had their ups and downs over the years, especially after 1993's 'Songs of Faith and Devotion,' their only No. 1 album. Our list of the 10 Best Depeche Mode Songs focuses on their peak years.
The band's seventh album, 'Violator' (from 1990), was their breakthrough LP, reaching the Top 10 for the first time. Its opening track, 'World in My Eyes,' was released as the fourth and final single, but it's one of the record's key cuts, bridging their genre-confining past with their more wide-open future.
The band's first U.S. hit introduced Brit-curious Americans to a battering of synth sounds that falls somewhere between a robotic military march and the knotted guts of a late-night factory machine. The group -- especially the song's writer, Martin Gore -- isn't particularly fond of 'People Are People,' but it's a significant step in their move outside of Europe.
The release of 'Behind the Wheel,' the third single from Depeche Mode's sixth album, was marked with a flurry of mixes, many of which paired the song with its B-side, a cover of the R&B classic 'Route 66.' The track's legacy lies with those mixes, which twist, turn and mold the song into something totally new. It's the sound of the band's future taking shape.
The band followed up its breakthrough hit 'People Are People' (see No. 9 on our list of the 10 Best Depeche Mode Songs) with a BDSM-themed cut that came complete with the sound of cracking whips. Like many of the group's singles, the extended remixes of 'Master and Servant' flipped the track into a dark, dirty realm that had its own rules.
Depeche Mode's only Top 10 hit in the U.S. (it reached No. 8) preceded their seventh album by a month. Both helped break the band to a mainstream audience. Built on one of Gore's most supple melodies, 'Enjoy the Silence' finds the group at its most effortlessly rhythmic, especially singer Dave Gahan, who floats over, sneaks under and slips into the casually soaring synths.
From the simple and playful opening keyboard riff to the staccato rhythm that drives the song, 'Just Can't Get Enough' was Depeche Mode's proper introduction to the world. The track -- the final single written by founding member Vince Clarke, who left the group at the end of the year -- anchors the band's debut album with its super-springy synth-pop, which would soon be replaced by heavier, gloomier sounds.
Following the breakout success of 1990's 'Violator,' Depeche Mode returned three years later with their most abrasive set of songs, thanks to the use of more traditional rock instruments like guitars and live drums (it paid off: 'Songs of Faith and Devotion' is the band's only No. 1 album). Inspired by U2's recent 'Achtung Baby,' as well as that album's nod to '70s krautrock, 'I Feel You' is all screeching noise, stomping beats and menacing ooze.
'Strangelove' is one of the most typical Depeche Mode songs. Its mechanical synth-driven rhythm sounds equally at home on the dance floor, on alternative radio or in some black-sporting goth kid's bedroom. The song launched the group's comeback in the U.S., which stalled after the controversial 'Master and Servant' bombed in 1984 (see No. 7 on our list of the 10 Best Depeche Mode Songs).
One of Depeche Mode's most musically adventurous songs is also one of their earliest to combine a social message with a pop-tilting chorus. It's remained one of their most popular songs over the past 30 years. Also check out the version from the 1989 live album '101,' in which a stadium full of fans transforms the song into something close to a group prayer.
The first single from the breakthrough 'Violator' album came out in August 1989, more than half a year before the LP's release. And it helped spur the band's global domination (it was the first of their several Top 10 modern-rock hits over the next decade). Gore, who wrote the song, claimed it was inspired by Elvis Presley. Whatever the case, 'Personal Jesus''s goth-cowboy shuffle coupled with Gahan's messianic delivery resulted, ironically enough, in the band's most humanistic song.