Electro-synth rhythms took over the charts in the summer of 1982 with The Human League and their song Don’t You Want Me.
The British band had two relatively successful albums in the early 1980s, but with their third album Dare, left behind the avante garde and embraced a pop sound because of their new frontman Philip Oakey.
With the band’s break-up and new line-up, The Human League’s third album released by Virgin in the UK and A&M Records in the US kept the synth sounds with a pop and dance focus. The Sound of the Crowd was the first single from Dare, released in April 1981 and hit number 12 on the Billboard charts.
Inspired by A Star is Born, Oakey wrote Don’t You Want Me, but altered the song from a male solo into a duet about teen girl heartbreak, sung with his bandmate Susan Ann Sulley, who had previously only sang back-up vocals. But he didn’t like the recording and relegated the song to the B side of the album.
Virgin Records executive Simon Draper decided to release a fourth single before the end of 1981, choosing Don’t You Want Me. This angered Oakey, who thought the public might be sick of their songs and demanded a poster to be included with the single to make it worthwhile for their fans.
Don’t You Want Me was released in November 1981 and made an immediate splash, especially with its music video for the song, also inspired by A Star is Born. Due to the launch of MTV in 1981, Virgin Records was eager to promote the band with a slick video.
Despite Oakey’s negativity, the song went on to climb the charts, bringing the band its a number one single for Christmas 1981 and the band’s first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1982.
Rolling Stone chose the song as an essential part of the second British Invasion in 1983.