Did you know that Depeche Mode‘s 1987 Music for the Masses single “Never Let Me Down Again” was a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit? Neither did we — in fact, our records show that the song actually peaked at No. 63 in Feb. ’88 — but according to HBO’s new post-apocalyptic drama series The Last of Us, it’s one of the songs featured in Fred Bronson’s essential The Billboard Book of Number One Hits compendium, which characters on the video game adaptation play over the radio in order to send coded messages to fellow survivors.
Regardless of its chart peak, the use of Depeche Mode’s dark synth-rock classic in the pilot episode’s chilling final scene — an ’80s song is meant in the show’s universe as a message of trouble — inspired many of the new video game adaptation’s millions of viewers to go play it themselves. “Never Let Me Down Again” more than tripled in official on-demand U.S. streams overnight, from 26,000 on the day of the premiere (Jan. 15) to 83,000 the next day — a gain of 220.5%, according to Luminate. (Depeche Mode even helped welcome the newly interested by adding a “Heard on Episode 1 of The Last of Us” parenthetical to the title of the song’s official YouTube video.)
Of course, when you start talking about minor crossover hits from the ’80s alt-pop underground being revived by blockbuster TV shows in 2023, all minds naturally go to Kate Bush and Stranger Things. The song has a long way to go still before showing that kind of renewed impact just yet — but it’s certainly a message that when it comes to catalog hits being given new life by dramatic TV syncs, a lot of artists are going to want to be taking a ride with The Last of Us.