Stranger Things season 3's trailer is an all-out 1980s extravaganza, yet the song that scores the new teaser is oddly from 1970. In the upcoming season, the Hawkins gang moves into 1985, meaning malls, big hair, and vibrantly colored pool wear. And there's nothing more 1985 than... The Who?!
The Stranger Things season 3 trailer uses The Who's classic "Baba O'Riley", a five-minute journey of a song. Originally intended to be part of rock opera Lighthouse, it was repurposed after the project was scrapped and released as part of the grandstanding album Who's Next. The wrinkle? That debuted in 1971, 14 years before the events of Stranger Things season 3. While admittedly not as confounding as using a song made after the show's setting, it's still an on-the-face-of-it odd move by Netflix; it would be like using Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" to market a story set in 1996.
To Netflix's credit, they've used the ConfidentialMX remix of "Baba O'Riley" that adds some of Stranger Things' typical synth notes and isolated the vocals, matching the song to later musical styles. Beyond that justification, though, there's a lot of advantages to season 3's trailer using the "Baba O'Riley".
The most obvious are the song's lyrics: the trailer puts a lot of focus on the line "It's only teenage wasteland", a phrase that works as a pretty apt summary of the situation the kids find themselves in. Mike, Dustin et al are now proper teenagers and - as a result of growing up as much as their experiences with the Upside Down - are beginning to see their interests shift from playing Dungeons & Dragons. In the trailer, Mike even states "What did you think? That we're going to sit in our basement all day, play games for the rest of our lives?"
The age of Stranger Things' kids in season 3 is itself a reason to use the song. All of the main characters - Mike, Lucas, Will, Dustin, Eleven and Max - in the show were born in 1971, the same year "Baba O'Riley" released, making it possible the song is some sort of meta-reference. And, if theories of Eleven having time travel abilities come to pass, some degree of connected dissonance makes sense.
Ultimately, though, it must be said "Baba O'Riley" is a great song and a timeless one at that. It's been played repeatedly throughout the years - it's the default "record scratch" track - to the point its year of origin has almost become moot; like Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" or Journey's "Don't Stop Believin", what matters more is when the listener first heard it. And is there a better way to represent the seemingly neverending summer of childhood Stranger Things season 3 is going for than that?
Stranger Things season 3 releases on Netflix on July 4.