The Human League were among the first wave of very popular synthpop groups to emerge from England’s New Wave scene. After being influenced by early artists in the genre, such as Kraftwerk and The Tubeway Army, the group’s 1981 album Dare became one of the decade’s most influential. Led by songwriter, keyboardist, and singer Philip Oakley and singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley, the group scored several top hits during the early-mid 1980s, and continued with some chart success until the mid-1990s. Early members of The Human League, who left before Catherall and Sulley joined the band, later formed the popular group Heaven 17.

Don’t You Want Me” was the breakout hit from Dare, even though Oakley thought it was “filler”. The song was an unexpected “Christmas #1 hit” in the U.K. in the Christmas of 1981, and the song hit number one for four weeks in America the following summer. This cemented the group as early superstars of the New Wave scene, including a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist (they lost to Men at Work). The group’s pop sound was anchored by layers of keyboards and electronic drums, setting the stage for future groups to flourish, such as Depeche Mode and The Pet Shop Boys.  In 2010, John C. Reilly called “Don’t You Want Me” “The Greatest Song Ever Recorded” in the movie Cyrus (clip below).

The Human League were also fashion icons, indicating they were associated with the New Romantic scene as well.  They had several other hits even in America, such as “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, “The Lebanon”, and “Human” (a number one hit in 1986). The group’s use of male and female vocals on several hits was definitely a key aspect to their sound.  The Human League continue to record and tour.

“Don’t You Want Me”

Cyrus Clip