How “The Last of Us” Could Revive This Depeche Mode Song

The HBO show's use of "Never Let Me Down Again" could renew interest in Depeche Mode's 1987 synth-pop classic

English electronic pop band Depeche Mode (L-R) Alan Wilder, Martin Gore, Dave Cahan, Andy "Fletch" Fletcher pose for a portrait back stage at the US version of Top of the Pops on December 7, 1987 in Hollywood, CA. A 1987 song by the band was recently used in HBO's "The Last of Us"
Depeche Mode in 1987: Soundtracking an HBO show in 2023.
Sherry Rayn Barnett/Getty

While most of the hype surrounding The Last of Us seems to center around the idea that somebody finally made a great video game adaptation (and that HBO has another worthy Sunday night show), there could be a side benefit: The genre series might reignite interest in a classic ’80s song.

First, spoiler alert: The debut episode of the post-apocalyptic series ends with “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode playing over a two-way radio; music aligned with different decades is a communications and warning system, which means nothing if you haven’t watched the show (and you should since it’s great and HBO’s largest debut after House of the Dragon since 2010).

As a tweet by @BusterSwordBoi (a Twitch streamer) noted, that 1987 synth-pop classic may get some new life.

Will the song become the next “Running Up That Hill,” the ’80s song by Kate Bush that suddenly became a global chart hit again in 2022 after its inclusion in this past season of Stranger Things? Maybe yes, maybe no. The song probably stands a better chance of making a modest appearance on various rock charts, as industry mag Billboard recently revamped its charts to reflect the ongoing and/or resurgent popularity of older songs.

And while the Kate Bush track is a classic and worthy of a new generation, that song’s popularity may have had just as much to do with music therapy and its very specific context of use in that show.

It doesn’t seem like there’s any push to get “Never Let Me Down Again” back onto the charts: Depeche Mode hasn’t posted about the track on their official site or on social media (though a Stereogum repost on Instagram has nearly 7,000 likes).

The original track, a modest hit outside the U.S. for the English band from the album Music for the Masses, was largely considered to be about drug use. But the lyrics are easy enough to appropriate as a “warning” or other coded message, particularly as The Last of Us seems to be one part road trip through a hellish landscape, one part possible search and rescue: “He knows where he’s taking me,” “we’re watching the world pass us by,” “promises me I’m safe as houses,” etc.

Whatever the code being used, it’s certainly a better pick than Wham!’s “Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)” which the character Ellie mentions, jokingly, as a way to decipher Joel’s communications codes (it turns out an ’80s track means trouble). Of course, in a show about a few weary survivors fighting off a plague of “the infected,” “You put the boom-boom into my heart” could have a double meaning.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.