It’s been a while since we talked about the key components of Power Pop Rock N Roll. You can catch up on previous instalments concerning Power Pop and Pop. This time – finally – we discuss Pop-Rock!
If you did an online search you might find these definitions of Pop-Rock :
“a music genre which mixes a catchy pop style, of light lyrics, in its (typically) guitar-based rock songs. There are varying definitions of the term, ranging from a slower and mellower form of rock music to a subgenre of pop music.” (Google) or
“rock music with a greater emphasis on professional songwriting and recording craft, and less emphasis on attitude.” (Wikipedia)
Looking at these definitions, it’s clear that Pop-Rock is quite wide-ranging compared to Power Pop which relies heavily on elaborate vocal arrangements (like the Beatles/the Beach Boys) melded with crunching power chords and pummelling drumming.
Some might even argue that Power Pop is really a subset of Pop-Rock and I would not resist that logic too much. It’s just that as a genre, Power Pop just sounds cooler.
In any case, perhaps it’s safer to say that Pop-Rock artists generally added highly professional and sophisticated production and arrangements to rock ‘n’ roll music. Less visceral attitude and a sweeter appeal is a pretty good shorthand.
It’s fair to say that Pop-Rock really came into its own in the Seventies. Let’s look at some examples, shall we?
“Band on the Run” by Wings
Certainly Paul McCartney’s penchant for a hooky melody and rock dynamics bore fruit in Wings. “Band on the Run” is a fine example of a combination of these two elements.
“I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren
Rundgren truly blossomed in the early seventies as a Pop-Rock genius. “I Saw the Light” married the slick soul-pop of his hometown Philadelphia with a rock sensibility, which included lead guitar harmonies.
“Starman” by David Bowie
Although ostensibly Bowie was pigeon-holed as being part of the Glam movement that swept UK in the early 70s, the singer-songwriter was an iconoclastic pop-rock artist that turned genre-bending into a fine art. “Starman” is a brilliant demonstration of this – especially in its chorus where he evokes the pop standard, “Over the Rainbow”.
Bowie’s influence would be felt strongly in the post-punk era when new wave become the rage. A careful inspection of new wave would reveal it to be nothing more than a subgenre of Pop-Rock.
“Start!” by The Jam
Initially mis-labelled as a punk band, The Jam were quintessential mods and paid tribute to their heroes The Beatles, Small Faces and The Who in their highly stylish Pop-Rock agenda.
“Just What I Needed” by The Cars
The Cars had the smarts to bring an American rock ‘n’ roll sensibility to Bowie’s cold art-pop-rock to become one of the biggest new wave bands of the 80s.
“Voices Carry” by ‘Til Tuesday
Big hair and big sound was the order of the day for 80s Pop-Rock hits. A sound that is still with us in 2018 with the modern incarnation of indie pop. The 80s also witnessed the incremental reinvention of the female voice.
In the modern day, Pop-Rock has somewhat been hijacked by limp bands like Coldplay, The Script and Snow Patrol but there are still signs of daylight amongst the bleakness.
Pop-Rock probably deserves more examinations – especially of the last 35 years or so but for now, this is good enough.
… still there’s more …