New wave music

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New wave is a music genre that encompasses numerous pop-oriented styles from the late 1970s and the 1980s. [2] It was originally used as a catch-all for the music that emerged after punk rock, including punk itself, but may be viewed retrospectively as a more accessible counterpart of post-punk. [22] Although new wave shared punk's DIY philosophy, the artists were more influenced by the lighter strains of 1960s pop while opposed to mainstream "corporate" rock, which they considered creatively stagnant, and the generally abrasive and political bents of punk rock. [3]

Contents

Common characteristics of new wave music include a humorous or quirky pop approach, the use of electronic sounds, and a distinctive visual style featured in music videos and fashion. [22] [3] In the early 1980s, virtually every new pop/rock act – and particularly those that featured synthesizers in their sound – was tagged as "new wave". [22] By the 2000s, critical consensus favored "new wave" to be an umbrella term that encompassed power pop, synth-pop, ska revival, and the softer strains of punk rock. [6]

New wave peaked commercially in the late 1970s and the early 1980s with numerous major artists and an abundance of one-hit wonders. After MTV was launched in 1981, the network promoted new wave acts heavily on the channel, which gave the genre a boost in popularity. [22] In the mid-1980s, new wave declined with the emergence of several "new" labels: New Romantic, New Pop, and New Music. [23] Since the 1990s, new wave has enjoyed some resurgences after a rising nostalgia for several new wave-influenced artists. [24] [25] [26]

Characteristics

New wave encompasses numerous pop-oriented styles from the late 1970s and the 1980s. [2] It originally represented a break from the blues and rock & roll sounds of late 1960s to mid-1970s music. [27] Common characteristics of new wave music include a humorous or quirky pop approach, the use of electronic sounds, and a distinctive visual style featured in music videos and fashion. [22] According to Simon Reynolds, the music had a twitchy, agitated feel. New wave musicians often played choppy rhythm guitars with fast tempos, and keyboards were common, as were stop-start song structures and melodies. Reynolds noted that new wave vocalists sounded high-pitched, geeky and suburban. [27]

Although new wave shared punk's DIY philosophy, the artists were more influenced by the lighter strains of 1960s pop while opposed to mainstream "corporate" rock, which they considered creatively stagnant, and the generally abrasive and political bents of punk rock. [3] In the early 1980s, new wave acts embraced a crossover of rock music with African and African-American styles. Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow, both acts with ties to former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, used Burundi-style drumming. [28] The Talking Heads album Remain in Light was marketed and positively reviewed as a breakthrough melding of new wave and African styles, although drummer Chris Frantz said that he found out about this supposed African influence after the fact. [29] Second British Invasion acts were influenced by funk and disco. [30]

Blondie, 1976. L-R: Gary Valentine, Clem Burke, Deborah Harry, Chris Stein and Jimmy Destri. Blondie1977.jpg
Blondie, 1976. L–R: Gary Valentine, Clem Burke, Deborah Harry, Chris Stein and Jimmy Destri.

The majority of American male new wave acts of the late 1970s were from Caucasian middle-class backgrounds. Scholar Theo Cateforis theorized that these acts intentionally presented these exaggerated nerdy tendencies associated with their "whiteness" to criticize it and/or to reflect their identity. [31] A nervous, nerdy persona was a common characteristic of new wave fans as well as acts such as Talking Heads, Devo and Elvis Costello. This took the forms of robotic dancing, jittery high-pitched vocals and clothing fashions such as suits and big glasses that hid the body. [32] [ page needed ] This seemed radical to audiences accustomed to post-counterculture forms such as disco dancing and macho "cock rock" that had emphasized a "hang loose" philosophy, open sexuality and sexual bravado. [31]

Origins, etymology, and scope

The catch-all nature of new wave music has been a source of much confusion and controversy. [33] It was originally used as a catch-all for the music that emerged after punk rock, including punk itself. [22] The 1985 discography Who's New Wave in Music listed artists in over 130 separate categories. [33] The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock calls the term "virtually meaningless". [33] Decades after the fact, in the US, late 1970s new wave acts such as the Pretenders were more likely to be found on classic rock playlists than on new wave playlists there. [34] [ verification needed ] Reflecting its British origins, the 2004 study Popular Music Genres: An Introduction had one paragraph dedicated to 1970s new wave artists in its punk chapter in contrast to a 20-page chapter on early 1980s synth-pop. [35] AllMusic offers that the term may be viewed retrospectively as a more accessible counterpart of post-punk. [22]

Talking Heads performing in Toronto in 1978. Talking Heads band1.jpg
Talking Heads performing in Toronto in 1978.

As early as 1973, critics including Nick Kent and Dave Marsh were using the "new wave" tag to classify such New York-based groups as the Velvet Underground and New York Dolls. [36] In the US, many of the first new wave groups were the not-so-punk acts associated with CBGB (e.g. Talking Heads, Mink DeVille and Blondie), [24] as well as the proto-punk scene in Ohio, which included Devo, the electric eels, Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu. [37] [38] Some important bands, such as Suicide and the Modern Lovers, debuted even earlier. [39] CBGB owner Hilly Kristal, referring to the first show of the band Television at his club in March 1974, said, "I think of that as the beginning of new wave." [40] Furthermore, many artists who would have originally been classified as punk were also termed new wave. A 1977 Phonogram Records compilation album of the same name (New Wave) features American artists including the Dead Boys, Ramones, Talking Heads and the Runaways. [24] [41]

Between 1976 and 1977, the terms "new wave" and "punk" were somewhat interchangeable. [23] [42] Music historian Vernon Joynson claimed that new wave emerged in the UK in late 1976, when many bands began disassociating themselves from punk. [5] That year, the term gained currency when it appeared in UK punk fanzines such as Sniffin' Glue and newsagent music weeklies such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express . [43] In November 1976, Caroline Coon used Malcolm McLaren's term "new wave" to designate music by bands not exactly punk, but related to the same musical scene. [44] The mid-1970s British pub rock scene was ultimately the source of many of the most commercially successful new wave acts, such as Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Eddie and the Hot Rods and Dr. Feelgood. [12]

In the US, Sire Records chairman Seymour Stein, believing that the term "punk" would mean poor sales for Sire's acts who had frequently played the New York club CBGB, launched a "Don't Call It Punk" campaign designed to replace the term with "new wave". [45] As radio consultants in the US had advised their clients that punk rock was a fad, they settled on the new term. Like the filmmakers of the French new wave movement (after whom the genre was named), new wave artists were anti-corporate and experimental (e.g. Ramones and Talking Heads). At first, most American writers used the term "new wave" exclusively in reference to British punk acts. [46] Starting in December 1976, The New York Rocker , which was suspicious of the term "punk", became the first American journal to enthusiastically use the term, starting with British acts and later appropriating it to acts associated with the CBGB scene. [43] Part of what attracted Stein and others to new wave was the music's stripped-back style and upbeat tempos, which they viewed as a much-needed return to the energetic rush of rock and roll and 1960s rock that had dwindled in the 1970s with the ascendance of overblown progressive rock and stadium spectacles. [47]

"Post-punk" was coined to describe groups who were initially considered part of new wave but were more ambitious, serious and challenging, as well as being darker and less pop-oriented. Some of these groups would later adopt synths. [48] [ verification needed ] While punk rock wielded a major influence on the popular music scene in the UK, in the US it remained a fixture of the underground. [47] In the UK, some post-punk music developments became mainstream. [49]

Current critical thought discredits new wave as a genre, deriding it as a marketing ploy to soft-sell punk, a meaningless umbrella term covering bands too diverse to be considered alike. Powerpop, synth-pop, ska revival, art school novelties and rebranded pub rockers were all sold as "New Wave."

—Music critic David Smay writing in 2001 [6]

By the end of 1977, "new wave" had replaced "punk" as the definition for new underground music in the UK. [43] In early 1978, XTC released the single "This Is Pop" as a direct response to tags such as "new wave". Songwriter Andy Partridge later stated of bands such as themselves who were given those labels, "Let's be honest about this. This is pop, what we're playing. ... don't try to give it any fancy new names, or any words that you've made up, because it's blatantly just pop music. We were a new pop group. That's all." [50]

In the early 1980s, new wave gradually lost its associations to punk in popular perception. Writing in 1989, music critic Bill Flanagan said, "Bit by bit the last traces of Punk were drained from New Wave, as New Wave went from meaning Talking Heads to meaning the Cars to Squeeze to Duran Duran to, finally, Wham!" [51] Virtually every new pop/rock act – and particularly those that featured synthesizers in their sound – was tagged as "new wave" during this time. [22] Starting around 1983, the US music industry preferred the more generic term "New Music", used to categorize "new" movements like New Pop and New Romanticism. [52] In Britain, journalists and music critics largely abandoned "new wave" and "new music" in favor of subgenre terms such as "synth-pop". [53]

New wave was much more closely tied to punk, and came and went more quickly in the UK (and in the rest of Western Europe) than in the US. At the time punk began, it was a major phenomenon in the UK and a minor one in the US. Thus when new wave acts started getting noticed in the US, punk meant little to the mainstream audience and it was common for rock clubs and discos to play British dance mixes and videos between live sets by American guitar acts. [54] By the 2000s, critical consensus favored "new wave" to be an umbrella term that encompassed power pop, synth-pop, ska revival, and the softer strains of punk rock. [6]

Popularity in the United States (1970s–1980s)

In the summer of 1977 both Time [55] and Newsweek wrote favorable lead stories on the "punk/new wave" movement. [56] Acts associated with the movement received little or no radio airplay or music industry support. Small scenes developed in major cities. Continuing into the next year, public support remained limited to select elements of the artistic, bohemian and intellectual population, [43] as arena rock and disco dominated the charts. [57]

Starting in late 1978 and continuing into 1979, acts associated with punk and acts that mixed punk with other genres began to make chart appearances and receive airplay on rock stations and rock discos. [58] Blondie, Talking Heads, the Police and The Cars charted during this period. [23] [57] "My Sharona", a single from the Knack, was Billboard magazine's number one single of 1979. The success of "My Sharona", combined with the fact that new wave albums were much cheaper to produce during a time when the music industry was in its worst slump in decades, [58] prompted record companies to sign new wave groups. [23] New wave music scenes developed in Ohio [57] and the college town of Athens, Georgia, with legendary bands such as the B-52s and R.E.M.. [59] 1980 saw brief forays into new wave-styled music by non-new wave artists Billy Joel, Donna Summer and Linda Ronstadt. [23]

An African-American "new wave" of sorts also arose in the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s, driven, as AllMusic points out, by "drum machines, synthesizers and programming [becoming] common studio tools." Following the musically stripped-down approach of Stevie Wonder and Parliament-Funkadelic, post-disco explored a more electronic and experimental side of African-American music by incorporating an eclectic range of styles, e.g. Jamaican music, electronic art music, jazz, blues and, in the latter years, European and Japanese synthesizer music. [60] Stretching the boundaries of disco music, post-disco took many forms, some entirely R&B-based (NYC boogie), some post-punk–based (alternative dance), underground club culture-centered (Chicago house with its own style of dance called jacking) and futurism–leaning [61] (Detroit techno). Embracing new wave music (synth-pop) [62] proper was proven to be influential, as Afrika Bambaataa ("Renegades of Funk") and Arthur Baker point out, on both underground and mainstream black dance music (electro, dance-rock, Minneapolis sound).

Early in 1980, influential radio consultant Lee Abrams wrote a memo saying that, with a few exceptions, "we're not going to be seeing many of the new wave circuit acts happening very big over here (referring to America). As a movement, we don't expect it to have much influence." Lee Ferguson, a consultant to KWST, said in an interview that Los Angeles radio stations were banning disc jockeys from using the term and noted, "Most of the people who call music new wave are the ones looking for a way not to play it." [63] Despite the success of Devo's socially critical but widely misperceived song "Whip It", [64] second albums by artists who had successful debut albums, along with newly signed artists, failed to sell, and radio pulled most new wave programming. [23]

The arrival of MTV in 1981 would usher in new wave's most successful era in the US. British artists, unlike many of their American counterparts, had learned how to use the music video early on. [57] [65] Several British acts on independent labels were able to outmarket and outsell American artists on major labels. Journalists labeled this phenomenon a "Second British Invasion". [65] [66] MTV continued its heavy rotation of videos by new wave-oriented acts until 1987, when it changed to a heavy metal and rock dominated format. [67]

Martha Davis of the Motels performs at Hollywood Park. The Motels.JPG
Martha Davis of the Motels performs at Hollywood Park.

In a December 1982 Gallup poll, 14% of teenagers rated new wave as their favorite type of music, making it the third most popular. [68] New wave had its greatest popularity on the West Coast. Unlike other genres, race was not a factor in the popularity of new wave music, according to the poll. [68] Urban Contemporary radio stations were the first to play dance-oriented new wave artists such as the B-52's, Culture Club, Duran Duran and ABC. [69]

New wave soundtracks were used in mainstream Brat Pack films such as Sixteen Candles , Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club , as well as in the low-budget hit Valley Girl . [57] [70] John Hughes, the director of several of these films, was enthralled with British new wave music and placed songs from acts such as the Psychedelic Furs, Simple Minds, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Echo and the Bunnymen in his films, helping to keep new wave in the mainstream. Several of these songs remain standards of the era. [71] Critics described the MTV acts of the period as shallow or vapid. [57] [65] Homophobic slurs were used to describe some of the new wave musicians. [72] Despite the criticism, the danceable quality of the music and the quirky fashion sense associated with new wave artists appealed to audiences. [57]

In September 1988, Billboard launched its Modern Rock chart. While the acts on the chart reflected a wide variety of stylistic influences, new wave's legacy remained in the large influx of acts from Great Britain and acts that were popular in rock discos, as well as the chart's name, which reflected how new wave had been marketed as "modern". [73] New wave's indie spirit would be crucial to the development of college rock and grunge/alternative rock in the latter half of the 1980s and beyond. [57]

Post-1980s revivals and influence

Indie and alternative rock

Franz Ferdinand performing in 2006. Franz-ferdinand-live-2006-tag.jpg
Franz Ferdinand performing in 2006.

New wave died out after the mid-1980s, knocked out by guitar-driven rock reacting against new wave. [74] In the aftermath of grunge, the British music press launched a campaign to promote the new wave of new wave. This campaign involved overtly punk and new wave-influenced acts such as Elastica, but it was eclipsed by Britpop. [24] During that decade, the synthesizer-heavy dance sounds of British and European new wave acts influenced various incarnations of Euro disco and trance. [15] [57]

During the 2000s, a number of acts emerged that mined a diversity of new wave and post-punk influences. These acts were sometimes labeled "New New Wave". [75] [76] While some journalists and fans regarded this as a revival, others argued that the phenomenon was a continuation of the original movements. [25] [77] [78] [79] [ improper synthesis? ]

Electronic music

New wave had a seminal role in the development and popularity of contemporary electronic music. [32] [ page needed ]

During the mid 2000s, new rave combined new wave with elements from several other genres, such as indie rock and electro house, [80] and added aesthetic elements archetypal of a rave, such as light shows and glow sticks. [81] [82] [83]

See also

Related Research Articles

Synth-pop is a subgenre of new wave music that first became prominent in the late 1970s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic, art rock, disco, and particularly the "Krautrock" of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.

Indie rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. Originally used to describe independent record labels, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with alternative rock or "guitar pop rock". In the 1980s, the use of the term "indie" started to shift from its reference to recording companies to describe the style of music produced on punk and post-punk labels. During the 1990s, grunge and punk revival bands in the US and Britpop bands in the UK broke into the mainstream, and the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning. The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. By the end of the 1990s, indie rock developed several subgenres and related styles, including lo-fi, noise pop, emo, slowcore, post-rock, and math rock. In the 2000s, changes in the music industry and a growing importance of the Internet enabled a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.

Alternative rock is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1990s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.

Power pop is a form of pop rock based on the early music of bands such as the Who, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Byrds. It originated in the mid 1960s as young music fans began to rebel against the emerging pretensions of rock music, and developed mainly among American musicians who came of age during the British Invasion. The genre typically incorporates melodic hooks, vocal harmonies, an energetic performance, and "happy"-sounding music underpinned by a sense of yearning, longing, or despair.

New Romantic

The New Romantic movement was a pop culture movement that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The movement emerged from the nightclub scene in London and Birmingham at venues such as Billy's and The Blitz. The New Romantic movement was characterised by flamboyant, eccentric fashion inspired by fashion boutiques such as Kahn and Bell in Birmingham and PX in London. Early adherents of the movement were often referred to by the press by such names as Blitz Kids, New Dandies and Romantic Rebels.

Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1970s built upon the new forms of music developed from blues rock towards the end of the 1960s, including folk rock and psychedelic rock. Several important and influential subgenres were created in Britain in this period, by pursuing the limitations of rock music, including British folk rock and glam rock, a process that reached its apogee in the development of progressive rock and one of the most enduring subgenres in heavy metal music. Britain also began to be increasingly influenced by third world music, including Jamaican and Indian music, resulting in new music scenes and subgenres. In the middle years of the decade the influence of the pub rock and American punk rock movements led to the British intensification of punk, which swept away much of the existing landscape of popular music, replacing it with much more diverse new wave and post punk bands who mixed different forms of music and influences to dominate rock and pop music into the 1980s.

Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1980s built on the post-punk and new wave movements, incorporating different sources of inspiration from subgenres and what is now classed as world music in the shape of Jamaican and Indian music. It also explored the consequences of new technology and social change in the electronic music of synthpop. In the early years of the decade, while subgenres like heavy metal music continued to develop separately, there was a considerable crossover between rock and more commercial popular music, with a large number of more "serious" bands, like The Police and UB40, enjoying considerable single chart success. The advent of MTV and cable video helped spur what has been seen as a Second British Invasion in the early years of the decade, with British bands enjoying more success in America than they had since the height of the Beatles' popularity in the 1960s. However, by the end of the decade a fragmentation has been observed, with many new forms of music and sub-cultures, including hip hop and house music, while the single charts were once again dominated by pop artists, now often associated with the Hi-NRG hit factory of Stock Aitken Waterman. The rise of the indie rock scene was partly a response to this, and marked a shift away from the major music labels and towards the importance of local scenes like Madchester and subgenres, like gothic rock.

British rock music

British rock describes a wide variety of forms of music made in the United Kingdom. Since around 1964, with the "British Invasion" of the United States spearheaded by the Beatles, British rock music has had a considerable impact on the development of American music and rock music across the world.

Modern rock is rock music that followed the 1970s punk rock scene made between the mid 1970s to present day. Some radio stations use this term to distinguish themselves from classic rock, which is based in 1960s–1980s rock music.

Dance-punk is a post-punk genre that emerged in the late 1970s, and is closely associated with the post-disco and new wave movements.

Neo-psychedelia is a diverse genre of psychedelic music that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene, also called acid punk. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelia, either updating or copying the approaches from that era. After post-punk, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, or recording experiments. A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.

Dance-rock is a post-disco genre connected with pop rock and post-punk with fewer rhythm and blues influences, originated in the early 1980s, following the decline in popularity of punk and disco.

Post-disco is a term to describe an aftermath in popular music history circa 1979–1984, imprecisely beginning with an unprecedented backlash against disco music in the United States, leading to civil unrest and a riot in Chicago known as the Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979, and indistinctly ending with the mainstream appearance of new wave in the early 1980s. Disco during its dying stage displayed an increasingly electronic character that soon served as a stepping stone to new wave, old-school hip hop, euro disco and was succeeded by an underground club music called hi-NRG, which was its direct continuation.

This article includes an overview of the major events and trends in popular music in the 1980s.

British pop music is popular music, produced commercially in the United Kingdom. It emerged in the mid-to late 1950s as a softer alternative to American rock 'n' roll. Like American pop music it has a focus on commercial recording, often orientated towards a youth market, as well as that of the Singles Chart usually through the medium of relatively short and simple love songs. While these basic elements of the genre have remained fairly constant, pop music has absorbed influences from most other forms of popular music, particularly borrowing from the development of rock music, and utilising key technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes. From the British Invasion of rock bands in the 1960s, led by The Beatles, British pop music has alternated between acts and genres with national appeal and those with international success that have had a considerable impact on the development of the wider genre and on popular music in general.

New Pop was a loosely defined British-centric pop music movement consisting of ambitious, DIY-minded artists who achieved commercial success in the early 1980s through sources such as MTV. Rooted in the post-punk movement of the late 1970s, the movement spanned a wide variety of styles and artists, including acts such as Orange Juice, the Human League and ABC. The term "rockist", a pejorative against people who shunned this type of music, coincided and was associated with New Pop.

Post-punk is a broad genre of rock music which emerged in the late 1970s as artists departed from the raw simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock, instead adopting a variety of avant-garde sensibilities and non-rock influences. Inspired by punk's energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock cliches, artists experimented with styles like funk, electronic music, jazz, and dance music; the production techniques of dub and disco; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. These communities produced independent record labels, visual art, multimedia performances and fanzines.

Boogie is a rhythm and blues genre of electronic dance music with close ties to the post-disco style, that first emerged in the United States during the late 1970s to mid-1980s. The sound of boogie defined by bridging acoustic and electronic musical instruments with emphasis on vocals and miscellaneous effects later evolved into electro and house music.

Second British Invasion Music cultural movement

The Second British Invasion consisted of music acts from the United Kingdom that became popular in the United States during the early-to-mid 1980s primarily due to the cable music channel MTV. The term derives from the similar British Invasion of the U.S. in the 1960s. These acts primarily brought with them synthpop and new wave styles of music to the American charts, and according to Rolling Stone, brought "revolution in sound and style".

Electronic rock is a music genre that involves a combination of rock music and electronic music, featuring instruments typically found within both genres. It originates from the late 1960s, when rock bands began incorporating electronic instrumentation into their music. Electronic rock acts usually fuse elements from other music styles, including punk rock, industrial rock, hip hop, techno, and synth-pop, which has helped spur subgenres such as indietronica, dance-punk, and electroclash.

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Bibliography

Further reading