Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yacht Rock Favorites (a.k.a. Soft Rock So Soft It Hurts)


As brilliant as it may have been, the Yacht Rock online video series, to quote the conclusion of my last Yacht Rock post, "only dipped its toes in the vast ocean that is early '80s soft rock." Well friends, it is time to dip those toes back into that sweet, sweet water.

This series is for all the Yacht Rock one-hit wonders, the Yacht Rock also-rans, the bands left over from the '70s who had that one perfect Yacht Rock classic - in short, the artists who really didn't fit neatly into the narrative of the first series.

When cultural commentators wax nostalgic about '80s pop, they tend to talk about New Wave, Synth Pop, Hair Metal, etc. But that wasn't necessarily the '80s I remember. What everyone wants to forget is that a lot of '80s pop consisted of endlessly, shamelessly inoffensive romantic ballads. This was really leftover spillage from the '70s, as record companies took the mellow California singer-songwriter genre and removed all those perky dark, thoughtful lyrics from it.

The music that J.D. Ryznar and friends affectionately named Yacht Rock has more commonly been going by a label that, for many rock critics, is a somewhat notorious, seemingly oxymoronic one: soft rock. It sounds like a term coined by record company executives to put conservative middle-American listeners at ease. "Want all the catchy, melodic qualities of rock without all that 'energy' and 'rebelliousness'? Then have we got the genre for you." Isn't the very point of rock to not be "soft"? Who in God's name would want their rock to be "soft"?

Five-year-old me, that's who.

But while I think it's safe to say that, just as all rhombi are parallelograms, but not all parallelograms are rhombi, all Yacht Rock is soft rock, but not all soft rock is Yacht Rock. What might the difference be? Well, whereas I think Yacht Rockers may have at least occasionally harbored the vague notion of rocking at some point, there were many soft rockers who just wanted to lull you into their fluffy pillow world. They weren't even trying to rock. "Rocking" may have actually harmed the appeal to their intended target audience. For some of these guys, the wimpier, the better. Their soft rock was so wimpy, it was too wimpy for Yacht Rockers.

So light a candle, pour some wine, and fluff that pillow. It's time for Yacht Rock Favorites (a.k.a. Soft Rock So Soft It Hurts).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

Brody said...

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