Although its roots reach back to The Beatles and other late-'60s folk rock pioneers and its peak undoubtedly occurred during the early '70s, the melodic rock music genre known as power pop exerted significant influence as well on pop music of the '80s. In fact, the guitar-oriented, hook-laden power pop sound makes up multiple facets in '80s styles including new wave, college rock, jangle pop and even some strains of glam metal. Here's an overview of power pop, one of rock music's most enduring if somewhat under-appreciated genres.
As a subgenre of the larger earlier-'80s categories new wave and synth pop, the New Romantic movement of the first half of the decade emphasized smooth, debonair visual styles along with crooning vocals and keyboard-based rich melodies. Quite popular for some time, the chiefly British style captured the imagination and senses of a large cross section of record buyers and helped define '80s pop music in a major way.
Highly revered British singer-songwriter Graham Parker has built a solid, tremendously active long-term career as both bandleader and solo artist. Although his peak period probably falls in the 10 years or so between his mid-'70s emergence and the mid-'80s remnants of new wave, Parker has remained a recording artist of vitality through nearly four decades of a shifting rock music landscape. Here's a look at one of rock's most passionate and direct artists of all time.
Blessed with a warm, relaxed voice if not an unforgettable one, R&B singer-songwriter and solo artist Ray Parker, Jr. became an important '80s figure and is still highly identifiable with the decade's music. Though best known for a top novelty pop hit, Parker released a number of worthy pop/rock singles both with his band Raydio and on his own. Here's a look at the career of one of R&B's most versatile artists, capable of blending soul, rock and pop styles to fine effect.
Though they originated from L.A.'s Paisley Underground scene, the Bangles became one of the decade's biggest chart-toppers during the mid- to late-'80s, following a decided shift to mainstream pop. Their all-female status was mildly groundbreaking but lost some of its validity when used as a major marketing tool by producers who hoped to wring the most possible mainstream appeal out of the band.
British pop and R&B singer Billy Ocean nimbly referenced his Caribbean roots en route to music superstar status during the mid '80s. Active for the entire decade, Ocean took advantage of his sparkling vocals to produce a series of widely appealing international hit singles. Though indebted only marginally to soul and classic R&B music, this artist played to his strengths as a crooner to build an impressive career that rivals several solo artist contemporaries of the period.
Though never respected critically and considered to represent only the basest impulses of '80s music, Mr. Mister remains a key artist of the mid '80s. Led by Richard Page and his blue-eyed soul vocal stylings, the group presented a string of melodic singles that have come to define the era's pop music. Despite a short career and limited chart relevance, the band's masculine moniker will always be strongly tied to the early years of MTV and the pop music landscape of a conflicted yet cherished period of recorded entertainment.
As the '80s began, no mainstream pop singer-songwriter made a bigger instant impact than Christopher Cross, whose soft rock-styled debut album became one of the biggest hits of the '80s. Commercially appealing perhaps to a fault, the music of Cross managed to win awards even without critical favor, but by 1981 the artist had two No. 1 pop hits already under his belt. Here's a look at the '80s-centered career of Cross, which probably had nowhere to go but down after his sparkling emergence. Nevertheless, he is a key artist of the decade's first half.
As one of several Los Angeles-area bands to thrive in the new wave scene of the early '80s, The Motels also own the distinction of becoming nationally relevant on the strength of a charismatic, sexy frontwoman. Lead singer and main songwriter Martha Davis delivered plenty of sultry vocals to go along with an accessibly melodic sound that helped the band to a successful career that spanned the first half of the '80s. Following the group's breakup, Davis released a moderately successful solo album that helped preserve her spot as a major '80s music figure. Here's a look at the rock music impact of The Motels.
Audiences may not have been aware of it at the time based on the highly accessible mainstream rock sound of The Outfield, but the impossibly melodic trio actually hailed from London, England. Operating outside of the post-punk, new wave and arena rock comfort zones of the early and mid '80s, the band failed to make an immediate impact during its early years. However, by the release of its 1985 debut album, The Outfield had perfected a guitar-based sound that captivated American listeners.
Although new wave was generally the domain of American artists during the early '80s, U.K. band Squeeze emerged as a unique exception. Featuring a greater emphasis on pop songcraft than many contemporaries of the era, the group relied on the precise songwriting of leaders Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook to create an eclectic, distinctive '80s sound. Here's a look at the long-standing career of one of Britain's most literate pop/rock bands of the early alternative rock era.
British singer-songwriter Kate Bush burst onto the U.K. music scene with highly popular hit albums in her homeland. However, as she traversed the '80s Bush managed to remain a major star in Britain even though her music was iconoclastic and wildly eclectic and never made a huge impact in the U.S. Here's a look at the engaging career of one of the most independent, trend-defying female pop singers of the era.
Britain's Tears for Fears filled a niche during the first half of the '80s for contemplative, introspective songwriting delivered in the form of impassioned synthesizer-laced, guitar-driven pop songs. The group's leaders - primary songwriter/lead vocalist Roland Orzabal and bass player Curt Smith - achieved massive success through an especially popular sophomore LP but generated consistent critical acclaim on each singles-ready release. Here's a look at the group's solid if somewhat lean '80s career.
English rock singer Adam Ant drew plenty of inspiration from punk rock on his way to becoming a stylistic icon of the early '80s in his native U.K. and, to a lesser but significant extent, in the U.S. As an artist, his new wave musical contributions sometimes seemed slight and minimally substantial, but Ant nevertheless made a genuine mark on the '80s music landscape as both bandleader and solo artist. Here's a look at the memorable, visually aided '80s music career of Adam Ant.
Inspired by the energy and reckless abandon of punk rock, Minneapolis band The Replacements combined a power pop fixation with a hardscrabble bar band vibe to become one of the pioneering '80s bands of early alternative rock. The group always benefited from frontman Paul Westerberg's mastery as a pop songwriter, but its boozy, uncontrolled attitude helped inject a genuine underground credibility to The Replacements' music. Here's a look at the career of one of the most important influences on the '90s explosion of alternative rock.
Jefferson Starship began its mid-'70s career as a mellow soft rock band that slowly moved far away from the psychedelic sound of parent group Jefferson Airplane. However, when longtime vocalist Marty Balin exited in 1978, another major stylistic shift turned the band increasingly toward guitar-heavy arena rock. New singer Mickey Thomas brought his passionate delivery to the forefront, and for the first half of the new decade Jefferson Starship remained a relevant pop/rock artist.
In addition to his many years as a classic rock stalwart and innovator as frontman and key creative cog in the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and supergroup Blind Faith, Steve Winwood has enjoyed a lengthy and successful career as an exploratory pop solo artist. His biggest solo hits came during the '80s, when his keyboard-based compositions and world music curiosity helped propel several LPs and singles into the public music consciousness.
Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann has built an impressive solo career over the past two decades, but she got her start fronting melodic post-new wave band 'Til Tuesday. Though the band released only three albums during its brief career and experienced diminishing returns on singles following a splashy debut, Mann's songwriting depth helped the group's limited output boast consistently high quality. Here's a look at one of the finest but most underrated pop/rock bands of the '80s.
American singer-songwriter and accomplished '80s pop star Laura Branigan may never have truly become a household name during the decade of her greatest success and activity, but she was certainly an important, versatile '80s artist nevertheless. Branigan's sudden early death in 2004 at age 47 robbed the music world not only of a pop singer with extraordinary range but also a respectable artist capable of succeeding in many genres as both an interpretive singer and composer of her own material. Here's a look at Branigan's impressive career, which spanned the '80s and stretched beyond.
Singer-songwriter Richard Marx spent several years toiling in Los Angeles during the early '80s as a session musician and songwriter for hire. His patience ultimately paid off when his first two albums - released during the latter half of the decade - produced a string of seven Top 5 U.S. pop hits. Supplemented with touches of guitar rock, Marx's brand of soft rock and adult contemporary stylings found a huge audience through its broad appeal and pleasant romantic melodies.
Arena rock favorites Cheap Trick became nearly instant superstars during the late '70s, but the American band remained consistently active during the '80s as well. Never championed too much by critics anyway, the group experienced declining reviews and sales as the decade wore on, but the quirky, melodic songwriting of guitarist Rick Nielsen delivered some gems nonetheless. Here's a look at the sustained career of one of the most beloved bands of the arena rock era.
Pop/rock music from Australia has often had a tendency to introduce groundbreaking, consistently interesting bands to the rest of the world. The Church certainly qualifies as one of these, having released five strong albums throughout the '80s along with numerous singles and EPs as singular as any group active during the era. Shaping several genres from new wave to college rock and guiding the further development of alternative rock as a major force, The Church presented haunting and mesmerizing guitar pop that only just began its arc during the '80s.
Though known probably more for the short but bright red-orange hairstyle of lead singer Annie Lennox, England's Eurythmics ultimately became one of the most reliable and compelling keyboard-based pop groups of the '80s. With Lennox and Stewart working organically together as co-composers, the duo maximized the frontwoman talents of Lennox while allowing the quieter Stewart to serve ably as onstage foil. Here's a look at the wildly successful '80s career of Eurythmics.
Canadian singer-songwriter Corey Hart emerged on the North American pop music scene just out of his teens, making a major mark with his debut solo album in 1983. While he enjoyed only a brief run of high-end popularity in the the U.S., Hart remained a mainstay in his native Canada throughout the '80s and '90s. With his distinctive passionate vocals and propensity for driving, melodic mid-tempo rock, Hart was a significant '80s music figure and a photogenic young star.
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable and least embarrassing visual icons of the '80s, veteran pop/rock and R&B singer cut quite a figure with his stylish suits and dapper James Bond good looks. To his credit, he also possessed a powerful set of pipes he had already put to use for more than a decade of soulful rock vocals before he became a bona fide '80s superstar. Here's a look at Palmer's impressive career as a hitmaker and all-around first-rate eclectic pop singer.