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Power pop

From Academic Kids

Power pop is a long-standing musical genre that draws its inspiration from 1960s British and American pop music. Lyrically, power-pop songs largely confine themselves to the perpetual theme of romantic love, and musically the style is characterized by strong melodies, crisp vocal harmonies, economical arrangements and prominent guitar riffs, with instrumental solos kept to a minimum. While its cultural impact has waxed and waned over the decades, it is among rock's most enduring subgenres: A listener who has heard the 38-year-old "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles or the contemporary hit "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne has heard power pop.

The term was coined in an interview with Pete Townshend of The Who in 1967, in which he said "power pop is what we play". As early as 1965, the Everly Brothers were playing music that can be called power pop; their "I'll See Your Light" displayed jangling guitars and an oblique harmonic approach that built upon the innovations of The Beatles and The Byrds. Those groups, along with The Who, are often cited as the progenitors of power pop, though they did not confine themselves to the style.

The groups that arose in the wake of The Beatles' success were also important in the evolution of the style: the Left Banke, The Beau Brummels, the Knickerbockers and The Zombies.

Modern power pop gained momentum in the late '60s with the first recordings by The Flamin' Groovies and Badfinger. Badfinger singles such as "No Matter What," "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day," all recorded around 1970, were the template for the power pop that followed. In the early '70s the form was codified by the work of The Raspberries, Big Star, Artful Dodger, Blue Ash, Dwight Twilley and Todd Rundgren. At that stage, power pop groups were nearly all American, and the first albums by Big Star and The Raspberries are still considered among the genre's essential recordings.

Although Rundgren and The Raspberries achieved some chart success during the period, Big Star spent years relegated to cult status, earning a wider name only after being extolled in the '80s by bands like R.E.M. and The Replacements. In the late '70s and early '80s power pop enjoyed one of its periodic resurgences, with the dB's, the Records, Cheap Trick, Starz, The Knack, The Romantics, 20/20, The Cretones, The Producers and the Shoes drawing upon the innovations of earlier groups. Most notable was the smash success of The Knack's "My Sharona." A straightforward take on the more nuanced style of classic power pop, the single notched six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.

The Flamin' Groovies, whose 1969 LP "Supersnazz" had contained both embryonic power pop and stylized reworkings of '50s rock and roll, turned decisively to the style in 1976 with songs like "Shake Some Action" and "You Tore Me Down." Nick Lowe recorded many songs in the power pop vein, including the 1979 hit single "Cruel to Be Kind."

In the 1980s and 1990s power pop continued to be a creatively viable if commercially limited genre, as artists such as Marshall Crenshaw (whose first two albums are considered classics of the genre), Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Material Issue, The Posies and Jellyfish drew inspiration from Big Star, the Beatles and glam rock groups of the early 1970s like T. Rex and Sweet.

In the mid-1990s, while power pop flourished in the underground via acts such as the Shazam, the sound made a mainstream appearance with the success of Weezer. Some 1990s rock acts, such as Nirvana and Oasis, bore unmistakable signs of power pop influence. Today, power pop traits are prominently displayed by groups such as Fountains of Wayne and The Dandy Warhols and found to a lesser extent in the work of acts such as Jet and The Vines.

See also: List of power pop musicians

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