New wave music

New wave is a broad music genre that encompasses numerous pop-oriented styles from the late 1970s and the 1980s.[2] The term derived from the unrelated "French New Wave" and 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.[20] 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]

Common characteristics of new wave music include the use of electronic sounds, and a distinctive visual style featured in music videos and fashion.[20] In the early 1980s, virtually every new pop/rock act – and particularly those that featured synthesizers in their sound – was tagged as "new wave".[20] By the 2000s, critical consensus favored "new wave" to be an umbrella term that encompassed power pop, synth-pop, ska revival, and the softer-edged strains of punk and pub 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.[20] In the mid-1980s, new wave declined with the emergence of several "new" labels: New Romantic, New Pop, and New Music.[21] Since the 1990s, new wave enjoyed some resurgences after a rising nostalgia for several new wave-influenced artists.[22][23][24]

Musical characteristicsEdit

New wave represented a break from the blues and rock & roll sounds of late 1960s to mid-1970s music. 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.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27] Second British Invasion acts were influenced by funk and disco.[28]

Attitude and fashionEdit

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

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.[29][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.[30]

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.[30] Singer-songwriters who were "angry" and "intelligent" and who "approached pop music with the sardonic attitude and tense, aggressive energy of punk" such as Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson and Graham Parker were also part of the new wave music scene.[31] These artists were often referred to as "angry young men" for their aggressive style.[32]

The idea of rock music as a serious art form started in the late 1960s and was the dominant view of the genre at the time of new wave's arrival. New wave looked back or borrowed in various ways from the years just prior to this occurrence. One way this was done was by taking an ironic look at consumer and pop culture of the 1950s and early 1960s. The B-52's became most noted for a kitsch and camp presentation with their bouffant wigs and beach party and sci-fi movie references. Other groups that referenced the pre-progressive rock era were the Go-Go's, Blondie and Devo.[33][34]

Origins, etymology, and scopeEdit

Early applicationsEdit

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]

The catch-all nature of new wave music has been a source of much confusion and controversy. The 1985 discography Who's New Wave in Music listed artists in over 130 separate categories.[35] The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock calls the term "virtually meaningless".[35] 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.[36][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.[37]

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.[38] 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),[22] as well as the proto-punk scene in Ohio, which included Devo, the electric eels, Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu.[39][40] Some important bands, such as Suicide and the Modern Lovers, debuted even earlier.[41] 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."[42] 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.[22][43]

Between 1976 and 1977, the terms "new wave" and "punk" were somewhat interchangeable.[21][44] 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.[45] 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.[46] The term was also used in that sense by music journalist Charles Shaar Murray in his comments about the Boomtown Rats.[47] 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".[48] 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.[49] 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.[45] 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.[50]

By the end of 1977, "new wave" had replaced "punk" as the definition for new underground music in the UK.[45] 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."[51]

Related styles and termsEdit

Power pop continued the guitar-based, singles-oriented British invasion sound of the mid-1960s into the 1970s and present day. Although the term "power pop" had been around before punk (it is believed to have been coined by Pete Townshend in 1967), it became widely associated with new wave when Bomp and Trouser Press magazines (in March and April 1978, respectively) wrote cover stories touting power pop as a sound that could continue new wave's directness without the negativity associated with punk.[22] By the end of 1979, a backlash had developed against power pop in general, particularly in regard to the Los Angeles scene. The skinny ties worn by L.A. power pop groups, epitomized by the Knack, became symbolic of the supposed lack of authenticity of the genre.[21][52] Power pop's association with the genre was later forgotten.[11]

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!

—Music critic Bill Flanagan writing in 1989[53]

"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.[54][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.[50] In the UK, post-punk music developments became mainstream and were considered unique cultural events.[55] 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 America, 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.[56]

By the early 1980s, British journalists largely had abandoned the term "new wave" in favor of subgenre terms such as "synth-pop".[57] By 1983, the term of choice for the US music industry had become "new music", while to the majority of American fans it was still a "new wave" reacting to album-based rock.[58]

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

In the summer of 1977 both Time[59] and Newsweek wrote favorable lead stories on the "punk/new wave" movement.[60] 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,[45] as arena rock and disco dominated the charts.[61]

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.[62] Blondie, Talking Heads, the Police and The Cars charted during this period.[21][61] "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,[62] prompted record companies to sign new wave groups.[21] New wave music scenes developed in Ohio[61] and the college town of Athens, Georgia, with legendary bands such as the B-52s and R.E.M..[63] 1980 saw brief forays into new wave-styled music by non-new wave artists Billy Joel, Donna Summer and Linda Ronstadt.[21]

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.[64] 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[65] (Detroit techno). Embracing new wave music (synth-pop)[66] 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."[67] Despite the success of Devo's socially critical but widely misperceived song "Whip It",[68] second albums by artists who had successful debut albums, along with newly signed artists, failed to sell, and radio pulled most new wave programming.[21]

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.[61][69] 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".[69][70] 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.[71]

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.[72] 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.[72] 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.[73]

New wave soundtracks were used in mainstream Brat Pack films such as Valley Girl, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club.[61][74] 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.[75] Critics described the MTV acts of the period as shallow or vapid.[61][69] The homophobic slurs "faggot" and "art fag" were openly used to describe new wave musicians.[76] Despite the criticism, the danceable quality of the music and the quirky fashion sense associated with new wave artists appealed to audiences.[61]

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".[77] 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.[61]

Post-1980s revivals and influenceEdit

Indie and alternative rockEdit

Franz Ferdinand performing in 2006.

New wave died out after the mid-1980s, knocked out by guitar-driven rock reacting against new wave.[78] 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.[22] Other acts of note during the 1990s included No Doubt, Metric,[79] Six Finger Satellite and Brainiac.[23][80] During that decade, the synthesizer-heavy dance sounds of British and European new wave acts influenced various incarnations of Euro disco and trance.[81][61] Chris Martin was inspired to start Coldplay by a-ha.[82]

During the 2000s, a number of acts emerged that mined a diversity of new wave and post-punk influences. Among these were the Strokes, the Bravery, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, the Epoxies, VHS or Beta, the Rapture, She Wants Revenge, Bloc Party, Foals,[83] Kaiser Chiefs and the Killers. These acts were sometimes labeled "New New Wave".[84] The new wave revival reached its apex during the mid-2000s with acts such as the Sounds, the Ting Tings, Melody Club, Hot Chip,[85][86] Passion Pit,[87] the Presets,[88] La Roux, Ladytron,[89][90] Shiny Toy Guns,[91] Hockey,[92] Gwen Stefani and Ladyhawke.[99] While some journalists and fans regarded this as a revival, others argued that the phenomenon was a continuation of the original movements.[23][100][101][102]

The Drums are an example of the trend in the US indie pop scene that employs both the sounds and attitudes of the British new wave era.[103][81][104][105] A new wave-influenced genre called chillwave also developed in the late 2000s, exemplified by artists like Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian, Twin Shadow and Washed Out.[106][107][108]

Electronic musicEdit

Klaxons in concert in 2007.

New wave had a seminal role in the development and popularity of contemporary electronic music.[vague][109][110]

During the late 1990s, new wave received a sudden surge of attention when it was fused with electro and techno during the short-lived electroclash movement.[111][112][113][114] It received popular attention from musical acts such as I-F, Peaches, Fischerspooner and Vitalic,[113][114] but largely faded when it combined with tech house to form the electro house genre.[115]

During the mid 2000s, new rave combined new wave with elements from several other genres, such as indie rock and electro house,[116] and added aesthetic elements archetypal of a rave, such as light shows and glow sticks.[117][118][119] Despite the term itself stimulating controversy to the point where many affiliated artists rejected it,[120][121] new rave as a musical genre was adopted by artists such as the Klaxons, NYPC, Shitdisco and Hadouken![116][117]

In the 2010s, nostalgia for 1980s new wave saw a resurgence in the form of synthwave, which is primarily characterized by new wave, soundtrack influences and a retrofuturistic, cyberpunk-like visual aesthetic.[122][123][124] This term is applied to the music of artists such as Kavinsky, College, Power Glove,[122] Mitch Murder and Her, as well as to soundtracks of films and video games such as Drive, Tron: Legacy, Hotline Miami, Kung Fury, Turbo Kid and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.[122][123][dubious ]

Mainstream popularityEdit

Men at Work in 1983

New wave music[failed verification] experienced a lot of mainstream success during the late 1970s and also during the 1980s. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Blondie had 4 songs on at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[125] The Clash's song "Rock the Casbah" went to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 22 January 1983.[126] The Clash's album Combat Rock was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 10 January 1983 was later certified 2x platinum by the RIAA in 1995.[127] Men at Work's albums Business as Usual and Cargo were certified 4x platinum by the RIAA on 19 October 1984[128] and 2x platinum by the RIAA on 19 October 1984,[129] respectively. Men at Work's song "Who Can It Be Now?" peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982 and the band's song "Down Under" peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. In 1983, Men at Work's songs "Overkill" and "It's a Mistake" peaked at number 3 and number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.[130] Men at Work's album Business as Usual peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 on 13 November 1982[131] and was at number 1 on the chart from 13 November 1982 – 19 February 1983.[132]

The Police performing at Madison Square Garden in 2007

The Police had four consecutive number one albums in the UK, and six top ten hits on the US Billboard Hot 100, during the first half of the 1980s, with "Every Breath You Take" peaking at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. During that time, the band's songs "Spirits in the Material World" and "Synchronicity II" peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.[133] The Police's album Synchronicity, released in June 1983, was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA on 14 November 1984 and was later certified 8x platinum by the RIAA in December 2001.[134] The Police's album Ghost in the Machine, released at the beginning of October 1981, was certified platinum by the RIAA less than 3 months after being released. The album was certified 2x platinum by the RIAA in November 1984 and was certified 3x platinum by the RIAA in December 2001.[135] The Police's album Synchronicity peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 on 23 July 1983.[136] Synchronicity was at number 1 on the Billboard 200 both from 23 July 1983 – 3 September 1983 and from 17 September 1983 – 19 November 1983.[132]

Devo performing live in Atlanta, Georgia in 1978

The Cars' self-titled debut album was certified 6x platinum by the RIAA.[137] The band's album Candy-O was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA.[138] The Cars' album Heartbeat City, released in March 1984, was certified 2x platinum in October 1984 and was certified 3x platinum in July 1985 by the RIAA.[139] The Cars had four top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1980s. The Cars' song "Magic" peaked at number 12 in July 1984 and the band's song "Let's Go" peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.[140] Duran Duran had nine top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1980s, with two of those top ten hits, "A View to a Kill" and "The Reflex", peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985 and 1984, respectively.[141] Duran Duran's live album Arena, released in November 1984, was certified 2x platinum by the RIAA on 5 February 1985.[142] Duran Duran's album Notorious, released in November 1986, was certified platinum by the RIAA on 20 January 1987.[143] The Fixx's "Reach The Beach" album was certified 2x platinum in 1983, its first year of release.[144] The band also had seven songs reach the top ten throughout the decade, with three of those, "Are We Ourselves?", "Secret Separation" and "Driven Out" reaching number 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart.[145] Devo's song "Whip It" went to number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the year 1980.[146] Kim Wilde's song "Kids in America" peaked at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982.[147] "Kids in America" was at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart in March 1981.[148]

The Go-Go's performing in 2012

Tears for Fears' album Songs from the Big Chair was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA less than a year after being released.[149] Tears for Fears had four top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during the second half of the 1980s, with two of those hits both peaking at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985.[150] Talking Heads' song "Burning Down the House" peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.[151] The song "Love Shack" by the band the B-52's peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989.[152] The band's album Cosmic Thing, released on 27 June 1989, was certified 2x platinum by the RIAA a little less than nine months after being released.[153] The Human League had three top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1980s, with two of those hits peaking at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[154] In 1982, the songs "We Got the Beat" and "Vacation" by the band the Go-Go's peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. The band's song "Head Over Heels" peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984.[155] The album Beauty and the Beat by the Go-Go's, released in July 1981, was certified 2x platinum by the RIAA on 14 November 1984.[156] The album Beauty and the Beat peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 in 1982[157] and was at number 1 on the chart from 6 March 1982 – 10 April 1982.[158]

See alsoEdit


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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit