Synthpop

Synthpop

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Synthpop is a genre of popular music that first became prominent in the 1980s, in which the synthesizer
Synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

 is the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock
Progressive rock
Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...

, electronic art rock, disco
Disco
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

 and particularly the "Kraut rock" of bands like Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk is an influential electronic music band from Düsseldorf, Germany. The group was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, and was fronted by them until Schneider's departure in 2008...

. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk
Post-punk
Post-punk is a rock music movement with its roots in the late 1970s, following on the heels of the initial punk rock explosion of the mid-1970s. The genre retains its roots in the punk movement but is more introverted, complex and experimental...

 era as part of the New Wave
New Wave music
New Wave is a subgenre of :rock music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, disco and 1960s...

 movement of the late-1970s to the mid-1980s.

Early synthpop pioneers included Japanese group Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Sakamoto first worked with Hosono as a member of his live band in 1976, while Takahashi recruited Sakamoto to produce his debut solo recording in 1977 following the split of the Sadistic Mika Band...

 and British bands Ultravox
Ultravox
Ultravox is a British New Wave rock band. They were one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The band was particularly associated with the New Romantic and New Wave movements....

 and the Human League; the latter largely used monophonic synthesizers to produce music with a simple and austere sound. After the breakthrough of Tubeway Army
Tubeway Army
Tubeway Army were a London-based punk rock and new wave band led by lead singer Gary Numan. They were the first band of the post-punk era to have a synthesizer-based hit, with their single Are 'Friends' Electric? and its parent album Replicas both topping the UK Album Chart in mid-1979.-Line-up:The...

 and Gary Numan
Gary Numan
Gary Numan is an English singer, composer, and musician, most widely known for his chart-topping 1979 hits "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars". His signature sound consisted of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals.Numan is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music...

 in the British Singles Chart, large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early 1980s, including Soft Cell
Soft Cell
Soft Cell are an English synthpop duo who came to prominence in the early 1980s. They consist of vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball. The duo is most widely known for their 1981 worldwide hit version of "Tainted Love" and platinum debut Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret...

, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark are a synthpop group whose founding members are originally from the Wirral Peninsula, England...

, Japan
Japan (band)
Japan were a British New Wave group, formed in 1974 in Catford, South London. The band achieved success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they were often associated with the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement .- History :The band began as a group of friends...

 and Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode are an English electronic music band formed in 1980 in Basildon, Essex. The group's original line-up consisted of Dave Gahan , Martin Gore , Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke...

 in the United Kingdom, while in Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra's success opened the way for synthpop bands such as P-Model
P-Model
P-Model was a Japanese New Wave synth-rock & techno-pop band started in 1979 by frontman Susumu Hirasawa. The band has included many lineup revisions over the years but Hirasawa was always at the helm of operations...

, Plastics, and Hikashu
Hikashu
Hikashu are a renowned Japanese underground "avant-pop" collective led by pseudo-Kabuki vocalist, Makigami Koichi, known for their highly experimental music...

. The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synthpop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic
New Romantic
New Romanticism , was a pop culture movement in the United Kingdom that began around 1979 and peaked around 1981. Developing in London nightclubs such as Billy's and The Blitz and spreading to other major cities in the UK, it was based around flamboyant, eccentric fashion and new wave music...

 movement, together with the rise of MTV
MTV
MTV, formerly an initialism of Music Television, is an American network based in New York City that launched on August 1, 1981. The original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by on-air hosts known as VJs....

, led to success for large numbers of British synthpop acts, including Duran Duran
Duran Duran
Duran Duran are an English band, formed in Birmingham in 1978. They were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s and a leading band in the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" of the United States...

 and Spandau Ballet
Spandau Ballet
Spandau Ballet are a British band formed in London in the late 1970s. Initially inspired by, and an integral part of, the New Romantic fashion, their music has featured a mixture of funk, jazz, soul and synthpop. They were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s, achieving ten Top Ten singles...

, in the United States.

In the late 1980s, duos such as Erasure
Erasure
Erasure are an English synthpop duo, consisting of songwriter and keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell. Erasure entered the music scene in 1985 with their debut single "Who Needs Love Like That"...

 and Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic dance music duo, consisting of Neil Tennant, who provides main vocals, keyboards and occasional guitar, and Chris Lowe on keyboards....

 adopted a sound that was highly successful on the US dance charts, but by the end of the decade synthpop had largely been abandoned. Interest began to be revived in the indie electronic and electroclash
Electroclash
Electroclash is a style of music that fuses New Wave and electronic dance music. It emerged in New York and Detroit in the later 1990s, pioneered by acts including I-F and those associated with Gerald Donald, and is associated with acts including Peaches, Adult, and Fischerspooner...

 movements in the late 1990s and, in the first decade of the 21st century, it enjoyed a widespread revival with commercial success for acts including La Roux
La Roux
La Roux are an English electropop duo made up of singer, keyboardist, co-writer and co-producer Eleanor Kate Jackson, and co-writer and co-producer Ben Langmaid. Jackson describes their relationship as "very much a half and half sharing situation... not like a singer producer outfit", but also...

 and Owl City
Owl City
Owl City is an American electronica musical project by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Young formed in 2007 in Owatonna, Minnesota. Young created the project while experimenting with music in his parents' basement...

.

Synthpop received criticism for its limited and artificial sound and for its associations with alternative sexualities. It helped to establish the place of the synthesiser as a major element of pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

 and rock music
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

, directly influenced subsequent genres including house music
House music
House music is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago, Illinois, United States in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino American, and gay communities; first in Chicago circa 1984, then in other...

 and Detroit techno
Detroit techno
Detroit techno is an early style of electronic music beginning in the 1980s. Detroit, Michigan has been cited as the birthplace of techno music. Prominent Detroit Techno artists include Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson...

, and has indirectly influenced many other genres and individual recordings.

Characteristics



Synthpop was defined by its primary use of synthesizers, drum machine
Drum machine
A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums or other percussion instruments. They are used in a variety of musical genres, not just purely electronic music...

s and sequencers
Music sequencer
The music sequencer is a device or computer software to record, edit, play back the music, by handling note and performance information in several forms, typically :...

, sometimes using them to replace all other instruments. Borthwick and Moy have described the genre as diverse but "...characterised by a broad set of values that eschewed rock playing styles, rhythms and structures", which were replaced by "synthetic textures" and "robotic rigidity", often defined by the limitations of the new technology, including monophonic synthesizers (only able to play one note at a time). Many synthpop musicians had limited musical skills, relying on the technology to produce or reproduce the music. The result was often minimalist, with grooves that were "typically woven together from simple repeated riffs often with no harmonic 'progression' to speak of". Early synthpop has been described as "eerie, sterile, and vaguely menacing", using droning electronics with little change in inflection. Common themes were isolation, urban anomie
Anomie
Anomie is a term meaning "without Law" to describe a lack of social norms; "normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and their community ties, with fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French...

, and feelings of being emotionally cold and hollow.

In its second phase in the 1980s, the introduction of dance beats and more conventional rock instrumentation, made the music warmer and catchier and contained within the conventions of three-minute pop. Synthesizers were increasingly used to imitate the conventional and clichéd sound of orchestras and horns. Thin and treble dominant synthesized melodies and simple drum programmes gave way to thick, and compressed production, and a more conventional drum sound. Lyrics were generally more optimistic, dealing with more traditional subject matter for pop music such as romance, escapism and aspiration. According to music writer Simon Reynolds
Simon Reynolds
Simon Reynolds is an English music critic who is well-known for his writings on electronic dance music and for coining the term "post-rock". Besides electronic dance music, Reynolds has written about a wide range of artists and musical genres, and has written books on post-punk and rock...

, the hallmark of 1980s synthpop was its "emotional, at times operatic singers" such as Marc Almond
Marc Almond
Marc Almond is an English singer-songwriter and musician, who originally found fame as half of the seminal synthpop/New Wave duo Soft Cell...

, Alison Moyet
Alison Moyet
Alison Moyet , is an English singer, songwriter and performer noted for her bluesy voice.Her UK album sales have reached a certified 2.3 million, with 800,000 singles sold, all in the UK, where all seven of her studio albums and three compilation albums have charted in the Top 40 UK Album Chart,...

 and Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox, OBE , born Ann Lennox, is a Scottish singer-songwriter, political activist and philanthropist. After achieving minor success in the late 1970s with The Tourists, with fellow musician David A...

. Because synthesizers removed the need for large groups of musicians, these singers were often part of a duo where their partner played all the instrumentation.

Although synthpop in part arose from punk rock
Punk rock
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock...

, it abandoned punk's emphasis on authenticity and often pursued a deliberate artificiality, drawing on the critically derided forms such as disco and glam rock
Glam rock
Glam rock is a style of rock and pop music that developed in the UK in the early 1970s, which was performed by singers and musicians who wore outrageous clothes, makeup and hairstyles, particularly platform-soled boots and glitter...

. It owed relatively little to the foundations of early popular music in jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, folk music
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 or the blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, and instead of looking to America, in its early stages, it consciously focused on European and particularly Eastern European influences, which were reflected in band names like Spandau Ballet and songs like Ultravox's "Vienna". Later synthpop saw a shift to a style more influenced by other genres, such as soul music
Soul music
Soul music is a music genre originating in the United States combining elements of gospel music and rhythm and blues. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of...

.

Precursors


Electronic musical synthesizers that could be used practically in a recording studio became available in the mid-1960s, around the same time as rock music began to emerge as a distinct musical genre. The Mellotron
Mellotron
The Mellotron is an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham, England in the early 1960s. It superseded the Chamberlin Music Master, which was the world's first sample-playback keyboard intended for music...

, an electro-mechanical, polyphonic
Polyphony (instrument)
Polyphony Instruments that are not capable of polyphony are monophonic.-Synthesizer:Most of early synthesizers were monophonic musical instruments which can play only one note at a time, and are often called monosynth as opposed to polysynth...

 sample-playback
Sampling (music)
In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a different sound recording of a song or piece. Sampling was originally developed by experimental musicians working with musique concrète and electroacoustic music, who physically...

 keyboard was overtaken by the Moog synthesizer
Moog synthesizer
Moog synthesizer may refer to any number of analog synthesizers designed by Dr. Robert Moog or manufactured by Moog Music, and is commonly used as a generic term for older-generation analog music synthesizers. The Moog company pioneered the commercial manufacture of modular voltage-controlled...

, created by Robert Moog
Robert Moog
Robert Arthur Moog , commonly called Bob Moog was an American pioneer of electronic music, best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesizer.-Life:...

 in 1964, which produced completely electronically generated sounds. The portable Mini-moog, which allowed much easier use, particularly in live performance was widely adopted by progressive rock
Progressive rock
Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...

 musicians such as Richard Wright
Richard Wright (musician)
Richard William Wright was an English pianist, keyboardist and songwriter, best known for his career with Pink Floyd. Wright's richly textured keyboard layers were a vital ingredient and a distinctive characteristic of Pink Floyd's sound...

 of Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

 and Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman
Richard Christopher Wakeman is an English keyboard player, composer and songwriter best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes...

 of Yes
Yes (band)
Yes are an English rock band who achieved worldwide success with their progressive, art, and symphonic style of rock music. Regarded as one of the pioneers of the progressive genre, Yes are known for their lengthy songs, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art, and live stage sets...

. Instrumental prog rock was particularly significant in continental Europe, allowing bands like Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk is an influential electronic music band from Düsseldorf, Germany. The group was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, and was fronted by them until Schneider's departure in 2008...

, Tangerine Dream
Tangerine Dream
Tangerine Dream is a German electronic music group founded in 1967 by Edgar Froese. The band has undergone many personnel changes over the years, with Froese being the only continuous member...

, Can
Can (band)
Can was an experimental rock band formed in Cologne, West Germany in 1968. Later labeled as one of the first "krautrock" groups, they transcended mainstream influences and incorporated strong minimalist and world music elements into their often psychedelic music.Can constructed their music largely...

 and Faust
Faust (band)
Faust are a German krautrock band. Formed in 1971 in Wümme, the group was originally composed of Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, Hans Joachim Irmler, Arnulf Meifert, Jean-Hervé Péron, Rudolf Sosna and Gunther Wüsthoff, working with record producer Uwe Nettelbeck and engineer Kurt Graupner.-History:Faust...

 to circumvent the language barrier. Their synthesizer-heavy "Kraut rock", along with the work of Brian Eno
Brian Eno
Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno , commonly known as Brian Eno or simply as Eno , is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music.Eno studied at Colchester Institute art school in Essex,...

 (for a time the keyboard player with Roxy Music
Roxy Music
Roxy Music was a British art rock band formed in 1971 by Bryan Ferry, who became the group's lead vocalist and chief songwriter, and bassist Graham Simpson. The other members are Phil Manzanera , Andy Mackay and Paul Thompson . Former members include Brian Eno , and Eddie Jobson...

), would be a major influence on subsequent synth rock. In 1971 the British movie A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange (film)
A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. It was written, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick...

was released with a synth soundtrack by American Wendy Carlos
Wendy Carlos
Wendy Carlos is an American composer and electronic musician. Carlos first came to notice in the late 1960s with recordings made on the Moog synthesizer, then a relatively new and unknown instrument; most notable were LPs of synthesized Bach and the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's film A...

. It was the first time many in the United Kingdom had heard electronic music
Electronic music
Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments and electronic music technology in its production. In general a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means and that produced using electronic technology. Examples of electromechanical sound...

. Philip Oakey
Philip Oakey
Philip Oakey is an English composer, singer, songwriter and producer.He is best known as the lead singer, frontman and co-founder of the famous English synthpop band The Human League. He has also had an extensive solo music career and collaborated with numerous other artists and producers...

 of the Human League and Richard H. Kirk
Richard H. Kirk
Richard H. Kirk is an English musician specialising in electronic music since the 1970s.-Background:Richard H. Kirk first came to prominence in the 1970s as a member of the seminal industrial band Cabaret Voltaire...

 of Cabaret Voltaire
Cabaret Voltaire (band)
Cabaret Voltaire were a British music group from Sheffield, England.Initially composed of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson, the group was named after the Cabaret Voltaire, a nightclub in Zürich, Switzerland that was a centre for the early Dada movement.Their earliest performances...

 as well as music journalist Simon Reynolds has cited the soundtrack as an inspiration. Electronic music made occasional moves into the mainstream, with jazz musician Stan Free
Stan Free
Stanley Free was a New York City-based jazz musician, composer, conductor and arranger.Free was born in Brooklyn in 1922, and received a classical musical education, studying with Alexander Siloti and also at the Juilliard School. While still in his teens, he organized a combo that played the...

, under the pseudonym Hot Butter
Hot Butter
Hot Butter was an instrumental cover band fronted by the keyboard player Stan Free. The other band members were Dave Mullaney, John Abbott, Bill Jerome, Steve Jerome, and Danny Jordan. They are best known for their 1972 cover of the Moog synthpop instrumental, "Popcorn", originally recorded by its...

, having a top 10 hit in the United States and United Kingdom in 1972, with a cover of the 1969 Gershon Kingsley
Gershon Kingsley
Gershon Kingsley a contemporary German American composer, is well known as a pioneer of electronic music and the Moog synthesizer and founder of the First Moog Quartet, as a partner in the famous electronic music duo Perrey and Kingsley, and for his rock-inspired compositions for Jewish religious...

 song "Popcorn
Popcorn (instrumental)
"Popcorn" is an early electronic pop instrumental, originally composed by Gershon Kingsley in 1969 on his album Music to Moog By. The same year this tune was released and recorded at Audio Fidelity Records label in New York City....

" using a Moog synthesizer, which is recognised as a forerunner to synthpop and disco
Disco
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

.
The mid-1970s saw the rise of electronic art musicians such as Jean Michel Jarre
Jean Michel Jarre
Jean Michel André Jarre is a French composer, performer and music producer. He is a pioneer in the electronic, ambient and New Age genres, and known as an organiser of outdoor spectacles of his music featuring lights, laser displays, and fireworks.Jarre was raised in Lyon by his mother and...

, Vangelis
Vangelis
Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou is a Greek composer of electronic, progressive, ambient, jazz, pop rock and orchestral music, under the artist name Vangelis...

, and Tomita
Isao Tomita
, often known simply as Tomita, is a Japanese music composer, regarded as one of the pioneers of electronic music and space music, and as one of the most famous producers of analog synthesizer arrangements...

. Tomita's album Electric Samurai: Switched on Rock (1972) featured electronic renditions of contemporary rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

 and pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

 songs, while utilizing speech synthesis
Speech synthesis
Speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech. A computer system used for this purpose is called a speech synthesizer, and can be implemented in software or hardware...

 and analog music sequencer
Music sequencer
The music sequencer is a device or computer software to record, edit, play back the music, by handling note and performance information in several forms, typically :...

s. In 1974, Osamu Kitajima's progressive rock album Benzaiten, featuring Haruomi Hosono
Haruomi Hosono
, also known as Harry Hosono, is a Japanese popular musician, best known internationally as a key member of the rock band Happy End and the pioneering electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra.-Biography:...

 (who later founded Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Sakamoto first worked with Hosono as a member of his live band in 1976, while Takahashi recruited Sakamoto to produce his debut solo recording in 1977 following the split of the Sadistic Mika Band...

), utilized a synthesizer, rhythm machine
Drum machine
A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums or other percussion instruments. They are used in a variety of musical genres, not just purely electronic music...

, and electronic drum
Electronic drum
An electronic drum is an electronic synthesizer which mimics an acoustic drum kit.The electronic drum usually consists of a set of pads mounted on a stand in a disposition similar to an acoustic drum kit. The pads are discs with a rubber or cloth-like coating. Each pad has a sensor which generates...

s. In 1975, Kraftwerk played its first British show and inspired concert attendees Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark are a synthpop group whose founding members are originally from the Wirral Peninsula, England...

 to throw away their guitars and become a synth act. Kraftwerk had its first hit UK record later in the year. The group was described by the BBC Four
BBC Four
BBC Four is a British television network operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation and available to digital television viewers on Freeview, IPTV, satellite and cable....

 program Synth Britannia as the key to synthpop's future rise there. Italy's Giorgio Moroder
Giorgio Moroder
Hansjörg "Giorgio" Moroder is an Italian record producer, songwriter and performer based in Los Angeles. When in Munich in the 1970s, he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which several years later became a subdivision of Casablanca Records...

 paired up with Donna Summer
Donna Summer
LaDonna Adrian Gaines , known by her stage name, Donna Summer, is an American singer/songwriter who gained prominence during the disco era of the 1970s. She has a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Summer is a five-time Grammy winner and was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach...

 in 1977 to release the electronic disco
Disco
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

 song "I Feel Love
I Feel Love
"I Feel Love" is a song by Donna Summer, taken from her 1977 concept album I Remember Yesterday.The song constituted the "future" segment of the album, which represented a stylistic progress through time...

", and its programmed beats would be a major influence on the later synthpop sound. David Bowie
David Bowie
David Bowie is an English musician, actor, record producer and arranger. A major figure for over four decades in the world of popular music, Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s...

's Berlin Trilogy
Berlin Trilogy
The Berlin Trilogy is a series of David Bowie albums recorded in collaboration with Brian Eno in the 1970s. The three albums are Low, "Heroes" and Lodger....

, comprising the albums Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger
Lodger (album)
Lodger is an album by British singer-songwriter David Bowie, released in 1979. The last of the 'Berlin Trilogy' recorded in collaboration with Brian Eno , it was more accessible than its immediate predecessors Low and "Heroes", having no instrumentals and being somewhat lighter and more pop-oriented...

(1979), all featuring Brian Eno, would also be highly influential.

Origins (1977–80)



Early guitar-based punk rock
Punk rock
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock...

 that came to prominence in the period 1976-77 was initially hostile to the "inauthentic" sound of the synthesizer, but many New Wave
New Wave music
New Wave is a subgenre of :rock music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, disco and 1960s...

 and post-punk
Post-punk
Post-punk is a rock music movement with its roots in the late 1970s, following on the heels of the initial punk rock explosion of the mid-1970s. The genre retains its roots in the punk movement but is more introverted, complex and experimental...

 bands that emerged from the movement began to adopt it as a major part of their sound. The do it yourself attitude of punk broke down the progressive rock era's norm of needing years of experience before getting up on stage to play synthesizers. The American duo Suicide
Suicide (band)
Suicide is an American electronic protopunk musical duo, intermittently active since 1970 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. They are an early synthesizer/vocal musical duo....

, who arose from the post-punk scene in New York, utilized drum machines and synthesizers in a hybrid between electronics and post punk on their eponymous 1977 album. Also in 1977, Ultravox
Ultravox
Ultravox is a British New Wave rock band. They were one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The band was particularly associated with the New Romantic and New Wave movements....

 member Warren Cann
Warren Cann
Warren Reginald Cann is a drummer and drum machine programmer, best known as a member of the British New Wave band Ultravox.-Early life:...

 purchased a Roland
Roland Corporation
is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972, with ¥33 million in capital. In 2005 Roland's headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. Today it has factories in Japan,...

 TR-77
Roland Rhythm 77
The Roland Rhythm 77 drum machine was Roland's first product - released in 1972. It is actually an updated and relabelled Rhythm Ace FR-8L...

 drum machine
Drum machine
A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums or other percussion instruments. They are used in a variety of musical genres, not just purely electronic music...

, which was first featured in their October 1977 single release "Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hiroshima mon amour is an acclaimed 1959 drama film directed by French film director Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras. It is the documentation of an intensely personal conversation between a French-Japanese couple about memory and forgetfulness...

".


Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Sakamoto first worked with Hosono as a member of his live band in 1976, while Takahashi recruited Sakamoto to produce his debut solo recording in 1977 following the split of the Sadistic Mika Band...

 (YMO), with their self-titled official debut (1978) and Solid State Survivor
Solid State Survivor
Solid State Survivor was the second album by Japanese electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra, released in 1979. Solid State Survivor was never released in the United States, but many of the songs from this album were compiled for release in the States as the US pressing of ×∞Multiplies ,...

(1979), developed a "fun-loving and breezy" sound, with a strong emphasis on melody
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

. They introduced the microprocessor
Microprocessor
A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...

-based Roland MC-8
Roland MC-8 Microcomposer
The Roland MC-8 MicroComposer by the Roland Corporation, introduced in 1977 at a price of around US$8,000, was one of the earliest stand-alone microprocessor-driven CV/Gate music sequencer, following EMS Sequencer 256 in 1971 and New England Digital's ABLE computer in 1975...

 sequencer
Music sequencer
The music sequencer is a device or computer software to record, edit, play back the music, by handling note and performance information in several forms, typically :...

 and TR-808
Roland TR-808
The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was one of the first programmable drum machines . Introduced by the Roland Corporation in early 1980, it was originally manufactured for use as a tool for studio musicians to create demos. Like earlier Roland drum machines, it does not sound very much like a real...

 rhythm machine to popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

, and the band would be a major influence on early British synthpop acts. 1978 also saw the release of UK band The Human League
The Human League
The Human League are an English electronic New Wave band formed in Sheffield in 1977. They achieved popularity after a key change in line-up in the early 1980s and have continued recording and performing with moderate commercial success throughout the 1980s up to the present day.The only constant...

's début single "Being Boiled
Being Boiled
"Being Boiled" is a song composed by Sheffield musicians Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, with lyrics by Philip Oakey, and recorded by them as The Human League...

", and in the US Devo
Devo
Devo is an American band formed in 1973 consisting of members from Kent and Akron, Ohio. The classic line-up of the band includes two sets of brothers, the Mothersbaughs and the Casales . The band had a #14 Billboard chart hit in 1980 with the single "Whip It", and has maintained a cult...

 began moving towards a more electronic sound. At this point synthpop gained some critical attention, but made little impact on the commercial charts.

British punk-influenced band Tubeway Army
Tubeway Army
Tubeway Army were a London-based punk rock and new wave band led by lead singer Gary Numan. They were the first band of the post-punk era to have a synthesizer-based hit, with their single Are 'Friends' Electric? and its parent album Replicas both topping the UK Album Chart in mid-1979.-Line-up:The...

, intended their debut album to be guitar driven. In 1978, Gary Numan
Gary Numan
Gary Numan is an English singer, composer, and musician, most widely known for his chart-topping 1979 hits "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars". His signature sound consisted of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals.Numan is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music...

, a member of the group, found a minimoog
Minimoog
The Minimoog is a monophonic analog synthesizer, invented by Bill Hemsath and Robert Moog. It was released in 1970 by R.A. Moog Inc. , and production was stopped in 1981. It was re-designed by Robert Moog in 2002 and released as Minimoog Voyager.The Minimoog was designed in response to the use of...

 left behind in the studio by another band, and started experimenting with it. This led to a change in the album's sound to electronic New Wave. Numan later described his work on this album as a guitarist playing keyboards, who turned "punk songs into electronic songs". A single from the album, "Are Friends Electric?", topped the UK charts in the summer of 1979. The discovery that synthesizers could be employed in a different manner from that used in progressive rock or disco, prompted Numan to go solo. On his futuristic album The Pleasure Principle
The Pleasure Principle (Gary Numan album)
The Pleasure Principle is the third studio album, and debut album under his own name, by electronic music pioneer Gary Numan, released in 1979...

(1979), he played only synths, but retained a bass guitarist and a drummer for the rhythm section. A single from the album, "Cars
Cars (song)
Fear Factory, an American industrial metal band, recorded a version of "Cars" and released it as the second single from their third studio album, Obsolete. The song was only included as a bonus track on the limited edition digipak re-release of Obsolete and would be instrumental in breaking Fear...

" topped the charts.

Giorgio Moroder collaborated with the band Sparks
Sparks (band)
Sparks is an American rock and pop band formed in Los Angeles in 1968 by brothers Ron and Russell Mael , initially under the name Halfnelson...

 on their album No. 1 In Heaven
No. 1 In Heaven
-Personnel:* Chris Bennett - Backing Vocals* Keith Forsey - Drums* Ron Mael - Keyboards, Synthesiser, Vocals* Russell Mael - Vocals* Jack Moran - Backing Vocals* Giorgio Moroder - Synthesiser, Vocoder, Producer* Dan Wyman - Synthesiser Programming...

(1979). That same year in Japan, the synthpop band P-Model
P-Model
P-Model was a Japanese New Wave synth-rock & techno-pop band started in 1979 by frontman Susumu Hirasawa. The band has included many lineup revisions over the years but Hirasawa was always at the helm of operations...

 made its debut with the album In a Model Room
In A Model Room
In A Model Room is P-Model's debut album released in August 1979. The band's line up during this album consisted of Susumu Hirasawa , Katsuhiko Akiyama , Yasumi Tanaka , and Sadatoshi Tainaka . The song "THE GREAT BRAIN" was covered in the 2007 album Karate House by Polysics.- Track listing :# # #...

. Other Japanese synthpop groups emerging around the same time included the Plastics and Hikashu
Hikashu
Hikashu are a renowned Japanese underground "avant-pop" collective led by pseudo-Kabuki vocalist, Makigami Koichi, known for their highly experimental music...

. This zeitgeist of revolution in electronic music performance and recording/production was encapsulated by then would-be record producer Trevor Horn
Trevor Horn
Trevor Charles Horn CBE is an English pop music record producer, songwriter, musician and singer. He was born in Houghton-le-Spring in north-east England....

 of The Buggles
The Buggles
The Buggles were an English New Wave band consisting of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes . They are remembered chiefly for their 1979 debut single "Video Killed the Radio Star" that was #1 on the singles chart in 16 countries. Its music video was the first to be shown on MTV in the U.S...

 in the international hit "Video Killed the Radio Star
Video Killed the Radio Star
"Video Killed the Radio Star" is a song by the British synthpop/New Wave group The Buggles, released as their debut single on 7 September 1979, on Island Records from their debut album The Age of Plastic. It celebrates the golden days of radio, describing a singer whose career is cut short by...

" (1979).

Numan's success was the trigger for the chart appearances in 1980 of Visage
Visage
Visage are a British New Wave rock band. Formed in 1978, the band became closely linked to the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement of the early 1980s, and are best known for their 1980 hit "Fade to Grey".-New Wave years :...

's self titled debut
Visage (album)
Visage is the eponymous debut album from the British pop group Visage, recorded at Genetic Sound Studios in Reading and released by Polydor Records on 10 November 1980...

, John Foxx
John Foxx
John Foxx is an English singer, artist, photographer and teacher. He was the original lead singer of the band Ultravox before being replaced by Midge Ure, when he left to embark on a solo career in 1979...

's Metamatic
Metamatic
Metamatic is an album by John Foxx, released in 1980. It was his first solo album following his split with Ultravox the previous year. A departure from the textured mix of synthesizers and conventional instruments on Systems of Romance, his last album with the band, Metamatics hard-edged...

, and Ultravox
Ultravox
Ultravox is a British New Wave rock band. They were one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The band was particularly associated with the New Romantic and New Wave movements....

's Vienna
Vienna (album)
Vienna is the fourth studio LP by the synthpop band Ultravox, first released on 11 July 1980. The album peaked at #3 in the UK charts and was the first Ultravox release to enter the UK top ten. It was certified Platinum in the United Kingdom in July 1981 for 300,000 copies sold...

. 1980 also saw the release of what for many is the defining album of Devo's career, the overtly synthpop Freedom of Choice
Freedom of Choice
Freedom of Choice is the third album by New Wave musicians Devo, released on May 16, 1980. It saw the band moving in more of an overt synthpop direction, even though guitars still played a prominent role....

.

Commercial success (1981–85)


The emergence of synthpop has been described as "perhaps the single most significant event in melodic music
Melodic music
Melodic Imitation is a term that covers various genres of non-classical music which are primarily characterised by the dominance of a single strong melody line. Rhythm, tempo and beat are subordinate to the melody line or tune, which is generally easily memorable, and followed without great...

 since Mersey-beat
Beat music
Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat is a pop and rock music genre that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s. Beat music is a fusion of rock and roll, doo wop, skiffle, R&B and soul...

". By the 1980s synthesizers had become much cheaper and easier to use. After the definition of MIDI in 1982 and the development of digital audio
Digital audio
Digital audio is sound reproduction using pulse-code modulation and digital signals. Digital audio systems include analog-to-digital conversion , digital-to-analog conversion , digital storage, processing and transmission components...

, the creation of purely electronic sounds and their manipulation became much simpler. Synthesizers came to dominate the pop music of the early 1980s, particularly through their adoption by bands of the New Romantic
New Romantic
New Romanticism , was a pop culture movement in the United Kingdom that began around 1979 and peaked around 1981. Developing in London nightclubs such as Billy's and The Blitz and spreading to other major cities in the UK, it was based around flamboyant, eccentric fashion and new wave music...

 movement.

The New Romantic scene had developed in the London nightclubs Billy's and The Blitz and was associated with bands such as Duran Duran
Duran Duran
Duran Duran are an English band, formed in Birmingham in 1978. They were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s and a leading band in the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" of the United States...

, Japan
Japan (band)
Japan were a British New Wave group, formed in 1974 in Catford, South London. The band achieved success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they were often associated with the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement .- History :The band began as a group of friends...

, Ultravox
Ultravox
Ultravox is a British New Wave rock band. They were one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The band was particularly associated with the New Romantic and New Wave movements....

, Visage
Visage
Visage are a British New Wave rock band. Formed in 1978, the band became closely linked to the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement of the early 1980s, and are best known for their 1980 hit "Fade to Grey".-New Wave years :...

, Adam and the Ants
Adam and the Ants
Adam and the Ants were a British rock band active during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The original group, which existed from 1977 to 1980, became notable as a cult band marking the transition from the late-1970s punk rock era to the post-punk and New Wave era...

, Bow Wow Wow
Bow Wow Wow
Bow Wow Wow were an English 1980s New Wave band created by Malcolm McLaren to promote his and business partner Vivienne Westwood's New Romantic fashion lines.The group's music is described as having an "African-derived drum sound".-History:...

, Soft Cell
Soft Cell
Soft Cell are an English synthpop duo who came to prominence in the early 1980s. They consist of vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball. The duo is most widely known for their 1981 worldwide hit version of "Tainted Love" and platinum debut Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret...

, Spandau Ballet
Spandau Ballet
Spandau Ballet are a British band formed in London in the late 1970s. Initially inspired by, and an integral part of, the New Romantic fashion, their music has featured a mixture of funk, jazz, soul and synthpop. They were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s, achieving ten Top Ten singles...

, ABC
ABC (band)
ABC are an English band, that charted ten UK and five US Top 40 singles between 1981 and 1990. The band continues to tour and released a new album, Traffic, in 2008.-Formation:...

 and Culture Club
Culture Club
Culture Club are a British rock band who were part of the 1980s New Romantic movement. The original band consisted of Boy George , Mikey Craig , Roy Hay and Jon Moss...

. They adopted an elaborate visual style that combined elements of glam rock
Glam rock
Glam rock is a style of rock and pop music that developed in the UK in the early 1970s, which was performed by singers and musicians who wore outrageous clothes, makeup and hairstyles, particularly platform-soled boots and glitter...

, science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 and romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

. Duran Duran have been credited with incorporating dance beats into synthpop to produce a catchier and warmer sound, which provided them with a series of hit singles. They would soon be followed into the British charts by a large number of bands utilising synthesizers to create catchy three-minute pop songs. A new line-up for the Human League and a more commercial sound, led to the album Dare
Dare (album)
Dare is the third studio album from British synthpop band The Human League.The album was recorded between March and September 1981 and first released in the UK on 20 October 1981, then subsequently in the U.S...

(1981), which produced a series of hit singles. These included "Don't You Want Me
Don't You Want Me
"Don't You Want Me" is a single by British synthpop group Human League, released from their album: Dare on 27 November 1981.It is the band's best known and most commercially successful recording to date, and was the Christmas number one in the UK, in 1981, where it sold over 1,400,000 copies,...

", which reached number one in the UK at the end of 1981.

Synthpop reached its commercial peak in the UK in the winter of 1981–2, with bands such as Soft Cell
Soft Cell
Soft Cell are an English synthpop duo who came to prominence in the early 1980s. They consist of vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball. The duo is most widely known for their 1981 worldwide hit version of "Tainted Love" and platinum debut Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret...

, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Japan, Ultravox, Depeche Mode and even Kraftwerk, enjoying top ten hits. In early 1982 synthesizers were so dominant that the Musicians Union
Musicians' Union (UK)
-About the MU:The Musicians' Union is an organisation which represents over 30,000 musicians working in all sectors of the UK music business.-Campaigns:The MU stages regular campaigns in relation to relevant musical and industrial issues...

 attempted to limit their use. By the end of 1982, these acts had been joined in the charts by synth-based singles from Thomas Dolby
Thomas Dolby
Thomas Dolby is an English musician and producer. Best known for his 1982 hit "She Blinded Me with Science", and 1984 single "Hyperactive!", he has also worked extensively in production and as a session musician.-Early life:Dolby was born in London, England, contrary to information in early 1980s...

, Blancmange
Blancmange (band)
Blancmange are a British synthpop band who came to prominence with a string of hits in the early to mid 1980s.-Biography:Blancmange was formed in Harrow, Middlesex in 1979 by singer Neil Arthur and instrumentalists Stephen Luscombe and Laurence Stevens...

, The Eurythmics and Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears are an English new wave band formed in the early 1980s by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.Founded after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate, they were initially associated with the New Wave synthesiser bands of the early 1980s but later branched out into...

. The proliferation of acts led to an anti-synth backlash, with groups including Spandau Ballet, Human League, Soft Cell and ABC
ABC (band)
ABC are an English band, that charted ten UK and five US Top 40 singles between 1981 and 1990. The band continues to tour and released a new album, Traffic, in 2008.-Formation:...

 incorporating more conventional influences and instruments into their sounds.


In the US, where synthpop is considered a sub genre of New Wave
New Wave music
New Wave is a subgenre of :rock music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, disco and 1960s...

 and was described as "technopop" by the press at the time, the genre became popular due to the cable music channel MTV
MTV
MTV, formerly an initialism of Music Television, is an American network based in New York City that launched on August 1, 1981. The original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by on-air hosts known as VJs....

, which reached the media capitals of New York City and Los Angeles in 1982. It made heavy use of style-conscious New Romantic synthpop acts, with "I Ran (So Far Away)
I Ran (So Far Away)
"I Ran" is a song by English New Wave band A Flock of Seagulls. It was released on their debut album A Flock of Seagulls in 1982 and was its most successful single, reaching number 9 in the United States and number 1 in Australia.-Single:The single was promoted by a distinctive music video in...

" (1982) by A Flock of Seagulls
A Flock of Seagulls
A Flock of Seagulls are an English New Wave band originally formed by brothers Michael "Mike" Score and Alister "Ali" James Score , with Frank Maudsley , Michael Kuby , H.J...

 generally considered the first hit by a British act to enter the Billboard Top Ten as a result of exposure through video. The switch to a "new music
New Music (music industry)
New Music was an umbrella term used by the music industry and by music journalists in the United States, primarily during 1982 and 1983 to describe music acts who had come to commercial success in the United States through the cable music channel MTV...

" format in US radio stations was also significant in the success of British bands. The success of synthpop and other British acts would be seen as a Second British Invasion
Second British Invasion
The term Second British Invasion refers to British music acts that became popular in the United States during the 1980s primarily due to the cable music channel MTV...

. Synthpop was taken up across the world, with international hits for acts including Men Without Hats
Men Without Hats
Men Without Hats is a Canadian New Wave group from Montreal, Quebec. Their music was characterized by the distinctive baritone voice of their lead singer Ivan Doroschuk as well as their elaborate use of synthesizers and electronic processing...

 and Trans X from Canada, Telex
Telex (band)
The Belgian synth-pop group Telex was formed in 1978 by Marc Moulin, Dan Lacksman, and Michel Moers, with the intention of "Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar — and the idea was electronic music." Mixing the aesthetics of disco, punk and experimental electronic...

 from Belgium and Yello
Yello
Yello is a Swiss electronica band consisting of Dieter Meier and Boris Blank. They are probably best known for their singles "The Race" and "Oh Yeah", which feature a mix of electronic music and manipulated vocals, as does most of their music....

 from Switzerland.

In the mid-1980s, key artists included solo performer Howard Jones
Howard Jones (musician)
Howard Jones is a musician, singer and songwriter. According to the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums, "Jones is an accomplished singer-songwriter who was a regular chart visitor in the mid 1980s with his brand of synthpop. Jones, who was equally popular in the U.S., appeared at Live...

, who mixed synthpop with the optimism of late-'60s pop, and Nik Kershaw
Nik Kershaw
Nik Kershaw is an English singer-songwriter. The one time jazz-funk guitarist was a mid-1980s teen idol. His 50 weeks on the UK Singles Chart in 1984 beat all other soloists...

, whose "well-craft synthpop" incorporated guitars and other more traditional pop influences that particularly appealed to a teen audience. Pursuing a more dance-orientated sound were Bronski Beat
Bronski Beat
Bronski Beat were a popular British synthpop trio who achieved success in the mid 1980s, particularly with the 1984 chart hit "Smalltown Boy". All members of the group were openly homosexual and their songs reflected this, often containing political commentary on gay-related issues...

 whose album The Age of Consent
The Age of Consent
The Age of Consent is a synthpop album by Bronski Beat , released at the end of 1984 on London Records.-Overview:...

(1984), dealing with issues of homophobia and alienation, reached the top 20 in the UK and top 40 in the US. and Thompson Twins
Thompson Twins
The Thompson Twins were a British pop group that were formed in April 1977 and disbanded in May 1993. They achieved considerable popularity in the mid 1980s, scoring a string of hits in the United Kingdom, the United States and around the globe. The band was named after the two bumbling detectives...

, whose popularity peaked in 1985 with the album Here's to Future Days
Here's to Future Days
Here's to Future Days is the fifth album by the British pop group Thompson Twins. It was released in September 1985 and it reached no.5 in the UK, and no.20 in the US....

, which reached the US top ten and spawned two top ten singles. Initially dismissed in the music press as a "teeny bob sensation" were Norwegian band a-ha
A-ha
A-ha were a Norwegian pop band formed in Oslo in 1982. The band was founded by Morten Harket , Magne Furuholmen , and Pål Waaktaar...

, whose use of guitars and real drums produced an accessible form of synthpop, which, along with a MTV friendly video, took single "Take on Me
Take on Me
"Take on Me" is a song by the Norwegian pop band A-ha. Written by the band members, the song was produced by Alan Tarney for the group's first studio album Hunting High and Low, released in 1985...

" (1985) to number two in the UK and number one in the US.

Declining popularity (1986–2000)



Synthpop continued into late 1980s, with a format that moved closer to dance music, including the work of acts such as British duos Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic dance music duo, consisting of Neil Tennant, who provides main vocals, keyboards and occasional guitar, and Chris Lowe on keyboards....

, Erasure
Erasure
Erasure are an English synthpop duo, consisting of songwriter and keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell. Erasure entered the music scene in 1985 with their debut single "Who Needs Love Like That"...

 and The Communards
The Communards
The Communards were a British pop duo active from 1985 to 1988. They are most famous for their cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' song, "Don't Leave Me This Way" as well as "Never Can Say Goodbye".-History:...

. The Communards major hits were covers of disco classics "Don't Leave Me This Way
Don't Leave Me This Way
"Don't Leave Me This Way" is an R&B/soul/disco song written by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, and Cary Gilbert. First charting as a hit for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, an act on Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International label in 1975, "Don't Leave Me This Way" was later a hit single for both...

" (1986) and "Never Can Say Goodbye
Never Can Say Goodbye
"Never Can Say Goodbye" is a song written by Clifton Davis and originally recorded by The Jackson 5. Released as a single in 1971, it was one of the group's most successful songs...

" (1987). After adding other elements to their sound, and with the help of a gay audience, several synthpop acts had success on the US dance charts. Among these were American acts Information Society
Information Society (band)
Information Society is an American band originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, primarily consisting of Kurt Larson , Paul Robb, and James Cassidy; the latter two reconvened the band in 2006, initially with Christopher Anton as lead vocalist, then with Harland rejoining them as lead vocalist by...

, Anything Box
Anything Box
Anything Box is an electronic/synthpop musical group originally from Paterson, New Jersey and now based in Orange County, CA. They are best known for their 1989 Single "Living in Oblivion." The band is one of the primary bands which carried electronic music's transition from the late 1980s into the...

, and Red Flag
Red Flag (band)
Red Flag is a synthpop band founded in 1984 in San Diego by brothers Chris and Mark Reynolds.-History:After growing up in Liverpool, the brothers, following their father's itinerant job, moved to locations such as Montreal and Seattle; in 1979, the family settled in California, arriving first in...

.

An American backlash against European synthpop has been seen as beginning in the mid-1980s with the rise of heartland rock
Heartland rock
Heartland rock is a genre of rock music that developed in the 1970s and reached its commercial peak in the 1980s, when it became one of the best-selling genres in the United States. It was characterized by a straightforward musical style, a concern with the average, blue collar American life, and a...

 and roots rock
Roots rock
Roots rock is a term now used to describe rock music that looks back to rock's origins in folk, blues and country music. It is particularly associated with the creation of hybrid sub-genres from the later 1960s including country rock and Southern rock, which have been seen as responses to the...

. In the UK the arrival of indie rock
Indie rock
Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s. Indie rock is extremely diverse, with sub-genres that include lo-fi, post-rock, math rock, indie pop, dream pop, noise rock, space rock, sadcore, riot grrrl and emo, among others...

 bands, particularly The Smiths
The Smiths
The Smiths were an English alternative rock band, formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the song writing partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr , the band also included Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce...

, has been seen as marking the end of synth-driven New Wave and the beginning of the guitar-based music that would dominate rock into the 1990s. By 1991, in the United States synthpop was losing its commercial viability as alternative radio stations were responding to the popularity of grunge rock. Exceptions that continued to pursue forms of synthpop or rock in the 1990s were Savage Garden
Savage Garden
Savage Garden were an Australian pop rock performance and songwriting duo. Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones formed the group in Brisbane, Queensland in 1994...

, The Rentals
The Rentals
The Rentals are an American rock band fronted by vocalist Matt Sharp, best known as the former bass player for rock group Weezer. The band is best known for their mid-1990s hit single, "Friends of P.". The group has released two albums, Return of the Rentals and Seven More Minutes on Maverick...

, and The Moog Cookbook
The Moog Cookbook
The Moog Cookbook is the name of an electronica band made up of Brian Kehew and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. as a parody/tribute to the novelty "Moog records" of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The duo performs exclusively on analog synthesizers, especially Moog synthesizers...

. Electronic music was also explored from the early 1990s by indie electronic bands like Stereolab
Stereolab
Stereolab are an alternative music band formed in 1990 in London, England. The band originally comprised songwriting team Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier , both of whom remained at the helm across many lineup changes...

 and Disco Inferno
Disco Inferno
Disco Inferno is a song by The Trammps.Disco Inferno can also refer to:* Disco Inferno , a 1976 disco album recorded by The Trammps featuring the song* Disco Inferno , a band formed in the late 1980s...

, who mixed a variety of indie and synthesizer sounds.

21st century revival



Indie electronic began to take off in the new millennium as the new digital technology developed, with acts including Broadcast
Broadcast (band)
Broadcast are an electronic music band, founded in Birmingham, England. Original members were Trish Keenan , Roj Stevens , Tim Felton and James Cargill . Various drummers played with the band, including Keith York, Phil Jenkins, Jeremy Barnes, Steve Perkins, and Neil Bullock...

 from the UK, Justice
Justice (French band)
Justice is a French electronic music duo consisting of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay . The duo is one of the most successful groups on Ed Banger Records and is managed by the label's head, Pedro Winter...

 from France, Lali Puna
Lali Puna
Lali Puna is an experimental electropop band from Weilheim, Germany . Founded in 1998 by Korea-born Valerie Trebeljahr , other members include Markus Acher , Christoph Brandner and Christian Heiß . The latter joined Lali Puna in 2003, after keyboard player Florian Zimmer had left the band...

 from Germany, and Ratatat
Ratatat
Ratatat is a New York City electronic music duo consisting of Mike Stroud and producer Evan Mast .-History:Evan Mast and Mike Stroud first met as students at Skidmore College, but they did not work together until 2001, when they recorded several songs under the name "Cherry"...

 and The Postal Service
The Postal Service
The Postal Service is an American electronic indie pop band composed of vocalist Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and producer Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and Headset.-Background:...

 from the US, mixing a variety of indie sounds with electronic music, largely produced on small independent labels. Similarly, the electroclash
Electroclash
Electroclash is a style of music that fuses New Wave and electronic dance music. It emerged in New York and Detroit in the later 1990s, pioneered by acts including I-F and those associated with Gerald Donald, and is associated with acts including Peaches, Adult, and Fischerspooner...

 sub-genre began in New York at the end of the 1990s, combining synthpop, techno, punk and performance art. It was pioneered by I-F
I-F
I-f is the stage name of Ferenc E. van der Sluijs, a Dutch producer and DJ based in The Hague. He is a former member of the Dutch electro-pioneers Unit Moebius....

 with their track "Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass" (1998), and pursued by artists including Felix da Housecat
Felix da Housecat
Felix da Housecat is an American DJ and record producer, mostly known for house music and electroclash. His name was inspired by Felix the Cat....

, Peaches
Peaches (musician)
Merrill Beth Nisker , better known by her stage name Peaches, is a Canadian electronic musician and performance artist who lives in Berlin, Germany. Her songs are noted for disregarding traditional gender norms and their use of sexually explicit lyrics...

, Chicks on Speed
Chicks on Speed
Chicks on Speed is a multi-national musical ensemble, formed in Munich in 1997, when members Melissa Logan, Kiki Moorse and Alex Murray-Leslie met at the Academy of Fine Arts....

, and Ladytron
Ladytron
Ladytron are an English electronic band formed in 1999 in Liverpool, Merseyside. The group consists of Helen Marnie , Mira Aroyo , Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu .Their sound blends electropop with New Wave and shoegazing elements. Ladytron described their sound as "electronic pop"...

. It gained international attention at the beginning of the new millennium and spread to scenes in London and Berlin, but rapidly faded as a recognizable genre as acts began to experiment with a variety of forms of music.

In the new millennium, renewed interest in electronic music and nostalgia for the 1980s led to the beginnings of a synthpop revival, with acts including Adult and Fischerspooner
Fischerspooner
Fischerspooner is an electroclash duo and performance troupe formed in 1998 in New York. The name is a portmanteau of the founders' last names, Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner...

. In 2003–04 it began to move into the mainstream with Ladytron
Ladytron
Ladytron are an English electronic band formed in 1999 in Liverpool, Merseyside. The group consists of Helen Marnie , Mira Aroyo , Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu .Their sound blends electropop with New Wave and shoegazing elements. Ladytron described their sound as "electronic pop"...

, the Postal Service, Cut Copy
Cut Copy
Cut Copy are an Australian electronic band formed in 2001 by Dan Whitford on vocals, keyboard and guitar. Other members are Tim Hoey on guitar and sampler, Ben Browning on bass guitar and Mitchell Scott on drums. Their second album, In Ghost Colours peaked at number-one on the ARIA Albums Chart in...

, the Bravery
The Bravery
The Bravery is an American rock band from New York City that consists of Sam Endicott , Michael Zakarin , John Conway , Mike Hindert , and Anthony Burulcich...

 and The Killers all producing records that incorporated vintage synthesizer sounds and styles that contrasted with the dominant genres of post-grunge
Post-grunge
Post-grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the mid-1990s as a derivative of grunge, using the sounds and aesthetic of grunge, but with a more commercially acceptable tone...

 and nu-metal. In particular, the Killers enjoyed considerable airplay and exposure and their debut album Hot Fuss
Hot Fuss
Hot Fuss is the debut studio album by Las Vegas based American rock band The Killers, released on June 7, 2004 in the United Kingdom and on June 15, 2004 in the United States.-Background:...

(2004) reached the top ten of the Billboard 200
Billboard 200
The Billboard 200 is a ranking of the 200 highest-selling music albums and EPs in the United States, published weekly by Billboard magazine. It is frequently used to convey the popularity of an artist or groups of artists...

. The Killers, the Bravery and the Stills all left their synthpop sound behind after their debut albums and began to explore classic 1970s rock, but the style was picked up by a large number of performers, particularly female solo artists. After the breakthrough success of Lady Gaga
Lady GaGa
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta , better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American singer and songwriter. Born and raised in New York City, she primarily studied at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and briefly attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts before withdrawing to...

 with her single "Just Dance" (2008), the British and other media proclaimed a new era of the female electropop star, citing band acts such as Little Boots
Little Boots
Victoria Christina Hesketh, also known by her stage name/pseudonym Little Boots, is an English electropop singer-songwriter. Her stage name comes from a nickname given to her by a friend, a reference to her unusually small feet...

, La Roux
La Roux
La Roux are an English electropop duo made up of singer, keyboardist, co-writer and co-producer Eleanor Kate Jackson, and co-writer and co-producer Ben Langmaid. Jackson describes their relationship as "very much a half and half sharing situation... not like a singer producer outfit", but also...

 and Ladyhawke. The success of Japanese technopop girl group Perfume
Perfume (group)
Perfume is a Japanese all-girl trio from Hiroshima, Japan, consisting of Ayano Ōmoto, Yuka Kashino, and Ayaka Nishiwaki. They debuted locally in 2001 and made their transition to a major label in 2005, focusing more on electropop...

's album Game (2008) led to a similar renewed interest in Japanese popular music
J-pop
, an abbreviation for Japanese pop, is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 1990s. Modern J-pop has its roots in 1960s music, such as The Beatles, and replaced kayōkyoku in the Japanese music scene...

. Other Japanese female technopop artists soon followed, including Aira Mitsuki, immi
Immi
Mayu Nakazawa , currently known by the stage name immi, is a Japanese Electronica singer and songwriter. She is currently signed onto DefStar Records. While she writes and composes her own music, she is also regularly produced by N.A.i.D. and JETBIKINI.-History:Nakazawa has had experience with the...

, Mizca
Masami Mitsuoka
is a Japanese singer. She started off singing straight pop music, but switched to the technopop genre with the release of "Robotics" on October 28, 2009, under her new stage name Mizca...

, SAWA
Sawa
Sawa may refer to:*The Sawa peoples of CameroonLocations*Sawa, Nepal*The Sawa Defence Training Centre of Eritrea*Sawa, Lesser Poland Voivodeship Arts*SAWA, Japanese techno-pop singer*Devon Sawa, Canadian actor...

, Saori@destiny
Saori at Destiny
Saori at Destiny is a Japanese electronica artist, produced by Terukado Ōnishi, who also produces Aira Mitsuki. She made her independent debut on December 5, 2007 with the single "My Boy" and has released two studio albums and one mini-album to date, named Japanese Chaos, Wow War Techno and World...

, and Sweet Vacation
Sweet Vacation
Sweet Vacation(スウィート・バケイション)is a Japanese music unit made of members Hayakawa Daichi and Thai vocalist May. Both come from a history of high level universities...

. Male acts that emerged in the same period included Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris is a Scottish singer-songwriter, record producer and DJ. His gold-selling debut album, I Created Disco, was released in 2007 and contained the top ten singles "Acceptable in the 80s" and "The Girls"...

, Frankmusik
Frankmusik
Vincent Frank born Vincent James Turner is known professionally as Frankmusik is an English electropop musician. The name "Frank" is derived from the surname of his grandfather, whose name he took in tribute.-Early life:...

, Hurts
Hurts
Hurts are a British synthpop duo formed in 2009, consisting of singer Theo Hutchcraft and synthesist Adam Anderson . Their debut album Happiness, which was released in September 2010, has reached the Top 10 in 12 European countries, and has sold over 800,000 copies worldwide...

, Kaskade
Kaskade
Ryan Raddon , better known by his stage name Kaskade, is an American DJ and record producer. On October 20, 2011, DJ Magazine announced the results of their annual Top 100 DJ Poll, with Ultra Records Kaskade placed at #30...

, LMFAO
LMFAO (group)
LMFAO is an American electro pop duo consisting of rappers, producers, dancers, and DJs Redfoo and SkyBlu . The group formed in 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Redfoo is SkyBlu's uncle. Redfoo is also the son of music mogul Berry Gordy, SkyBlu a grandson...

, and Owl City
Owl City
Owl City is an American electronica musical project by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Young formed in 2007 in Owatonna, Minnesota. Young created the project while experimenting with music in his parents' basement...

, whose single "Fireflies" (2009) topped the Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100
The Billboard Hot 100 is the United States music industry standard singles popularity chart issued weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on radio play and sales; the tracking-week for sales begins on Monday and ends on Sunday, while the radio play tracking-week runs from Wednesday...

 chart.

Criticism



Synthpop has received considerable criticism and even prompted hostility among musicians and in the press. It has been described as "anaemic" and "soulless". In the 1980s, objections were raised to the quality of compositions and the limited musicianship of artists. In 1983 Morrissey
Morrissey
Steven Patrick Morrissey , known as Morrissey, is an English singer and lyricist. He rose to prominence in the 1980s as the lyricist and vocalist of the alternative rock band The Smiths. The band was highly successful in the United Kingdom but broke up in 1987, and Morrissey began a solo career,...

 of The Smiths
The Smiths
The Smiths were an English alternative rock band, formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the song writing partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr , the band also included Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce...

 stated that "there was nothing more repellent than the synthesizer". According to Simon Reynolds, in some quarters synthesizers were seen as instruments for "effete poseurs", in contrast to the phallic guitar. The association of synthpop with an alternative sexuality was reinforced by the images projected by synthpop stars, who were seen as gender bending, including Phil Oakey's asymmetric hair and use of eyeliner, Marc Almond's "pervy" leather jacket, skirt wearing by figures including Martin Gore
Martin Gore
Martin Lee Gore is an English songwriter, lyricist, singer, guitarist, keyboardist, remixer and DJ. He is a founding member of Depeche Mode and has written the vast majority of their songs...

 of Depeche Mode and the early "dominatrix" image of Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics. In the US this led to British synthpop artists being characterised as "English haircut bands" or "art fag" music. Although some audiences were overtly hostile to synthpop, it achieved an appeal among those aliened from the dominant hetrosexualism of mainstream rock culture, particularly among gay and female audiences. Synthpop's early steps, and Gary Numan in particular, were also disparaged in the British music press of the late 1970s and early 1980s for their German influences and characterised by journalist Mick Farren
Mick Farren
Michael Anthony 'Mick' Farren is an English journalist, author and singer associated with counterculture and the UK Underground.-Music:...

 as the "Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 Memorial Space Patrol".

Influence


By the mid-1980s, synthpop had helped establish the synthesizer as a primary instrument in mainstream pop music. It also influenced the sound of many mainstream rock acts, such as Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...

, ZZ Top
ZZ Top
ZZ Top is an American rock band, sometimes referred to as "That Little Ol' Band from Texas". Their style, which is rooted in blues-based boogie rock, has come to incorporate elements of arena, southern, and boogie rock. The band, from Houston Texas, formed in 1969...

 and Van Halen
Van Halen
Van Halen is an American hard rock band formed in Pasadena, California, in 1972. The band has enjoyed success since the release of its debut album, Van Halen, . As of 2007 Van Halen has sold 80 million albums worldwide and has had the most #1 hits on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart...

. It was a major influence on house music
House music
House music is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago, Illinois, United States in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino American, and gay communities; first in Chicago circa 1984, then in other...

, which grew out of the post-disco
Post-disco
Post-disco refers to a historically significant period in popular music history beginning with the commercial death of disco music in the late 1970s and ending with the mainstream appearance of house music in late 1980s.The stripped-down musical trends followed from the DJ- and producer-driven,...

 dance club culture of the early 1980s as some DJs attempted to make the less pop-oriented music that also incorporated influences from Latin soul
Latin soul
Latin soul was a short lived musical genre movement which developed in the 60's in New York City. It consisted of a blend of Cuban mambo with elements of Latin Jazz and Soul music. Although short-lived, the genre had a great influence on the growing Salsa movement which would dominate the New York...

, dub reggae, rap music, and jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

. Musicians such as Juan Atkins
Juan Atkins
Juan Atkins is an American musician. He is widely credited as the originator of techno music, specifically Detroit techno along with Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson...

, using names including Model 500, Infinity and as part of Cybotron, developed a style of electronic dance music
Electronic dance music
Electronic dance music is electronic music produced primarily for the purposes of use within a nightclub setting, or in an environment that is centered upon dance-based entertainment...

 influenced by synthpop and funk
Funk
Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-late 1960s when African American musicians blended soul music, jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground...

 that lead to the emergence of Detroit techno
Detroit techno
Detroit techno is an early style of electronic music beginning in the 1980s. Detroit, Michigan has been cited as the birthplace of techno music. Prominent Detroit Techno artists include Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson...

 in the mid 1980s. The continued influence of 1980s synthpop could be seen in various incarnations of 1990s dance music including trance
Trance music
Trance is a genre of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s.:251 It is generally characterized by a tempo of between 125 and 150 bpm,:252 repeating melodic synthesizer phrases, and a musical form that builds up and breaks down throughout a track...

.

The electronic sound and style of from both the 1980s the 21st century revival are influencing and have become a seamless part of today's music scene. Hip hop
Hip hop
Hip hop is a form of musical expression and artistic culture that originated in African-American and Latino communities during the 1970s in New York City, specifically the Bronx. DJ Afrika Bambaataa outlined the four pillars of hip hop culture: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti writing...

 artists such as Mobb Deep
Mobb Deep
Mobb Deep is an American hip hop duo from Queensbridge, Queens, New York, U.S., that consists of Havoc and Prodigy. The duo is "one of the most critically acclaimed hardcore East Coast hip-hop groups." The group is best known for its dark, hardcore delivery, as exemplified by the single "Shook Ones...

 commonly sample 1980s synthpop songs. Popular R&B artists such as Rhianna
Rhianna
Robyn Hannah Louise Kenny professionally known as Rhianna, is an English R&B singer.-Early life:...

 Jay Sean, and Taio Cruz
Taio Cruz
Taio Cruz is a British singer-songwriter, record producer, occasional rapper, and entrepreneur. In 2008, he released his debut album Departure, which Cruz wrote, arranged and produced himself. It achieved initial success in the UK and earned him a MOBO Award nomination...

  as well as British pop star Lily Allen
Lily Allen
Lily Rose Beatrice Cooper , better known as Lily Allen, is an English recording artist and fashion designer. She is the daughter of actor and musician Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen. In her teenage years, her musical tastes evolved from glam rock to alternative...

on her second album have also embraced the genre.