Sunday, November 16, 2014

The inevitable question: "What is power pop"?

As with many music genres, and perhaps more so, the definition of "power pop" is a slippery topic.

To that point, in a recent audio chat with author/musician Ken Sharp, Bruce Brodeen of Pop Geek Heaven referenced the famous Supreme Court "I know it when I see [or hear] it" non-definition definition of pornography.

Here are some takes on this question:

Power Popaholic:
It's a loose definition of rock and roll with melodic loud guitars and vocal harmonies. If you like that—then chances are you like the genre of Power Pop.
Robert Fontenot:
[T]hat mythical alchemy of pop and rock: specifically, the kind of romantic Beatlesque pop that sails on dreamy harmonies, mixed with the power-chord-based arena rock popularized by bands like The Who. In fact, it was Pete Townshend who first coined the phrase back in 1972 to describe what he and his mates had been up to back in the mid-Sixties....
[Power pop] draws its inspiration from 1960s British and American pop and rock music. It typically incorporates a combination of musical devices such as strong melodies, clear vocals and crisp vocal harmonies, economical arrangements and prominent guitar riffs. Instrumental solos are usually kept to a minimum, and blues elements are largely downplayed.
 All Music Guide:
Power Pop is a cross between the crunching hard rock of the Who and the sweet melodicism of the Beatles and Beach Boys, with the ringing guitars of the Byrds thrown in for good measure.
At the wikipedia link, above, is this citation from an earlier version of the linked AMG page, and it's a good conversation starter for the question of how appropriately we may use "power pop" as something of a synonym for "Beatlesque":
The musical sourcepoint for nearly all power pop is The Beatles. Virtually all stylistic appropriations begin with them: distinctive harmony singing, strong melodic lines, unforgettable guitar riffs, lyrics about boys and girls in love; they created the model that other power poppers copied for the next couple of decades. Other profound influences include The Who, The Kinks and The Move, bands whose aggressive melodies and loud distorted guitars put the "power" in power pop.
Do you have a favorite definition of power pop, or could you propose one of your own?


  1. In my mind, it is the melody and pop of Buddy Holly, the kicking guitars and stomping drums of The Who, the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the bright chiming guitars of The Beatles and The Byrds. However, it could have just some of those sensibilities and still be Power Pop.

    Ice Cream Man Power Pop and More.

  2. Terry Flamm weighs in on the question:

    "I have a couple of stock answers for those occasions when someone asks me to define power pop. One is: melody + harmonies + energy = power pop. The other is to explain that power pop is like The Beatles and The Hollies, except with more of an edge. Of course, like any genre, power pop can have its ups and downs. It can be twee lyrics set to a derivative arrangement, or it can be an invigorating roller coaster ride driven by ringing guitars and razor-sharp observations on the joys and frustrations of romantic relationships. "