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Electroclash | Electropop | Futurepop | Synthpunk

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Stylistic origins: Electronic art music, Post punk, New Wave
Cultural origins: Late 1970s and early 1980s, United Kingdom
Typical instruments: Synthesizer - Drum machine - Tape loops - Drums - Guitar (in latter incarnations were added Sequencer - Keyboard - Sampler)
Mainstream popularity: Large, worldwide, especially in 1980s
Derivative forms: Electroclash
Electropop - Electroclash - Synthpunk
Fusion genres

Synthpop is a style of popular music in which the synthesizer is the dominant musical instrument. It is most closely associated with an era between the end of the 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s when the synthesizer first became a practical and affordable instrument. The style developed as musicians such as Gary Numan, Ultravox, and Devo embraced the synthesizer as a lead instrument, taking advantage of its unique sound and capabilities.



While it might be argued that most current popular and commercial music in the industrialized world is realized via electronic instruments, synthpop has its own stylistic tendencies which differentiate it from other music produced by the same means. These include the exploitation of artificiality (the synthesizers are not used to imitate acoustic instruments), the use of mechanical rhythms and "feel", the use of vocal arrangements as a counterpoint to the artificiality of the instruments, and the use of ostinato patterns as an effect. Synthpop song structures are generally the same as in "regular" pop music.



Although synthesizers had been used in rock music in the 1960s, notably by The Beatles, the instruments were highly complex, temperamental, and expensive. Synthesizers became more widely used by progressive rock groups such as Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (driven by Moog master Keith Emerson), by the mid-1970s, electronic art music musicians such as Wendy Carlos, Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis, and the Krautrock influenced German band Kraftwerk were among the artists who experimented with them. But hugely popular Scandinavian supergroup ABBA embraced them, and producer Giorgio Moroder used them heavily on records by disco artists, notably Donna Summer, giving rise to the subgenre terms "Eurodisco" and "Hi-NRG," further popularised in the by Moroder and fellow German producers Jack White and Harold Faltermeyer, working with predominantly female artists like Irene Cara, Laura Branigan, and Berlin in the early 1980s.

1979 and early-to-mid 1980s

Replicas by Gary Numan and Tubeway Army Replicas by Gary Numan and Tubeway Army

The synthpop genre began to surface in 1979 and continued to evolve and expand in the early 1980s. Albums like Replicas by Gary Numan and Tubeway Army, Numan's solo LP The Pleasure Principle, Dare by the Human League and Metamatic by John Foxx typified the early synthpop sound.

Late 1980s, onward

In the United States, a backlash against the predominant styles of commercial pop in general and synthesized music specifically drove the synthpop genre largely underground there. Few of the genre's 1980s acts and almost none which happened upon a modicum of novelty success there in the 1990s were able to thrive commercially during this period, many dropped from their record contracts as "alternative" music rose to the forefront. A new generation of radio DJs, video jockeys and label reps dismissed synth-driven music as somehow less visceral or artistic than the emerging styles of grunge, hip-hop, and rap. However, in Europe (where the new wave movement began), as well as South America, Australia, and Asia the synthpop genre remained more widely accepted, and artists from these regions (as well as American artists temporarily expatriated there) performing music with 1980s synthpop roots have spurred minor resurgences of the genre in the U.S. (Ace Of Base, Savage Garden, and the Scandinavian-born teen pop phenomenon to name a few.)


Synthpop is sometimes confused with electropop, which is generally regarded to be a particular style of synthpop that incorporates the more robotic elements and feel of electro music. The term "synthpop" has also become increasingly used in goth and industrial circles to describe various alternative electronic artists who have used influences from synthpop, particularly those in the electronic body music and futurepop genres such as Mesh, And One, Melotron, S.P.O.C.K, Beborn Beton and Wolfsheim. It is otherwise generally used in its more classic sense, referring to early/mid 1980s synthesizer driven pop acts (e.g., Depeche Mode, Erasure) as well as a variety of New Romantic pop acts from the same era (e.g., Duran Duran, Japan, and Spandau Ballet).

See also

  • New Wave music - One of the main influences on synthpop music.
  • Indietronic - A style of indie music that incorporates synthpop-like themes.
  • Schaffel beat - triplet feel popularized in electronic music by acts like Depeche Mode, Covenant, and Goldfrapp.

External links

Electropop - Electroclash - Futurepop - Synthpunk
Other electronic music genres
Ambient | Breakbeat | Drum and bass | Electronica | Electronic art music | Hard dance | Hardcore | House | Techno | Trance | Industrial | Synthpop
Styles of pop music
Bubblegum pop - Futurepop - Indie pop - Pop punk - Pop-rap - Power pop - Synthpop/Electropop - Teen pop - Traditional pop
Other topics
Boy band - Girl group - Popular music

Home | Up | List of electronic music genres | Ambient music | Bhangra | Breakbeat | Breakcore | Computer and video game music | Drum and Bass | Electronica | Eurodance | Futurepop | House music | Industrial music | Noise music | Synthpop | Techno music | Technoid | Trance music | Acousmatic music | Balearic Beat | Electronic art music | Gamewave | Grime | Hard dance | Hi-NRG | Hipstep | Indietronica | Krautrock | Musique concrète | Shibuya-kei | Spacesynth | Trance fusion

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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