Electropop  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Electropop (also called Technopop) is a form of synth pop music that is made with synthesizers, and which first flourished from 1978 to 1981. Electropop laid the groundwork for a mass market in chart-oriented synthpop, but later became seen by musicologists as merely a subgenre of synthpop. Numerous bands have since carried on the electropop tradition into the 1990s and 2000s.

Electropop is different from synthpop because it is often characterised by a cold, robotic, electronic sound, which was largely due to the early limitations of the analog synthesizers used to make the music. The alienated deadpan lyrics usually have a science-fiction edge to them, and do not use the "boy meets girl, boy loses girl" theme that was so common among mass-market chart-topping new wave synthpop from about 1981 onwards.

Most electropop songs are pop songs at heart, often with simple, catchy hooks and dance beats, but differing from those of electronic dance music genres which electropop helped to inspire — techno, dub, house, electroclash, etc. — in that strong songwriting is emphasized over simple danceability.

History

(Early electropop should not be confused with the early disco-synth hits of 1978-1980, such as Blondie's "Heart of Glass", Sparks's "No.1 in Heaven", and M's "Pop Muzik".)

Almost all early electropop artists were English, and were inspired by innovative artists such as Thomas Brown and the Bowie/Eno 'Berlin' albums Heroes and Low, and also by the German pioneers Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster, and CAN (all of whom had been heavily influenced by The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows). There were also influences from the band Suicide in the USA, and from about 1981 from the innovative Japanese trio Yellow Magic Orchestra.

There had been a long history of experimental avant-garde electronic music, notably in northern continental Europe, but this only marginally influenced some British artists such as Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells) who cannot be seen as electropop pioneers. The influence of avant-garde electronic music in the UK on electropop was largely one of giving access to a huge bank of technical expertise built up over decades, via organisations such as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and the London Electronic Music Studios which was patronised by early rock synth pioneers such as Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Tangerine Dream, and Pink Floyd. Many early electropop artists also chose to record in West Berlin.

Electropop was strongly disparaged in the British music press of the late 1970s and early 1980s as the "Adolf Hitler Memorial Space Patrol" (Mick Farren, exemplifying the suspicions of left-wing journalists). The New Musical Express once went so far as to print a two-page photomontage showing the band Kraftwerk on the podium of the Nuremberg Rally. Slightly later, many British bands chose names from Nazi nomenclature, such as New Order, A Certain Ratio, and Joy Division, due to the influence of the Die Junge Wilden movement then current in German music.

Electropop later fed into, and its synthesiser sound became intertwined with, the British New Romantic movement of the early 80s. Early electropop laid the groundwork for acceptance of later electronic acid/rave and progressive dance music, which appeared from New Order's seminal 1983 "Blue Monday" single. Within ten years of electropop's 'death' around 1982, the cultural meaning of its 'blips and beeps' had been shorn of the taint of modernism, and firmly attached to rave culture's neo-romantic 'nostalgia for the archaic'.

Electropop - notably the mid-career work of Kraftwerk and the first single by The Human League ("Being Boiled", 45rpm)- was extensively plundered to create the early hip-hop sound in the USA.

Electropop later fed into the synthpop and electroclash movements of the 1990s and beyond, and underwent a revival at the end of the 1990s (witness the Random tribute album to Gary Numan) with electroclash, which arose out of the staleness and exhaustion of the commercialised rave/house music scene.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Electropop" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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