|Cultural origins||Late 1970s and early 1980s, primarily Europe, Japan, South Korea and United States.|
Electropop is a musical genre which combines electronic music and pop music, with primary usage of synthesizers and various electronic and pop musical instruments. The genre has seen a revival of popularity and influence since the 1980s, all the way to the 2010s.
Electropop songs are electronic and pop songs at heart, often with simple, catchy hooks and simple dance beats, but differing from those of electronic dance music genres in that songwriting is emphasized over simple danceability. Electropop is characterized by a distinctive low frequency synthesizers which might variously be described as crisp, crunchy, crackly, fuzzy, warm, distorted, dirty, or dry.
Late 1970s to 1980s
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, an electro-mechanical, polyphonic sample-playback keyboard was overtaken by the Moog synthesizer, created by Robert Moog 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 pop musicians such as Richard Wright of Pink Floyd and Rick Wakeman of Yes. Instrumental progressive pop was particularly significant in continental Europe, allowing bands like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can and Faust to circumvent the language barrier. Their synthesizer-heavy "Krautrock", along with the work of Brian Eno (for a time the keyboard player with Roxy Music), would be a major influence on subsequent synth rock.
In 1971 the British movie A Clockwork Orange was released with a synth soundtrack by American Wendy Carlos. It was the first time many in the United Kingdom had heard electronic music. Philip Oakey of the Human League and Richard H. Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire, as well as music journalist Simon Reynolds, have cited the soundtrack as an inspiration. Electronic music made occasional moves into the mainstream, with jazz musician Stan Free, under the pseudonym Hot Butter, having a top 10 hit in the United States and United Kingdom in 1972, with a cover of the 1969 Gershon Kingsley song "Popcorn" using a Moog synthesizer, which is recognised as a forerunner to synthpop and disco.
The mid-1970s saw the rise of electronic art musicians such as Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Tomita. Tomita's album Electric Samurai: Switched on Rock (1972) featured electronic renditions of contemporary pop songs, while utilizing speech synthesis and analog music sequencers. Italy's Giorgio Moroder paired up with Donna Summer in 1977 to release the electro-disco song "I Feel Love", and its programmed beats would be a major influence on later dance and pop. David Bowie's Berlin Trilogy, comprising the albums Low (1977), "Heroes" (1977) and Lodger (1979), all featuring Brian Eno, would also be highly influential.
During the early 1980s, artists such as Gary Numan, the Human League, Soft Cell, John Foxx and Visage helped pioneer a new synthpop style that drew more heavily from electronic and synthesizer music, while the electro style was largely developed by Afrika Bambaata, who was heavily influenced by Yellow Magic Orchestra and Kraftwerk and the 1980s pop music style of Madonna.
The media in 2009 ran articles proclaiming a new era of different electropop stars and indeed, saw a rise in popularity of several electropop artists. In the Sound of 2009 poll of 130 music experts conducted for the BBC, ten of the top fifteen artists named were of the electropop genre. Lady Gaga had major commercial success since 2008 with her debut album The Fame. Music writer Simon Reynolds noted that "Everything about Gaga came from electroclash, except the music, which wasn't particularly 1980s". The second album by British singer Lily Allen released in 2009 called It's Not Me, It's You is largely electropop as opposed to her first ska album. Other female electropop acts that emerged were Ladyhawke, Kesha, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Elly Jackson of La Roux and Perfume. The Korean pop music scene has also become dominated and influenced by electropop, particularly with boy bands and girl groups such as Super Junior, SHINee, F(X) and Girls' Generation.
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Male acts that have emerged included British writer and producer Taio Cruz, who charted well in the U.S., along with one-man act Owl City, who had a U.S. number-one single, DJ Kaskade, and LMFAO. Singer Michael Angelakos of the Passion Pit said in a 2009 interview that while playing electropop was not his intention, the limitations of dorm life made the genre more accessible. Some artists have used music technology to convert songs from other genres into electropop; for example, Paul Duncan of Warm Ghost took a record by indie folk artists Mountain Man and turned it into an electropop song.
In 2009, James Oldham—head of artists and repertoire at A&M Records—was quoted as saying "All A&R departments have been saying to managers and lawyers: 'Don't give us any more bands because we're not going to sign them and they're not going to sell records.' So everything we've been put on to is electronic in nature."
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