Pop rock is rock music with a lighter, smoother approach that is more reminiscent of commercial pop music. Originating in the 1950s as an alternative to rock and roll, early pop rock was influenced by the beat, arrangements, and style of rock and roll (and sometimes doo wop), but placed a greater emphasis on professional songwriting and recording craft. The detractors of pop rock often deride it as a slick, commercial product, less authentic than rock music.
Much pop and rock music has been very similar in sound, instrumentation and even lyrical content. The terms "pop rock" and "power pop" have been used to describe more commercially successful music that uses elements from, or the form of, rock music. Pop rock has been defined as an "upbeat variety of rock music" represented by artists and bands such as: Elton John, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Chicago, and Peter Frampton.
The term pop has been used since the early twentieth century to refer to popular music in general, but from the mid-1950s it began to be used for a distinct genre, aimed at a youth market, often characterized as a softer alternative to rock and roll. In the aftermath of the British Invasion, from about 1967, it was increasingly used in opposition to the term rock music, to describe a form that was more commercial, ephemeral and accessible.
Critic Philip Auslander argues that the distinction between pop and rock is more pronounced in the US than in the UK. He claims in the US, pop has roots in white crooners such as Perry Como, whereas rock is rooted in African-American music influenced by forms like such as rock and roll. Auslander points out that the concept of pop rock, which blends pop and rock is at odds with the typical conception of pop and rock as opposites. Auslander and several other scholars such as Simon Frith and Grossberg argue that pop music is often depicted as an inauthentic, cynical, "slickly commercial" and formulaic form of entertainment. In contrast, rock music is often heralded as an authentic, sincere, and anti-commercial form of music, which emphasizes song writing by the singers and bands, instrumental virtuosity, and a "real connection with the audience".
Simon Frith's analysis of the history of popular music from the 1950s to the 1980s has been criticized by B. J. Moore-Gilbert, who argues that Frith and other scholars have over-emphasized the role of "rock" in the history of popular music by naming every new genre using the "rock" suffix. Thus when a folk-oriented style of music developed in the 1960s, Frith terms it "folk rock", and the pop-infused styles of the 1970s were called "pop rock". Moore-Gilbert claims that this approach unfairly puts rock at the apex, and makes every other influence become an add-on to the central core of rock.
- "Early Pop/Rock". AllMusic.
- S. Jones, Pop music and the press (Temple University Press, 2002), p. 109.
- R. Shuker, Popular Music: the Key Concepts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2nd edn., 2005), ISBN 0-415-34770-X, p. 207.
- L. Starr and C. Waterman, American Popular Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2007), ISBN 0-19-530053-X, archived from the original on 17 February 2011.
- S. Frith, "Pop music" in S. Frith, W. Stray and J. Street, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-521-55660-0, pp. 93–108.
- T. Warner, Pop Music: Technology and Creativity: Trevor Horn and the Digital Revolution (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), ISBN 0-7546-3132-X, p. 3.
- P. Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (London: Taylor & Francis, 1999), ISBN 0415196892.
- B. J. Moore-Gilbert, The Arts in the 1970s: Cultural Closure? (London: Routledge, 1994), ISBN 0-415-09906-4, p. 240.