Collection: Essential Pop & Rock - 80's and 90's

1980's Pop represents a major shift in music culture and the industry behind it. The relationship between Rock and Pop is a paradoxical one in which opposites combine regularly and the rebellious spirit of an underground sound becomes the popular sound of a generation. Since the late 50's Pop has both encompassed the styles that are most popular and, especially by the mid 1980's, the styles that are made specifically to capture the widest audience possible. Pop can be the novelty of sounds that are pushed as the "latest thing in music" or it can simply be the sounds that explode into popular culture consciousness as the zeitgeist or spirit of the time. The line between Pop and Rock is often blurry and the 1980 music industry blurred the lines further. New Wave and Synth Pop both started of as new takes on the old format of Rock and Pop. Early New Wave was rock oriented but moved away from the tradition Blues based forms that had dominated for decades. It incorporated elements of Art Rock, Punk, Disco, and sometimes international sounds. Early New Wave names include Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, The B52s, The Cars, The Police, Culture Club, and the Knack. Synth Pop was, as the name so succinctly describes, musicians making pop music with synthesizers. By the early 80's synths had become much more affordable and they offered new textures and sonic qualities that could not be obtained with traditional rock instruments. It was the first time that electronic music became a popular form of music and not just a novelty item or element of experimental music. The biggest names associated with Synth Pop are Gary Numan, The Human League, Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, New Order, Thompson Twins, and The Eurythmics. Before long New Wave and Synth Pop began to be used interchangeably, especially in the US. The dawn of MTV in 1981 is a significant event. It helped to define the popular sounds of the 80's and 90's and shape the modern Pop star through a new medium of video. Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Madonna, Prince, Whitney Houston, George Micheal, Debbie Gibson, and Paula Abdul all reached new heights of pop stardom with the help of the new format. Hair Metal or Glam Metal which was essentially a Pop version of Metal that focused on fashion and pop hooks, also got a huge boost from video play. Popular bands included Motely Crue, Ratt, Poison, Whitesnake, and Europe. By the late 1980's it had become one of the dominant forms of Pop music along with Synth Pop and Dance Pop. The 80's also saw the rise of boy bands like New Kids on the Block. The popular formula was repeated constantly throughout the next two decades. Meanwhile Hard Rock and Pop Rock stayed true to its roots but updated the sound with contemporary production techniques. Acts like ACDC, Van Halen, Guns 'n' Roses, Bruce Spingsteen, Bon Jovi, and Def Lepard dominated the charts. Soft Rock, which had become popular on 1970's radio, continued to keep it mellow and accessible. 90's Rock was dominated by the rise of Alternative bands like Pixies, Nirvana, Pearl Jam (see our Alternative Guide); Pop Punk like Green Day and Blink-182; and Brit-Pop groups like Blur, Suede, Pulp, and Oasis. Pop music in the 90's was dominated by acts like Backstreat Boys, Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. The 90's also saw a resurgence in singer/songwriters reaching pop status such as Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Liz Phair, Jewel, and Sheryl Crow. This is just a small collection of quintessential 80's and 90's Pop & Rock.