I had never heard of the term Yacht Rock until about a year ago when I noticed several Yacht Rock playlists on Spotify. When I listened to a couple of the playlists, I discovered that it included a lot of songs from some of my favorite artists.
Perhaps even more amazing than the fact that I had never heard of the term until relatively recently is that I didn’t write a blog about it as soon as I learned about the term. This post is a chance to make things right.
First, a little background on Yacht Rock, from Wikipedia:
Yacht rock (originally known as the West Coast sound or adult-oriented rock) is a broad music style and aesthetic commonly associated with soft rock, one of the most commercially successful genres from the mid-1970s to early 1980s. Drawing on sources such as smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, and disco, common stylistic traits include high-quality production, clean vocals, and a focus on light, catchy melodies. Its name, coined in 2005 by the makers of the online video series Yacht Rock, was derived from its association with the popular Southern Californian leisure activity of sailing.
Understood as a pejorative term, “yacht rock” referred, in part, to a stereotypical yuppie yacht owner enjoying smooth music while sailing. Many “yacht rockers” included nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, exemplified by Christopher Cross’s anthemic track, “Sailing” (1979). Long mocked for “its saccharine sincerity and garish fashion”, the original stigma attached to the music has lessened since about 2015.
The roots of yacht rock can be traced to the music of the Beach Boys, and Captain & Tennille, who were members of the Beach Boys’ live band, won “yacht rock’s first Best Record Grammy” in 1975, for “Love Will Keep Us Together,” a song that composer Neil Sedaka acknowledged was inspired in part by a Beach Boys riff.
Some of the most popular yacht rock acts included Christopher Cross, Eric Carmen, Loggins & Messina, Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan, and Toto. Wikipedia offers a list of the most prominent yacht rock artists. (I am surprised Jimmy Buffett is not on the list.)
In 2014, AllMusic’s Matt Colier identified the “key defining rules of the genre” as follows:
- “keep it smooth, even when it grooves, with more emphasis on the melody than on the beat”
- “keep the emotions light, even when the sentiment turns sad (as is so often the case in the world of the sensitive yacht-rocksman)”
- “always keep it catchy, no matter how modest or deeply buried in the tracklist the tune happens to be.”
Given all the great songs that are included in the Yacht Rock genre, it makes it hard to include just one, but I’ll do so anyway.
If that song doesn’t want you to hop on a yacht and go sailing, I’m not sure what would…
*image from MEL Magazine