Music Monday: A Look at Yacht Rock

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.Β 

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,Β 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

45 thoughts on “Music Monday: A Look at Yacht Rock

  1. It is just not possible that its been 40+ years since Sailing was released. πŸ˜„ This is the first time I heard about Yacht Rock. I’d put these songs in the “easy listening” category. Those songs come in handy for relaxing.

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  2. Yacht Rock is a new term for me. I like a lot of performers on that list, particularly Eric Carmen and Kenny Loggins. The Christopher Cross song was beaten to death on the radio at the time, and I grew tired of it, but It was nice to listen to it again today.

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    1. I’m happy to know I am not the only on who was not familiar with the term. I have to admit the name Eric Carmen did not ring a bell with me, but then when I looked him up I recognized many of his songs. And yes, that Christopher Cross song was played quite a bit back in the day…

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  3. Interesting post Jim. I’d never heard the term Yacht Rock until I read this. I can see the origins and the attraction of music like this as a feel good upbeat vibe. And it does encompass some great artists, but I’m not sure Yacht Rock is the best term for it. I’m not sure Genesis, Steely Dan and others would want their music described as Yacht Music. I would play just about anything on a yacht but my dream would be listening to some Ibiza chillout around the Balearics.


    1. I was thinking the same thing – some of these artists would probably prefer not to be classified as yacht rock. Michael Jackson?? I had to check what Ibiza and the Balearics were! I listened to some Ibiza Chill-out music; seemed like some good upbeat music…

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  4. I never heard the term before, but I do like the genre. (I now feel a lot less cool than I did a minute ago, but I don’t care. My kids would say I wasn’t cool a minute ago, either, so I suppose nothing has really changed other than my perception of myself, which I guess was flawed, anyway.)

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  5. Intrigued to learn about Yacht Rock and to discover how relaxing and enjoyable it is πŸ™‚ Although I am well acquainted the artists listed here. I wonder how busy was I in 2005 that I learned not of this genre? Ha πŸ™‚
    Although I might not use Spotify, I’m sure I’ll be able to find some Yacht Rock on YouTube.
    Thank you! πŸ™‚

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  6. I liked all those guys in my youth although I never owned a yacht. These days I think I would like to invent kayak rock. Actually probably not rock just music that reminds me of paddling, which might not be music at all, just the sounds of silence with a background of loons.

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    1. I had to look up Jump, Jump. I had never heard of the song, or Kris Kros. Pretty impressive for a couple of young guys, but seems the total opposite of Christopher Cross! πŸ™‚

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