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 Power pop is what we play — what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop The Beach Boys played in the days of "Fun, Fun, Fun" which I preferred.

Pete Townshend

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Power Pop is The Beatles plus The Who.

That's literally all there is to it. Power pop emerged as a genre in the middle of The Sixties, and its basic characteristics have remained unchanged since then. Power pop basically denotes bands that try to sound like a cross between The Beatles and The Who. There's an emphasis on strong melodies and heavy use of Beatles-styled vocal harmonies, but this is married to massive guitars and somewhat "aggressive" druming borrowed from the Who (with the jangly 12-string guitar sound of The Byrds occasionally thrown in for good measure). The result? Well, pop music with balls, so its popularity probably isn't that surprising.

The term "power pop" was, perhaps fittingly enough, coined by Pete Townshend in a 1967 interview (quoted above) to describe his band's style. Their early singles like "I Can't Explain", "The Kids Are Alright" and "Substitute", helped codify the genre, merging strong Beatle-ish melodies with driving R&B-inspired rhythms and massive Marshall-stacked guitars. The Beatles themselves released harder-edged singles that helped inspire the genre, such as "Day Tripper" and "Paperback Writer", and The Kinks joined in the fun with the Epic Riffy "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night".

The Seventies represented the decade where Power Pop came into its own as a genre, represented by artists like Badfinger (who enjoyed the patronage of The Beatles), The Raspberries, famous cult band Big Star, NRBQ, Nazz and Todd Rundgren. The genre also reached the peak of its mainstream popularity in the late seventies, represented chiefly by Cheap Trick and others like 20/20, The Cars, and The Knack. The Knack provided the genre's biggest hit with "My Sharona", but they're a massive Your Mileage May Vary within the genre - they suffered a huge backlash and a "Knuke the Knack" campaign over the perceived misogyny of their lyrics. Thanks to dumb British journalists who tended to use "power pop" as a catchall term, lots of bands that weren't really power pop got lumped into the genre, such as The Jam, Squeeze, The Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, Blondie, XTC and Nick Lowe (most of these bands were New Wave, Punk Rock or early Alternative Rock, with Squeeze and Nick Lowe being the closest to bona-fide Power Pop).

Power pop dropped out of the spotlight after the end of the seventies but continued to thrive underground and proved to be an important influence on Alternative Rock bands - the first wave of alt-rock bands led by REM were largely jangle-pop and owed a massive debt to power pop, especially Big Star. The genre has still had its occasional moments of mainstream success, such as Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend", Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy" or Weezer's "Buddy Holly".

Pop Punk bands often claim to be power pop. Considering The Who inspired many of the first punk bands, this may not be surprising.


Bands commonly associated with the genre:

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