Yacht rock

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Yacht rock (originally known as the West Coast Sound[2][3] or adult-oriented rock[4]) is a broad music style and aesthetic[5] identified with soft rock.[6] It was one of the commercially successful genres of its era, existing between the late 1970s and early 1980s.[7] Drawing on sources such as smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, funk, and disco,[5] common stylistic traits include high-quality production, clean vocals, and a focus on light, catchy melodies.[4] Its name, coined in the 2000s by the makers of the online video series Yacht Rock, was derived from its association with the popular Southern Californian leisure activity of sailing.

Origins and definition[edit]

AllMusic's Matt Colier identifies 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."[5]

The term "yacht rock" did not exist while the genre was active.[4] Initially described as "adult-oriented rock"[4] or the "West Coast Sound",[2] yacht rock music existed roughly between the years 1975–82[5] or 1976–84.[6] "Yacht rock" was coined in 2005 with the online video series of the same name created by J. D. Ryznar.[9][10] It was originally termed as a pejorative, although its stigma has lessened in later years.[4] Some of the most popular acts included Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan and Toto.[7] In part, "yacht rock" refers to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, enjoying smooth music while out for a sail. Additionally, since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many "yacht rockers" made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, particularly the anthemic track "Sailing" by Christopher Cross.[7]

Jacobin's Dan O'Sullivan traces the roots of yacht rock to the music of the Beach Boys, whose aesthetic was the first to be "scavenged" by acts like Rupert Holmes. 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". O'Sullivan also cites the Beach Boys' recording of "Sloop John B" as the origin point of yacht rock's predilection for the "sailors and beachgoers" aesthetic that was "lifted by everyone, from Christopher Cross to Eric Carmen, from 'Buffalo Springfield' folksters like Jim Messina to 'Philly Sound' rockers like Hall & Oates."[11]


After Yacht Rock became successful, musicians in the 21st century put together cover bands centered on the yacht rock idea. An example is the success of the band Yacht Rock Revue, which has done national tours.[12][13] The band hosts an annual Yacht Rock Revival concert where they invite members of the original bands they cover to join them on stage to play a few songs, including Walter Egan, Robbie Dupree, Elliot Lurie (Looking Glass), Peter Beckett (Player), Bobby Kimball (former lead singer of Toto), Jeff Carlisi (.38 Special), Albert Bouchard (Blue Öyster Cult), Bill Champlin (Chicago), and Denny Laine (Wings).[13]


In the 2010s, the cofounders of the Yacht Rock web series argued that many of the artists sometimes associated with yacht rock, particularly the folk-driven soft rock of musicians such as Gordon Lightfoot and the Eagles, were outside the ambitus of the term as they had originally conceived it.[3] Ryznar stated that he intended it to refer to the "more elite studio artists" of the period.[14] They also disputed the use of the term as an umbrella for any musician who made nautical references in song lyrics.[3] Yacht Rock co-creators JD Ryznar, Steve Huey, Hunter Stair, and David Lyons identified a number of stylistic indicators of yacht rock, including affiliation with the most prominent southern California studio musicians and producers of the era (such as Michael McDonald, Toto, and Kenny Loggins), jazz and R&B influences, use of electric piano, complex and wry lyrics (particularly about fools), and an upbeat rhythm called the "Doobie Bounce".[3] They invented the term "nyacht rock" to refer to artists who did not fit these parameters.[15]

According to Mara Schwartz Kuge, who worked in the LA music industry for two decades: "Soft rock was a genre of very popular pop music from the '70s and early '80s, characterized by soft, mostly acoustic guitars and slow-to-mid tempos ... most people have generalized the term to mean anything kind of soft-and-'70s-ish, including artists like Rupert Holmes. Not all yacht rock is soft, either: Toto's 'Hold the Line' and Kenny Loggins' 'Footloose' are both very yacht rock but not soft rock."[16]

List of artists[edit]


  1. ^ Hinkes-Jones, Llewellyn (15 July 2010). "Downtempo Pop: When Good Music Gets a Bad Name". The Atlantic.
  2. ^ a b c Cross, Christopher (February 22, 2014). "Hall & Oates Are Genuine Rock Stars in My Book". The Huffington Post.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k That '70s Week: Yacht Rock. NPR World Cafe, March 15, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bray, Elisa (June 5, 2014). "From Haim to Chromeo: The new wave of Yacht-rockers". Independent.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "AllMusic Loves Yacht Rock". AllMusic. June 25, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Berlind, William (2006-08-27). "Yacht Rock Docks in New York". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  7. ^ a b c Kamp, Jon (October 11, 2015). "Can You Sail to It? Then It Must Be 'Yacht Rock'". The Wall Street Journal.
  8. ^ Spence D.; Brian Linder (2006-05-30). "Top 10 Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time". IGN. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
  9. ^ Crumsho, Michael (2006-01-09). "Finally, a name for that music: "Yacht Rock"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  10. ^ a b Toal, Drew (June 26, 2015). "Sail Away: The Oral History of 'Yacht Rock'". Rolling Stone.
  11. ^ a b c O'Sullivan, Dan (September 4, 2012). ""California Über Alles": The Empire Yachts Back". Jacobin.
  12. ^ Murdock, Deroy. "Yacht Rock Revue Sails Into Gramercy Park". Townhall. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  13. ^ a b "The accidental success of Yacht Rock Revue - Atlanta Magazine". Atlanta Magazine. 2015-08-20. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  14. ^ Matos, Michaelangelo (2005-12-07). "Talk Talk: J.D. Ryznar". Seattle Weekly. Archived from the original on 2006-04-14. Retrieved 2006-10-09.
  15. ^ Nyacht Rock. Beyond Yacht Rock, March 18, 2016.
  16. ^ Lecaro, Lina (November 19, 2016). "This Monthly Club Is a Non-Ironic Celebration of Rock's Softer Side". LA Weekly.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g "Top 100 Songs of Yacht Rock". Williamsonsource.com.
  18. ^ a b c d Criblez, David J. (July 15, 2015). "'Yacht rock,' '70s and '80s soft rock, coming to NYCB Theatre at Westbury". Newsday.
  19. ^ a b c d Our Favorite Yacht Rock. Beyond Yacht Rock, January 15, 2017.
  20. ^ "17 of the greatest yacht rock songs of all time". smoothradio.com.
  21. ^ Tonkin, Andrew. (July 12, 2018). 8-Trackin’ (Yacht Rockin’ Pt. 1): Boating Party (Pablo Cruise & Sea Level, 1977). [1].
  22. ^ "Book Takes You on the Smooth Sailin' Seas of Yacht Rock". houstonpress.com.
  23. ^ Malcolm, Timothy (2016-10-17). "When Was Peak Yacht?" YachtRock.com.

External links[edit]

  • Yacht or Nyacht – list of bonafide yacht rock songs as evaluated by the creators of Yacht Rock. Songs rated 50 and above are Yacht Rock, songs rated 49.99 and below are nyacht.