Last summer, Sirius XM devoted one of their pop up channels to the format of yacht rock. The satellite network is known for very easily defined channels such as metal, reggae, the 50s, etc. Subscribers come to them for music they can’t find on traditional radio. “Yacht Rock”, unlike some of the other channels, is so much more niche and harder define. It is also impossible to explain to someone under 30.
The format basically takes the biggest pop rock hits of the late 70s/early 80s, throws out anything hard, anything super synth/new wave or any of the massive bands at the time. It truly is a genre of about 150 songs and many of them used to be called “dentist office music”. The Michael McDonald Doobie Brothers era, Steely Dan, Kenny Loggins pre-soundtracks, and one hit wonders like Ambrosia, Player and really the poster child, Christopher Cross.
Most of these songs have lost their home on traditional radio. Oldies stations have gone away, Classic Rock stations won’t touch a lot of this stuff, and what used to be your local adult contemporary is now more interested in Taylor Swift than Seals and Crofts. The popularity of the Sirius XM channel was so huge that the Wall Street journal even wrote about it.
It really all began with a YouTube series in the mid-2000s that blossomed into a Jimmy Fallon bit and a whole band called Yacht Rock Revue that tours the country playing cover versions of all these songs.
The continued popularity of this music can only be attributed to the calming influence the songs have. We live in a time where everything is needed now, we are overloaded with information and content, and life barely takes a breather, these songs let you slow it all down.
The ironic part is that these tunes came out in one of of the most tumultuous times in our history. Watergate and Vietnam had just ended, the country was in a deep recession and the gas crisis was in full swing. The sounds of Bertie Higgins – Key Largo as the soundtrack to the Iran hostage crisis is an interesting juxtaposition.
This weekend, one of our local channels, 95.9 The Fox, will be taking a page from Sirius XM and devoting over 72 hours to this genre. From 5pm Friday all through Memorial Day Monday, 959 the FOX out of Norwalk, will be nothing but the soundtrack to captains hats, champagne flutes and sunsets on the sailboat.
My suggestion would be put away the iPhone, turn off Netflix, and just relax and let Hall and Oates mellow you out.