Just what is this “Yacht Rock” thing anyway?
Loggins & Messina | Full Sail album cover
Each Thursday on WXPN since June, and continuing through the last Thursday in August, we’ve been dedicating a day of music programming to a theme, genre, musical movement, or year. Today for Throwback Thursday – #tbtXPN – we’re showcasing the smooth sounds of Yacht Rock. For those of you not familiar with the term, you might be asking, “Just what is this thing called ‘Yacht Rock’?”
Here’s what yacht rock is according to All Music
To begin with, it was a Web series created by J.D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair and hosted by Steve Huey. Each episode mocked and celebrated the soft sounds of the ’70s, sending up the smooth likes of the Doobie Brothers, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Steely Dan, and Kenny Loggins. It became a cult sensation in the back half of the 2000s and soon the lampooned artists were praising the series, with Oates even crediting it for reviving interest in his duo. Yacht Rock the series ceased production in 2010 but the term has only gained strength, coming to describe a whole smooth aesthetic that existed roughly from 1975 to 1982, expanding far beyond the white soft-rockers of LA and encompassing smooth jazz and “Yacht Soul.”
So, how do you know if a song is qualified to fall into the yacht rock category? While it’s tough to describe it, you know it when you hear it. Some of the patron saints of yacht rock are Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, and Christopher Cross. Musically it is characterized by its smooth mid-tempo, its gauzy, clean, and polished production, and often included a cheesy (yet lovable) sax solo, and bright keyboards. Some music fans would argue that yacht rock is more a lifestyle than it is a music genre, but musically it could incorporate a broad range of musical styles; “Soft Rock,” “Adult Contemporary,” and “Blue-Eyed soul.” Songs from various genres like “smooth jazz,” and “Adult Contemporary R&B,” also have found their way into yacht rock playlists. Lionel Richie and Bob James, we’re talking to you.
Below, watch the entire Yacht Rock web series, and listen to our Spotify playlist. Don’t miss the boat – get in on the yacht rock action below.