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The Wedding Jam Blog

Memorable Stories from Unforgettable Weddings.


Yacht Rock - The Not-So-Guilty Pleasure!

Majorly uncool at the time, oft-derided since, the genre that came to be known as Yacht Rock has - kind of - been reappraised. Is it something you simply admit to liking as you get older, or is it just objectively good?

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In the credibility stakes, it never really stood a chance. Emerging in the mid '70s, while punk and disco were the emergent and ascending forces, what became known as 'yacht rock' was seen as almost aggressively uncool. Pretty much entirely apolitical, comfortable and extremely glossy, it represented another world to the NYC chic of disco, or the urban grot of UK punk rock. Latterly, indie and rave kids of the '80s and '90s had no time for it either: those scenes were predominantly built on a DIY, punk kind of ethos. Yacht rock was anything but - seen as a totem of 80s excess, gluttony and overkill.

What is yacht rock?

The term itself is pretty broad, largely encompassing AOR, soft rock and blue-eyed soul. Its core elements were sophisticated, high-end production values, the use of elite session players, and songs that usually incorporated a few clever jazz chords, to elevate it from your regular major chord pop fare.

Tragically unhip though it may have been, it was a commercial behemoth, selling colossal amounts of records and dominating the charts, especially in the early '80s. Acts such as Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross, Toto, Bruce Hornsby and others churned out huge hits, songs that for many of us became kind of embedded in our subconscious - routinely appearing in adverts and on TV for years afterwards. For those of us of a certain vintage, just try and listen to 'The Way It Is' by Bruce Hornsby without it conjuring vivid memories of Des Lynam or Bob Wilson talking us through the league tables after the full-time scores on Grandstand.

Change in perception

At some point in the 2010s, however, something began to change, and it was almost certainly attributable to the emergence of streaming platforms like Spotify. The public now had the entirety of popular music history at their fingertips - and musical tribes among the kids began to dissipate. Where we once had clear dividing lines between the disparate groups of indie kids, ravers, New Romantics, hip-hop heads, punks, mods, rockers and metalheads, people were now devouring anything they liked, all easily and immediately accessible. Playlists began to take over from albums, and the youth cared little for genres, populating their playlists with tunes of all kinds. One of those genres was yacht rock.

Toto's 'Africa', once considered a dorky tune for dads to blast from their Vauxhall Cavaliers, somehow practically became a meme. Dubbed 'the internet's favourite song', it enjoyed a huge surge in popularity, at which point the algorithms probably kicked in and began serving up large dollops of yacht rock to unsuspecting kids. And, aided by its rebranding from soft rock to yacht rock, that, we suspect, was that.

Is it Actually Good?

Well, yes! There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with pristine production. And, hoo boy, the tunes! It's a genre that has been heavily mined for samples in hip-hop, and little wonder. The songwriting on many of those hits was sublime, crafting soaring and memorable melodies and hooks that have endured for decades. And we've seen first hand at innumerable weddings how dropping a yacht rock classic into a set can spark a crowd alight - all arms aloft and singing along like their lives depend on it.

And on that note, we're chuffed to unveil the first Wedding Jam act that could feasibly be described as yacht rock - the majestic Dealy Stan, a Steely Dan tribute band par excellence. Innovators of super polished soft rock, Steely Dan arguably invented or at least spawned yacht rock. And while some fans bristle at the label, the fact so many Dan collaborators - such as Michael McDonald and Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro - went on to become massive yacht rock artists in their own right, the connection at the very least is undeniable.

We'll leave you with our own yacht rock playlist. The nebulous nature of the yacht rock tag means some of these inclusions may be disputed, but for our money these are some of the best songs that best fit the category. Enjoy, and enjoy guilt-free!

The best night of your life deserves the perfect soundtrack.