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New Wave
Stylistic origins Punk rock, Garage rock[1], Glam rock, Disco, Power pop, Pub rock, Ska, Reggae, Electronic music, Bubblegum[1][2]
Cultural origins Mid to late 1970s, United Kingdom and United States
Typical instruments Electric guitar - Bass guitarDrumsKeyboards - Vocals
Mainstream popularity Late 1970s to Mid 1980s, 2000s Worldwide
Derivative forms Neue Deutsche WelleNew pop - New Romanticism - SynthpopMod revival
Fusion genres
Synthpunk2 Tone - Electroclash
Regional scenes
Belgium – France - GermanySpain - United Kingdom – United States - Yugoslavia
Other topics

New Wave is a genre of music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, and disco and 1960s pop music, as well as much of the original punk rock sound and ethos, such as an emphasis on short and punchy songs.[3][4] The 1990s and 2000s have seen revivals, and a number of acts that have been influenced by a variety of New Wave styles.



The term "New Wave" itself has been a source of much confusion and controversy. It was used in 1976 in the UK by punk fanzines such as Sniffin' Glue, and then by the professional music press.[5] In a November 1976 article in Melody Maker, Caroline Coon used Malcolm McLaren's term "New Wave" to designate music by bands not exactly punk, but related and part of the same musical scene.[6] For a period of time in 1976 and 1977 the two terms were interchangeable.[7][8] By the end of 1977, "New Wave" had replaced "Punk" as the definition for new underground music in the UK.[5]

In the United States, Sire Records needed a term by which it could market its newly signed bands, who had frequently played the club CBGB. Because radio consultants in the United States had advised their clients that punk rock was a fad, they settled on the term "New Wave". Like those film makers, its new artists, such as the Ramones and Talking Heads, were anti-corporate and experimental. At first most American writers exclusively used the term "New Wave" to describe British punk acts. Starting in December 1976, The New York Rocker, which was suspicious of the term "punk," became the first American journal to enthusiastically use the term starting with British acts, and later appropriating it to acts associated with the CBGB scene.[5]

Talking Heads performing in Toronto in 1978.

Music historian Vernon Joynson states that new wave emerged in the U.K. in late 1976, when many bands began disassociating themselves from punk.[9] Music that followed the anarchic garage band ethos of the Sex Pistols was distinguished as "punk", while music that tended toward experimentation, lyrical complexity, or more polished production, came to be categorized as "New Wave". This came to include musicians who had come to prominence in the British pub rock scene of the mid-1970s, such as Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Eddie and the Hot Rods and Dr Feelgood;[10] and according to allmusic "angry, intelligent" singer-songwriters who "approached pop music with the sardonic attitude and tense, aggressive energy of punk" such as Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Graham Parker.[11] In the U.S., the first New Wavers were the not-so-punk acts associated with the New York club CBGB, such as Talking Heads, Mink DeVille and Blondie.[12] CBGB owner Hilly Kristal, referring to the first show of the band Television at his club in March 1974, said, "I think of that as the beginning of new wave."[13] Furthermore, many artists who would have originally been classified as punk were also termed New Wave. A 1977 Phonogram Records compilation album of the same name (New Wave) features US artists including the Dead Boys, Ramones, Talking Heads and The Runaways.[12][14]

Talking Heads set the template for the New Wave sound of this era. This sound represented a break from the smooth-oriented blues and rock & roll sounds of late 1960s to mid 1970s rock music. According to music journalist Simon Reynolds, the music had a twitchy, agitated feel to it. New Wave musicians often played choppy rhythm guitars with fast tempos. Keyboards were common as were stop-and-start song structures and melodies. Reynolds noted that New Wave vocalists sounded high-pitched, geeky and suburban.[4]

Power Pop, a genre that started before punk at the very beginning of the 1970s, became associated with New Wave at the end of the decade because their brief catchy songs fit into the mood of the era. The Romantics, The Records, The Motors[12], Cheap Trick, and 20/20 were groups that had success playing this style.[15] Helped by the success of power pop groups such as The Knack, skinny ties became fashionable among New Wave musicians.[8]

A revival of ska music led by The Specials, Madness and the English Beat added humor and a strong dance beat to New Wave.[1]

Later still, "New Wave" came to imply a less noisy, often synthesizer-based, pop sound. The term post-punk was coined to describe the darker, less pop-influenced groups, such as Gang of Four, Joy Division, The Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, some of which did later adopt synths. [16][17] Although distinct, punk, New Wave, and post-punk all shared common ground: an energetic reaction to the supposedly overproduced, uninspired popular music of the 1970s.[18]

Allmusic explained that New Wave's stylistic diversity occurred because New Wave "retained the fresh vigor and irreverence of punk music, as well as a fascination with electronics, style, and art". This diversity extended to the numerous one hit wonders that came out of the genre.[19][20]

The term fell out of favour in the United Kingdom during the early 1980s because its usage had become too general.[12] Conventional wisdom holds that the genre "died" in the middle of the 1980s. Theo Cateforis, Assistant Professor of Music History and Cultures at Syracuse University, contends New Wave "receded" during this period when advances in synthesizer technology caused New Wave groups and mainstream pop and rock groups to sound more alike.[8]

Reception in The United States

In the summer of 1977 both Time[21] and Newsweek magazines wrote favorable lead stories on the "punk/new wave"[19] movement. Rock critics had mixed opinions. Acts associated with the movement received little or no radio airplay or music industry support. Small scenes developed in major cities. Continuing into the next year, public support remained limited to select elements of the artistic, bohemian and intellectual population [5] as arena rock and disco dominated the charts.[20]

Deborah Harry from the band Blondie, performing at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, in 1977.

Starting in late 1978 and continuing into 1979, acts associated with punk and acts that mixed punk with other genres began to make chart appearances and receive airplay on rock stations. Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Cars would chart during this period.[8][20] My Sharona, a single from the The Knack, was Billboard magazine's number one single of 1979. The success of "My Sharona" caused record companies to rush out and sign New Wave groups.[8] New Wave music scenes developed in Ohio[20] and Athens, Georgia.[22] 1980 saw brief forays into New Wave-styled music by non new wave artists Billy Joel and Linda Ronstadt.[8] The release during this period of Gary Numan's album The Pleasure Principle would be the pop chart breakthrough for gender-bending synthpop acts with a cool, detached stage presence.[20]

In 1980 hostility existed among those who determined radio play lists. Early in the year highly influential radio consultant Lee Abrams wrote a memo saying with a few exceptions "we're not going to be seeing many of the New Wave circuit acts happening very big over here (in America). As a movement, we don't expect it to have much influence." Lee Ferguson consultant to KWST interviewed at the time, said Los Angeles radio stations were banning disc jockeys from using the term and noted that "Most of the people who call music New Wave are the are the ones looking for a way not to play it".[23] Second albums by artists who had successful debut albums, along with the newly signed artists, both failed to sell and radio did pull New Wave programming.[8]

The arrival of MTV in 1981 would usher in New Wave's most successful era. British artists, unlike many of their American counterparts, had learned how to use the music video early on.[20][24] Several British acts signed to independent labels were able to outmarket and outsell American artists that were signed with major labels. Journalists labeled this phenomenon a "Second British Invasion".[24][25] MTV continued its heavy rotation of videos by New Wave-oriented acts until 1987, when it changed to a Heavy Metal and rock dominated format.[26]

14% of teenagers answering a December 1982 Gallup Poll rated New Wave music as their favorite genre, making it the third most popular genre. New Wave had its greatest popularity on the West Coast. Unlike other genres, race was not a factor in the popularity of New Wave music [27]. Urban Contemporary radio stations were the first to play New Wave music.[28] By this period the definition of New Wave music in the United States had changed from the less rebellious, more commercial version of punk that it had been described as a few years earlier. For most of the remainder of the 1980s the term "New Wave" was used in America to describe nearly every new pop or pop rock artist that largely used synthesizers. New Wave is still used today to describe these acts, as well as late 1970s and 1980s post punk and alternative acts.[29][1][30]

Fans, music journalists, and artists would rebel against this catch-all definition by inventing dozens of genre names.[8][20] Synthpop, which filled a void left by disco,[31] was a broad subgenre that included groups such as The Human League, Depeche Mode, a-ha, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and the Pet Shop Boys.[20]

New Wave soundtracks were used in mainstream "Brat Pack" films such as Valley Girl, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, and The Breakfast Club.[20][32] Critics would describe the MTV acts as shallow or vapid,[20][24] but the danceable quality of the music and quirky fashion sense associated with New Wave artists appealed to audiences.[20] The use of synthesizers by New Wave acts influenced the development of House music in Chicago and Techno in Detroit. New Wave’s indie spirit would be crucial to the development of college rock and grunge/alternative rock in the latter half of the 1980s and beyond.[20] New Wave is considered part of Alternative Rock today.[1]

1990s lull, 2000s resurgence

Franz Ferdinand performing in 2006.

In 1991 Retro futurist acts such as Stereolab and Saint Etienne mixed New Wave and kitschy 1960s pop.[33] In the aftermath of grunge, the British music press launched a campaign to promote the New Wave of New Wave. This campaign involved overtly punk and New Wave influenced acts such as Elastica and Smash, but was eclipsed by Britpop.[12] Other acts of note during the 1990s included No Doubt, Six Finger Satellite, and Brainiac.[34][35] During that decade the synthesizer heavy dance sounds British and European New Wave acts influenced various incarnations of Eurodisco and trance.[20][31] Chris Martin was inspired to start Coldplay by a-ha[36]

During the early 2000s a number of acts emerged that mined from a diversity of New Wave and post-punk influences. Among these were The Strokes, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, The Epoxies, Bloc Party and The Killers. These acts were sometimes labeled "New New Wave". New Wave continued to be influential through the rest of the decade with acts such as The Sounds, The Ting Tings, Shiny Toy Guns,[37] Santogold, Hockey[38],and Ladyhawke.[34][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46] While some journalists and fans regarded this as a revival, others argue that the phenomenon is a continuation of the original movements.[34][47][48][49]

In 2009 Indie music acts were regularly citing various 1980s New Wave Acts as their influences.[31]

Parallel movements

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Essay about New Wave's definition and list of essential New Wave Records from allmusic
  2. ^ Cooper,Kim, Smay, David, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth (2001), page 248 "Nobody took the bubblegum ethos to heart like the new wave bands"
  3. ^ Disco inferno The Independent December 11, 2004
  4. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon "Rip It Up and Start Again PostPunk 1978-1984" p160
  5. ^ a b c d Gendron, Bernard (2002). Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press), pp. 269–270.
  6. ^ Clinton Heylin, Babylon's Burning (Conongate, 2007), pp. 140, 172.
  7. ^ Joynson, Vernon (2001). Up Yours! A Guide to UK Punk, New Wave & Early Post Punk. Wolverhampton: Borderline Publications. pp. 12. ISBN 1-899855-13-0. "For a while in 1976 and 1977 the terms punk and new wave were largely interchangeable. By 1978, things were beginning to change, although the dividing line between punk and new wave was never very clear." 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h The Death of New Wave Theo Cateforis Assistant Professor of Music History and Cultures in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University 2009
  9. ^ Joynson, Vernon (2001). Up Yours! A Guide to UK Punk, New Wave & Early Post Punk. Wolverhampton: Borderline Publications. pp. 11. ISBN 1-899855-13-0. 
  10. ^ Adams, Bobby. "Nick Lowe: A Candid Interview", Bomp magazine, January 1979, reproduced at [1]. Accessed January 21, 2007.
  11. ^ Album Review Look Sharp
  12. ^ a b c d e Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture Page 365
  13. ^ Clinton Heylin, Babylon's Burning (Conongate, 2007), p. 17.
  14. ^ Savage, Jon. (1991) England's Dreaming, Faber & Faber
  15. ^ Power Pop genre Allmusic
  16. ^ Post-Punk Allmusic
  17. ^ Greil Marcus, Ranters and Crowd Pleasers, p. 109.
  18. ^ Punk Rock Brings out a New Wave Associated Press October 29, 1977
  19. ^ a b Genre Punk/New Wave Allmusic
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m St. James encyclopedia of Pop Culture
  21. ^ Anthems of the Blank Generation Time Magazine July 11, 1977 issue
  22. ^ American Punk Rock Allmusic
  23. ^ Is New-Wave Rock on the Way Out? Los Angeles Times February 16, 1980 posted by "The Daily Mirror" a Los Angeles Times blog February 16, 2010
  24. ^ a b c Rip It Up and Start Again Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds Pages 340,342-343
  25. ^ 1986 Knight Ridder news article
  26. ^ The Pop Life The New York Times June 15, 1988
  27. ^ Rock Still Favorite Teen-Age music Gainesville Sun April 13, 1983
  28. ^ Crossover: Pop Music thrives on black-white blend Knight Ridder News Service September 4, 1986
  29. ^ Where Are They Now: '80s New Wave Musicians ABC News 29 November 2007
  30. ^ Goth styles and new wave tunes at weekly '80s night Newsday September 9, 2009
  31. ^ a b c The decade that never dies Still ’80s Fetishizing in ’09 Yale Daily News October 23, 2009
  32. ^ But what does it all mean? How to decode the John Hughes high school movies The Guardian September 26, 2008
  33. ^ The History of Rock Music: 1989-1994 by Piero Scaruffi
  34. ^ a b c New Wave/Post Punk Revival Allmusic
  35. ^ POP REVIEW; "Knowing Just How Hard It Is to Be a Teen-Ager," New York Times, April 18, 1996
  36. ^
  37. ^ Shiny Toy Guns Allmusic bio
  38. ^ Hockey Allmusic bio
  39. ^ "New wave is back — in hot new bands," MSNBC September 17, 2004
  40. ^ Gwen Stefani MTV biography
  41. ^ "Gwen Stefani's New Video Hits YouTube," People, November 15, 2007
  42. ^ Indie-rock band The Bravery records all the time and everywhere Schnectady Daily Gazette July 23, 2009
  43. ^ "Daily Disc: The Ting Tings, We Started Nothing," CanWest New Service June 17, 2008
  44. ^ "Download this: Ting Tings," Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 7, 2008
  45. ^ "Critics’ Choice New CDs," New York Times April 28, 2008
  46. ^ Feathers fly over Ladyhawke's origins Sydney Morning Herald November 6, 2009
  47. ^ Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 p. 398
  48. ^ Tudor, Silke (11 September 2002), House of Tudor,, retrieved 2007-06-25 
  49. ^ MTV Artist biography The Sounds

External links


Simple English

New Wave
Stylistic origins Punk rock, Glam rock, Funk rock, Beat
Cultural origins Mid to late 1970s, United Kingdom and United States
Typical instruments Electric guitarbass guitardrumssynthesizersvocals - cowbell
Mainstream popularity Late 1970s to mid 1980s;
Derivative forms Neue Deutsche Welle – New Romanticism – Synthpop – Mod revival – Chillwave
Fusion genres
Synthpunk – 2 Tone - Electroclash - Nu Rave
Regional scenes
Belgium – Finland - France – Germany - Italy – Spain - United Kingdom – United States - Yugoslavia
Other topics
Post-punk - Alternative rock

New Wave (or New Wave music) is a style of rock music that developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. New wave music was inspired by the punk rock movement.

New Wave music is rock music mixed with other types of music, such as punk rock music, funk, disco, beat and ska.

New wave bands such as the Talking Heads were anti-corporate, experimental, and had complex lyrics. Other new wave bands included Blondie, Television, Patti Smith, The Jam, The B-52's, Devo, Jungle Street, and Elvis Costello. New wave music was rebellious like punk rock. But new wave music was usually not as angry and aggressive as punk rock.

When MTV started broadcasting in 1981, many New Wave bands had their music videos played on television. This made New Wave music more popular. A well-known New Wave video is Whip It by Devo.


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