Synthpop. Now there’s a word one doesn’t use everyday. And let’s be thankful for that.

But we can’t avoid it here folks because once again we find the iTunes Gods of Coincidence lining up nicely an interesting pair of UK bands who were among the leaders of this genre of eighties popular music: Erasure and The Eurythmics.

The main characteristics of this type of music were the heavy reliance on synthesisers, drum machines and sequencers, sometimes to the exclusion of all other instruments. This led to criticism that the resulting output was souless and lacking in emotion and musicianship.

Listening to the two compliation albums which I have: Erasure Pop! The First 20 Hits and Eurythmics: Greatest Hits I can see how it would be possible to make a case for such sentiments.

But to do so would be to miss the inherent creativity behind the tracks, and the clear wish of the bands to deliver good quality records.

Taking the Eurythmics first, and their first hit Sweet Dreams – whether one likes this tracks or not (I do, by the way), it cannot be denied that this was ground-breaking in its originality when first released. The operatic, soaring quality of Annie Lennox’s vocals bring an emotional dimension which offsets the linear nature of the synthesised backing track. The same could be said of Who’s That Girl, Right By Your Side, Here Comes The Rain Again, etc.

Similarly, classic Erasure tracks, such as Chains of Love, A Little Respect and Who Needs Love while having a definite ‘euro-pop’ feel to them, still have clever lyrics and are passionately sung. Particular favourites of mine are Blue Savannah, Ship of Fools and Love to Hate You because these are just that little bit extra-different.

(I should also acknowledge that many of the Eurythmics’ tracks are not are from the Synthpop stable in any event. Think about crackers such as Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themsleves, Sex Crime (1984), Would I Lie To You. What a very versatile band they were.)

So, just because something is produced electronically, it doesn’t make it devoid of creative input in the first place. It’s just different. And we all know that different is neither better or worse – how incredibly dull life would be if everyone and everything was the same.


2 thoughts on “Vive La Difference

  1. Synthpop taken to its extreme gave us the ghastly playing on “Fascination” by Human League, and that’s why we probably don’t hear them anymore, whereas the Eurythmic pieces you mentioned still stand up. Another reason, you mentioned: Annie Lennox had a voice like a white Aretha Franklin. Also, Dave Stewart was/is a gifted guitarist. Quality survives, though, in the moment and at a certain age, there is a wave that carries one along, which is what the early 80s had.

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