Although rock groups had been filling some of the largest venues in the world since The Beatles
played at Shea Stadium in the 1960s, this subgenre of rock music began to develop in the mid-1970s. Also known as pomp rock, melodic rock, anthem rock, or stadium rock, the main exponents of the style were pop-rock bands that wrote songs specifically to appeal to large crowds, to be performed in big stadiums in front of big audiences.
Since bands of any genre can fill an arena if they're popular enough, arena rock had several additional characteristics to differentiate it from other rock subgenres. "Guitar pyrotechnics" and massed vocal harmonies performed by the whole band were very common, as were Audience Participation Songs
with big, anthemic choruses. Most singers had cleaner-sounding vocals than a lot of the other Hard Rock
or Heavy Metal
groups of the time and often performed with an operatic flair. Lyrically, most arena rock songs were pretty simple, with many a straightforward Power Ballad
for audiences to sing along with. And recordings were characterized by a slick, radio-friendly production sheen, which made the genre a perfect complement for the emergent AOR (album-oriented rock) format on the FM dial.
This was the dominant style of rock music for about ten years, starting in 1976 when Boston
released their first album and Peter Frampton
released Frampton Comes Alive!
(the best-selling record of the year), and more or less ending in 1986 when Journey
released their last album for ten years and Bon Jovi
's Slippery When Wet
album put Hair Metal
on top of the mainstream rock pile. Listen to any "classic rock" radio station nowadays, and chances are arena rock is the genre you'll hear the most of.
Although the spectacle and accessability of arena rock has pretty much always been popular enough with the public
, it isn't always treated as kindly by music critics
, many of whom seem to see it as Hair Metal
without any make-up on. The epithet "corporate rock" was originally applied to this type of music, with "Dad rock" also popping up sometime around the late nineties.
It's worth noting that the sort of stadium rock played by bands like U2
, Simple Minds
or The Police
doesn't necessarily come under this heading; their sound was typically more influenced by Post-Punk
and Alternative Rock
(such as it was in the 1980s).
Artists commonly associated with the genre include: