Adult Alternative Pop/Rock


One of the branches of alternative rock that emerged after the genre's absorption into the
mainstream, adult alternative pop/rock is a smooth, melodic, radio-friendly style that packaged alternative's mellower side for wider consumption. Commercial viability is usually an important part of adult alternative pop/rock, but artists don't always aim for it -- their individual approaches may simply turn out to be compatible with the style's sensibility. And adult alternative pop/rock is more of a sensibility than any one set sound. Its artists might draw from the alt-rock tradition of intelligent guitar-pop, particularly early-'80s jangle-pop (Gin Blossoms, Barenaked Ladies, Goo Goo Dolls); acoustic folk-rock, especially the intimate, confessional poetry of the singer/songwriter tradition (Indigo Girls, Tori Amos, Jeff Buckley, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, Jewel); the rootsy, easygoing rock & roll of the American trad rock movement (Sheryl Crow, Hootie & the Blowfish, Dave Matthews); or the moody, stylish electronics of trip-hop (Portishead), to name the most dominant influences. What ties adult alternative pop/rock together is a sense of maturity: it's essentially mainstream, pop/rock-based music of the '90s that appeals to a more refined, mellowed-out adult sensibility, intentionally or otherwise. The rock & rollers tended to be more laid-back, prizing songcraft and good vibes above visceral energy, and the others -- especially the singer/songwriters -- made music for thoughtful contemplation. At its worst, adult alternative pop/rock was a superficial approximation of the substance in its alt-rock inspirations -- often because of performers' assumptions about what constituted maturity. Anxious to make music that was pretty and likable, some artists wound up inoffensive to the point of blandness; others self-consciously tried to sound "deep," resulting in forced melancholia and heaps of overwrought, amateurish poetry. But at its best, the style gained significant exposure for artists who were ambitious, intellectual, and/or idiosyncratic, yet still accessible enough to meet the requirements of mainstream radio programmers who wanted more sophisticated music that wasn't loud or overly disturbing.

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