In popular music, there’s always been a fine line between great and grating. For every Beatles earworm capable of enhancing one’s daily commute, there’s a “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of…)” to make one want to drive off a cliff.
Yacht Rock—with it’s soft-aesthetic, superficial and often-sappy or lovesick—lyrics, and safe presentation—delicately straddles this line. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it may be because it’s fairly new; “Yacht Rock” only entered the popular vernacular in the mid-aughts as a pejorative for what was previously referred to as the “West Coast sound,” or even “adult-oriented rock”. To be sure, acts like Air Supply, Seals & Croft, Don Henley, and Kenny Loggins certainly didn’t set out to rock the yacht. But the digestible, mid-tempo, square output found an audience with an older, often-moneyed, often-seafaring crowd; hence the name.
Despite the undeniable complexity of Yacht Rock bands like Steely Dan, for subsequent generations like the cynical, edginess-inclined Gen X, there could be nothing more grating.
But millennials, it seems, have discovered Yacht Rock and said, “Baby Come Back!” Though earnest and somewhat ironic in their affection, acts like Michael McDonald and The Atlanta Rhythm Section have found a cheering section in millennials. (Sirius XM even has a Yacht Rock station. And they’re clearly in on the joke; as they say during station ID bits, “Your fourth or fifth favorite songs from the 70s and 80s.”)
As the name suggests, Yacht Rock is a fitting complement to a casual day on the water. So if you plan on tacking, jibing, or just motoring out into the Atlantic/ICW/St. Johns this summer, we’ve compiled a playlist that includes both Yacht Rock tunes you should know, and tracks from local artists who—while not exactly Yacht Rock—will pair well with boat drinks.
This may be Yacht Rock’s defining tune: an orchestral, self-important intro. Schmaltzy verse lyrics breathed rather than sang in much the same way that Jimmy Fallon impersonated the late Barry Gibb. And if the chorus were an adult beverage, it’d most certainly be a buttery chardonnay.
“Love Will Find a Way”
If you’re still having trouble imagining the Yacht Rock aesthetic, go ahead and Google “Pablo Cruise.” Photos of the band in its prime and the artwork that accompanied its albums will give you something tangible to hold onto. And this song’s chorus—”love will find a way”—could just as easily be about Yacht Rock’s unlikely comeback. Good music finds a way!
As much as we love seeing Trail Diver rip through covers of Queen and Led Zeppelin, we are obsessed with the band’s original output. The instrumental tune “Ascension” is a chillaxed, mid-tempo jam session that opens with a sax solo, maintaining the groove as the song slowly morphs and twists underneath synth-y effects and smooth-jazz-style guitar solos.
The Young Step
St. Augustine’s The Young Step can seemingly do it all. And since 2016’s <El Clásico,> the band has released a pair of singles, including the breezy, “Ghost Town,” a song that—with it’s synths and decidedly-80s-esque production—is perfect for forlorned-staring out to sea, as the wind dries the mousse in your hair.
“I Can’t Tell You Why”
If you grew up in Northeast Florida listening to the homogeneous offerings of our local radio stations, it’s likely you heard “Hotel California,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and “Take It Easy,” more than you sang “Happy Birthday.” And the royalties The Eagles accumulated from such consistent play likely reflect that. Yet, as the West Coast sound-defining band morphed from a rough-around-the-edges Americana outfit into the biggest band in the world (thanks to them royalties!), its late-70s output—like the softball “I Can’t Tell You Why”—was less rootsy, and better reflected their newfound appreciation for the finer things; yachts, anyone?
“LIVN” feat. Palma
While much of Rick Colado’s output is difficult to define, he and Hurricane Party collaborator Jacques Bruna did the legwork for us when they coined the term “Yacht Rap” to delineate the duo’s style of hip hop. Though the moniker may have been invented in jest, Hurricane Party’s music is seriously awesome. Specifically, “LIVN”: perfect for chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, and shootin’ some tequila outside the shoals.
“Baby Come Back”
As much as Yacht Rock tunes are undeniably cheesy, many are also undeniably awesome! With it’s funky-a** groove, twinkly keyboards, and sultry, anthemic chorus, “Baby Come Back” is an irrefutable banger. Advice: save this one for a sunset cruise or to punctuate a long day on the water. Baby come back. Just for one more drink!
This feature originally appeared in the July 2019 Issue of Void Magazine “Drink”.