Spectator Playlist: An ode to soft rock

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 at 2:56 PM

I was raised on the sounds of soft rock music, primarily from the 1960s and ‘70s. This genre, which has continued on in more contemporary artists, has weaved itself into the fabric of my being, and I consider it my favorite genre of music. There is so much variety within it, even though it is also very specific. Before I even start, I will say that soft rock is one of those things that’s hard to define, but I know it when I hear it. These 10 songs are some of my favorites of the genre.

The Beatles — “And Your Bird Can Sing”

To me, when I think of soft rock, the very first thing I think of are The Beatles. While in a class of their own, their usually acoustic, more mellow sound epitomizes this genre. I could’ve picked virtually any song of theirs, but I chose this one because it demonstrates the fun upbeat side to soft rock. There is a bounce to this track that makes it fun to listen to and a positivity that makes it feel like musical sunshine. I also chose it because they do use electric guitars in this song, but it feels less in your face than something like Aerosmith. There is less of an edge to it, which makes it more approachable.

Chicago — “Saturday in the Park”

This song is a party. The piano that starts it out puts you in such a good mood, and then it’s combined with a horn section which only makes it better. Melodically, it makes you want to move around from the first second due to its bright, immediately gripping opening notes that continue throughout this song.

Ed Sheeran — “U.N.I.”

If you're new to the Ed Sheeran fan club, I am literally begging you to listen to his first album. It will make you dance, it will make you cry, it will make you will laugh at some lines. It's overall incredible and comes to you stupidly highly recommended. “U.N.I.” is an interesting example of soft rock because it definitely vibrates on the same frequency as other soft rock songs but with clear hip-hop influences. Its more mellow acoustic elements tether it to the world I am talking about, while Sheeran's lyrical dexterity gives it a unique flavor.

The Eagles — “Take it Easy”

Another prime example of soft rock is pretty much every Eagles song ever made. I chose this one because it has the road trip quality I find in many other songs of this genre. Case in point, my uncle, who I didn't see much, was picking me up from the airport and this song served as the ultimate ice breaker. The guitar groove perked my ears up immediately and hooked me. I had to ask him who sang it, so I could download it right then and there. It's not dance around and jam out fun, it's feet up on the dashboard fun.

Finneas — “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night”

If you’ve ever seen Billie Eilish perform, you have also seen Finneas. He is her brother and serves as one of her backing musicians, while also making music of his own. This song expands and contracts as it goes along in a really interesting and unique way. It starts very simple — just him and a guitar — while then expanding during the verses, contracting during the choruses, and ending subtly. Just as you think you have the song figured out, it switches it up. My personal favorite touch is frogs croaking quietly in the background of this track at the end. It fits itself into this genre by being overall very calm and almost unassuming, but still a fun time to listen to with an overall positivity.

Fleetwood Mac — “Never Going Back Again”

Fleetwood Mac were another pioneer group for the soft rock sound. They were antithetical of the loud rock music of their day. The sound profile that Lindsey Buckingham was able to create with just the guitar proves how talented everyone in Fleetwood Mac is. There is not a ton of lyrics in it, so the melodic structure is really what keeps you listening to the song for its entirety. This is incredibly hard to do and it’s achieved in this track. It's very gentle in its approach to instrumentation. They want you to be able to listen and not be inundated with any over the top, at times needless, heavy instrumentals.

Harry Styles — “Canyon Moon”

This is a modern song with an old school feel. It has a similar groove to the Fleetwood Mac song I just mentioned. It's very simplistic with limited instrumentation, while still being an engaging, worthwhile listening experience. It also tells a story within its lyrics of how much he wants to be home with the people he loves, which only makes this song more endearing.

Melanie — “Brand New Key”

This song will increase your joy while walking around your neighborhood exponentially. The melody has the perfect BPM for a nice little saunter. It's an easy, enjoyable listen that you'll find yourself smiling during. The fact that you are happy while listening is somewhat deceptive — it is about a boy rejecting her. It is also about her finding strength within that experience.

King Harvest — “Dancing in the Moonlight”

This is another fun, upbeat song for this list. Most of them with this genre give me a mental image of a sunny day, but this one, by nature of its title, has more of a late night summer bonfire feel to it. It has a mischievousness, as well, with the playful piano backing the song. It also encourages carefree living with lyrics like “you can’t dance and stay uptight.” This song is just a good time and I highly suggest it.

Niall Horan — “Since We’re Alone”

This song feels super intimate and romantic. It's about sharing all your secrets with someone you love because you’re the only two there. The actual line is, “Since we’re alone, yeah, you can show me your heart.” That sentiment gives the song a sweet, compassionate nature to it. The instrumentation is just as delicate. There isn’t much going on and what’s there is very mellow and chill. It would be the perfect soundtrack to a rainy day car trip.

Samantha Mannion is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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