In the last few years, “yacht rock” — a tongue-in-cheek label for the super-smooth pop that dominated radio airwaves in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s — has made something of a resurgence. Some of it is no doubt due to nostalgia, but as is the case with disco (another much-maligned genre), if you look past the clichés and schmaltz, you will, in fact, find some great songwriting. What’s more, you can hear yacht rock’s influence in the recent crop of chillwave artists (e.g., Washed Out, Toro y Moi, Chad Valley) and even in Daft Punk’s retro-electro.
When yacht rock was at its peak of radio dominance, though, I was growing up solidly in the world of “Contemporary Christian Music,” or CCM. The Imperials, The Blackwood Brothers, The Gaithers, Steve Camp — these were my earliest musical experiences. As I grew up, I left all of that behind. CCM began to feel like a creative dead-end to me. It was full of cheerleading-for-Jesus songs characterized by simplistic lyrics and outdated musical production that simply ripped off whatever was popular in the “mainstream” 10 years earlier.
I’ve since begun to reassess some of those opinions, though. Sure, some CCM is as cheesy as ever, but as a website like CCM’s 500 Best Albums Of All Time points out, its long history contains plenty of gems made by truly talented artists. And as thatMimosaGrove’s “Yacht Rock + Smooth CCM” YouTube playlist reveals, some of those older CCM songs and artists — e.g., Bruce Hibbard, Phil Keaggy, The Imperials, Daniel Amos, and even DeGarmo & Key (who were the epitome of CCM lameness to my high school self) — don’t sound too far out of place next to, say, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, or Toto.