November 18, 2019

Dream pop vestiges in the post-emo phase, across 4 waves of the cultural excitement cycle

Earlier posts here and here have detailed the regular appearance of dream pop music during the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle.

The features of dream pop are a slow tempo, and multiple layers of repetitive drone-like "voices," whether human or instrumental. Harmonies (relaxing) over melodies (stimulating). The singing has an ethereal timbre. These features give it the subjective quality of being lulled into a meditative trance, and floating through an other-worldly space, where the multiple voices provide a rich array of distinct "textures" to the place, making the exotic dream-world feel palpable and relatable, akin to a lucid dream.

Anything with too much of a danceable or body-moving beat is excluded. The feel here is a passive rather than an active trance.

However, the disappearance of this style is not day-and-night during the restless warm-up phase that follows. There's still a lone hold-out for the style, even as the emo mood has gone away, now that people are no longer in a refractory period where they just want to be left alone and float off into a cozy dreamscape. And since the hallmark of the restless warm-up phase is a new-found craze for dancing, some of these dream pop hold-outs now actually do have something of a beat to them, albeit not as much as the disco-friendly songs of their time.

So, to round out our look into the cycles of dream pop, let's look at these hold-outs. They appear during the first or second year of the restless warm-up phase -- they don't drag the style all the way through the phase, but just over the boundary line. And there really is just one example per phase, plus maybe an honorable mention -- they're vestiges.

As we close out the current vulnerable phase in 2019, we can still expect an ethereal spacey hold-out for 2020 or '21, in the vein of "Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello.

To see what particular type of dream pop these ones are developing from, see the earlier posts, especially the one on mainstream hits. The following were all entries on the year-end Billboard charts, though dated by their year of initial release (on either an album or single).

"My True Story" by the Jive Five (1961)

Keeping the flame alive for the moody, harmony-heavy type of doo-wop from the late '50s, even as the mainstream was shifting toward a more upbeat, energetic type focused on just one singer.

"I'm Not in Love" by 10cc (1975)

The soft rock heyday of the first half of the '70s was already over, shifting radically into the disco age. But not without one last spacey soundscape more at home in the early '70s. This is the purest example of dream pop lasting beyond the vulnerable phase -- no disco-friendly beats to accommodate it to the new restless warm-up phase, just zillions of layers of ethereal sighing vocals.

"Sadeness" by Enigma (1990)

New Age mania of the late '80s had peaked, but give the style a more danceable beat, and it could last another year into the neo-disco environment of the early '90s.

"Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado (2006)

As with the previous song, just giving a basic dance beat to a dream pop song could make it catch on in a phase that had mostly left behind the emo-ness of the early 2000s. Honorable mention goes to "Speed of Sound" by Coldplay, but the Nelly Furtado song has more vocal layers, each having a more ethereal timbre as well, the voices and instruments are less melodic / more droning, and the overall tone is more enigmatic, moody, and New Age-y than the Coldplay song.

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