Bubblegum pop

From Academic Kids

Bubblegum pop (bubblegum rock, bubblegum music) is a genre of popular music and rock and roll. The defining characteristics of bubblegum music include catchy or hummable melodies, simplistic three-chord structures, repetitive riffs or "hooks", and lightweight lyrics, deceptively simple at best or even only one step removed from nursery rhymes.



As far as music production goes, bubblegum could not have existed without rock and roll, and the American musical forms that preceded and accompanied it, such as rhythm and blues and doo-wop. But bubblegum rock also found some part of its roots in pre-rock novelty songs such as "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" and "The Hut Sut Song," which hit the charts in the late 1940s and hipster foolishness like Slim Gaillard's "Cement Mixer (Puti Puti)".

Seminal rock and roll numbers, like Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti", with its nonsense rhyming couplets (replacing the original vulgar lyrics), also placed their stamp on what would come later; the combination of R&B, garage rock, novelty songs and nursery rhymes that later surfaced in the Post-Beatles era in songs like "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs 1964) with a hard-driving Tex-Mex beat and nonsensical lyrics.

In spite of the criticism of being devoid of artistic merit, bubblegum music continued to thrive, generally only for brief periods, selling records primarily to young, often pre-teen audiences who were not yet desirous of the more thoughtful music from artists like Bob Dylan and, later in their career, the Beatles.

1960s and 1970s

The first wave of pure bubblegum came with Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, music producers who formed a production company (Super K Productions) and gave the world "A Little Bit of Soul" by The Music Explosion in 1966. However, this was more on the R&B garage band tip, and missing the element of nursery rhyme/nonsense lyrics. About a year later they released "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by The Ohio Express. With its double entendre in the title and its peppy delivery, the song was a smash hit. The Ohio Express was a real, touring garage band in the midwest, under contract to K&K; their hit singles were recorded by session musicians fronted by singer-songwriter Joey Levine, whose distinctive nasal whine the band members had to learn to copy for live performances.

Other hits from Kasenetz and Katz followed, including "Indian Giver" and "Simon Says" by the 1910 Fruitgum Company, "Green Tambourine" by The Lemon Pipers and such one-offs as "Quick Joey Small" by The Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus (another front for the same batch of Levine-fronted studio players).

Others joined in, notably Don Kirshner and Jeff Barry with the Archies, whose "Sugar Sugar" was the best selling single of 1969, and was voiced by Ron Dante. Many critics describe the Monkees as bubblegum, others claim that they did not do any pure bubblegum until 1970's "Half-Monkees" LP Changes, which was produced by Jeff Barry. Nonetheless, the Monkees always played light and cheerful rock and roll.

The first era of bubblegum carried on for a few more years, as LPs were released by the Partridge Family, the Osmonds, the Jackson 5, the Brady Bunch, the Banana Splits and Josie and the Pussycats.

Many of the acts of the first Glam Rock era, approximately 1971-1975, had bubblegum influences. These included Gary Glitter, T. Rex, The Sweet and Mud. These were British acts and had great success in the UK, Asia and Europe, charting many singles. British Glam Rock acts of this sort did not do too well in the USA, where the Glam Rock acts that attained the most success were those that were more serious in approach, such as David Bowie and Roxy Music. The last big act of the 1970s that had obvious bubblegum elements was the Bay City Rollers, who stopped having hits as the decade neared its end.

The history and theory of bubblegum pop is discussed at length in the 2001 book Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth (http://www.bubblegum-music.com).

The Ramones split the difference

In the late 1970s, the Ramones began releasing punk records. The band members actually referred to themselves as a "nouveau bubblegum band with teeth". Their songs were all simple, three-chord riffs with catchy choruses that occasionally made little sense (such as "Gabba Gabba Hey") and appeared on their album covers in cartoon form. Their name itself comes from Paul McCartney's alias, which he used to check into hotels anonymously during the height of the Beatles' popularity.

Like the Osmonds or the Partridge Family, the band members all used the same last name, "Ramone" -- Joey Ramone (nee Jeff Hyman) even took his first name from Joey Levine, the singer of "Yummy Yummy Yummy". In spite of the similarities to many bubblegum acts, many critics do not classify the Ramones as a true bubblegum band for several reasons. Primarily, the Ramones were the brains behind their act, and not subject to the whims of a svengali-producer. The band had a longer career than any bubblegum group before or since. The Ramones' music was critically accepted and the group's fans were dissimilar from the classic bubblegum fan, a pre-adolescent experiencing the thrill of his or her first pocketfull of allowance money; they were working class adults and disaffected teens that constituted a prime social force of the late 1970s and beyond. Though the band covered "Indian Giver", a massive bubblegum hit, at one point, many critics would still not classify even that song as bubblegum because the purpose of such punk covers (many punk bands cover pop hits) is to deconstruct the original. It is meant to be an irreverent juxtaposition of pop and hardcore not-pop, and thus is not considered a bubblegum song.


The 1980s saw few bubblegum acts in the US. In Britain in the late 1980s, the charts were dominated by Stock Aitken Waterman produced acts such as Kylie Minogue. In the US however there were some, like Teena Marie, New Edition and New Kids on the Block. Glam metal was the most popular genre of music at the time, and some of the bands, such as Poison were less serious than most of the major hitmakers. In Latin America, bubblegum acts such as Menudo, Los Chicos, Las Cheris and Los Chamos became legendary groups. In 1985, Magneto, a group that would gain fame in the 1990s, was formed in Mexico.


In the early 1990s, bubblegum remained scarce as first grunge music and then gangsta rap dominated the charts. In the later 1990s, however, bubblegum came back into vogue with the sudden explosion of popularity for British pop group the Spice Girls, followed by a series of boy bands like Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Boyzone & O-Town. Soon after the boy bands came a series of female bubblegum performers, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore & Jessica Simpson. In addition, several of the Latin American bubblegum groups attempted comebacks in the late 1990s, with Menudo's El Reencuentro being the most successful comeback among them.

"Bubblegum" also is a record by Mark Lanegan.



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