Synth-pop – short for synthesizer pop; is a subgenre of new wave music that first became prominent in the late 1970s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument.
It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. A large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early 1980s.
The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synth-pop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic movement, together with the rise of MTV, led to success for large numbers of British synth-pop acts in the US during the Second British Invasion.
In the mid to late 1980s, duos such as Erasure and Pet Shop Boys adopted a style that was highly successful on the US dance charts, but by the end of the decade, the ‘new wave’ synth-pop of bands such as A-ha and Alphaville was giving way to house music and techno. Interest in new wave synth-pop began to revive in the indietronica and electroclash movements in the late 1990s, and in the 2000s synth-pop enjoyed a widespread revival and commercial success.
Synth-pop music has established a place for the synthesizer as a major element of pop and rock music, directly influencing subsequent genres (including house music and Detroit techno) and has indirectly influenced many other genres, as well as individual recordings.