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Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom. Britpop emerged from the British independent music scene of the early 1990s and was characterised by bands influenced by British guitar pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. The movement developed as a reaction against various musical and cultural trends in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly the grunge phenomenon from the United States. In the wake of the musical invasion into the United Kingdom of American grunge bands, new British groups such as Suede and Blur launched the movement by positioning themselves as opposing musical forces, referencing British guitar music of the past and writing about uniquely British topics and concerns. These bands were soon joined by others including Oasis, Pulp, Supergrass, Sleeper and Elastica.
Britpop groups brought British alternative rock into the mainstream and formed the backbone of a larger British cultural movement called Cool Britannia. Although its more popular bands were able to spread their commercial success overseas, especially to the United States, the movement largely fell apart by the end of the decade.
Britpop bands were influenced by British guitar music of the past, particularly movements and genres such as the British Invasion, glam rock, and punk rock. Specific influences varied: Blur and Oasis drew from The Kinks and The Beatles, respectively, while Elastica had a fondness for arty punk rock. Regardless, all Britpop artists projected a sense of reverence for the sounds of the past.
Alternative rock acts from the 1980s and early 1990s indie scene were the direct ancestors of the Britpop movement. The influence of The Smiths was common to the majority of Britpop artists. The Madchester scene, fronted by The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and Inspiral Carpets (for whom Oasis's Noel Gallagher had worked as a roadie during the Madchester years), was the immediate root of Britpop since its emphasis on good times and catchy songs provided an alternative to shoegazing.
Britpop groups were defined by being focused on bands rather than solo artists; having drums/bass/guitar/vocals (and sometimes keyboards) line-ups; writing original material and playing instruments themselves; singing in regional British accents; references to British places and culture in lyrics and image; and fashion consciousness. Stylistically, Britpop bands relied on catchy hooks and wrote lyrics that were meant to be relevant to British young people of their own generation. Britpop bands conversely denounced grunge as irrelevant and having nothing to say about their lives. Damon Albarn of Blur summed up the attitude in 1993 when after being asked if Blur were an "anti-grunge band" he said, "Well, that's good. If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge." In spite of the professed disdain for the genres, some elements of both crept into the more enduring facets of Britpop. Noel Gallagher has since championed Ride. Noel Gallagher stated in a 1996 interview that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was the only songwriter he had respect for in the last ten years, and that he felt their music was similar enough that Cobain could have written "Wonderwall".
The imagery associated with Britpop was equally British and working class. Music critic Jon Savage asserted that Britpop was "an outer-suburban, middle-class fantasy of central London streetlife, with exclusively metropolitan models." A rise in unabashed maleness, exemplified by Loaded magazine and lad culture in general, would be very much part of the Britpop era. The Union Flag also became a prominent symbol of the movement, and its use as a symbol of pride and nationalism contrasted deeply with the controversy that erupted just a few years before when former Smiths singer Morrissey performed draped in it. The emphasis on British reference points made it difficult for the genre to achieve success in the US.
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