First of all, there’s nothing wrong with “yacht rock,” an ill-defined genre tagged after the fact to refer to a certain strain of popular music of the late ’70s and early ’80s. You can identify yacht rock by its smooth sounds, polished production values, escapist lyrics, and breezy melodies.
Once derided as corny and out of touch, yacht rock is back in fashion, with even the most self-consciously cool among us vibing to the likes of Steely Dan, an amazing band whose fans may rightly resent being lumped in with “yacht rock.” Regardless, the Spotify playlist for “Yacht Rock” has some absolute bangers: Hall & Oates, Styx, Toto.
But there is also something undeniably uncool about yacht rock. It’s so shiny. So produced. So Californian.
All of which made me roll my eyes at Mayor Eric Johnson’s joke last week on Twitter that he and other elected officials have declared yacht rock “the official music of the Dallas City Council.” Inspired by an online interaction with yacht rock legend Christopher Cross—who is behind the hit “Sailing” and is, it should be noted, from San Antonio—Johnson further declared himself a “Yacht Rock certified mayor.”
I’m not here to attack our Yacht Rock Mayor’s taste in music, which seems to be grittier and more Texan than all the above would indicate. He’s also used social media for shout-outs to the Austin musician Gary Clark Jr. along with blues legend Muddy Waters and the South Dallas club R.L.’s Blues Palace.
And he tweeted at the Texas Music Office last week about local and decidedly un-yacht rocky greats Erykah Badu, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Boz Scaggs, who is actually from Plano and, I suppose, at least a little yacht rocky, according to YachtOrNacht.com.
I asked Johnson’s office about the mayor’s recent spate of music tweets and didn’t get much of an answer, maybe because in the email I also used the words “yacht” and “rock.” But the mayor appears to be lobbying the state’s music office—or whoever runs social media for the state’s music office—to certify Dallas in its “music friendly community” program, a distinction recently awarded to Vidor, Texas.
Anyway, we should let City Council have its yacht rock. No harm in it. City government is uncool.
The real reason I’m here today is to pose the question: What if Dallas is itself a yacht rock town?
After all, many of the adjectives used to describe yacht rock have at one time or another been applied, with extra venom, to Dallas: slick, corporate, unoriginal, shallow, its best elements stolen from elsewhere.
On the other hand, the mayor’s own tweets illustrate how Dallas can’t possibly be a yacht rock town. Could a yacht rock town produce artists like Badu and Vaughan, or The D.O.C. or Big Tuck or Annie Clark or The Chicks or Old 97’s or Blind Lemon Jefferson or Vanilla Ice? Obviously not. This place is too diverse, its culture too diffuse, for any single genre to represent it. We contain way too many multitudes, musically and culturally, to be a yacht rock town.
On the other other hand, would it really be so bad to be a yacht rock town? What does that even mean? How the heck does Vidor get certified as music friendly before Dallas?
We won’t answer all those questions today, but we can answer one. Let’s head to the poll.