Fair Warning: You'll probably go totally nuts over reading this!!! OK, don't take it too seriously as we're on a mission to find the true meaning of AOR & Melodic Hardrock. This is one definition of the whole matter... I'm not saying it's the only and correct one... but it's damn close to :-)
I find it quite amusing that hardrock fans all over the world are so much into nitpicking. There's a freakin' sub-label for every label and at least 100 sub-cultures for every darn culture. What started out as plain "hardrock" in the very late 60's/early 70's... is now all-of-a-sudden labeled as "Classic Rock" as well. And there's no end to the madness, each and every year (since the dawn of the music we all love), there's been new sub-genres... and yet they are still all a part of the same, big, family, called hardrock... or??? Yes I do enjoy using all the sub-genres of hardrock to describe music as well... but it's all kind of insane and most certainly confusing at times. LOL!!! :-)
Take "AOR" for instance, it started out as "Album Oriented Rock" in the 70's. This was basically (ehem, kinda, loosly) a term for rock albums you could play throughout the entire record... without finding any highlights or fillers for that matter. Well... not really, but you were supposed to be able to play entire vinyl albums without downers and such. It didn't work in really though, honestly, how many "Perfect 10" albums are there???
"AOR" envolved latter into "Adult Oriented Rock" (late 70's/early 80's), which is still today the term hardrock fans (or writers?) are using to describe this sub-genre. It still leaves us with the most important question of all though: what the heck is AOR music all about??? Well... you'll have to remember that almost every person out there (yup!), have his/her own opinion about this matter. However, it signifies strong and catchy melodies, a sing-a-long refrain, and most importantly (?) :keyboards, and not 'too' aggressive guitar work. The biggest and most famous bands of the genre, the 70's acts: Journey, Survivor, Foreigner.
Then again, not Journey of the 70's, since they started out as a hippie-Santana-wannabee-act (two of the members were previously in Santana's band), it wasn't until singer and wimp-master Steve Perry joined the band (late 70's), and they slowly transformed into a "pure" AOR act in the 80's. Wait a minute, the madness continues... Foreigner are considered by many as a "Classic Rock" band of the 70's. They were, however, since day one, all about melodies and catchy little rock numbers though. The debut (1977) provided the hardrock fan... no, wait... classic rock... no, that's a 90's invention... the "rock" fans... argh! whatever... they were all about strong melodies with slightly more aggressive guitars than the later "pure" AOR albums of the 80's. Phew... what about Survivor then? Well, they were more or less "wimp-rockers" since day one. Probably the only act, out of the three above mentioned, that actually played straight or close-to AOR, throughout their entire career. Ehem, well, "Too Hot To Sleep" is closer to "Melodic Hardrock" than "AOR"... but more about that later (oh-no, even more of this bulls**t??? Zzzzz!)
Where to draw the line, what's the true definition of AOR? How to stop falling asleep while reading this? Can you still be a "real" AOR act, if there's no keyboards whatsoever in the music. Oh geeez, but that's a "good" point actually... or not... I honestly can't tell the difference anymore. Let me put it like this, I sure wouldn't label acts like: Warrant, Slaughter, Firehouse, Axe, White Lion, Icon, Bonfire, Hurricane, Danger Danger, or even Giant and Def Leppard for that matter (etc, etc) as "AOR". They were frankly "Hardrock" or "Melodic Hardrock" acts of the 80's and had a slightly more "aggressive" guitar sound and not as much keyboards up front.
Are you kidding me? "Hysteria" with Def Leppard - not AOR??? Well, it's a borderline case and their most AOR-ish album for sure. Mutt Lange set out to be the definition of a true AOR producer, that close-to sterile, clean production, without any edgy guitars or drums is a dream come true for many AOR fans. There's no fluffy keyboardist at the centre of attention though and they're very much still a "guitar" band. Which brings us back to the question: do you need a keyboardist to become a true AOR band??? Well... since we're already nitpicking and turning this into a mockering and utter disgrace, I'd have to say... probably... yup... whatever!!!
However, you'll have to remember that many or most acts can be described as a "borderline" case. They may have 3-4 "AOR" songs and the rest belongs in the "Melodic Hardrock" category (or vice versa). Thus why this whole discussion is a freakin' joke in reality and it gets even more silly as we travel deeper into the complex jungle of rock. "Westcoast" is a completely different issue as it's the term for music even wimpier than "AOR" (but still a member or at least a distant cousin of the hardrock family). Wimpier than AOR? Really? Yup! You will probably not label it as "real" hardrock, but acts like: Toto, Chicago (mostyly in the 80's), Richard Marx, etc. are all part of the "westcoast-ers". But really... who cares???
The bottomline: don't try this at home kids!!! it's only rock'n'roll anyhow... Next time: We'll try and pick out the "true" metal act from the heavy metal, power metal, and all sorts of metal really. The difference between Thrash and Speed?? Sounds like fun.... bring lots of coffee... or simply don't bother to show up at all....
This utter crap article is the "proud" work of: "THe uRbAn LegEnD",