New wave is a genre of rock music popular in the late 1970s and the 1980s with ties to mid-1970s punk rock. New wave moved away from blues and rock and roll sounds to create rock music (early new wave) or pop music (later) that incorporated disco, mod, and electronic music. Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming a distinct genre. It subsequently engendered subgenres and fusions, including synth-pop.
New wave differs from other movements with ties to first-wave punk as it displays characteristics common to pop music, rather than the more "artsy" post-punk. Although it incorporates much of the original punk rock sound and ethos, new wave exhibits greater complexity in both music and lyrics. Common characteristics of new wave music include the use of synthesizers and electronic productions, the importance of styling and the arts, as well as diversity.
New wave has been called one of the definitive genres of the 1980s, after it grew partially fixated on MTV (the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" music video was broadcast as the first music video to promote the channel's launch), and the popularity of several new wave artists, attributed to their exposure on the channel. In the mid-1980s, differences between new wave and other music genres began to blur. New wave has enjoyed resurgences since the 1990s, after a rising "nostalgia" for several new wave-influenced artists. Subsequently, the genre influenced other genres.[excessive citations][improper synthesis?] During the 2000s, a number of acts, such as the Strokes, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers explored new wave and post-punk influences. These acts were sometimes labeled "new wave of new wave".
The catch-all nature of new wave music has been a source of much confusion and controversy. The 1985 discography Who's New Wave in Music listed artists in over 130 separate categories. The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock calls the term "virtually meaningless", while AllMusic mentions "stylistic diversity".
New wave first emerged as a rock genre in the early 1970s, used by critics including Nick Kent and Dave Marsh to classify such New York-based groups as the Velvet Underground and New York Dolls. It gained currency beginning in 1976 when it appeared in UK punk fanzines such as Sniffin' Glue and newsagent music weeklies such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express. In November 1976 Caroline Coon used Malcolm McLaren's term "new wave" to designate music by bands not exactly punk, but related to the same musical scene. The term was also used in that sense by music journalist Charles Shaar Murray in his comments about the Boomtown Rats. For a period of time in 1976 and 1977, the terms new wave and punk were somewhat interchangeable. By the end of 1977, "new wave" had replaced "punk" as the definition for new underground music in the UK.
In the United States, Sire Records chairman Seymour Stein, believing that the term "punk" would mean poor sales for Sire's acts who had frequently played the club CBGB, launched a "Don't Call It Punk" campaign designed to replace the term with "new wave". As radio consultants in the United States had advised their clients that punk rock was a fad, they settled on the term "new wave". Like the filmmakers of the French new wave movement (after whom the genre was named), its new artists were anti-corporate and experimental (e.g. Ramones and Talking Heads). At first, most U.S. writers exclusively used the term "new wave" for British punk acts. Starting in December 1976, The New York Rocker, which was suspicious of the term "punk", became the first American journal to enthusiastically use the term starting with British acts, later appropriating it to acts associated with the CBGB scene. Part of what attracted Stein and others to new wave was the music’s stripped back style and upbeat tempos, which they viewed as a much needed return to the energetic rush of rock and roll and 1960s rock that had dwindled in the 1970s with the ascendance of overblown progressive rock and stadium spectacles.