I use the past tense because Britpop isn’t an active genre. It ended sometime in 1997. It’s certainly not and shouldn’t be used to define current British indie or rock bands simply because “they’re from Britain”.
Like any other musical revolution which gets somehow categorised as a ‘genre’ instead of a ‘culture’ – be it ‘punk’, ‘grunge’, ‘riot grrrl’, etc – Britpop was a movement. It was a term exclusive and unique to alternative bands emerging from the British independent music scene during the early 90’s.
Britpop was a retaliation against grunge which, at the time, was infesting the US. Britpop bands 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.” Graham Coxon blasted Nirvana for their “awful shit” and cited grunge as a “disgusting movement”. The Gallagher brothers felt similarly;
Wikipedia got something right:
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. These bands were soon joined by others including Oasis, The Verve, Pulp, Supergrass, Echobelly, Sleeper and Elastica.
An American girl on Tumblr referenced Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 release “AM” as “the best Britpop album ever” and I nearly gagged. Please educate yourselves, America.
If you would like to listen to actual Britpop, give Blur’s “Parklife” (1994) a listen. It’s arguably the (actual) best example of a Britpop record there is; completely, quintessentially British, Damon Albarn writes about uniquely British topics and concerns; the culture is almost tangible – Brits can listen and relate, anyone else can listen and experience a day-in-the-life-of-type first-hand experience of what working class 90’s Britain was truly like.
WHAT BRITPOP IS: everything I just mentioned.
WHAT BRITPOP IS NOT: Post-Britpop like Stereophonics and Coldplay, pop music from Britain like One Direction, indie bands from Britain like the Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines, and The Kooks, bands that aren’t even from Britain yet are tagged #britpop in the last.fm tag like Arcade Fire (WTF???)
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas. Bah humbug.