Middle of the road (music)
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Middle of the road (MOR) loosely describes any type of music that falls between popular music and art music, and includes the work of serious composers who write in a lighter style than normal. It is also a commercial radio format which encompasses several styles. MOR music is broadly popular music; generally, it is strongly melodic and often features vocal harmony technique and orchestral arrangements. During the 1960s and the 1970s, the beautiful music radio stations were considered MOR radio, while its contemporary analogues are the smooth jazz and the adult contemporary radio formats.
The middle of the road music category has traditionally included these genres:
- Easy listening
- Traditional pop music of the pre-rock & roll era; and, later, revivalist recordings of the style
- Orchestral ballads
- Show tunes
- Smooth jazz melodies
- Soft rock songs and melodies
As an AM radio format in the United States and Canada, MOR's heyday was the 1960s and the 1970s. The 50,000-watt AM radio stations WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio; WJR in Detroit, Michigan; WNEW in New York City, New York; WCCO in Minneapolis, Minnesota; KMPC in Los Angeles, California; KIRO and KOMO in Seattle, Washington; WTIC in Hartford, Connecticut; and Canadian stations CFRB in Toronto, Ontario and CKNW in Vancouver, British Columbia, were known as "full-service MOR" stations with scheduled programming other than the MOR music. In that time, as the listener demographic groups aged, popular music emigrated to FM radio, and MOR stations found themselves competing with adult contemporary FM stations and AM stations broadcasting the Music of Your Life and adult standards formats, most eliminated music and transmitted only news and talk programs; some continued to play MOR music until the early 1990s. MOR (or at least formats bearing a strong resemblance to MOR) were still available as late as 2013; the Memories/Unforgettable Favorites network, a nationwide MOR satellite service, was available until 2006. Many of the styles and genres of music that had traditionally been heard on MOR formatted stations are currently heard on adult standards formatted stations. Country music singers like Kenny Rogers and Don Williams also have been considered middle of the road performers.
In recent years, the term "middle of the road" has been used pejoratively by genre-specific music aficionados to describe musicians who avoid "edgy" (innovative) material, and who calibrate their musical appeal to commercial, popular musical taste. Artists such as Westlife (pop) and Train (rock) are considered middle-of-the-road musicians.
Moreover, MOR has been used to pejoratively describe a musical band's creative and commercial progress from the innovative path to the tried-and-true-pop-catalogue path. For example, Pitchfork Media's review of Duran Duran's Rio states: "The band peppered the 80s with a number of hot singles (most of which can be found on the unstoppable side A of Rio) before departing for MOR country."
- Musiker, Naomi; Musiker, Reuben (2014). Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music: A Biographical and Discographical Sourcebook. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-91770-8.