Synthpop (also known as electropop, or technopop]) is a genre of popular music that first became prominent in the 1980s, in which the synthesizer is the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic art rock, disco and particularly the "Krautrock" of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the New Wave movement of the late-1970s to the mid-1980s.
Early synthpop pioneers included Japanese group Yellow Magic Orchestra and British bands Ultravox and the Human League; the latter largely used monophonic synthesizers to produce music with a simple and austere sound. After the breakthrough of Tubeway Army and Gary Numan in the British Singles Chart, large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early 1980s, including Soft Cell, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Japan and Depeche Mode in the United Kingdom, while in Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra's success opened the way for synthpop bands such as P-Model, Plastics, and Hikashu. The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synthpop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic movement, together with the rise of MTV, led to success for large numbers of British synthpop acts, including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, in the United States.
In the late 1980s, duos such as Erasure and Pet Shop Boys adopted a sound that was highly successful on the US dance charts, but by the end of the decade synthpop had largely been abandoned. Interest began to be revived in the indietronica and electroclash movements in the late 1990s and, in the first decade of the 21st century, it enjoyed a widespread revival with commercial success for acts including La Roux, Kesha, and Owl City.
Synthpop helped to establish the place of the synthesizer as a major element of pop and rock music, directly influenced subsequent genres including house music and Detroit techno, and has indirectly influenced many other genres and individual recordings.
The genre has received criticism for alleged lack of emotion and musicianship. The "gender bending" image projected by synthpop artists during the 1980s resulted in hostility towards it.