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AOR arose in the early 1970s as part of a concerted effort by radio executives--in collusion with the major record labels--to standardize FM playlists. Taking the Top 40 format dominating AM radio, AOR consisted of tight, scaled-down song rotations, usually one or two selections preferred by the artists themselves (or the listening audience, if the street-level verdict was unanimous in nature) from the bestselling rock albums of the day. It was geared to album, rather than 45 r.p.m. single, sales; many of the playlist selections were never released as singles.

AOR has never constituted a stylistic grouping; playlist inclusions have always been defined by radio programmer decisions. The artists enjoying heavy AOR rotation represented a wide range of musical genres. Nevertheless, some general characteristics of this have been discerned by industry observers. In his rambling survey of AOR appearing in The Year in Rock, 1981-82, J.D. Considine termed it "hard pop"; that is, "hard, because its sound derives from the contours of hard rock and heavy metal; pop, because its formal structure is oriented toward popsong melodicism, not the sprawling, riff-based jamming of traditional heavy metal." He adds that critics of the category dismiss it as entertainment (as opposed to "music"), whereas supporters have pointed to its propensity for selling records. AOR was also widely criticized for its tendency to bar black artists from playlists.

The genre peaked in popularity during the mid-1970s. The emergence of other commercially viable radio formats in the late 1970s and early 1980s--mostly notably disco, country pop, rock 'n' roll oldies, adult contemporary, and college radio/alternative--severely compromised its front-running status. AOR's appeal was also diminished by the decline of mainstream rock acts such as Bad Company and the Doobie Brothers. The format remains a radio fixture, albeit in a secondary role--both within radio and in relation to other media broadcast outlets--as a hit-making entity.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Aerosmith—Aerosmith (1973); Get Your Wings (1974); Toys in the Attic (1975); Rocks (1976)

Artful Dodger--Artful Dodger (1975; Honor Among Thieves (1976); Babes on Broadway (1977)

Asia--Asia (1982)

Bachman-Turner Overdrive--Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1973); Bachman-Turner Overdrive II (1974); Not Fragile (1974); Four Wheel Drive (1975); Head On (1976); Freeways (1977); Street Action (1978); Rock N' Roll Nights (1979)

Bad Company--Bad Company (1974); Straight Shooter (1975); Rub With the Pack (1976); Burning Sky (1977); Desolation Angels (1979)

Pat Benatar--In the Heat of the Night (1979); Crimes of Passion (1980); Precious Time (1981); Get Nervous (1982); Live From Earth (1983); Tropico (1984)

Boston--Boston (1976); Don't Look Back (1978); Third Stage (1986)

Bon Jovi--Bon Jovi (1984); 7800 Fahrenheit (1985); Slippery When Wet (1986); New Jersey (1988); Blaze of Glory (1990); Keep the Faith (1992)

Rocky Burnette--The Son of Rock and Roll (1980)

Rick Derringer--All American Boy (1973); Spring Fever (1975); Derringer (1976); Sweet Evil (1977); Derringer Live (1977)

The Doobie Brothers--Toulouse Street (1972); The Captain and Me (1973); What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974); Stampede (1975); Livin' on the Fault Line (1977); Minute By Minute (1978); One Step Closer (1980)

Foreigner--Foreigner (1977); Double Vision (1978); Head Games (1979); 4 (1981); Agent Provocateur (1985); Inside Information (1987)

Heart--Dreamboat Annie (1976); Little Queen (1977); Magazine (1978); Dog and Butterfly (1978); Bebe Le Strange (1980); Private Audition (1982); Passionworks (1983); Heart (1985); Bad Animals (1987); Brigade (1990)

The Jefferson Starship--Dragon Fly (1974); Red Octopus (1975); Spitfire (1976); Earth (1978); Freedom at Point Zero (1979); Modern Times (1981); Winds of Change (1982); Nuclear Furniture (1984)

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts--Bad Reputation (1981); I Love Rock-n-Roll (1981); Album (1983); Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (1984); Good Music (1986); Up Your Alley (1988); The Hit List (1990)

Journey--Journey (1975); Look Into the Future (1976); Next (1977); Infinity (1978); Evolution (1979); Departure (1980); Captured (1981); Escape (1981); Frontiers (1983); Raised On Radio (1986)

Greg Kihn Band--Next of Kihn (1976); With the Naked Eye (1979); Glass House Rock (1980); Rockihnroll (1981); Kihntinued (1982); Kihnspiracy (1983); Kihntagious (1984); Citizen Kihn (1985)

Meat Loaf--Bat Out of Hell (1977); Dead Ringer (1981); Bad Attitude (1985)

John Cougar Mellencamp--John Cougar (1979); Nothin; Matters and What If It Did (1980); American Fool (1982); Uh-Huh (1982); Scarecrow (1985); The Lonesome Jubilee (1987); Big Daddy (1989); Whenever We Wanted (1991)

Eddie Money--Eddie Money (1978); Life For the Taking (1979); Playing For Keeps (1980); No Control (1982); Where's the Party? (1983); Can't Hold Back (1986); Nothing to Lose (1988); Right Here (1992)

Orleans--Let There Be Music (1975); Waking and Dreaming (1976); Forever (1979)

The Outfield--Play Deep (1985); Bangin' (1987); Voices of Babylon (1989); Diamond Days (1990)

Pablo Cruise--Pablo Cruise (1975); Lifeline (1976); A Place in the Sun (1977); Worlds Away (1978); Part of the Game (1979); Reflector (1981)

Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers)--Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1977); You're Gonna Get It! (1978); Damn the Torpedoes (1979); Hard Promises (1991); Long After Dark (1982); Southern Accents (1985); Pack Up the Plantation - Live! (1985); Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) 1987); Full Moon Fever (1889); Into the Great Wide Open (1991)

The Power Station--The Power Station (1985)

Quarterflash--Quarterflash (1981); Take Another Picture (1983); Back Into Blue (1985)

REO Speedwagon--Ridin' the Storm Out (1974); Lost in a Dream (1974); This Time We Mean It(1975); R.E.O. (1976); REO Speedwagon Live/You Get What You Pay For (1977); You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish (1978); Nine Lives (1979); Hi Infidelity (1980); Good Trouble (1982); Wheels Are Turnin' (1984); Life As We Know It (1987)

Bob Seger (and the Silver Bullet Band)--Smokin' O.P.'s (1972); Back in '72 (1973); Beautiful Loser (1975); "Live" Bullet (1976); Night Moves (1976); Stranger in Town (1978); Against the Wind (1980); Nine Tonight (1981); The Distance (1983); Like a Rock (1986); The Fire Inside (1991)

Sniff 'n' the Tears—Fickle Heart (1979); Love Action (1981)

Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band)--Greeting From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973); The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (1973); Born to Run (1975); Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978); The River (1980); Nebraska (1982); Born in the U.S.A. (1984); Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live/1975-85 (1986); Tunnel of Love (1987); Human Touch (1992); Lucky Town (1992)

Billy Squier--The Tale of the Tape (1980); Don't Say No (1981); Emotions in Motion (1982); Signs of Life (1984); Enough Is Enough (1986); Hear and Now (1989); Creatures of Habit (1991)

Styx--Styx I (1972); Styx II (1973); The Serpent Is Rising (1974); Man of Miracles (1974); Equinox (1975); Crystal Ball (1976); The Grand Illusion (1977); Pieces of Eight (1978); Cornerstone (1979); Paradise Theater (1981); Kilroy Was Here (1983); Caught in the Act - Live (1984); Edge of the Century (1990)

Survivor--Survivor (1980); Premonition (1981); Eye of the Tiger (1982); Caught in the Game (1983); Vital Signs (1984); When Seconds Count (1986); Too Hot to Sleep (1988)

Tommy Tutone--Tommy Tutone (1980); Tommy Tutone - 2 (1982); National Emotion (1983)

Toto--Toto (1978); Hydra (1979); Turn Back (1981); Toto IV (1982); Isolation (1984); Dune (1984); Fahrenheit (1986); The Seventh One (1988)