Britpop is a UK based music and culture movement in the mid 1990s which emphasised "Britishness", and produced brighter, catchier alternative rock, partly in reaction to the popularity of the darker lyrical themes of the US-led grunge music, an alternative rock genre, and to the UK's own shoegazing music scene. The most successful bands linked with the movement are Oasis, Blur, Suede and Pulp; those groups would come to be known as its "big four". The timespan of Britpop is generally considered to be 1993-1997, with 1994-1995, and a chart battle between Blur and Oasis dubbed "The Battle of Britpop", being the epicentre of activity. While music was the main focus, fashion, art, and politics also got involved, with artists such as Damien Hirst being involved in creating videos for Blur, and being labelled as Britart or Britpop artists, and Tony Blair and New Labour aligning themselves with the movement. Fans of Britpop also tended to be fans of dance acts such as The Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. (Both having played at Knebworth in 1996).
Though Britpop is viewed as a marketing tool, and more of a cultural moment than a musical style or genre, there are musical conventions and influences the bands grouped under the Britpop term have in common, such as showing elements from the British pop music of the Sixties, glam rock and punk rock of the Seventies, and indie pop of the Eighties in their music. Britpop was a media driven focus on bands which emerged from the independent music scene of the early 1990s—and was associated with the British popular cultural movement of Cool Britannia which evoked the Swinging Sixties and the British guitar pop music of that decade.
In the wake of the musical invasion into the United Kingdom by American grunge bands, new British groups such as Blur and Suede launched the movement by positioning themselves as opposing musical forces, referencing British guitar music of the past and writing about uniquely British topics and concerns. These bands were soon joined by others including Oasis, Pulp, the Verve, Supergrass, Cast, Sleeper and Elastica.
Britpop groups brought British alternative rock into the mainstream and formed the backbone of a larger British cultural movement called Cool Britannia. "The Battle of Britpop" brought Britpop to the forefront of the British press in 1995. By 1997, however, the movement began to slow down; many acts began to falter and break up. The popularity of the pop group the Spice Girls "snatched the spirit of the age from those responsible for Britpop". Although its more popular bands were able to spread their commercial success overseas, especially to the United States, the movement largely fell apart by the end of the decade.
Though Britpop is seen retrospectively as a marketing tool, and more of a cultural moment than a musical style or genre, there are musical conventions and influences the bands grouped under the Britpop term have in common. Britpop bands show elements from the British pop music of the Sixties, glam rock and punk rock of the Seventies, and indie pop of the Eighties in their music, attitude, and clothing. Specific influences vary: Blur and Oasis drew from the Kinks and the Beatles, respectively, while Elastica had a fondness for arty punk rock. Regardless, Britpop artists project a sense of reverence for British pop sounds of the past. Alternative rock acts from the indie scene of the Eighties and early Nineties were the direct ancestors of the Britpop movement. The influence of the Smiths is common to the majority of Britpop artists. The Madchester scene, fronted by the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets (for whom Oasis's Noel Gallagher had worked as a roadie during the Madchester years), was an immediate root of Britpop since its emphasis on good times and catchy songs provided an alternative to the British-based shoegazing and American based grunge styles of music. Pre-dating Britpop by four years, Liverpool based group The La's hit single “There She Goes” was described by Rolling Stone as a “founding piece of Britpop’s foundation.”
Local identity and regional British accents are common to Britpop groups, as well as references to British places and culture in lyrics and image. Stylistically, Britpop bands use catchy hooks and lyrics that were relevant to young British people of their own generation. Britpop bands conversely 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." In spite of the professed disdain for the genres, some elements of both crept into the more enduring facets of Britpop. Noel Gallagher has since championed Ride and stated in a 1996 interview that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was the only songwriter he had respect for in the last ten years, and that he felt their music was similar enough that Cobain could have written "Wonderwall".
The imagery associated with Britpop was equally British and working class. A rise in unabashed maleness, exemplified by Loaded magazine and lad culture in general, would be very much part of the Britpop era. The Union Jack became a prominent symbol of the movement (as it had a generation earlier with mod bands such as The Who) and its use as a symbol of pride and nationalism contrasted deeply with the controversy that erupted just a few years before when former Smiths singer Morrissey performed draped in it. The emphasis on British reference points made it difficult for the genre to achieve success in the US.