Despite being best known for its run of dominance from the late '70s through to the early '80s, soft rock enjoyed an impressive resurgence during the noughties.
A whole new wave of indie and alternative bands - many of whom had grown up on the genre's golden years - caught fire, blending soft rock sensibilities with all manner of other sounds and styles. Often rocking smooth melodies, deeply emotional lyrics, and catchy hooks, noughties soft rock often took the scene in a compellingly darker direction than what had come before.
In what was basically a musical reincarnation, soft rock was born again as the go-to scene for sensitive acts looking to make an emotive impact on listeners at large. In great news for those looking to crack - and eventually top - the charts, the noughties soft rock craze saw a keen interest in mixing it up with the vibrant production values of pop.
The result was a litany of dynamic artists quickly hitting the mainstream, often using soft rock to springboard into other genres and scenes over time. Overall, the first decade of the new millennium was a gold mine of fun for those looking for smooth melodies coupled with emotionally resonant lyricism.
10. Continuum - John Mayer (2006)
John Mayer's third LP fully solidified his status as a sharp songwriter in the soft rock scene. Rocking the album with commendable guitar work, the popular Bridgeport-born star shows off groovy, catchy riffs in tracks such as Waiting on the World to Change. The likes of Belief and Gravity, meanwhile, highlight his knack for soulful solos.
Infusing his tracks with blues and pop overtones, Mayer concocts his own signature brand of soft rock here. The album ultimately serves as an intriguing fusion of the varying sounds and styles he worked with in prior albums, providing an effective sonic landscape of the artist's varying capabilities.
The eclectic sound is bolstered by a stripped back production style, allowing his voice and strings work to come to the forefront without any audio clutter to worry about.
As is customary with Mayer, the lyrics take an introspective path, seeing the singer-songwriter self-reflecting and walking through themes of romance and loss. Tracks such as Slow Dancing in a Burning Room and Dreaming With a Broken Heart manage to highlight both Mayer's rock and pop strengths, capturing a difficult balance between radio-friendly appeal and more meaningful, confronting lyricism.