Everybody’s a softie — well, almost everyone — when it comes to a fondness for the not-so-hard-hitting heyday of “soft rock,” which has a strong overlap with what’s come to be known and celebrated as “yacht rock.” Paramount+ is counting on a nation of viewers having a hankering for the soft stuff with its upcoming streaming premiere of a three-part documentary, “Sometimes When We Touch,” slated for the U.S. and Canada on Jan. 3.
“You can trash, bash and malign soft rock as much as you want, but I bet you know every song in the Hall & Oates catalog,” says Van Toffler, the CEO of Gunpowder & Sky, which is a partner with MTV Entertainment Studios on the series. “Personally, I’m happy that the kids are finally learning about the virtues of the Carpenters and Michael McDonald via their sampling in current hip-hop.”
With its subtitle, “The Reign, Ruin and Resurrection of Soft Rock” — and a blurb contending that modern affection has the subgenre “experiencing one of the most unlikely comebacks in music history” — it appears the series will argue that the reputation of soft rock has been rehabilitated over the decades, or at least that the memory of it as anathema to “real” rockers may have just faded with the passage of time.
Among the artists whose hits will come up in the series are — besides the aforementioned Daryl Hall and John Oates — Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, Air Supply, Ambrosia, the Carpenters, the Captain & Tennille and Lionel Richie. While some music fans might feel it’s a stretch to consider the last few acts “rock” at all, tell it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which just inducted Richie last month.
Among those interviewed for the series, not all of them soft-rockers themselves by trade: Sheryl Crow, Stewart Copeland of the Police, Run DMC’s Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Susanna Hoffs, LA Reid, Richard Marx, Robert “Kool” Bell, Verdine White and, as seen in the trailer (above), Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman. Verified soft-rock vets showing up for discussion include Loggins, Toni Tennille, Rupert Holmes, Dan Hill, Ray Parker Jr. and Air Supply.
The series promises archival interviews and concert footage along with contemporary commentary that “embraces the impact of soft rock while acknowledging the cringey excesses that sometimes led it astray” — “Sometimes When We Cringe” having apparently been rejected as a title — “and a review of its continuing power over a new generation found everywhere from hip-hop samples and radio remakes to superhero soundtracks and TikTok posts.”
Van Toffler produced, Lauren Lazin executive-produced and directed, and Chuck Thompson wrote and exec-produced. Other executive producers include David Gale, Floris Bauer, Barry Barclay and Joanna Zwickel for Gunpowder & Sky; Rick Krim; and Bruce Gillmer and Vanessa Whitewolf for MTV Entertainment Studios. Jennifer Yandrisevits was senior director of production.
The doc will stream in the U.K., Australia and Latin America on Jan. 4, the day after it debuts in the States. Viewers in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France will get their crack at it April 4.