Pop Music

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Pop Music

Origin, history and background information

In general

Pop music is the abbreviation of popular music.

Pop music is an ample and imprecise category of modern music not defined by artistic considerations but by its potential audience or prospective market. Pop is music composed with deliberate intent to appeal to the majority of its contemporaries.

In opposition to music that requires education or formation to appreciate, a defining characteristic of pop music is that anyone is able to enjoy it. Artistic concepts such as complex musical form and aesthetics are not a concern in the writing of pop songs, the primary objectives being audience enjoyment and commercial success.

History

In contrast to genres with clear origins and a traceable evolution, pop developed, and continues to expand, as a haphazard merging of styles. Pop is an amalgam of successive fashions, of elements of many differing styles that have been successful over the years and have ended up incorporated into the genre. This section introduces the most significant tunes of each decade, and shows the progression of pop to its current form.

1950s

The first songs to belong to the new category were crossover styles from the standard formats of the day. In country music, instrumental soloing was de-emphasised and more prominent vocals added, commonly backed by a string section and vocal chorus.

This was also the decade of the advent of rock and roll, a massively influential genre that spawned innumerable changes in the social and cultural fabric of the US, and subsequently the World. The convulsion began when "Rock Around the Clock" (Bill Haley, 1955) crowned the charts in the spring and summer of 1955.

1960s

The decade kicked off a style that is still recorded today, the novelty song, combining humorous or parodic lyrics and simple, catchy melodies. In 1961 a new format arose around close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting the Californian relationship with surfing, girls and cars: Surf pop. This very successful style is epitomised by tunes like "Surfin' USA" (Beach Boys, 1963) or "Good Vibrations" (Beach Boys, 1966).

Producers' involvement in the business reached new levels in 1965 when Raybert Productions set out to create a pop band from scratch, selecting the members by their looks, dancing ability and appeal to different personalities of fan, rather than musical prowess. The company controlled every aspect of the group, from choice of music to individual behaviours, and guided them to extraordinary success in music, television and cinema. This type of prefabricated band was termed manufactured pop and is the precursor of boy bands and girl groups.

1970s

The main influence in the second half of the decade came from disco, a dance-oriented style with soaring, reverberated vocals, a steady beat and prominent, syncopated electric bass lines.

Country music re-entered pop in 1973, whilst the African American rhythms that had so affected the genre in the previous decade were still producing hits and expanding limits in this one.

1980s

The mutual benefits the film and music industries could afford each other were evidenced in this decade by the songs from movie soundtracks that became chart-toppers: "Eye of the Tiger", from 1982's Rocky III; "Flashdance... What a Feeling", from Flashdance (1983); or "Say You, Say Me", out of the 1985 blockbuster White Nights.

The return influences of pop were having a greater impact in this decade than ever before. Hits in the US charts came from the UK, "Careless Whisper" (George Michael, 1984) or "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" (Wham!, 1984).

The rock genre delivered a good number of pop hits this decade, with bands otherwise protective of their roots delving briefly into commercialism. See "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" (The Arrows, 1982) or "Every Breath You Take" (The Police, 1983).

A new kind of release debuted in this decade, the charity record, aimed at raising funds for a particular cause held dear by the performer(s). The first of these came from the British Isles in 1984, "Do They Know It's Christmas?", followed in 1985 by "We Are the World", and by "That's What Friends Are For" in 1986.

1990s

The nineties were clearly the decade of the female pop artist, their successful singles greatly outnumbering those of male performers. A few of the most significant are "Nothing Compares 2 U" (Sinead O´Connor, 1990), "Vogue" (Madonna, 1990), "Hero" (Mariah Carey, 1993), "Wannabe" (The SpiceGirls, 1996) and "...Baby One More Time" (Britney Spears, 1999).

Pop became truly international in the nineties, with hits coming from diverse and distant locations:

  • Germany: "The Power" (1990), "Rhythm Is a Dancer" (1992) and "Mr Vain" (1993)
  • UK: "The One and Only" (1991), Love Is All Around" (both 1994), “Candle in the Wind 1997"
  • Spain: "Macarena" (1996)
  • Italy: "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" (1998)
  • Netherlands: "Boom Boom Boom Boom" (1998)
  • Australia: "Truly Madly Deeply" (1998)

2000 to the Present Day

In a similar vein to the previous decade, female singers had a big influence on the pop genre in the noughties, with soulful ballads, hip hop pieces and dance tracks: "Fallin'" (Alicia Keys, 2001), "Whenever, Wherever" (Shakira, 2001), "White Flag" (Dido, 2003), "Since U Been Gone" (Avril Lavigne, 2005) and "Umbrella" (Rihanna, 2007).

Once more, African Americans contributed heartily to pop with diverse styles. Some hits were hip hop-based, such as "Yeah!" (Usher, 2004), other chart-toppers were variations on reggae beats ("It Wasn't Me" (Shaggy, 2000).

The international appeal of pop was evident in the new millennium, with artists from around the World influencing the genre and local variants merging with the mainstream. Latin pop was successful with songs from Spain, "Hero" (Enrique Iglesias, 2002), "Whenever, Wherever" (Shakira, 2002). Canada entered the charts with "That's the Way It Is" (Celine Dion, 2000) and British artists did the same with "Feel" (Robbie Williams, 2003) or "You're Beautiful" (James Blunt, 2005).

As of 2008, pop music is now currently the most popular style of music of youth culture, making competition with hip-hop, dance, and country.