Pop music
Overview
 
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.
David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop music as "a body of music which is distinguishable from popular, jazz and folk musics". Although pop music is often seen as oriented towards the singles charts
Record chart
A record chart is a ranking of recorded music according to popularity during a given period of time. Examples of music charts are the Hit parade, Hot 100 or Top 40....

 it is not the sum of all chart music, which has always contained songs from a variety of sources, including classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

, and novelty song
Novelty song
A novelty song is a comical or nonsensical song, performed principally for its comical effect. Humorous songs, or those containing humorous elements, are not necessarily novelty songs. The term arose in Tin Pan Alley to describe one of the major divisions of popular music. The other two divisions...

s, while pop music as a genre is usually seen as existing and developing separately.
Quotations

Pop music is probably the only art form that is totally dependent for its success on the general public. The more people buy a record, the more successful it is — not only commercially but artistically.

Manfred Mann, quoted in The Sociology of Rock (1978) by Simon Frith

Encyclopedia
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

Definitions

David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop music as "a body of music which is distinguishable from popular, jazz and folk musics". Although pop music is often seen as oriented towards the singles charts
Record chart
A record chart is a ranking of recorded music according to popularity during a given period of time. Examples of music charts are the Hit parade, Hot 100 or Top 40....

 it is not the sum of all chart music, which has always contained songs from a variety of sources, including classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

, and novelty song
Novelty song
A novelty song is a comical or nonsensical song, performed principally for its comical effect. Humorous songs, or those containing humorous elements, are not necessarily novelty songs. The term arose in Tin Pan Alley to describe one of the major divisions of popular music. The other two divisions...

s, while pop music as a genre is usually seen as existing and developing separately. Thus "pop music" may be used to describe a distinct genre, aimed at a youth market, often characterized as a softer alternative to rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

.

Origin of the term

The term "pop song" is first recorded as being used in 1926, in the sense of a piece of music "having popular appeal". Hatch and Millward indicate that many events in the history of recording in the 1920s can be seen as the birth of the modern pop music industry, including in country
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

, blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

 and hillbilly music.

According to Grove Music Online, the term "pop music" "originated in Britain in the mid-1950s as a description for Rock and roll and the new youth music styles that it influenced ...". The Oxford Dictionary of Music states that while pop's "earlier meaning meant concerts appealing to a wide audience ...[,] since the late 1950s, however, pop has had the special meaning of non-classical mus[ic], usually in the form of songs, performed by such artists as the Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, the Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

, ABBA
ABBA
ABBA was a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1970 which consisted of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog...

, etc." Grove Music Online also states that "... in the early 1960s [the term] ‘pop music’ competed terminologically with Beat music
Beat music
Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat is a pop and rock music genre that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s. Beat music is a fusion of rock and roll, doo wop, skiffle, R&B and soul...

 [in England], while in the USA its coverage overlapped (as it still does) with that of ‘rock and roll’." Chambers' Dictionary mentions the contemporary usage of the term "pop art
Pop art
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art...

"; Grove Music Online states that the "term pop music ... seems to have been a spin-off from the terms pop art and pop culture, coined slightly earlier, and referring to a whole range of new, often American, media-culture products".

From about 1967 the term was increasingly used in opposition to the term rock music
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

, a division that gave generic significance to both terms. Whereas rock aspired to authenticity and an expansion of the possibilities of popular music, pop was more commercial, ephemeral and accessible. According to Simon Frith
Simon Frith
Simon Frith is a British sociologist, and former rock critic, who specializes in popular music culture. He is currently Tovey Chair of Music at University of Edinburgh.-Background:...

 pop music is produced "as a matter of enterprise not art", is "designed to appeal to everyone" and "doesn't come from any particular place or mark off any particular taste". It is "not driven by any significant ambition except profit and commercial reward ... and, in musical terms, it is essentially conservative". It is, "provided from on high (by record companies, radio programmers and concert promoters) rather than being made from below ... Pop is not a do-it-yourself music but is professionally produced and packaged".

Influences and development

Throughout its development, pop music has absorbed influences from most other genres of popular music. Early pop music drew on the sentimental ballad for its form, gained its use of vocal harmonies from gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

 and soul music
Soul music
Soul music is a music genre originating in the United States combining elements of gospel music and rhythm and blues. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of...

, instrumentation from jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, country
Country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

, and rock music, orchestration from classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

, tempo from dance music
Dance music
Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement...

, backing from electronic music
Electronic music
Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments and electronic music technology in its production. In general a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means and that produced using electronic technology. Examples of electromechanical sound...

, rhythmic elements from hip-hop music, and has recently appropriated spoken passages from rap.

It has also made use of technological innovation. In the 1940s improved microphone
Microphone
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. In 1877, Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter...

 design allowed a more intimate singing style and ten or twenty years later inexpensive and more durable 45 r.p.m. records for singles "revolutionized the manner in which pop has been disseminated" and helped to move pop music to ‘a record/radio/film star system’. Another technological change was the widespread availability of television in the 1950s; with televised performances, "pop stars had to have a visual presence". In the 1960s, the introduction of inexpensive, portable transistor radio
Transistor radio
A transistor radio is a small portable radio receiver using transistor-based circuitry. Following their development in 1954 they became the most popular electronic communication device in history, with billions manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s...

s meant that teenagers could listen to music outside of the home. Multi-track recording (from the 1960s); and digital sampling
Sampling (music)
In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a different sound recording of a song or piece. Sampling was originally developed by experimental musicians working with musique concrète and electroacoustic music, who physically...

 (from the 1980s) have also been utilized as methods for the creation and elaboration of pop music. By the early 1980s, the promotion of pop music had been greatly affected by the rise of Music Television channels like MTV
MTV
MTV, formerly an initialism of Music Television, is an American network based in New York City that launched on August 1, 1981. The original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by on-air hosts known as VJs....

, which "favoured those artists such as Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records...

, Madonna, and Prince
Prince (musician)
Prince Rogers Nelson , often known simply as Prince, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Prince has produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. Prince founded his own recording studio and label; writing, self-producing and playing most, or all, of...

 who had a strong visual appeal".

Pop music has been dominated by the American and (from the mid-1960s) British music industries, whose influence has made pop music something of an international monoculture
Monoculture
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from...

, but most regions and countries have their own form of pop music, sometimes producing local versions of wider trends, and lending them local characteristics. Some of these trends (for example Europop
Europop
Europop refers to a style of pop music that first developed in today's form in Europe, throughout the late 1970s. Europop topped the charts throughout the 1980s and ’90s...

) have had a significant impact of the development of the genre.

According to Grove Music Online, "Western-derived pop styles, whether coexisting with or marginalizing distinctively local genres, have spread throughout the world and have come to constitute stylistic common denominators in global commercial music cultures". Some non-Western countries, such as Japan, have developed a thriving pop music industry, most of which is devoted to Western-style pop, has for several years has produced a greater quantity of music of everywhere except the USA. The spread of Western-style pop music has been interpreted variously as representing processes of Americanization, homogenization, modernization, creative appropriation, cultural imperialism, and/or a more general process of globalization.

Characteristics

Musicologists often identify the following characteristics as typical of the pop music genre:
  • an aim of appealing to a general audience, rather than to a particular sub-culture or ideology
  • an emphasis on craftsmanship rather than formal "artistic" qualities
  • an emphasis on recording, production, and technology, over live performance
  • a tendency to reflect existing trends rather than progressive developments
  • much pop music is intended to encourage dancing, or it uses dance-oriented beats or rhythms


The main medium of pop music is the song, often between two and a half and three and a half minutes in length, generally marked by a consistent and noticeable rhythmic element
Rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

, a mainstream style and a simple traditional structure
Song structure (popular music)
The structures or musical forms of songs in popular music are typically sectional, repeating forms, such as strophic form. Other common forms include thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, and the twelve bar blues...

. Common variants include the verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form is a musical form common in popular music and predominant in rock since the 1960s. In contrast to AABA form, which is focused on the verse , in verse-chorus form the chorus is highlighted...

 and the thirty-two-bar form
Thirty-two-bar form
The thirty-two-bar form, often called AABA from the musical form or order in which its melodies occur, is common in Tin Pan Alley songs and later popular music including rock, pop and jazz...

, with a focus on melodies
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 and catchy hooks
Hook (music)
A hook is a musical idea, often a short riff, passage, or phrase, that is used in popular music to make a song appealing and to "catch the ear of the listener". The term generally applies to popular music, especially rock music, hip hop, dance music, and pop. In these genres, the hook is often...

, and a chorus
Refrain
A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the "chorus" of a song...

 that contrasts melodically, rhythmically and harmonically
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 with the verse. The beat and the melodies tend to be simple, with limited harmonic accompaniment. The lyrics of modern pop songs typically focus on simple themes – often love and romantic relationships – although there are notable exceptions.

Harmony
Chord progression
A chord progression is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that "aims for a definite goal" of establishing a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord. In other words, the succession of root relationships...

 in pop music is often "that of classical European tonality
Tonality
Tonality is a system of music in which specific hierarchical pitch relationships are based on a key "center", or tonic. The term tonalité originated with Alexandre-Étienne Choron and was borrowed by François-Joseph Fétis in 1840...

, only more simple-minded." Clichés include the barbershop harmony (i.e. moving from a secondary dominant
Secondary dominant
Secondary dominant is an analytical label for a specific harmonic device, prevalent in the tonal idiom of Western music beginning in the common practice period...

 harmony to a dominant harmony, and then to the tonic
Tonic (music)
In music, the tonic is the first scale degree of the diatonic scale and the tonal center or final resolution tone. The triad formed on the tonic note, the tonic chord, is thus the most significant chord...

) and blues scale
Blues scale
The term blues scale is used to describe a few scales with differing numbers of pitches and related characteristics. See: blues.The hexatonic, or six note, blues scale consists of the minor pentatonic scale plus the 4th or 5th degree...

-influenced harmony. "The influence of the circle-of-fifths
Circle of fifths
In music theory, the circle of fifths shows the relationships among the 12 tones of the chromatic scale, their corresponding key signatures, and the associated major and minor keys...

 paradigm has declined since the mid-1950s. The harmonic languages of rock and soul have moved away from the all-encompassing influence of the dominant
Dominant (music)
In music, the dominant is the fifth scale degree of the diatonic scale, called "dominant" because it is next in importance to the tonic,and a dominant chord is any chord built upon that pitch, using the notes of the same diatonic scale...

 function
Diatonic function
In tonal music theory, a diatonic function is the specific, recognized role of each of the 7 notes and their chords in relation to the diatonic key...

. ...There are other tendencies (perhaps also traceable to the use of a guitar as a composing instrument) – pedal-point
Pedal point
In tonal music, a pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign, i.e., dissonant harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing...

 harmonies, root motion by diatonic step
Steps and skips
In music, a step, or conjunct motion, is a linear or successive interval between two pitches which are consecutive scale degrees. Any larger interval is called a skip , or disjunct motion...

, modal
Musical mode
In the theory of Western music since the ninth century, mode generally refers to a type of scale. This usage, still the most common in recent years, reflects a tradition dating to the middle ages, itself inspired by the theory of ancient Greek music.The word encompasses several additional...

 harmonic and melodic organization – that point away from functional tonality
Tonality
Tonality is a system of music in which specific hierarchical pitch relationships are based on a key "center", or tonic. The term tonalité originated with Alexandre-Étienne Choron and was borrowed by François-Joseph Fétis in 1840...

 and toward a tonal sense that is less directional, more free-floating."

External links

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