Or popular music; Any contemporary music not categorizable as jazz or classical.
Characterized by strong rhythms of African origin, simple harmonic structures often repeated to strophic melodies, and the use of electrically amplified instruments, pop music generically includes the areas of jazz, rock, country and western, rhythm and blues, soul, and others. Pop became distinct from folk music with the advent of sound-recording techniques; electronic amplification and other technological innovations have played a large part in the creation of new styles. The traditional format is a song of roughly three minutes with verse, chorus, and middle eight bars.
These songs are usually performed live and recorded for broadcast or home play as singles, albums, or music videos. An enormous industry has grown around the pop music field, worldwide, which dominates radio and has great influences on the young and contemporary life.
Before 1920 the singer Al Jolson was one of the first recording stars. Ragtime was still popular. In the 1920s, in the US Paul Whiteman and his orchestra played jazz that could be danced to, country singer Jimmie Rodgers reached a new record-buying public, and the blues were burgeoning. The 1930s saw crooner Bing Crosby and vocal groups such as the Andrews Sisters as alternatives to swing bands. Rhythm and blues evolved in the US in the 1940s, while Frank Sinatra was a teen idol and Glenn Miller played dance music. The UK preferred such singers as Vera Lynn.
In the US in the early 1950s doo-wop group vocalizing preceded rockabilly, an early form of rock and roll, epitomized by the records of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the Everly Brothers. British pop music remained derivative, and American records dominated the charts. At the end of the 1950s the Motown label made its first impact with hits by the Miracles and Marvelettes, and a brief dance craze, “the twist”, was popularized by Chubby Checker.
In 1962, The Beatles emerged as leaders of the new “beat” groups and, while restoring the excitement of early rock, introduced a new element of sophistication. British rhythm and blues developed from 1963, its principal exponents being The Animals and The Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan’s mature, poetic songwriting achieved commercial success, although British groups largely dominated the US charts. Psychedelic rock came to prominence on both sides of the Atlantic with groups such as The Doors, and Pink Floyd. Jimi Hendrix produced a new and exciting improvisational rhythm and blues which achieved world success, paving the way for the later popularity of such “heavy” rock groups as Led Zeppelin. Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, perhaps the most accomplished of the new groups, fused elements of jazz, symphonic, and avant-garde music. Conventional pop during this time relied on gospel-derived soul music, and Motown groups including The Supremes and The Four Tops.
By the end of 1971, after the disbandment of the Beatles, and deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, it seemed that pop music was changing dramatically. The first half of the decade produced glam rock, most notably by David Bowie, heavy metal, and disco. Reggae music from Jamaica also gained wide popularity. From 1976 punk was ascendant, a harsh and aggressive style best exemplified by the Sex Pistols. The US term New Wave encompassed bands not entirely within the punk idiom (Talking Heads, Elvis Costello).
Dance music developed regional US variants, most notably hip-hop in New York and house in Chicago. Live audiences grew, leading to “stadium rock” (U2, Bruce Springsteen) and increasingly elaborate stage performances (Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna). An interest in world music sparked new fusions.
Rap, hard rock, and heavy metal predominated in the US at the start of the decade. On the UK indie scene, guitar and dance music were increasingly merged, notably by Manchester bands including The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Minimalist techno dance music gained popularity; in UK clubs jungle crossed this with reggae. Grunge music emerged from Seattle, with bands including Nirvana. The mid-1990s saw a resurgence of interest in British bands, centered around groups such as Oasis and Blur; Portishead and other English groups pioneered trip-hop.
Music of general appeal to young people; SYN. pop.