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Template:About Template:Infobox music genre Pop music (a term that originally derives from an abbreviation of "popular") is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented towards a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short and simple love songs and utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes. Pop music has absorbed influences from most other forms of popular music, but as a genre is particularly associated with the rock and roll and later rock style. Pop is typically characterised by a fusion of rock and R&B vocal styles, very much like early rock and roll. Many different instrumental themes, styles and conventions have been applied over the years, keeping pop reasonably up-to-date, causing competition to other musical genres. Pop can be a said to fuse genres popular at that current time into a softer version of rock aimed at a younger audience. Being aimed at younger audiences, pop music has also divided into genres like bubblegum pop and more up-beat danceable genres like electropop and europop.


Hatch and Millward define pop music as "a body of music which is distinguishable from popular, jazz and folk musics".[1] Although pop music is often seen as oriented towards the singles charts, as a genre it is not the sum of all chart music, which has always contained songs from a variety of sources, including classical, jazz, rock, and novelty songs, while pop music as a genre is usually seen as existing and developing separately.[2] 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.[3]

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".[4] 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, blues and hillbilly music.[5]

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 ...".[6] The Oxford Dictionary of Music states that while pop's "[e]arlier meaning meant concerts appealing to a wide audience ...[,] [s]ince 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 Rolling Stones, ABBA, etc."[7] Grove Music Online also states that "... in the early 1960s [the term] ‘pop music’ competed terminologically with Beat music [in England], while in the USA its coverage overlapped (as it still does) with that of ‘rock and roll’."[6] Chambers' Dictionary mentions the contemporary usage of the term "pop art";[8] 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".[6]

From about 1967 the term was increasingly used in opposition to the term rock music, a division that gave generic significance to both terms.[9] Whereas rock aspired to authenticity and an expansion of the possibilities of popular music,[9] pop was more commercial, ephemeral and accessible.[10] According to Simon Frith 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".[11]

Influences and development

File:Vynil record.jpg
Technological developments played an important role in the dissemination of pop music, particularly the 7-inch 45 rpm record (right) and the Compact Disc (above). The 12-inch 33 rpm record (left) was more associated with rock albums than with pop music.Template:Citation needed

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 and soul music, instrumentation from jazz and rock music, orchestration from classical music, tempo from dance music, backing from electronic music and has recently appropriated spoken passages from rap.[3]

It has also made use of technological innovation. In the 1940s improved microphone design allowed a more intimate singing style[12] 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’.[12] Another technological change was the widespread availability of television in the 1950s; with televised performances, "[p]op stars had to have a visual presence".[12] In the 1960s, the introduction of inexpensive, portable transistor radios meant that teenagers could listen to music outside of the home.[12] Multi-track recording (from the 1960s); and digital sampling (from the 1980s) have also been utilized as methods for the creation and elaboration of pop music.[3] By the early 1980s, the promotion of pop music had been greatly affected by the rise of Music Television channels like MTV, which "favoured those artists such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince who had a strong visual appeal".[12]

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, but most regions and countries have their own form of pop music, sometimes producing local versions of wider trends, and lending them local characteristics.[13] Some of these trends (for example Europop) have had a significant impact of the development of the genre.[3]

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".[14] 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.[14] 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.[14]


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[3]
  • an emphasis on craftsmanship rather than formal "artistic" qualities[3]
  • an emphasis on recording, production, and technology, over live performance[10]
  • a tendency to reflect existing trends rather than progressive developments[10]
  • much pop music is intended to encourage dancing, or it uses dance-oriented beats or rhythms[10]

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, a mainstream style and a simple traditional structure.[15] Common variants include the verse-chorus form and the thirty-two-bar form, with a focus on melodies and catchy hooks, and a chorus that contrasts melodically, rhythmically and harmonically with the verse.[16] The beat and the melodies tend to be simple, with limited harmonic accompaniment.[17] The lyrics of modern pop songs typically focus on simple themes – often love and romantic relationships – although there are notable exceptions.[3]

Harmony in pop music is often "that of classical European tonality, only more simple-minded."[18] Cliches include the barbershop harmony (i.e. moving from a secondary dominant harmony to a dominant harmony, and then to the tonic) and blues scale-influenced harmony.[19] "The influence of the circle-of-fifths 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 function. ...There are other tendencies (perhaps also traceable to the use of a guitar as a composing instrument) – pedal-point harmonies, root motion by diatonic step, modal harmonic and melodic organization – that point away from functional tonality and toward a tonal sense that is less directional, more free-floating."[20]

See also



  1. ^ D. Hatch and S. Millward, From Blues to Rock: an Analytical History of Pop Music (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987), ISBN 0719014891, p. 1.
  2. ^ R. Serge Denisoff and William L. Schurk, Tarnished Gold: the Record Industry Revisited (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 3rd edn., 1986), ISBN 0887386180, pp. 2–3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g S. Frith, W. Straw, and J. Street, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), ISBN 0-521-55660-0, pp. 95-6. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Firth2001" defined multiple times with different content
  4. ^ J. Simpson and E. Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), ISBN 0198611862, cf pop.
  5. ^ D. Hatch and S. Millward, From Blues to Rock: an Analytical History of Pop Music, ISBN 0719014891, p. 49.
  6. ^ a b c R. Middleton, et al, "Pop", Grove music online, retrieved 14 March 2010. Template:Subscription required
  7. ^ "Pop", The Oxford Dictionary of Music, retrieved 9 March 2010.Template:Subscription required
  8. ^ A. M. Macdonald, ed., Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary (Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap, 1977), ISBN 0550102310, cf. pop.
  9. ^ a b Kenneth Gloag in The Oxford Companion to Music, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0198662122, p. 983.
  10. ^ a b c d T. Warner, Pop Music: Technology and Creativity: Trevor Horn and the Digital Revolution (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), ISBN 075463132X, pp. 3-4.
  11. ^ S. Frith, "Pop music", in S. Frith, W. Straw and J. Street, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), ISBN 0-521-55660-0, pp. 95–6.
  12. ^ a b c d e D. Buckley, "Pop" "II. Implications of technology", Grove Music Online, retrieved 15 March 2010.
  13. ^ J. Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005), ISBN 0520244249, p. 201.
  14. ^ a b c P. Manuel, "Pop. Non-Western cultures 1. Global dissemination", Grove Music Online, retrieved 14 March 2010.
  15. ^ W. Everett, Expression in Pop-rock Music: A Collection of Critical and Analytical Essays (London: Taylor & Francis, 2000), p. 272.
  16. ^ J. Shepherd, Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Performance and production (Continuum, 2003), p. 508.
  17. ^ V. Kramarz, The Pop Formulas: Harmonic Tools of the Hit Makers (Mel Bay Publications, 2007), p. 61.
  18. ^ Winkler, Peter (1978). "Toward a theory of pop harmony", In Theory Only, 4, pp. 3-26.
  19. ^ Sargeant, p. 198. cited in Winkler (1978), p. 4.
  20. ^ Winkler (1978), p. 22.


  • Adorno, Theodor W., (1942) "On Popular Music", Institute of Social Research.
  • Bell, John L., (2000) The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song, GIA Publications, ISBN 1-57999-100-9
  • Bindas, Kenneth J., (1992) America's Musical Pulse: Popular Music in Twentieth-Century Society, Praeger.
  • Clarke, Donald, (1995) The Rise and Fall of Popular Music, St Martin's Press. http://www.musicweb.uk.net/RiseandFall/index.htm
  • Dolfsma, Wilfred, (1999) Valuing Pop Music: Institutions, Values and Economics, Eburon.
  • Dolfsma, Wilfred, (2004) Institutional Economics and the Formation of Preferences: The Advent of Pop Music, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Frith, Simon, Straw, Will, Street, John, eds, (2001), The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-55660-0.
  • Frith, Simon (2004) Popular Music: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Routledge.
  • Gillet, Charlie, (1970) The Sound of the City. The Rise of Rock and Roll, Outerbridge & Dienstfrey.
  • Hatch, David and Stephen Millward, (1987), From Blues to Rock: an Analytical History of Pop Music, Manchester University Press, ISBN 0-7190-1489-1
  • Johnson, Julian, (2002) Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-514681-6.
  • Lonergan, David F., (2004) Hit Records, 1950-1975, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-5129-6.
  • Maultsby, Portia K., (1996) Intra- and International Identities in American Popular Music, Trading Culture.
  • Middleton, Richard, (1990) Studying Popular Music, Open University Press.
  • Negus, Keith, (1999) Music Genres and Corporate Cultures, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-17399-X.
  • Pleasants, Henry (1969) Serious Music and All That Jazz, Simon & Schuster.
  • Roxon, Lillian, (1969) Rock Encyclopedia, Grosset & Dunlap.
  • Shuker, Roy, (2002) Popular Music: The Key Concepts, Routledge, (2nd edn.) ISBN 0-415-28425-2.
  • Starr, Larry & Waterman, Christopher, (2002) American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MTV, Oxford University Press.
  • Watkins, S. Craig, (2005) Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement, Beacon Press, ISBN 0-8070-0982-2.

External links


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