Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and the United Kingdom during the mid-1950s.

The terms “popular music” and “pop music” are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many different styles.

Pop” and “rock” were roughly synonymous terms until the late 1960s when they became increasingly differentiated from each other.

Although much of the music that appears on record charts is seen as pop music, the genre is distinguished from chart music.

Pop music is eclectic, and often borrows elements from other styles such as urban, dance, rock, Latin, and country; nonetheless, there are core elements that define pop music.

Identifying factors include generally short to medium-length songs written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure), as well as common use of repeated choruses, melodic tunes, and hooks.

Stylistic evolution

Throughout its development, pop music has absorbed influences from 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, rhythmic elements from hip-hop music, and spoken passages from rap.

In the 1960s, the majority of mainstream pop music fell in two categories: guitar, drum and bass groups or singers backed by a traditional orchestra.

Since early in the decade, it was common for pop producers, songwriters, and engineers to freely experiment with musical form, orchestration, unnatural reverb, and other sound effects.

Some of the best-known examples are Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and Joe Meek’s use of homemade electronic sound effects for acts like the Tornados.

At the same time, pop music on the radio and in both American and British film moved away from refined Tin Pan Alley to more eccentric songwriting and incorporated reverb-drenched rock guitar, symphonic strings, and horns played by groups of properly arranged and rehearsed studio musicians.

During the mid-1960s, pop music made repeated forays into new sounds, styles, and techniques that inspired public discourse among its listeners.

The word “progressive” was frequently used, and it was thought that every song and single was to be a “progression” from the last.

Music critic Simon Reynolds writes that beginning with 1967, a divide would exist between “progressive” pop and “mass/chart” pop, a separation which was “also, broadly, one between boys and girls, middle-class and working-class.”

Before the progressive pop of the late 1960s, performers were typically unable to decide on the artistic content of their music.

Assisted by the mid-1960s economic boom, record labels began investing in artists, giving them the freedom to experiment, and offering them limited control over their content and marketing.

This situation fell in disuse after the late 1970s and would not reemerge until the rise of Internet stars. Indie pop, which developed in the late 1970s, marked another departure from the glamour of contemporary pop music, with guitar bands formed on the then-novel premise that one could record and release their own music without having to procure a record contract from a major label. By 2014, pop music worldwide had been permeated by electronic dance music.

A Scientific Reports study that examined over 464,000 recordings of popular music recorded between 1955 and 2010 found less variety in pitch progressions, growing average loudness levels, less diverse instrumentation and recording techniques, and less timbral variety, which declined after reaching a peak in the 1960s.

Scientific American’s John Matson reported that this “seems to support the popular anecdotal observation that pop music of yore was better, or at least more varied than today’s top-40 stuff.”

In May 2018, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, concluded that pop music has become ‘sadder‘ over the last 30 years.

The elements of happiness and brightness have eventually been replaced with the electronic beats making the pop music more ‘sad yet danceable‘.

Technology and media

In the 1940s improved microphone 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“.

This 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 radios meant that First World teenagers could listen to music outside of the home.

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.

By the early 1980s, the promotion of pop music had been greatly affected by the rise of music television channels like MTV, which “favored those artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna who had a strong visual appeal“.

International spread

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.

Some of these trends (for example Europop) have had a significant impact on 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. Japan has for several years produced a greater quantity of music than 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, or a more general process of globalization.

The story of pop music is largely the story of the intertwining pop culture of the United States and the United Kingdom in the postwar era. — Bob Stanley

In Korea, pop music’s influence has led to the birth of boy bands and girl groups which have gained overseas renown through both their music and aesthetics.

Korean co-ed groups (mixed gender groups) have not been as successful.

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*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.