Pop music, unlike many other genres, has no clear definition or parameters. The characterization of pop music varies not only between artists but also among critics and even those who listen to the music. In fact, the definition even varies between dictionaries.
A commonality that does seem to emerge is the use of certain terms that are applied to this style of music. No matter where you look, you see the terms popular, modern and commercial. Many of the articles and definitions also include the words, youth, romantic and wide appeal. From all of these phrases, a person can assume that pop music is, in very general terms, a style of music that has commercial, wide or popular appeal and is usually geared towards a youth market.
Once you understand that, you have to try to establish a time line for pop music. This is almost as hard as trying to find an exact definition. Depending on where you look, the term pop music was first used in the mid 1920’s.
Other individuals ascertain that pop music did not really appear until the 1950’s. If this is the case, then you have to examine the music that was being played and listened to in the fifties. The popular music icons of the time included names like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Patti Page. Today, none of the songs that these artists sang and recorded would be found in the pop section of any collection or store. Many of the “pop” stars of this generation would be found in the categories of soul, early rock or even jazz.
When you move into the sixties you have a completely new group of artists to whom the term pop music was applied. In the sixties, you not only have legendary singers like, Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond, appear on the music scene, you also have the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. The British Invasion made a huge impact on the world of music during this time.
You also see the birth of many bands that are now considered the founders of rock, bands like CCR, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and the list goes on. All of these artists and groups had the term pop music applied to them when they emerged on the music scene. Although the youth of the era might be calling it rock and roll, the older generation at the time considered it pop music. Once again, the same rollover occurred. These bands and artists certainly would not be in the pop section of any store. They would be found under the genres classic rock or rock or a variety of other names, but not pop.
This same pattern has been repeating through the years with each new generation considering the new music to be pop. What was pop in the sixties is now classic rock or rhythm and blues, etc. Another strange item of note is the numerous crossovers that occur with the word pop. You get new terms all the time. Words like hip pop, pop rock, techno-pop and country pop.
What is pop music? Pop music is considered to be the music of the time that sells the most number of recordings. It is the songs that get the most playtime on the radio and have the greatest commercial appeal. In fact, the term pop music is often interchanged with the phrase “top forties”. If pop music continues to follow this trend, it is almost impossible to guess what style of music will be tomorrow’s pop music.
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