Pop Music: 20th-21st Century


Pop Music: 20th-21st Century
Pop music is an ample and imprecise category of modern music not defined by artistic considerations but by its potential audience or prospective market.

Pop is music composed with deliberate intent to appeal to the majority of its contemporaries.

Artistic concepts such as complex musical form and aesthetics are not a concern in the writing of pop songs, the primary objectives being audience enjoyment and commercial success.

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The songs are customarily less than five minutes in duration and with instrumentation that can range from an orchestra to a lone singer.

Songs are generally marked by a heavy rhythmic element, a mainstream style and traditional structure.

The most common variant is strophic in form and focuses on memorable melodies, catchy hooks and the appeal of the verse-chorus-verse arrangement, with the chorus sharply contrasting the verse melodically, rhythmically and harmonically.

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Lyrics in pop compositions are usually simple and speak of universal experiences and feelings, shying away from obscure or controversial issues.

Musical Style:
All sounds are possible (even no sounds).

New instruments and the sounds of popular music have changed the sounds cape of the twentieth century.

Contrapuntal textures prevail in art traditions. Popular traditions are centered on homophonic textures.

Rhythmic language can be enormously complex.

Melodies can be long and abstract or reduced to small gestures.

Any harmonic combination is possible. Composers have made use of extreme dissonance as well as microtonal intervals.

Musical Context:
Ambivalent Attitudes toward the Musical Past

Some composers have made the conscious decision to distance themselves from the styles and values of the past.

Claude Debussy said: “The century of the airplane ought to have its own music.”

Other composers have just as consciously tried to return to some aspects of the past, especially the elements of the Classical style.

A Widening Gap between “Art” and “Popular” Music
Popular music, especially jazz, country and rock, became the central musical focus of the majority of people in the Western world, and its reach covers the globe.

Composers in the “art” traditions have come to be seen as less relevant in day-to-day life.

Composers whose music has become more and more complex have widened the gap between art and popular music.

The Advent of Sound Recording
The distribution of music made possible by recording was instrumental in the growth of popular styles.

Recordings have changed the way we listen to music. Works from all musical periods are available at any time.

The techniques of recording and audio production have become important musical elements in their own right.

The Birth of a World Music Culture
Western music, popular as well as art traditions, has become a world language.

At the same time, Western musicians have become more and more interested in the music of other cultures. Western composers with non-Western ancestry have likewise sought out the music of their heritage.

Non-Western ideas have enriched Western styles and have been accepted enthusiastically.

In the age of global communication, a new “world music” style is starting to emerge. This style freely mixes elements from multiple cultures and is not dependent on the heritage of its creator.

The origins of pop music can be traced to post-Second World War United States, where a succession of events made commercial sound recordings accessible to the population at large for the first time.

The first songs to belong to the new category were crossover styles from the standard formats of the day.

In country music, instrumental soloing was de-emphasized and more prominent vocals added, commonly backed by a string section and vocal chorus.

Two years later American folk music entered the pop spectrum with a modern version of a traditional tune.

This was also the decade of the advent of rock and roll, a massively influential genre that spawned innumerable changes in the social and cultural fabric of the US, and subsequently the World.

Previously regional or niche formats became mainstream for the first time, some going on to become genres in their own right. Latin music and Italian popular music entered the general consciousness.

Vocal performers of the great American songbook classics, crooners and big band singers, incorporated elements of other styles and orchestral enhancements to their repertoire, giving them greater formal complexity than their traditional antecedents.

The decade kicked off a style that continues to be recorded today, the novelty song, combining humorous or parodic lyrics and simple, catchy melodies.

In 1961 a new format arose around close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting the Californian relationship with surfing, girls and cars: Surf pop.

An unusual combination of minor chords and an unexpected synthesizer formed the basis of one of the greatest hits of the first half of the decade, “Runaway” (1961).

In the second half a four-note electric bass riff offsetting a simple melodic arrangement.

African American music broke into popular culture in a big way in this decade, bringing with it a myriad grooves and tempos, such as doo-wop, a style giving prevalence to melody-dominated homophony and vocal-based harmonies; rhythm and blues, a combination of jazz, gospel and blues; Motown, soul music with a prominent and melodic bass line, a distinctive chord structure and a call-and-response singing style.

Producers’ involvement in the business reached new levels in 1965 to create a pop band from scratch, selecting the members by their looks, dancing ability and appeal to different personalities of fan, rather than musical prowess.

This type of prefabricated band was termed manufactured pop and is the precursor of boy bands and girl groups.

Singer-songwriters and other folk-based artists were the biggest contributors to the pop genre in the first half of this decade.

The main influence to the genre in the second half of the decade came from disco, a dance-oriented style with soaring, reverberated vocals, a steady beat and prominent, syncopated electric bass lines.

The country music that had been a founding influence re-entered pop again.

Sounds from the UK continued to cross the Atlantic and influence American music, with pop rock songs and simple pop tunes

The African American rhythms that had so affected pop in the previous decade were still producing hits and expanding the limits of the genre in this one. Disco, an almost entirely African American creation, was joined in the charts by protest songs, soulful ballads and by more upbeat compositions.

Highlights for pop music in the 1980s are Michael Jackson‘s second Epic label release, Thriller, which went on to become the best-selling album of all time, with sales of 104 million.

Jackson was the most successful artist of the 80’s and has been regarded as the “King of Pop”.

Another important artist in the 1980s was Madonna. Considered the “Queen of Pop”, Madonna had a unique mix of pop music with other musical genres, including electronic, Dance and R&B.

Pop music in the 1980s was heavily influenced by an electronic sound.

Among the most successful pop acts of the 1990s were Pop-influenced Hip Hop/Dance acts.

Non-R&B artists such as Cher , Jewel, pop country singer Shania Twain, and Alanis Morissette were also successful.

Mariah Carey became popular artists of the 1990s, with many hits.

Boy bands and girl groups such as the Backstreet Boys , NSYNC, and the Spice Girls also become in success.

The late 90s saw a resurgence of female bubble gum divas, most noticeably Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears.

Australia had Savage Garden and Kylie Minogue.

The Latin pop explosion with Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira also give its best.

The 1990s also saw the beginnings of a surgence in pop into the Asian market, known as J-pop, as originated from Japan.

In the 2000s, pop music chart-toppers included Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson and Ashlee Simpson.

Robbie Williams recorded the biggest sales worldwide for a male artist.

Well established artists who continued to have success include Madonna , Mariah Carey, Usher Raymond, Kylie Minogue and Michael Jackson.

Other trends included Teen pop singers such as Disney Channel stars like Ashley Tisdale.

Pop punk acts such as Simple Plan and Fall Out Boy have become increasingly popular, as well as pop rock, with acts such as Pink, Avril Lavigne.

The popular American reality program American Idol has produced many successful Pop artists, most notably Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Katharine McPhee, Elliott Yamin, Jordin Sparks, and country pop artists Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler.

R&B and pop music blended in music from Nelly Furtado, Rihanna, JoJo and the Pussycat Dolls.

Different Genre:

Blues is a vocal and instrumental musical form which evolved from African American spirituals, shouts, work songs and chants and has its earliest stylistic roots in West Africa.Blues has been a major influence on later American and Western popular music, finding expression in ragtime, jazz, big bands, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and country music, as well as conventional pop songs and even modern classical music.

Country music, once known as Country and Western music, is a popular musical form developed in the southern United States, with roots in traditional folk music, spirituals, and the blues.

Some trace the origins of modern country music to two seminal influences and a remarkable coincidence.

Country music also received an unexpected boost from new technologies.

Country music is fairly controversial, with fans and detractors feeling strongly about the music’s worth, values, and meaning.

Jazz is a musical art form characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythm, and improvisation.

It has been called the first original art form to develop in the United States of America and partakes of both popular and classical music.

Jazz has had a profoundly pervasive influence on other musical styles worldwide including classical and popular music.

Jazz has also evolved into many sometimes contrasting subgenres including smooth jazz and free jazz.

Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in America in the 1950s, though elements of rock and roll can be seen in rhythm and blues records as far back as the 1920s.
Early rock and roll combined elements of blues, boogie woogie, jazz and rhythm and blues, and is also influenced by traditional Appalachian folk music, gospel and country and western.

Elvis Presley was a notable performer in the 1950s.

The Beatles were part of the “British invasion” of the USA in the 1960s; they remain influential, even today.

Though mocked by older generation as “jungle or the devil’s music”, its popularity grew through the next 10 years until by the end of the century it was arguably the most popular form of music on the planet, with fans from every age group in virtually every country of the world.

However, attempting to classify Rock and Roll as a single genre continues to be difficult as it can encompass a wide variety of musical forms.

Although it is clearly defined by the use of guitars and drum kits, virtually no instrument can now be excluded from a rock band, including the piccolo trumpet, or even the cello.

Rock revolutionized theater.

Progressive rock was a movement to incorporate the more complex structures and instrumentation of jazz and classical music into the limitations of Rock and Roll.

Mainly a European movement, it started in the UK in the 1960s and reached its peak popularity during the early 1970s.

Progressive metal became popular with bands.

Major characteristics were long compositions, complex lyrics, a wide range of instruments, unusual time signatures, and the inclusion of long solo passages for different instruments.

Punk rock was originally a style of hard rock played at fast speeds with simple lyrics and fewer than three chords, which originated in the mid 1970s.

The main instruments used were electric guitar, electric bass, and drums.

It evolved into
– hardcore (even faster songs with shouted lyrics)
– New Wave (more pop influenced & used electronic keyboards)
– post punk (a more experimental form of punk rock) in the
– punkabilly (a fusion of punk rock and rockabilly)
– ska punk (a fusion with ska)
– grunge (a mix of punk rock and alternative rock)
– pop punk (a development of punk rock with cleaner sounds)
– Emo (emotionally-charged punk rock)
– gothic rock (darker sounding with introverted lyrics)

Heavy metal is a form of music characterized by aggressive, driving rhythms and highly amplified distorted guitars, generally with grandiose lyrics and virtuosic instrumentation.

Central to this genre is the use of riffs as a melodic and narrative element.

Heavy metal is a development of blues, blues rock and rock.

Its origins lie in the hard rock bands who took blues and rock and created a hybrid with a heavy, guitar and drums centered sound.

Heavy metal had its peak popularity in the 1980s, during which many of the now existing subgenres first evolved.

Though not as commercially successful as it was then, heavy metal still has a large worldwide following.

Some subgenres brought about through either natural evolution or the convergence of metal with other genres include, but are not limited to Thrash metal, Power metal, Death metal, Symphonic metal, Nu metal and Black metal.

Disco, Funk, Hip hop, Salsa, and Soul

Soul music is fundamentally rhythm and blues, which grew out of the African.

American gospel and blues traditions during the late 1950s and early 1960s in the United States.

Over time, much of the broad range of R&B extensions in African-American popular music, generally, also has come to be considered soul music.

Traditional soul music usually features individual singers backed by a traditional band consisting of rhythm section and horns.

Funk is a distinct style of music originated by African-Americans.

Funk best can be recognized by its syncopated rhythms; thick bass line (often based on an “on the one” beat); razor-sharp rhythm guitars; chanted or hollered vocals; strong, rhythm-oriented horn sections; prominent percussion; an upbeat attitude; African tones; danceability; and strong jazzy influences.

Salsa music is a diverse and predominantly Caribbean rhythm that is popular in many Latin countries.

The word is the same as the salsa meaning sauce.

Who applied this name to the music and dance and why remains unclear, but all agree that the name fits, metaphorically referring the music and dance being “saucy” and “tasty”.

However, the term has been used by Cuban immigrants in New York analogously to swing.

Disco is an up-tempo style of dance music that originated in the early 1970s, mainly from funk, salsa, and soul music, popular originally with gay and black audiences in large U.S. cities, and derives its name from the French word discothèque (meaning nightclub).

Hip hop music is traditionally composed of two main elements: rapping (also known as MC’ing) and DJing, and arose when DJs began isolating and repeating the percussion break from funk or disco songs.

Depending on the source, Hip Hop started in the late seventies or early eighties.

It started in African-American neighborhoods like Brooklyn and Bronx.

Electronic Music
The 20th century brought the first truly innovative instrument in centuries – the Theremin.

For centuries before, music had either been created by drawing hair across taught metal strings (string instruments), constricting vibrating air (woodwinds and brass) or hitting something (percussion).

The Theremin, which operated by interrupting a magnetic field around the instrument, did not even have to be touched to produce a tone.

Although its inventor (Leon Theremin) originally developed it for classical music as a way to prevent the repetitive stress injuries that often plagued musicians, it found use both as an instrument for scoring movies and in rock and roll.

As noted above, in the years following World War II, electronic music was embraced by progressive composers, and was hailed as a way to exceed the limits of traditional instruments.

In the 1970s musicians further popularized electronic music, and the film industry also began to make extensive use of electronic soundtracks.

From the late 1970s onward, much popular music was developed on synthesizers.

The development of the techno sound in and house music in the early to late 1980s, and the later new beat and acid house movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s all fuelled the development and acceptance of electronic music into the mainstream and introduced electronic dance music to nightclubs.

Subgenres include, but are not limited to, a variety of dance oriented music (Techno, Trance, Goa, House, Drum and Bass, Jungle, Break Beats) as well as IDM, Trip Hop, Ambient, Dark Wave, and Experimental.

Because of the recent explosion of electronic music, the lines between electronic subgeneres can be fuzzy and some of the above mentioned may be considered redundant or further subgenres themselves.

World Music
To begin with, all the various musics listed in the 1980s under the broad category of world music were folk forms from all around the world, grouped together in order to make a greater impact in the commercial music market.

Since then, however, world music has both influenced and been influenced by many different genres like hip hop, pop, and jazz.

The term is usually used for all music made in a traditional way and outside of the Anglo-Saxon world, thus encompassing music from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and parts of Europe, and music by not native English speakers in Anglo-Saxon countries, like Native Americans or Indigenous Australians.

World music radio programs these days will often be playing African or reggae artists, crossover Bhangra, Cretan Music and Latin American jazz groups, etc.

New Age music
Electronic and world music, together with progressive rock and religious music are the elements from which new age music has developed.

Works within this genre tend to be predominantly peaceful in overall style but with an emphasis on energy and gentle vibrancy.

Pieces are composed to aid meditation, to energise yoga, tai chi and exercise sessions or to encourage connections to the planet Earth (in the sense of a spiritual concept of Mother Earth or, perhaps Gaia).

New age music has developed from genre-crossing work and experimental work in general.

One advantage of this category is that it enables musicians the freedom to do work which might have been stifled elsewhere.

Enthusiasts of new age music generally share a set of core common understandings including a belief in the spirit and in the ability to change the world for the better in peaceful ways.

Pop music revolution occurred in 20th century music listening as the radio gained popularity worldwide and new media and technologies were developed to record, capture, reproduce and distribute music.

Because music was no longer limited to concerts and clubs, it became possible for music artists to quickly gain fame nationwide and sometimes worldwide. Conversely, audiences were able to be exposed to a wider range of music than ever before, giving rise to the phenomenon of world music.

Music performances became increasingly visual with the broadcast and recording of music videos and concerts.

Music of all kinds also became increasingly portable.

Headphones allowed people sitting next to each other to listen to entirely different performances or share the same performance.

Copyright laws were strengthened, but new technologies also made it easier to record and reproduce copyrighted music illegally.

Pop music brought new freedom and wide experimentation with new musical styles and forms that challenged the accepted rules of music of earlier periods.

The invention of electronic instruments and the synthesizer in the mid-20th century revolutionized popular music and accelerated the development of new forms of music.

Eastern, Middle-Eastern, Latin and Western sounds began to mix in some forms. Faster modes of transportation allowed musicians and fans to travel more widely to perform or listen.

Amplification permitted giant concerts to be heard by those with the least expensive tickets, and the inexpensive reproduction and transmission or broadcast of music gave rich and poor alike nearly equal access to high quality music performances.

Popular and classical music
The relationship (particularly, the relative value) of classical music and popular music is a controversial question.

To quote: “Neat divisions between ‘folk’ and ‘popular’, and ‘popular’ and ‘art’, are impossible to find… arbitrary criteria [are used] to define the complement of ‘popular’.

Popular music then has to be defined as ‘simple’, ‘accessible’, ‘facile’.

In addition, the argument is not new – composers had no difficulty in catering to popular taste when it was required, although their credentials as serious composers are also unchallenged.

Classical music influenced popular music in movie scores, theater popular songs and in the instrumentation used in popular music.

Likewise, electronic instruments and styles were incorporated into some classical pieces.

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