A history of pop music


Introduction: what is pop music anyway ?

Before addressing the main issue of this short survey, it would be adequate to provide a definition of the expression "pop music", which is not as well defined as it may seem.

Indeed, initially, "pop music" used to be synonymous with "popular music", that is to say music that can be enjoyed by the general public without any particular musical education. However, the term later evolved and now applies to a whole category of music genres which have been successful enough during a given period of time (with respect to the number of records sold, the number of people listening to it, the average air-time on radios, or other popularity criteria). The idea of a particular music genre being successful over a significant period of time obviously

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coincides (at least partly) with that of being accessible to a wide audience; in this way, there's still a connection between the expressions "pop music" as it is understood today and "popular music".

As a side note, let's remark that the expression pop music may also be used in a kind of derogatory way in order to designate a piece of music which would have been produced for purely commercial purposes, without any talent or value added put into it.

Typically, pop music takes the form of short songs accompanied by an orchestra featuring somewhat recurring instruments such as the (possibly electric) guitar and drums. The structure of these songs is often simple, characterized by rhythmically important choruses and easy to remember lyrics. What is more, pop singers often stage numerous performances with dynamic and original choreographies whose main purpose is to better define the music genre and render it more appealing to the public by creating a mental association of the music with a choreography (in this way, people will also remember the song more easily; however, the greater place of choreographies in pop music can also be interpreted as an offset to a lack of substance in the lyrics).

Very often, pop songs' content deals with various societal issues (wars, for instance) and feelings; sometimes, they can target a special audience (e.g. the youth) and often advocate a way of life.

A natural question that would arise from the above definition is that of determining an exhaustive list of all the musical genres which would be considered as being part of pop music; as a matter of fact, during the course of the last 60 years, producers all tried to set new trends and distinguish themselves; as a result, there would be countless genres to list in theory.

Practically, the answer is different, since the need to provide a classification to the buyers has forced the market to establish a somewhat artificial list (featuring for instance RB, hip-hop, country, rock, jazz, etc ¦).