Any contemporary music not categorizable as jazz or classical. Pop music contains strong rhythms of African origin, simple harmonic structures often repeated to strophic melodies, and the use of electrically amplified instruments. Pop music generically includes the areas of rock, country and western, rhythm and blues, soul, and others. Pop became distinct from folk music with the development of sound-recording techniques; electronic amplification and other technological innovations have played a large part in the creation of new styles. The traditional format is a song of roughly three minutes with verse, chorus, and middle eight bars.
History Before 1920 the singer Al Jolson was one of the first recording stars. Ragtime was still popular. In the 1920s, in the USA Paul Whiteman and his orchestra played jazz that could be danced to, country singer Jimmie Rodgers reached a new record-buying public, and the blues were flourishing; in the UK popular singers included Al Bowlly, born in Mozambique. The 1930s saw crooner Bing Crosby and vocal groups such as the Andrews Sisters as alternatives to swing bands. Rhythm and blues evolved in the USA in the 1940s, while Frank Sinatra was a teen idol and Glenn Miller played dance music. The UK preferred such singers as Vera Lynn.
1950s In the USA in the early 1950s doo-wop group vocalizing preceded rockabilly, the earliest form of rock and roll with its folk roots still in evidence. The main rock and roll singers at this time were Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the Everly Brothers, and US records were dominating the charts. At the end of the 1950s the Motown label made its first impact with hits by the Miracles and Marvelettes, and a dance craze, ‘the twist’, enjoyed a brief popularity.
1960s In 1962, the Beatles emerged as leaders of the new ‘beat’ groups and, while restoring the excitement of early rock, introduced a new element of sophistication. British rhythm and blues developed from 1963, the main groups being The Animals and the Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan's mature, poetic songwriting achieved commercial success, although British groups largely dominated the US charts. Psychedelic rock grew in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic with groups such as The Doors and Pink Floyd. Jimi Hendrix produced a new and exciting improvisational rhythm and blues which achieved world success, paving the way for the later popularity of such ‘heavy’ rock groups as Led Zeppelin. Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention fused elements of jazz, symphonic, and avant-garde classical music. Conventional pop during this time relied on gospel-derived soul music, and Motown groups including The Supremes and The Four Tops.
1970s By the end of 1971, after the disbandment of the Beatles, and the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison of the Doors, it seemed that pop music was changing dramatically. The first half of the decade produced glam rock, most notably by David Bowie, heavy metal, and disco. Reggae music from Jamaica also gained wide popularity. From 1976 punk was highly successful, a harsh and aggressive style best demonstrated by the Sex Pistols and the Clash. The US term New Wave included bands not entirely within the punk idiom, such as the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello.
1980s Dance music developed regional US variants, most notably hip-hop in New York and house in Chicago. Live audiences grew, leading to ‘stadium rock’ (U2, Bruce Springsteen) and increasingly elaborate stage performances (Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna). An interest in world music sparked new fusions.
1990sRap, hard rock, and heavy metal were the main genres in the USA at the start of the decade. On the UK indie scene, guitar and dance music were increasingly merged, notably by Manchester bands including the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, who followed on from the original and musically innovative Smiths. Minimalist techno dance music gained popularity; in UK clubs jungle crossed this with reggae. Grunge music emerged from Seattle, Washington, with bands including Nirvana. The mid-1990s saw a revived interest in British bands, centred on groups such as Oasis and Blur; Portishead and other English groups pioneered trip-hop. The late 1990s saw a continuation of the popularity of a large range of pop music genres, including hip-hop, by artists such as Lauryn Hill, rap and R & B (rhythm and blues), with US artists such as Dr Dre and Macy Gray finding an audience in the USA and the UK. Artists who merged country with pop, such as Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, achieved great commercial success. Aimed at a young audience, commercial pop music became increasingly popular, and UK groups such as Take That, the Spice Girls, Boyzone, and Westlife, as well as US artists such as Britney Spears, gained success.
From Rock 'n' Roll to Bling: A Brief History of British Pop Music
Music and the Digital Revolution
Career of a pop star
Tin Pan Alley
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