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Pop Music

Pop music is the abbreviation of popular music. The definition of pop music is purposefully flexible as the music that is identified as pop is constantly changing. At any particular point in time it may be easiest to identify pop music as that which is successful on the pop music charts. In other words, 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. In opposition to music that requires education or formation to appreciate, a defining characteristic of pop music is that anyone is able to enjoy it. Artistic concepts such as complex musical form and aesthetics are not a concern in the writing of pop music songs, the primary objectives being audience enjoyment and commercial success.

Pop music is a music genre that developed from the mid-1950s as a softer alternative to rock and roll and later to rock music. It has a focus on commercial recording, often orientated towards a youth market, usually through the medium of relatively short and simple love songs. While these basic elements of the genre have remained fairly constant, pop music has absorbed influences from most other forms of popular music, particularly borrowing from the development of rock music, and utilizing key technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

It is tempting to confuse pop music with popular music. The New Grove Dictionary Of Music and Musicians, the musicologist’s ultimate reference resource, identifies popular music as the music since industrialization in the 1800′s that is most in line with the tastes and interests of the urban middle class. This would include an extremely wide range of music from vaudeville and minstrel shows to heavy metal. Pop music, on the other hand, has primarily come into usage to describe music songs that evolved out of the rock and roll revolution of the mid-1950′s and continues in a definable path to today.

The term “pop song” is first recorded as being used in 1926 in the sense of a piece of music “having popular appeal”. Starting in the 1950s the term “pop music” has been used to describe a distinct genre, aimed at a youth market, often characterized as a softer alternative to rock and roll. In the aftermath of the British Invasion, from about 1967, it was increasingly used in opposition to the term rock music, to describe a form that was more commercial, ephemeral and accessible. Although pop music is often seen as oriented towards the singles charts, as a genre it is not the sum of all chart music, which have always contained songs from a variety of sources, including classical, jazz, rock, and novelty songs, while pop music as a genre is usually seen as existing and developing separately…

Musicologists often identify the following characteristics as typical of the pop music genre:

  • a tendency to reflect existing trends rather than progressive developments
  • an emphasis on craftsmanship rather than formal “artistic” qualities
  • an emphasis on recording, production, and technology, over live performance
  • an aim of appealing to a general audience, rather than to a particular sub-culture or ideology
  • a focus on the individual song or singles, rather than on extended works or albums.

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