Pop Music


The History of Pop Music

Pop music’s origin can be traced back to the late 18th century in America. Professional musicians composed catchy tuneful music to perform in front of large gatherings of people. Before sound recording were invented printed sheet music was the primary medium to distribute pop music. As the twentieth century neared, the growing popularity of pop music created a music publishing business centralized in New York City. The early pop songs were described as simple, memorable, and emotionally appealing and they attracted large audiences. Significant shifts in popular music after World War II were attributed to social and technological changes; this is around the same time that rock music emerged. By the late 1960s, pop music was generally being defined as music for young people. By the 1970s so many different styles of music emerged pioneered by independent labels and creative musicians. Because of this, in the 1980s pop music became highly fragmented, therefore much less profitable for record companies to sell. A revival of pop music occurred during the mid 1980s due to the invention of music videos on Music Television (MTV), a 24 hour music channel and the introduction of the compact disc. In the 1990s, audiences for pop music became fragmented because other musical styles dominated the scene. Clearly, each new pop music style and craze comes and goes quickly. This is not to say that pop music is not influential or important as an art form. However, the commercialization of pop music requires that they have a short life span so that the economics of the music can be constantly renewed and as a result made to be profitable. In other words, pop music is not really designed to last. (Danesi, 2002)

An Overview of Pop Music

The definition of Pop Music is one that is constantly changing with time (Lamb). Pop music originally started with a clear definition of being POPULAR music. Whatever music was popular at the time would be called pop (Lamb). So the face of pop would consistently change with the popular kind of genres during a given period (Lamb). Nowadays, pop music is consistently associated for bubble gum/manufactured type of music. Name such as Britney Spears and NSYNC have been synonomously tied to the title of pop acts. Through the combination of numerous genres of music into one, pop music is able to cater to the numerous styles and tastes of different audiences (Lamb). One audience that has constantly been associated with pop music is teenagers (Lamb). Much like the lifestyle of many teenagers pop music is fun, fresh, quick paced and constantly changing (Lamb).

Pop Music is also a term which is commonly associated with pop culture. As pop music is commercially mass produced and exported as are specific trends and behaviours (Lamb). How an artist dresses, talks and behaves has the ability to effect trends within society and well as beliefs (Lamb).

A good example of this is the Madonna and Kabahla trend which sparked major fasination around the spiritual movement rooted in Jewish mysticism. Within weeks other pop icons such as Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Spears also began preaching about Kabbalah and wearing the traditional red string bracelet. It wasn’t long before the small red bracelet became a fashion icon and symbol of popular culture.

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Though many associate pop music with quick paced dance songs the genre also includes elements of rock, hip hop and country making it a very flexible category (Lamb). Artists such as Eminem and Diddy in the early stages of their careers would have been considered hip hop. However as the artists as well as their music become popular a shift from the genre of hip hop to pop has occurred due to their popular status.

Types of Pop Music

▪ Arabesque-pop music
▪ Bubblegum pop
▪ Christian pop
▪ Indie pop
▪ Electropop
▪ Futurepop
▪ C-pop
▪ J-pop
▪ K-pop
▪ Indi-pop
▪ Latin Pop
▪ Mexican pop
▪ Noise pop
▪ Operatic pop
▪ Pop punk
▪ Pop rock
▪ Russian pop
▪ Sophisti-pop
▪ Synthpop

List taken from "Pop Music." Wikipedia. 19 Nov. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_music>


Danesi, Marcel. Understanding Media Semiotics. New York City: Arnold, 2002. 82-86.
"Fancy Dress." Bbc.Co.Uk. 07 Dec. 2006 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/totp2/ugotthelook/images/spice_girls.jpg>.
Lamb, Bill. "Top 40." About. 25 Mar. 2004 <http://top40.about.com/od/popmusic101/a/popmusic.htm>
"Pop Music." Wikipedia. 19 Nov. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_music>