Pop Music – What Is the Definition?

Trying to fit contemporary music into neat little niches and categories is an almost impossible task. You could argue that some musicians can be clearly defined as being country while others are most certainly rap. However, what about the term “pop music”?

Should you take the time to learn the meaning of the word, you will probably be very surprised. The term pop music according to a number of sources (dictionaries included) defines pop music as being a type of music that has wide appeal. If that were the case then rap, country and rock would all fall into this genre at some point. Many music experts and people directly involved in the industry use the “pop” as a shortened version of the word popular.

If the term pop music is, as many people suggest, interchangeable with the phrase “top 40” then the list would change significantly according to who conducted the poll and the year that it was done. The list would also vary drastically according to region, city and country. The people who were asked to take the poll would certainly cause the poll to change.

A clear example would be to poll 200 people in the city between the ages of 15 and 20 and ask them what their top five favorite songs were. If you asked 200 people living in the same city, the same question, but they were all between the age of 35 and 40 the lists would be completely different. If you went back to that same city five years later and asked the question using the same age groups, the list would have altered again.

Using these exact same parameters, what would happen if you did the survey in three different cities? What would happen if you asked the question in London, New York and Nashville? It is doubtful that the lists would be even remotely similar.

What is “pop music”? If you asked this question to a hundred people of all different ages, backgrounds and cultures the answer would be different from each person.

There really does not seem to be a clear definition of what pop music is. People reading this might arguably contend that pop music is – music that is on the radio and has commercial appeal to anyone under the age of twenty. To counter this one could simply ask them what city they lived in? What is commercially appealing to a teen in the Midwest might not have any interest to one who lives in New York or to one in Sweden.

Ask them what radio station they listen to. If they are listening to a “country station”, you might ask them if they thought that the music they were listening to had a wide appeal. There can certainly be no denying the commercial value of county singers like George Strait. He has sold over 68 million albums in the United States alone. Translate that into actual dollars and then figure in tours, royalties and other spin offs. You might even dare to ask the person how old they were when they started listening to his music. George really achieved success in 1981 and many of his fans were in their teens to early twenties.

Is George Strait a pop music star? According to the definition provided by the country listener the answer would be yes.

What is pop music? The term has too many meanings to have a clear and concise definition. Its interpretations are as different as the music it is trying to define.

Pop Music Hits – Not What it Used to Be

Pop music hits over the generations has really changed immensely and no more so than in the last five years. Throughout the evolution of popular music up until the last 20 years pop music usually encompassed only one genre of music. Take into consideration Baroque, Renaissance, and Classical music. The music was by different composers but stayed well within the same type of musical category. When recorded music came onto the scene and began being broadcasted over radio waves the transmission of pop music hits became different but not it overall mandate which was that it still retained its origin in one type of music.

Think about the advent of jazz during the early part of the 20th century. Jazz was prevalent for a while as the main type of pop music. Anything you heard would have a jazz feel to it. We’re talking pop jazz here not the blues, the blues although popular amongst musicians themselves were more of an influential genre than a popular one. Then of course there was rock and roll which really dominated the pop music hit culture until the advent of Motown and R&B music.

Rock and roll and R&B dominated pop music until Disco came along and then to a small extent country music gained some popularity as a main stream genre. The 70’s was a mixed bag of rock, R&B, ballads and country music, mixed in with a little kitsch. Remember, CW McCall? Rock and R&B still dominated though showing its resilience right up until the late 1980’s when Rap came onto the scene. The mix of pop music hits began to change a bit. Rock and roll was being knocked out a bit by Rap and R&B and was no longer the dominant force in pop.

Today, pop music hits has become an amalgamation of all the music genres. You can have a country song, R&B song, and Rap songs all on one pop chart. Indeed, even radio stations have changed around their formats to be more ubiquitous and less focused on only one kind of music. The influences are all still there thanks to rock and roll but the cadence and tunes themselves have changed and transmogrified into the mix of pop music we have adopted in the last five years. Like everything pop music has progressed and expanded exponentially in the 21st century most of which has occurred just in the last five years.