Copyright

Pop Music History & Examples

Ingrid Yanet Sanchez Torres, Dana Dance-Schissel
  • Author
    Ingrid Yanet Sanchez Torres

    Ingrid is an engineer in Renewable Energies from Mexico. She is currently studying his doctorate and has a masters degree in this area. She has taught for over 3 years topics like Math, Calculus, Statistics, Algebra, Physics and Biology in elementary school, high school and university.

  • Instructor
    Dana Dance-Schissel

    Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Learn about the definition of pop music, its history, and its origins. Explore who created pop music, when pop music started in the U.S., and where the term pop music comes from. Updated: 01/15/2022

What is Pop Music?

The term "pop music" refers to a combination of multiple highly popular musical genres within a society. The term "genre" identifies musical pieces as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions more or less accepted by the vast majority of music experts. Music authors David Hatch and Stephen Millward defined pop music as "a body of music, which is distinguishable from popular, jazz, and folk music." Although pop music is often thought of as only chart-oriented singles, it is a musical style that is not necessarily the sum of all the music charts, which have always featured songs from a variety of different sources. Thus, the term "pop music" can be used to describe an independent genre, aimed at a young market, often characterized as a softer alternative to rock and roll.

Currently, pop music is very eclectic and adaptable as it borrows elements of different styles. Nowadays listening to pop music is part of our daily life, whether on the radio, the Internet, television, advertising, or in shops; pop music is part of our culture.

Where does the term Pop Music come from?

The term "pop music" comes from the phrase "popular music" and refers to the popular, light, and commercial sound that characterizes this style. The term "pop song" was first used in 1926 to distinguish between music that was aimed at people with little musical culture and cult music. Cult music is a general denomination for those musical traditions that involve advanced structural and theoretical considerations, as well as a written musical tradition. Classical music is an example of cult music.

Significant features of pop music include giving priority to individual songs or singles over albums, the search for a wider and more popular audience, a preference for studio music over live music, and a tendency to reflect the styles of the moment. In addition, the rhythms and melodies of pop music flee from complexity and do not usually have quality harmonic accompaniment. The usual theme of pop songs is not too complex and is usually focused on love (although it also touches on topics such as personal experiences and social issues). For this reason, British sociologist Simon Frith assures that "this music is designed to attract everyone, without coming from any particular place or marking any specific taste". Pop music is also characterized by having a catchy chorus that seeks to please and stay with audiences at large. Its composition is usually soft in the interpretation of the instruments and the lyrics. Additionally, the lyrics are usually more every day and not so inclined towards social protest, unlike rock in which a strong rhythm can be distinguished, freedom in composition and a certain rebellion raised in its lyrics, and the use of political issues and rebellious lyrics.

Because pop songs are intended to be heard on commercial media such as radio and television, as well as streaming platforms, they are usually not long in duration. An average pop song lasts between 3 and 5 minutes, because musicians and producers seek to catch the audience and not bore them. In terms of instrumentation, pop music essentially utilizes drums, bass, electric guitar, voice, and keyboard, as well as the use of technology for musical composition. The voices are usually melodic and clear and prevail in the foreground, accompanied by linear and repeated percussions. The execution, in this sense, tends to be simple but effective, designed for the general public.

Pop Music

What are some of your favorite songs? What genre of music does each one belong to? Are any of the songs classical? Or maybe you like folk music, rock and roll, or even heavy metal. Classical, folk, and rock and roll are all examples of different genres, or types of music. For example, pop music is another example of a musical genre.

Pop music is an abbreviation of the word 'popular.' It's a contemporary form of music that appeals to a very wide audience. It often includes a danceable tempo, easy to remember lyrics, and simple notation. Pop music is commonly found on mainstream radio stations and across a range of countries and cultures.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Music Technology Lesson Plan

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Pop Music
  • 0:43 Origins
  • 1:35 King of Pop
  • 2:23 Characteristics
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Pop Music History and Origins

Pop music has existed since the beginning of radio when pieces were transmitted and became a mass phenomenon, especially welcomed by young people. This music has evolved over the years, incorporating the genres that have emerged and continue to evolve to this day. Although the best-known pop music is in the English language, other countries such as France, Germany, Mexico, Korea, and Japan, among others, have added their characteristics and their languages to create their pop styles.

When Did Pop Music Start?

Because pop music includes the influence and features of many genres, its origins date back to the early 20th century, when ragtime and its melodies were a trend on the dance floors. Between 1920 and 1930, jazz and its big band orchestras were in fashion. Between 1930 and 1940, blues and country dominated radio stations and public preference. The culmination of these trends and influences took place in the 1950s when the first pop music artists, such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra began to emerge. However, rock and roll also made its entrance around this time, so artists such as Bill Haley and His Comets and Elvis Presley became popular with the younger generation.

The waves of both pop and rock and roll were focused in the United Kingdom and the United States. Rock and roll dominated the music scene until the end of the 1960s; however, pop was distinguished because it was associated with more commercial, ephemeral and accessible music. The decade began with teen idols like Johnny Tillotson and exploded midway with many new artists. It can be said that in the United States the most important artist of the time was Elvis Presley, and in the United Kingdom, the Beatles led the movement.

Elvis Presley

Elvis

In the 1970s, disco sounds began to permeate pop music, giving birth to artists like the Bee Gees. At the same time, artists who had their best weapons in the piano emerged, such as Elton John and Billy Joel. Other countries also began to make their contributions to pop, like Sweden with ABBA, a group that reached the peak of popularity.

The 80s were characterized by the emergence of specific icons of pop, who became historical. Among these are Michael Jackson and Madonna, who were named the King and Queen of Pop. In the 90s, "boy bands" and "girl groups" trended. There was also a Latin explosion in pop, led by Ricky Martin. Finally, in the new century, new icons appeared, like Justin Timberlake (formerly of 'N Sync) and Avril Lavigne. Many new pop talents emerged from reality shows like American Idol.

African American culture has also been very influential in pop. The genres ragtime, jazz, and blues have their origin in this culture and influenced many pop artists. During the rock and roll era, there were many African American artists who made significant contributions to music. Nowadays, genres like rap, soul, and R&B are incorporated into pop music, led by African American artists.

Who Created Pop Music? Famous Examples of Pop Music

Throughout the history of pop music, thousands of artists have represented the genre around the world. However, there are an exclusive handful who have left incomparable marks on the industry through their unique sound, striking image, and, now immortal, music.

The first musician to be known as the "King of Pop" was Bing Crosby, who, in the mid-1940s, dominated with the rhythm of his songs and his singing style. Frank Sinatra was one of the pop icons in the 50s. "I'll Never Smile Again" was the first pop song to reach number 1 on the Billboard ranking, which is why many specialists consider it the first of the genre to position itself in the market.

Origins

The origins of pop music can be found in a variety of different musical styles, including the jazzy piano melodies of ragtime, a musical trend associated with the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Its roots can also be found in improvised rhythms of the jazz era of the 1920s and 1930s and the orchestras of the big band era, which ruled in the 1940s.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a new type of music emerged. This new genre of music was called rock and roll and was characterized by fast rhythms, strong beats, and soulful lyrics. Elvis Presley was the ''King of Rock and Roll'' and was one of the first artists to popularize this new genre. Presley's popularity was matched by another rock and roll act known as the Beatles, who were a part of the British music invasion, and the Beach Boys, who surfed into the mix with their musical representation of Southern California culture.

The King of Pop

Thirty years after Elvis Presley broke onto the musical scene, Michael Jackson, a gifted singer and dancer, was crowned the ''King of Pop'' in the 1980s. He emerged on the scene in the 1970s during a time when disco, a type of dance music, created a cultural revolution led by artists like the Bee Gees and Diana Ross. Rhythm and blues (R&B) made its mark as well due to its ability to connect listeners with urban culture. In addition to Michael Jackson, other pop artists of the 1980s and 1990s included Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Madonna.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Video Transcript

Pop Music

What are some of your favorite songs? What genre of music does each one belong to? Are any of the songs classical? Or maybe you like folk music, rock and roll, or even heavy metal. Classical, folk, and rock and roll are all examples of different genres, or types of music. For example, pop music is another example of a musical genre.

Pop music is an abbreviation of the word 'popular.' It's a contemporary form of music that appeals to a very wide audience. It often includes a danceable tempo, easy to remember lyrics, and simple notation. Pop music is commonly found on mainstream radio stations and across a range of countries and cultures.

Origins

The origins of pop music can be found in a variety of different musical styles, including the jazzy piano melodies of ragtime, a musical trend associated with the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Its roots can also be found in improvised rhythms of the jazz era of the 1920s and 1930s and the orchestras of the big band era, which ruled in the 1940s.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a new type of music emerged. This new genre of music was called rock and roll and was characterized by fast rhythms, strong beats, and soulful lyrics. Elvis Presley was the ''King of Rock and Roll'' and was one of the first artists to popularize this new genre. Presley's popularity was matched by another rock and roll act known as the Beatles, who were a part of the British music invasion, and the Beach Boys, who surfed into the mix with their musical representation of Southern California culture.

The King of Pop

Thirty years after Elvis Presley broke onto the musical scene, Michael Jackson, a gifted singer and dancer, was crowned the ''King of Pop'' in the 1980s. He emerged on the scene in the 1970s during a time when disco, a type of dance music, created a cultural revolution led by artists like the Bee Gees and Diana Ross. Rhythm and blues (R&B) made its mark as well due to its ability to connect listeners with urban culture. In addition to Michael Jackson, other pop artists of the 1980s and 1990s included Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Madonna.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Frequently Asked Questions

What music style is pop music based on?

Pop music was initially inspired by jazz, ragtime, rock and roll, and blues. But as years go by, pop music evolves to incorporate new styles like disco, dance, electronic music, rap, R&B, and others.

Is pop music a genre?

Many consider pop music to be its own genre. However, the reality is that pop music is a style more so than a genre, because it combines elements of different genres like rock and roll, disco, dance, electronic music, and rap among others.

What is the origin of pop music?

Pop music originates from various other musical genres such as ragtime, jazz, big band orchestra, blues and rock and roll. Pop music is also influenced by African American culture. It incorporates elements of these genres and continues to evolve with what is current and popular to generate new music.

What defines pop music?

Pop music is defined by its confluence of different music genres, smooth sound, relatively short duration, and mainly commercial orientation. Pop music is generally simple in subject nature and often revolves around love and daily life.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account