To What are you Listening?
Have you ever wondered why kids listen to the music that they do? Is it music? It’s certainly not a symphony, suite, or concerto. So, what is it? Commonly referred to as Pop Music, it is a genre that appeals to the youth market (1). It has been suggested that the acceptance of pop-music is due to commercialization and not due to artistic merit (1). Pop music acceptance also may be due in large part to the youthfulness of its audience and their attraction to the looks and personalities of the performers.
In attempting to define Pop music one finds it difficult as it borrows elements from other styles (1). Definitions need to be flexible as the music is constantly changing. Generally speaking showing up on the pop music charts can identify Pop music. It sells the most copies and attracts the largest concert audiences.
The following is a collection of definitions attempting to define the genre of Pop Music:
David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop music as “body of music which is distinguishable from popular, jazz and folk music.” (2).
Pete Seeger describes pop music as “professional music which draws upon both folk music and fine arts music (3).
The Define Pop music at dictionary.com defines pop music as music of general appeal to teenagers, a bland watered-down version of rock’n roll with more rhythm and harmony and emphasis on romantic love (4).
Ian Anderson describes it as “…stealing pocket money from children.”
Pop music came from the rock movement of the early 1950s , when record companies recorded songs that they thought that teenagers would like. Generally speaking Pop music has become “big business.” As a result, the music is designed to be universally popular rather than suited to a particular taste. Many will agree with Simon Frith that ….”Pop is not a do-it-yourself music but is professionally produced and packaged” (1).
Despite it’s eclectic nature, Pop music has some consistent patterns. Tracks are short to medium length songs that contain an introduction, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, and an instrumental-closing. In the 1930’s and 1940’s melody was the basis for a song, the simpler, the better. Today, many songs will be founded on a guitar riff. This is built upon, and a chorus is constructed, bass lines added. This means the instrumental part of the song is written before a melody is considered. Pop music makes frequent use of seventh chords in both major and minor keys, heavy reliance on half time, tempo and rhythmic feel by the pulse of the snare and kick, use of triplets.
Pure pop or power pop, typically consists of relatively brief (not over 3 1/2 minutes) songs played on the standard electric guitar, bass and drums with vocals that have a very strong catchy chorus, or hook (1).
Over time, pop music has made use of technologically improved microphones and 45 r.p.m. records for singles. Listeners also took advantage of the portable transistor radio to listen to music outside the home (5). Today much listening is done in the car or on an iPod (6). Notes on the future of Pop music suggests that modern pop music is not only declining in quality but also less adventurous in moving from one chord to another (7-10). The result may be that everything is starting to sound the same.
1. Frith, S., Straw, W., Street, J. eds. The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) ISBN0-521-55660-0, pp. 95-6.
2. Hatach, D. & Millward, S. From blues to Rock: an analytical History of Pop Music. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987). ISBN 0-7190-1489. P.1
3. Gilliland, J. (1969). “Show 1. Play A simple Melody: Pete Seeger on the origins of pop music.” Pop Chronicles.
4. Lamb, Bill. What Is Pop Music? A definition. Pop music. Define Pop music at Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pop+music. Retrieved July 9. 2014.
5. Buckley, D. “II. Implications of Technology”, Grove Music Online, retrieved 9 July, 2014.
6. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_do_most_people_listen_to_music. Retrieved 9 July, 2014.
7. Cheers, Hazel. (2010). “80’s Music is Top of the Pops!” Hazel, Cheers (2010). “80’s Music is Top of the Pops!”. Daily Star (UK).
8. Loken, John (2011). “The Death of Pop Music?”. brands+music.
9. Cohan, Jillian (2008). “The Show Must Go On”. The American.
10. “Science Proves: Pop Music Has Actually Gotten Worse”. blogs.smithsonianmagazine.com/smartnews/2012/07/science-proves-pop-music-has-actually-gotten-worse