For the musical genre, see Pop music.
For the 2004 film, see Popular Music (film).
"Popular song" redirects here.
For other uses, see Popular Song (disambiguation).
These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.
The original application of the term is to music of the 1880s Tin Pan Alley period in the United States.
Although popular music sometimes is known as "pop music", the two terms are not interchangeable.
Popular music is a generic term for a wide variety of genres of music that appeal to the tastes of a large segment of the population, whereas pop music usually refers to a specific musical genre within popular music.
Popular music songs and pieces typically have easily singable melodies.
The song structure of popular music commonly involves repetition of sections, with the verse and chorus or refrain repeating throughout the song and the bridge providing a contrasting and transitional section within a piece.
In the 2000s, with songs and pieces available as digital sound files, it has become easier for music to spread from one country or region to another.
Some popular music forms have become global, while others have a wide appeal within the culture of their origin.
Through the mixture of musical genres, new popular music forms are created to reflect the ideals of a global culture.
The examples of Africa, Indonesia, and the Middle East show how Western pop music styles can blend with local musical traditions to create new hybrid styles.
Further information: Folk music
See also: Art music § Popular music
Scholars have classified music as "popular" based on various factors, including whether a song or piece becomes known to listeners mainly from hearing the music (in contrast with classical music, in which many musicians learn pieces from sheet music); its appeal to diverse listeners, its treatment as a marketplace commodity in a capitalist context, and other factors.
Sales of 'recordings' or sheet music are one measure.
Middleton and Manuel note that this definition has problems because multiple listens or plays of the same song or piece are not counted.
Evaluating appeal based on size of audience (mass appeal) or whether audience is of a certain social class is another way to define popular music, but this, too, has problems in that social categories of people cannot be applied accurately to musical styles.
Manuel states that one criticism of popular music is that it is produced by large media conglomerates and passively consumed by the public, who merely buy or reject what music is being produced.
He claims that the listeners in the scenario would not have been able to make the choice of their favorite music, which negates the previous conception of popular music.
Moreover, "understandings of popular music have changed with time".
Middleton argues that if research were to be done on the field of popular music, there would be a level of stability within societies to characterize historical periods, distribution of music, and the patterns of influence and continuity within the popular styles of music.
Anahid Kassabian separated popular music into four categories; "popular as populist," or having overtones of liberation and expression; "popular as folk," or stating that the music is written by the people, for themselves; "popular as counterculture," or empowering citizens to act against the oppression they face; and "popular as mass," or the music becomes the tool for oppression.
A society's popular music reflects the ideals that are prevalent at the time it is performed or published.
David Riesman states that the youth audiences of popular music fit into either a majority group or a subculture.
The majority group listens to the commercially produced styles while the subcultures find a minority style to transmit their own values.
This allows youth to choose what music they identify with, which gives them power as consumers to control the market of popular music.
Music critic Robert Christgau coined the term "semipopular music" in 1970, to describe records that seemed accessible for popular consumption but proved unsuccessful commercially.
"I recognized that something else was going on—the distribution system appeared to be faltering, FM and all", he later wrote in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), citing that records like The Velvet Underground and The Gilded Palace of Sin (by Flying Burrito Brothers) possessed populist qualities yet failed to impact the record charts.
In his mind, a liking "for the nasty, brutish, and short intensifies a common semipopular tendency in which lyrical and conceptual sophistication are applauded while musical sophistication—jazz chops or classical design or avant-garde innovation—is left to the specialists."
Form of Western popular music
Main article: Song structure
Popular music songs are rarely composed using different music for each stanza of the lyrics (songs composed in this fashion are said to be "through-composed").
The verse and chorus are considered the primary elements.
Each verse usually has the same melody (possibly with some slight modifications), but the lyrics change for most verses.
The chorus (or "refrain") usually has a melodic phrase and a key lyrical line which is repeated.
Pop songs that use verses and choruses often have a bridge, a section which connects the verse and chorus at one or more points in the song.
The verse and chorus are usually repeated throughout a song, while the bridge, intro, and coda (also called an "outro") tend to be used only once.
Some pop songs may have a solo section, particularly in rock or blues-influenced pop.
During the solo section, one or more instruments play a melodic line which may be the melody used by the singer, or, in blues- or jazz-influenced pop, the solo may be improvised based on the chord progression.
A solo usually features a single instrumental performer (e.g., a guitarist or a harmonica player) or less commonly, more than one instrumentalist (e.g., a trumpeter and a sax player).
Thirty-two-bar form uses four sections, most often eight measures long each (4×8=32), two verses or A sections, a contrasting B section (the bridge or "middle-eight") and a return of the verse in one last A section (AABA).
Verse-chorus form or ABA form may be combined with AABA form, in compound AABA forms.
Variations such as a1 and a2 can also be used.
The repetition of one chord progression may mark off the only section in a simple verse form such as the twelve bar blues.
Development in North America and Europe
Main article: Music industry
Main article: Music journalist
See also: Rockism and poptimism
In addition to many changes in specific sounds and technologies used, there has been a shift in the content and key elements of popular music since the 1960s.
Additionally, songs getting radio play in the 1960s were, on average, only about three minutes long.
In contrast, most of the songs in the Billboard Top 5 in 2018 were between 3:21 and 3:40 minutes long.
There has also been a drop in the use of major keys and a rise in the use of minor keys since the 1960s; 85% of songs were in a major key in that decade, while only around 40% of songs are in a major key now.
The subject matter and lyrics of popular music have also undergone major change, becoming sadder as well as more antisocial and self-centered since the 1960s.
There has also been an increasing trend of songs' emotional content, key, and tempo not following common associations; for example, fast songs with sad subject matters or in a minor key, or slow songs with happier content or in a major key.
There are multiple possible explanations for many of these changes.
One reason for the brevity of songs in the past was the physical capability of records.
Vinyl record singles, which were heavily favored for radio play, only had room for about three minutes of music, physically limiting the possible length of popular songs.
However, songs have gotten shorter again, partially due to the ubiquity of streaming.
The average song length in 2018 was 3 minutes and 30 seconds, 20 seconds shorter than the average in 2014.
The most probable cause of this is that artists are now paid per individual stream, and longer songs could mean fewer streams.
As for the difference in songs' subject matter and emotional content, popular music since the late 1960s has increasingly been used to promote social change and political agendas.
Artists since that time have often focused their music on current events and subjects relevant to the current generations.
Another theory is that globalization makes audiences’ tastes more diverse, so different ideas in music have a chance to gain popularity.
In contrast to Western popular music, a genre of music that is popular outside of a Western nation, is categorized into World music.
This label turns otherwise popular styles of music into an exotic and unknown category.
The Western concept of 'World Music' homogenizes many different genres of popular music under one accessible term for Western audiences.
New media technology has led urban music styles to filter into distant rural areas across the globe.
The rural areas, in turn, are able to give feedback to the urban centers about the new styles of music.
Urbanization, modernization, exposure to foreign music and mass media have contributed to hybrid urban pop styles.
The hybrid styles have also found a space within Western popular music through the expressions of their national culture.
Recipient cultures borrow elements from host cultures and alter the meaning and context found in the host culture.
Many Western styles, in turn, have become international styles through multinational recording studios.
See also: African popular music
Popular African music styles have stemmed from traditional entertainment genres, rather than evolving from music used with certain traditional ceremonies like weddings, births, or funerals.
African popular music as a whole has been influenced by European countries, African-American and Afro-Latin music, and region-specific styles that became popular across a wider range of people.
Although due to the significance and strong position of culture in traditional African music, African popular music tends to stay within the roots of traditional African Popular Music.
The genre of music, Maskanda, is popular in its culture of origin, South Africa.
Although maskanda is a traditional music genre by definition, the people who listen to it influence the ideals that are brought forth in the music.
A popular maskandi artist, Phuzekhemisi, had to lessen the political influence within his music to be ready for the public sphere.
His music producer, West Nikosi, was looking for the commercial success in Phuzekhemisi's music rather than starting a political controversy.
Political songs have been an important category of African popular music in many societies.
During the continent's struggle against colonial rule, nationalistic songs boosted citizens' morale.
These songs were based on Western marches and hymns reflecting the European education system that the early nationalistic leaders grew up in.
Not all African political songs were based on Western styles.
For example, in South Africa, the political songs during the Anti-Apartheid Movement were based on traditional tribal styles along with hybrid forms of imported genres.
Activists used protest and freedom songs to persuade individuals to take action, become educated with the struggle, and empower others to be politically conscious.
These songs reflected the nuances between the different classes involved in the liberation struggle.
One of the genres people of Africa use for political expression is Hip hop.
Although hip hop in Africa is based on the North American template, it has been remade to produce new meanings for African young people.
This allows the genre to be both locally and globally influential.
African youth are shaped by the fast-growing genre's ability to communicate, educate, empower, and entertain.
Artists who would have started in traditional music genres, like maskanda, became hip hop artists to provide a stronger career path for themselves.
These rappers compare themselves to the traditional artists like the griot and oral storyteller, who both had a role in reflecting on the internal dynamics of the larger society.
African hip hop creates youth culture, community intelligence, and global solidarity.
See also: Music of Indonesia
Popular music in Indonesia can be categorized as hybrid forms of Western rock to genres that are originated in Indonesia and indigenous in style.
The genre takes the noisy instrumentation from Underground, but still makes it easy to listen to like Indo-pop.
Dangdut attempts to form many popular music genres like rock, pop, and traditional music to create this new sound that lines up with the consumers' tastes.
This genre has formed into a larger social movement that includes clothing, youth culture, the resurgence of Islam, and the capitalist entertainment industry.
Another music scene that is popular in Indonesia is Punk rock.
This genre was shaped in Indonesia by the local interpretations of the media from the larger global punk movement.
Jeremy Wallach argues that while Green Day was seen as the "death of punk," in Indonesia they were the catalyst for a larger punk movement.
Punk in Indonesia calls on the English-speaking world to embrace the global sects of the punk culture and become open-minded to the transnational genre.
In a 2015 study involving young students in Shanghai, youths stated they enjoyed listening to both Chinese, other Asian nationalities, and Anglo-American popular music.
There are three ways that young people of China were able to access global music.
The first reason was a policy change since the late 1970s where the country was opened up to the rest of the world instead of being self-contained.
This created more opportunities for Chinese people to interact with people outside of their country of origin to create a more globalized culture.
The second reason is that the Chinese television and music industry since the 1980s has broadcast television shows from their neighboring Asian societies and the West.
The third reason is the impact of the internet and smartphones on the accessibility of streaming music.
In 2015, students in China accounted for 30.2% of China's internet population and the third and fifth most popular uses of the internet were respectively, internet music and internet video use.
The youths described being able to connect to the emotions and language of the Chinese music, but also enjoyed the melodies found within Anglo-American music.
The students also believed that listening to the English music would improve their English language skills.
Modernization of music in the Arab world involved borrowing inspiration from Turkish music and Western musical styles.
The late Egyptian singer, Umm Kulthum, stated,
She discussed this to explain why Egypt and the Arab world needed to take pride in the popular music styles originating in their culture so the styles were not lost in the modernization.
Local musicians learned Western instrumental styles to create their own popular styles including their native languages and indigenous musical features.
Communities in throughout the Arab world place high value on their indigenous musical identities while assimilating to new musical styles from neighboring countries or mass media.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, popular music has been seen as a problem for the Iranian government because of the non-religious meanings within the music and the bodily movements of dancing or headbanging.
Just like their Western counterparts, Middle Eastern metal followers expressed their feelings of alienation.
But their thoughts came from war and social restrictions on youth.
In interviews of Iranian teenagers between 1990 and 2004, the youth overall preferred Western popular music, even though it was banned by the government.
Iranian underground rock bands are composed of members who are young, urban-minded, educated, relatively well-off, and global beings.
Iranian rock is described by the traits that these band members possess.
The youth who take part in underground music in the Middle East are aware of the social constraints of their countries, but they are not optimistic about social change.
Iranian rock bands have taken up an internationalist position to express their rebellion from the discourses in their national governments.
- Music radio
- Popular culture
- List of popular music performers
- List of popular music genres
- Popular music pedagogy
- List of honorific titles in popular music
- Music popularity index
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular music.